Craig Tansley raises a glass to the coast's best watering holes.
As the mercury rises in what is set to be one of our hottest summers ever, some of the best relief you'll find will be at a beachside bar. From the quiet, pristine Sapphire Coast all the way up to Queensland, there are world-class bars nestled along 1973 kilometres of coastline.
From the trendy beer gardens of Byron Bay's Beach Hotel and Terrigal's Florida Beach Bar to family favourites such as Yamba's Pacific Hotel and the Huskisson Hotel on Jervis Bay, these are the beachside bars serving up some of the best views, food and drink on the planet, and where you really must visit this summer.
Beach Hotel, Byron Bay
Once a bikie haunt, the present bar was built in 1990 by John "Strop" Cornell - Hoge's offsider - helping establish Byron Bay as the hot spot it is today. These days, everyone drinks at the "Beachie", from international celebs to hippies and backpackers. But it's the people-watching that's the star attraction.
Beach Main beach with views to Clarkes beach and The Pass.
Surf rating These three beaches offer some of the world's best waves.
Where to stay The Beach Hotel Resort backs onto the bar with 25 luxurious suites beside a pool and tropical garden setting. beachhotelresort.com.au.
What to eat The fish and chips and burgers at the Beach Hotel's casual Beach Kitchen.
For the kids One of Byron's best parks, Apex Park, is just across the road. There are swings and slides within 50 metres of the beer garden.
1 Bay Street, Byron Bay. (02) 6685 6402, beachhotel.com.au.
Pacific Hotel, Yambaz
The Pacific Hotel has been claiming the best hotel views in Australia since it opened its doors in 1934. It's built high above the cliffs over Yamba beach, so no developer can build out the view. Frequented by a motley collection of fishermen, surfers and visitors, the Pacific gets the most action during January, when bands play every night. However, it's the food that's the big star here: the Pacific is listed in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide and Good Pub Food Guide.
Beach Yamba beach.
Surf rating This 700 metre beach offers some of the area's best waves.
Where to stay The Pacific offers everything from bunk-style rooms for $20 a bed to suites with ocean views from $120 a night.
What to eat The tempura fillet of Yamba snapper with chilli jam.
For the kids It's a family-friendly bar that's just a short walk from some of Yamba's best children's parks and a patrolled beach.
(02) 6646 2466, pacifichotelyamba.com.au.
Florida Beach Bar, Terrigal
The Florida Beach Bar is the best bar on the central coast, offering live music in a beer garden just metres from Terrigal beach. The bar has live entertainment during holiday time and the largest outdoor dining area on the coast.
Beach Terrigal beach.
Surf rating It's a surf beach for beginners that can handle big waves when a swell hits the coast.
Where to stay The Florida is part of the Crowne Plaza, which has 199 rooms overlooking the beach. crowneplazaterrigal.com.au.
What to eat The best seafood and pizza on the central coast. Try the mixed seafood platter for two for $65.
For the kids One of the central coast's safest swimming beaches is just 100 metres away.
Pine Tree Lane, Terrigal. (02) 4384 9111, floridabeachbar.com.au.
The Lennox Hotel, Lennox Head
Lennox Head used to be a sleepy surfing village that was forgotten when Byron Bay hit the big time. Not any more. Although it still conjures a small-town vibe, this bar is not the old local it once was. Now you can have cocktails on the Ocean Deck with uninterrupted views over the beach, or eat gourmet treats at the Beef and Beach Balcony Restaurant.
Beach Seven Mile beach, connecting Lennox with Byron Bay.
Surf rating The beach also connects with Lennox Point, which is one of the world's best point breaks.
Where to stay Nearby in one of 21 units with beach views at Lennox Head Beachfront Apartments. lennoxbeachfront apartments.com.
What to eat Fresh black chilli mussels or the paella.
For the kids There's a beachside park within viewing distance of the bar. Freshwater Lake Ainsworth is a five-minute stroll away, and offers safe swimming and water sports.
Corner Byron Street and Pacific Parade, Lennox Head. (02) 6687 7312, thelennox.com.au.
Illawarra Brewery, Wollongong
Wollongong is a town built on mining, and its locals once tended to drink nothing fancier than Tooheys New. That all changed when the Illawarra Brewery set up shop. Now there's a French head chef but $5 pints most days between 5pm and 7pm.
Beach South beach.
Surf rating South beach can provide some of the south coast's most challenging waves.
Where to stay The Novotel Northbeach offers 204 spacious rooms and suites metres from Wollongong's North beach. novotelnorthbeach.com.au.
What to eat Chicken parmigiana for $19.50 or the 300-gram grain-fed scotch fillet for $26.50.
For the kids The Illawarra Brewery welcomes families and there's a park just across the road for children to play at.
Corner Crown and Harbour streets, Wollongong. (02) 4220 2854, thebrewery.net.au.
Newport Arms, Newport
The Newport Arms, winner of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Pub Food Guide award for best location, is a global hot spot where trendy city folk and a collection of locals drink in Australia's largest beer garden. Built in 1880, the pub looks out across to Church Point, Scotland Island and the Ku-ring-gai National Park. The Terrace on Pittwater is one of Sydney's leading modern Mediterranean restaurants.
