1. The outside of Harbord Hotel
    Photograph: Supplied
  2. The outside courtyard at Harbord Hotel
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  3. Fish and chips
    Photograph: Supplied
  4. The chicken schnitty at Harbord Hotel
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  5. The lamb flatbread at Harbord Hotel
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  6. Snacks and dishes at Harbord Hotel
    Photograph: Avril Treasure
  • Bars | Pubs
  • Freshwater
  • Recommended


Harbord Hotel

5 out of 5 stars

Freshie’s golden watering hole serves up a rocking schnitty, ice-cold local beers and a whole lotta old-school coastal charm

Avril Treasure

Time Out says

The first wave ever surfed in Australia was by Hawaiian legend Duke Kahanamoku, and it happened at Freshwater Beach back in 1914. Since then, countless breaks have been glided on – a few by yours truly – and now, come summer, finding a wave to ride solo at Freshie is like walking on the surrounding dry grass and not stepping on a bindi. It just doesn’t happen.

That’s because the charm of Freshwater – from its blue rolling waves, soft sand and famed ocean pool – is as alluring today as it was to Mr Kahanamoku back then. Crowded, perhaps. But is Freshie still one of Sydney’s – heck, Australia’s – best beaches? You bloody bet it is.

And you know what goes hand in hand with a day of sun, sand and sea? An ice-cold beer and a damn good feed. Thankfully, we know a place. That spot is Harbord Hotel, the suburb’s main watering hole found a one-minute stroll from the beach. Built in 1928, the pub was formerly called the Harbord Beach Hotel – or the Harbord Hilton, to locals. (Why? Because Freshwater used to be called Harbord.) It was known for its buttercup-yellow exterior and red roof; a place where you could come with sand still on your legs for a schnitty and catch up with mates. And let’s face it, for being a little rough around the edges.

In 2020, the beloved boozer was snapped up by real-estate professionals Glenn Piper and Lachlan Cottee, who reopened the pub in 2021 after a massive glow-up. Many were worried that the Hilton’s original charm would have been lost along the way. We’re glad to report the spirit of this Freshie institution lives on.

White-washed and gleaming, the building is a sight to behold. Cactus plants add greenery, and yellow and white umbrellas stand tall like paddle pops. If we didn’t know better we’d think a Merivale fairy had waved their wand.

Inside, a mural by Northern Beaches artist Ash Holmes adds colour and warmth. The room is expansive, centering on a schmick wooden and green-tiled wrap-around bar. There are retro surf posters everywhere we look, and vintage longboards along the back wall. Punters are sipping on beers watching sports on the screens. The space looks fresh, yet still feels like a place you can stroll into after a dip.

Signature cocktails such as the Longboard Martini and Sunset Stretch, Spritzes, wines and sodas making a thirst-quenching appearance on the drinks menu. Though, it’s the beer list that's most impressive. Featuring a bunch of local breweries – Bucketty's Brewing Co, Nomad, Freshwater Brewing Company, to name a few – the beers are broken up into sessionable, flavoured, pale ale and heavy, and it’s one of the best offerings we can remember.

On the way out we walk past Balsa, a salty chic restaurant for life’s special occasions. Today is not that day. We’re here for a pub feed. And the sun is shining, so armed with a cold Stone and Wood, we head to the front terrace.

Outside is packed with girls’ lunches, parents off the hook and family get-togethers, making it difficult to spot a table. But just like a seagull looking at your chips, we wait until we get one.

The menu is made up of coastal pub classics: burgers, fish and chips, steak. A tostada comes piled with guac and ruby-coloured grapefruit, brightened by pickled melon and a kick of green chilli. It’s tasty, though the avocado on the bottom of the plate makes the tostada soggy, and we reckon less garlic aioli will allow the fish to shine.

A lobster roll is packed with succulent and sweet crustacean that tastes like the sea, plus mayo and iceberg, with a handful of salt and vinegar crisps on the side. Sure, it’s not huge, but it’s lobster, and a fine bite at that.

Things go up from here. An oval flatbread is dressed with shredded roast lamb, herby salsa verde, creamy goat’s cheese and rocket. There’s a nice chew to the dough, and it’s a winner.

But our heart skips a beat when the chicken schnitty hits the table. Golden and nearly the size of the plate, it’s served with chips, glossy gravy, and salad leaves that are calling out for dressing. But at this point we don’t care. Crisp on the outside and incredibly moist inside, thanks to being doused in butter, the chicken is well seasoned and flavoursome. The chips are fluffy, have an audible crunch, and are gold tier. This calls for another round. We’ll have a Brookvale Union lemon squash, please.

Around us, everyone is laughing and knocking back cold ones like they’re going out of fashion and there’s not a care in the world. And with a delicious schnitty, sea breeze in the air, and a beautiful beach down the road, we feel that way as well.

Life’s good at Freshwater Beach, and we reckon it’s pretty damn sweet at Harbord Hotel, too.


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29 Moore Rd
Opening hours:
Daily 7am-late
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