Sure, we're good at swimming and rugby, but what Australians excel at is kicking back in the leafy courtyard of our local, sinking some beers and chewing the fat with our mates. Beer garden sessions are basically our national pastime, and here's the best places to participate.
Surely one of the most famous beer gardens in Sydney, it feels like there is more outdoor space at the Courthouse than indoor. This is the sort of place where people get in early and leave late, whiling the day away with jugs of cider, a Courty burger and some tall tales in the afternoon sun.
The Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel has to be one of the most enviably located pubs in Sydney. When the weather is fine it's riotously popular, thanks to views out over the wide blue expanse of the bay, best enjoyed under the shade of a tree or umbrella in the sunny beer garden.
At the schmick new Newport you've still got the pub's best feature; the broad, blue expanse of Pittwater providing cooling breezes and a spectacular view of gently bobbing yachts. But now the beer garden is almost as pretty, with its juice cabana, paddling poool, grassy knolls and fully grown cacti to drink frozen cocktails under.
The Balmain Hotel has undergone an ambitious transformation. Polished floorboards have replaced sticky carpet and the old bistro has become a cocktail bar and dinner hot spot. For some holiday vibes take your drinks out to the beer garden, shaded by frangipani and palm trees and lit with colourful festoon lighting.
The Henson may look like any other local haunt but the floors aren’t gunged with decades of unspeakable stickiness, the gleaming taps give plenty of space to craft brews and the stereo is cranking out the Black Keys, Ball Park Music and Electric Guest. And the beer garden is enormous.
In summer, North Shore folks clamour to quench their thirsts in the shade of the giant 70-year-old oak tree that shelters the cracking beer garden. As night falls, the tree is lit up with fairy lights and the air is heady with the smell of DIY barbecue.
The airy back bar is a huge space, but this ain't no beer barn: it's obvious some thought has gone into the set up. It's got a very chilled vibe when the sun is shining and then the party vibes kick in once the sun goes down.
The front bar is killer, with crowd-pleasers and envelope-pushers on tap and a cocktail list that gets you where you want to go fast. But out back is where the action is. The beer garden is dotted with bench seats and big wooden tables and an open kitchen dishing out pizza and pub grub.
The wraparound timber verandah looks out on where the Parramatta and Lane Cove Rivers meet. Or if you prefer low-lying al fresco refreshments the beer garden is divided up into a shady terrace, pale blue cabanas and a patch of outdoor lawn that is mostly decorative – no furniture or eating on the greenery please.
The whole venue is enormous but it is the beer garden that is the Beresford's main draw card. It’s leafy and well lit, and oft-filled with very beautiful people. On Sundays you can enjoy a relaxed buffet barbecue set up in the expansive outdoor area for $20 a plate.
Out the back of the Longueville Hotel – or the Longy as it is affectionately dubbed – there's a thick-trunked sprawling palm shades the wooden deck. The deck’s view is mostly obscured by trees and the local swimming pool, but the edges of the CBD’s skyline peak out from behind tall leafy gumtrees, reminding you that you that even though you’re in the ’burbs, you’re still just a few kilometres from the harbour.
El Loco’s takeover of the formerly grungy Excelsior Hotel went so well they’ve branched out and taken over the sunken beer garden that taunts drivers stuck on the City Westlink with its colourful lights and party tunes – if only all incursions resulted in colourful bunting and tacos.
There’s a lot to love about the Erko. But prime real estate is out the back where you'll find a sheltered outdoor deck with a barbecue, colourful festoon lighting, sturdy picnic tables and strict capacity limits – get in early or settle for the great indoors.
Born in 1874, Dick's is one of the best sports bars in the suburb. It has its feet firmly rooted in tradition, where locals are known by name. Trivia is on a Tuesday and happy hour (Mon-Fri 3-6pm) reigns supreme. Plus, from Monday to Wednesday you can get a decent rump for $15. Score.
As one of two major establishments that face onto the golden sands of Coogee beach, the Bay has no lack of loyal followers. On the water side of the hotel there is an expansive beer garden that is considerately split into smoking and non-smoking sections. Early in the week it’s a quiet spot for an outdoor drink but it turns into a hootenanny at the pointy end of the week.
Fancy getting high?
We're all for a late night hootenanny, but sometimes there's nothing better than bending the elbow with the sun on your back and a cool drink to keep things chill. And we're not alone. Sydney's rooftop bars account for some of the most popular, and hard won, seats in the city, so get in quick for the glory spots with the best views.