Beach The beaches of the Pittwater are only metres away.
Surf rating Three-time world surfing champ Tom Carroll grew up surfing at Newport.
Where to stay The Newport Arms has eight rooms with en suites from $135 a night, plus a family room that sleeps up to six people.
What to eat Blue swimmer crab linguini with tomato, chilli, lemon and basil.
For the kids There are two playground areas in the bar's beer garden.
2 Kalinya Street, Newport. (02) 9997 4900, newportarms.com.au.
Beach Hotel, Newcastle
A decade ago, Newcastle was a working-class city, then it gentrified and Sydney people started flocking here for a sea change. Nowhere is this more evident than at the Beach Hotel. This is where Newcastle's beautiful people come, but there's no attitude. Humble pub meals start at $5.90 at the Beach Cafe Bistro, accompanied by million-dollar views.
Beach Merewether beach, Newcastle's best surf beach.
Surf rating International surf contests are held here, and it's where four-time world surf champ Mark Richards learnt to surf.
Where to stay The Beach Hotel offers eight boutique pub-style rooms upstairs, three with stunning ocean views from $70 a night.
What to eat Spicy Balinese snapper pies or opt for a beef burger for $11.
For the kids It's child-friendly with areas set aside for families, there's a park just across the road and you're only 200 metres from patrolled Merewether beach.
Corner Frederick and Ridge streets, Merewether. (02) 4963 1574, thebeachhotel.com.au.
Beach Hotel, Kingscliff
Twenty years ago, the town was a sleepy fishing village before real estate values increased tenfold almost overnight. New businesses turned Kingscliff's Marine Parade into a mini-Hastings Street. The Kingy has been there through it all - it has stood on the town's most expensive real estate overlooking the beach since 1903, but it still offers its hugely popular Parmageddon nights ($15 chicken parmas all night) and holds raffles for local charities in its main bar.
Beach The pub overlooks Kingscliff beach, which runs to the Gold Coast.
Surf rating Gold Coast surfers come to Kingscliff looking for empty beach breaks.
Where to stay The Paradiso Resort nearby offers self-contained one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments with beach views. paradisoresort.com.au.
What to eat The oysters and legendary pan-seared Bangalow pork loin chop.
For the kids The Beach Hotel has a separate games room with three PlayStation consoles and free kids' movies showing all day.
102 Marine Parade, Kingscliff. (02) 6674 1406, kingscliffbeachhotel.com.au.
Huskisson Hotel, Huskisson
Known for 60 years as the Jervis Bay Hotel, the newly refurbished Huskisson Hotel boasts a 154-seat front terrace that serves local seafood. It's family-friendly and down-to-earth, though the influx of weekenders from Sydney has also made it the place to be seen. However, meals are affordable and weekly live bands play rock'n'roll.
Beach The pub looks out over Jervis Bay, close to some of Australia's best surf beaches.
Surf rating There are no waves out front, but just around the corner is one of Australia's most challenging set of waves: the Aussie Pipeline.
Where to stay The Huskisson boasts some of the most modern accommodation on the south coast. Its eight guest suites boast stunning views over Jervis Bay.
What to eat Seafood, seafood, seafood. Try the fresh local flathead tails or order a bucket (half a kilogram) of local prawns.
For the kids The Huskisson is positioned in a perfect location for families. It's just a one-minute stroll from public swimming pools and a large playground for children.
Owen Street, Huskisson. (02) 4441 5001, thehuskisson.com.au.
Surf Club Restaurant & Bar, Coffs Harbour
Coffs Harbour missed the tourism boom that shook the NSW north coast. Despite its pristine beaches and picturesque hinterland, it lacks the sophistication of Byron and the village feel of Yamba. But the Surf Club Park Beach is evidence Coffs is changing. There's no cooler place to be on a Sunday afternoon than on the beach deck listening to the best local musicians.
Beach Park beach.
Surf rating It's one of Coffs Harbour's best surf beaches.
Where to stay Stroll to nearby Pacific Marina Apartments, which has huge balconies overlooking the ocean. pacificmarina.com.au.
What to eat Sample tapas as well as seafood from the trawlers next door.
For the kids Park beach is just 50 metres away and is patrolled by the surf club, while the Park Beach Reserve is a two-minute walk.
Corner Ocean Parade and Surf Club Road, Park Beach, Coffs Harbour. (02) 6652 9870, surfclubparkbeach.com.
Top of the hops — the recipe for a beaut beachside bar.
- A relaxed dress code You should never need jeans and shoes. Thongs and shorts will do. A good selection of beers Local and imported, and on tap. We need more than Tooheys New.
- Real bands Aren't there enough DJs out there already?
- A huge beer garden They're Australia's favourite gardens (and must come with loads of sunshine).
- A sense of fun Bartenders should smile and fellow drinkers should get the door for you. Leave the attitude at nightclubs.