Can you say you've blended your own rum? Toured an award-winning gin distillery? Enjoyed a brew with one of the best views on Australia's East Coast? After your next trip to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, you'll be able to!
Discover these 16 hot spots to grab a cold drink on the Southern Great Barrier Reef...
Celebrating its 130th anniversary this year, at the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, they know a thing or two about Queensland’s world-famous brew. Begin your rum discovery at the museum, standing inside giant barrels, which once contained rum. Learn how this enterprising community went from crushing sugar cane in 1882, and just six years later, turned the molasses by-product into Bundaberg Rum. Take a tour of the operations in which you will encounter a river of molten molasses. A highlight of a visit the special Blend Your Own Rum Experience. Here, you will enter a private tasting room which resembles an upmarket science lab, perch on an American oak barrel chair, and taste five samples of 40 per cent alcohol base. From your notes, in which you will specify any memories or emotions these tastes evoke, you will concoct a mixture of these blends, which is then bottled under your own personal label, sealed, and a record kept on site for future orders.
At The Bundaberg Barrel you can not only learn about how its ginger beer is made, but all of the soft drinks this family-owned business creates. Enter this giant barrel in which you will see how one of the only drink makers on the planet still brew the old-fashioned way. The museum here is an interactive experience where you are you encouraged to identify secret scents, create bubbles, and learn how ginger beer actually originated from England. But the true highlight is at the tour’s end, where you are invited to taste the full flavours on offer here made from many of the region’s fresh fruits. There’s everything from guava and pink grapefruit to passionfruit, and pineapple and coconut which evokes the taste of a pina colada on a tropical island.
One of the newest entrants to Bundaberg’s brewing market is Bargara Brewing Company, which started producing beer around three years ago and opened its sassy shop front in the CBD 18 months ago. So successful is this operation, they are already exporting their beer to South Korea and also looking to China. With all of its drops made on 100 per cent fresh rainwater, you’ll find 16 different beers on rotation and 6 core labels including the delightfully-named Thirsty Turtle; The Phat Heffa, Goldihops Golden Ale, and the Rusty Roo. Their Great Barrier Beer is a social IPA brewed for The Good Beer Company and the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) with 50 per cent of profits going to support AMCS conservation projects. There’s even a gluten free drop among the range here.
The latest enterprising entrant into Bundaberg’s brewing crew is Kalki Moon Distilling Company. Owner Rick Prosser is an old hat in the local brewing game, having worked at the Bundaberg Rum Distillery for 13 years as a blender and later as a lauded master distiller. It’s these superior skills he now brings to his own operation, recently opening the craft brewery. While, under law, his rum has to sit in barrels for two years and will not be ready until 2019, in the meantime, he is busy brewing and selling vodka and gin. Rick likes to impress his customers with a “Gin Gin Mule” playing on the nearby place name, and using local Bundaberg Ginger Beer, to produce an enchanting drop.
It started with showcasing all of the fabulous fresh produce that Bundaberg North Burnett grows and exports, but now, Bundy Food Tours boasts its very own drinks component too. This tasty tour combines the best of the region, including the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, Bargara Brewing Company and Kalki Moon. A highlight is a food and beer lunch pairing at Bargara Brewing Company’s edgy and eclectic Brewhouse.
Ohana Cider House & Exotic Fruit Winery is the only dedicated cider house in Queensland. Boasting 8 unique ciders on tap inspired by the abundant local produce minutes from their on-site brewery you’re sure to find the drink for you. Why not come grab a tasting paddle with friends or join them on a pizza and open-mic nights?
Housed in a former pub which was built in 1881, burnt down, and rebuilt in art-deco style, Rockhampton’s Saleyard Distillery is one of the newest entrants into the region’s drinking scene. Aptly-named couple, Cate and Warren Brewer, opened this distillery in 2017 and are already bagging awards with a gold in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for its gin and a bronze for its aged gin. There’s rum being brewed here too, but unlike gin, it takes several years to ferment. The gin is designed to be a reflection of the region, branded after a famous Rockhampton goat race, and because the distillery sits on the Tropic of Capricorn and the goat is the horoscope sign for Capricorn. One of only nine craft distilleries in Queensland, there’s plenty of citrus and floral flavours, from locally-sourced fruits, infused into these drops, including 16 different botanicals. You’ll also find six Crafty Fox craft beers on tap here.
