The 10 Best Beer Gardens in Melbourne

I have so many blog posts in my head that I want to get out there. Choosing one to be The First has been tough. I was thinking of reviewing some pubs I’ve been spending a bit of time at lately, but then it hit me. It’s almost summer. In summer I start to frequent entirely different pubs. I don’t care about open fireplaces anymore – I want to be outdoors in the warmth. So today I proudly bring you my top ten Melbourne beer gardens.

10) The Kingston Hotel (Richmond)

This pub can tend to fly under the radar. It seems to operate primarily as a restaurant these days but it does have a nice front bar and great little shady beer garden. You won’t pack too many people in here but a small group could definitely spend a good afternoon or evening here.

The Beer Garden at The Kingston Hotel Richmond in summer.

9) The Park Hotel (Abbotsford)

Another one that you might not have come across. However, this is a great example of a traditional Melbourne pub. I’ll definitely have a blog post dedicated to The Park in the future as its beer garden isn’t its only quality.

The Park Hotel Beer Garden

8 ) The Flying Duck (Prahran)

I found this place quite by accident. I was trying to do a U-turn one day and turned down a side street in Prahran. It was a pretty narrow street so I drove to the end to find room to turn around and discovered this amazing pub in the most unlikely of places. The night my mates and I visited on a pub crawl the place was pretty packed and dark. We weren’t able to get a table but I remember noticing the greenery and the tables and thinking this would be an ace place to spend an afternoon one day. I’ll have to go back this summer and confirm this though.

7) The Windsor Castle (Windsor)

Look, my memory of this place isn’t fantastic. I’ve only been there once and we couldn’t get a seat in the garden as it was packed out. Maybe if I go back this summer I’ll wish I had rated it higher. It makes the list though as I remember lots of outdoor space with some nice private corners. I think I remember a palm tree too? Yeah, I’m pretty sure there’s a palm tree there somewhere. And an elephant… a pink one. I swear it’s true!

The Windsor Castle beer garden

The Windsor Castle beer garden 2

6) The Railway Hotel (South Melbourne)

Does a courtyard qualify as a beer garden? I think this one does and it’s my blog so deal with it. I have great memories of this pub. It’s a little more up market than my usual haunts, but this decent sized courtyard is pretty impressive. If you want a table though you might want to get there early. Or else work on your hostile takeover moves.

5) The Great Northern (Carlton North)

Look, if you are after grass, trees and other things that grow, The Great Northern beer garden probably isn’t going to be your thing. However, this awesome pub in Carlton North has a great big timber deck out the back that’s a lot of fun. It also has a great selection of beers of tap and some of the best pub food going.

The Great Norther beer garden

4) The Brunswick Green (Brunswick)

Now we’re starting to get to the business end of things. The pubs in the top four are a long way ahead of the rest of the list. The Brunswick Green has a medium sized beer garden that makes you feel like you are in someone’s well cared for back yard. I could tell you there are plants, tables, food and beer, but that would fall well short of the mark as this beer garden is worth far more than the sum of its parts. Any serious beer garden lover needs to have spent a summer’s afternoon here.

The beer garden at The Brunswick Green 2

The beer garden at The Brunswick Green

3) The London (Richmond)

It had to make the list. It’s one of Melbourne’s biggest pubs and one of it’s biggest beer gardens. The people make this pub and The London always has a great atmosphere. If I wanted to to give a visitor to Melbourne a truly local experience I’d take them here for a night. It really comes into its own in winter though when many make it their pre-game ritual before heading across to the MCG.

Back of London beer garden

The London beer garden2) The Standard (Fitzroy)

A big part of me thinks this one should be number one. It’s hidden in the back streets of Fitzroy but once you’ve discovered it you’ll always be back. This beer garden is amazing. Someone obviously spends a decent amount of time looking after the foliage and the end result is this beautiful space that you just don’t want to leave. Ever. I’ve been here until closing on a number of occasions. The Standard also has frequent live music which adds to the vibe. Oh, and the food is awesome. I recommend the kangaroo.

The Standard Hotel Fitzroy

1) The Retreat (Brunswick)

The Retreat is THE beer garden in Melbourne. When the first good weather of spring hits, The Retreat is the first place that comes to mind. Last summer I was sitting in the garden trying to work out exactly what makes this so. I think the large open space definitely contributes, and the greenery around the outside also sets the mood. However, I think the massive tree in the middle that overhangs half the garden is the key. It takes a big open space and frames it. Maybe that sounds a little wanky but there is something this space has that sets it apart from all the others and I think that tree is it. If you haven’t been to The Retreat before get together a group of friends and plan to spend several hours there one weekend.

The beer garden at The Retreat Hotel

The Retreat beer garden

Notes:

The definition of beer garden is important. The Belgian Beer Cafe, for example, is an excellent beer garden. However, this blog is all about Melbourne’s pub culture and The Belgian Beer Cafe isn’t a pub. A couple of bars missed the list for the same reason.

Also, not all outdoor spaces are “beer gardens”. Melbourne has some pretty amazing beer balconies and beer roofs, but I’ve decided to leave them for another post.

Finally, I’ve been to over 100 of Melbourne’s finest pubs. However, there are some I haven’t made it to yet and there are some I have only been to once or twice. I do have a bias towards inner city pubs to the north of the Yarra…as such I may have overlooked some prime contenders. Feel free to let me know if your local belongs on the list via the comments.

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