Head for a Tasmanian Pub and Try the Local Beers

The brawling convicts and rowdy whalers have long gone, but there’s still nothing quite as atmospheric as a cosy Tasmanian pub on a winter’s night.

Their pasts are sometimes dubious - houses of ill repute or the scene of sailors' fisticuffs - yet many of Tasmania's old pubs have retained the open-fire ambience and Georgian character that is hard to find in the big cities.

Take the Customs House Hotel in Hobart's Murray St, built in 1846 and once a haunt for wharfies and sailors. Beneath its stone foundations is a curious tunnel leading to Parliament House – often speculated about but never adequately explained. The pub is a favourite among Hobartians today and maintains its maritime links when the Sydney-to-Hobart yachties spill through the doors.

Nearby in Salamanca Place is Irish Murphy’s, a typical waterfront pub of the 1840s with its low ceilings, small rooms and open fireplaces. Its clientele was once a rough mob of uneducated sailors, whalers and convicts. It was a brothel under the proprietry of the infamous “Ma Dwyer” and the most notorious drinking house in Hobart.

Also on Salamanca Place is Knopwood's Retreat, an 1835 Georgian pub that began life as the Whaler's Return and was known at other times as the Nautilus and Lord Nelson. Today it attracts an urban crowd and a soaks up the colour of the Salamanca Markets on the weekend.

Tourism Tasmania chief executive Rob Giason said Tasmania offered a pub culture that had long departed the modern bars of the big cities.

"Where better to enjoy a Cascade or a Boag's than beside an open fire in an old Tasmanian pub," Mr Giason said. "There couldn't be a better way to cap-off a relaxing short break."

Great pubs abound throughout Tasmania, from the Man O'Ross in the picture-book village of Ross to Launceston's Batman Fawkner Inn where the namesake explorers planned their expedition to the site of Melbourne.

For the committed pub fan Tasmania offers the Historic Hobart Pub Tour, a walking tour of the city's most colourful pubs, or on the slopes of Mount Wellington, the Cascade Brewery offers a comprehensive tour of its historic site and a rewarding ale at its conclusion.

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