Inconspicuously tucked away in an industrial area, Monkey Pig Brewing is Yeppoon’s only craft beer maker and sits side-by-side with Pigglettoes, the tasting space for the brewery. Husband and wife team Reg and Kat Taylor offer eight beers on tap including a local rosella beer made from rosella’s grown from a relative’s garden. You’ll find plenty of local flavours in their beer including Queensland vanilla, kaffir lime, banana and clove and New Zealand or Australian grains. Named Monkey Pig (after Reg’s obsession with the TV show Monkey Magic) and Piggelettoes (because the couple once had a house of straw, and it’s Spanish for “little pigs), the couple serves their craft beer in cans, instead of bottles, as they are recyclable and biodegradable. Try the Indian, Spanish, Asian, Tex-Mex, Tropical Style or High Tea share platters made by Kat.
This slimline space, off of Rockhampton’s East Street, is being hailed as the ultimate in Capricorn cool with its café, bar, formal, casual and private dining downstairs, and function space upstairs. Pop in for a smart latte with breakfast, feast on a classy charcuterie board at the onsite brewery, or enjoy some fine dining in the Laneway Restaurant, while enjoying these minimalist surrounds.
Plonked right on the Fitzroy River like a ship’s lido deck, Rockhampton’s Boathouse starts early with a great coffee and a breakfast menu serves which items such as the sugar date loaf with local honey. From 11.30am, it becomes a bar where you’ll find the likes of Queensland scallops with beef, washed down with classy cocktails like the Fitzroy Martini. Arrive for sundowners and one of the best sunset vantage points in town.
One of the cutest cocktail joints along the Southern Great Barrier Reef can be found at Pumpkin Island, in the Keppel Group. Not only does the island’s Sunset Lounge point west, so you can watch the sun dip over the Australian mainland, but it boasts an innovative cocktail menu. Try the Elderflower Sapphire – Bombay Sapphire Gin with elderflower cordial and sparkling mineral water; the Matsos Mule made from Absolut Vodka, Matso’s ginger beer, bitters, fresh lime and ginger; or the Watermelon Martini containing Absolut Vodka, Vanilla Liquer, and fresh watermelon.
Some watering holes never go out of style and the Keppel Bay Sailing Club, down on the Yeppoon esplanade, is one of those places. Pull up a perch on the outside veranda and watch the light change over Great Keppel Island out on the horizon. Also down at Yeppoon, the Strand Hotel is a retro relic. This stalwart has been around for 60 years, and has undergone a facelift or two, but the stunning views over the ocean remain. A cool spot for a cold beer.
At the 1770 Distillery, try the four liqueurs made from regional fruit. There’s the tangy Sunset Citrus; the Daybreak with oranges and spices; Pink Dawn with plum and green apples; and the Strawberry Splash, made from strawberries and said to be popular with the champagne set. Owner John Richards made his first whisky with a mate 26 years ago, when they bought a barrel for $1800 and they were the only whisky makers in the nation. Now, Australia boasts more than 160 whisky makers, of which John’s mate is one of the best, while John prefers to focus on these sweet wines.
If you’re chasing a view with your brew, the 1770 Beach Hotel not only points west, but is one of the few establishments along Australia’s east coast that also overlooks an ocean sunset. It’s a laidback vibe here, turn up in your thongs and togs, order a local Baffle Creek brew, and enjoy the last rays of the day.
As the name suggests, Lagoons 1770 Resort & Spa is built around a luscious lagoon which winds through the centre of the resort. Head to Plantation Bar and Restaurant, notable by the giant bust of a giraffe at the entrance, and sit with a pool view, sipping on local Baffle Creek beer or Bundaberg soft drinks. Order tropical-style cocktails such as the Plantation Splice and Lagoon’s Iced Tea.
By the same innovative crew that opened Headricks Lane in Rockhampton, The Lightbox Espresso & Wine Bar in Gladstone is a relatively new player on the scene. Perched in the city’s recently-redeveloped entertainment precinct, try bespoke cocktails, French champagne, premium spirits and local and imported beer here.
At Heron Island, it’s not just about the birds. There’s a nice watering hole here too in the form of Baillie’s Bar and Pandanus Lounge. Best of all, it takes advantage of its panoramic reef views with an outdoor terrace replete with giant chessboard and lounges which are ideal for sunset spotting and slouching. Should you be tempted inside, there’s two pool tables, a cocktail bar with old-fashioned concoctions, entertainment lounge, and library area.