The Illawarra is rich in history, and nowhere is this more evident than in the many historic hotels and pubs in the region.
Whether they have been reimagined or restored to their former glory, these gems of the hotel world will leave you wanting to return again and again.
Perched on the Illawarra escarpment's cliff edge, overlooking the ocean, you will find The Scarborough Hotel (and if you like it, you can buy it).
Holding a special place in the hearts of locals, history buffs and visitors alike, the hotel was first established in 1886. It claims to be the oldest licensed premises in the region, and is an icon in the area.
Deeply significant to the local area, the old mining town of South Clifton was renamed 'Scarborough' in 1903 in honour of the hotel, and it remained at the centre of community life.
A fine example of Victorian-style housing in the area, The Scarborough Hotel has never been rebuilt or drastically refurbished, and still contains many original features.
The hotel itself is warm and welcoming, and is family and even dog-friendly. There are various areas, including the popular outdoor garden.
This is a pokies-free establishment, with patrons instead flocking to the family-run hotel for the view and the fine drinks and food that is brimming with local produce.
There is also a café providing lighter options and coffee, and a gelato-bar.
The hotel trades only during the day, with no evening service, and is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Meantime, it's just had a "for sale" sign out the front.
The venue is owned by WIN boss Bruce Gordon, who is spearheading the $400 million WIN Grand development in the Wollongong CBD.
WIN Corporation CEO Andrew Lancaster said while the hotel has been a strong asset for the company, it is time for a new owner to guide the site into the future.
Another iconic hotel, located just two kilometres north of Scarborough, is The Imperial at Clifton.
After sitting destitute for 15 years, the hotel reopened late in 2021 and let us just say, it was worth the wait.
After a multimillion-dollar makeover, the historic hotel now has a new lease on life, and features multiple areas for dining, drinking, meeting and even workshops and classes.
The venue's historic roots are still there, with many heritage features and historical interpretations on display, including the original timber staircase, reinstated front terrace and five original fireplaces.
The original hotel was built in 1884 to meet the demand of about 1000 people who had come to live in the area following the formation of the Coal Cliff Mining Company in 1877.
The village of Clifton was built around the weatherboard cottages that sprang up about one kilometre south of the mine to house the miners and their families.
The inn joined other local facilities including a post office and school. It was also said to be the venue for trials and inquests prior to the opening of a courthouse. Even afterwards, coronial inquests continued to be held at the hotel, which is also said to be haunted by the ghosts of several people.
The original inn was later demolished and replaced with the two-storey building that stands today.
It was bought by Shellharbour Workers Club in 2015. More than $10 million was spent restoring the hotel, which is now open seven days a week.
The hotel serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also book into a workshop, including pasta-making and dumpling-making.
Known as the jewel of black diamond country, The Bulli Heritage Hotel was built in 1889.
When stepping though the doors of the heritage-listed building it is easy to become immersed in the past.
The three-storey hotel was originally named the Bulli Family Hotel, and if the walls could talk, they would no doubt tell plenty of tales.
Architect William Kenwood, from Kenwood & Kirle, which was behind other notable pubs, including Bellambi Hotel, designed the original building, which is a great example of a Victorian period hotel.
It officially opened in September of 1889 but by the early 1900's had virtually doubled in size after additions to its southern side.
The hotel had a reputation for being rowdy in its early days as a coal miners pub. It was bought and sold a number of times before it was closed in 1976 and condemned. It did not reopen until 1983 after a restoration process.
The hotel is said to be haunted by the ghost of 'Old Ted', a former publican, who hung himself in 1930.
Today the hotel is a celebrated live music venue. It also offers functions and a menu of burgers.
According to its website, the Illawarra Hotel in Wollongong was opened in 1938 with Hilda Gertrude Condon and her two sisters at the helm.
Daughters of a publican, who had a lifetime of working in and around pubs under their belt, they gave a feminine touch to Wollongong's hospitality industry.
It was reportedly the swankiest hotel in town at the time, complete with hot running water.
Today, the hotel's 'Hildas Bar' is a virtual mini-museum dedicated to Hilda, her family and the history of both the hotel and Wollongong.
Its newest owners, Nikki and Ryan, undertook a costly renovation of the hotel after they purchased it in 2019.
The beautiful, art deco facade remains in place, while inside, the hotel boasts to be welcoming to all.
There is a public bar, with 18 beers on tap, and nearby TAB, a cocktail corner, and a courtyard complete with stage and outdoor screen, new Market Street Dining alfresco space and the aforementioned Hilda's Bar.
More than half the food and beverage sold at the hotel is produced in the Greater Illawarra region, while the hotel also supports charities and local initiatives.
In 2022, the couple decided to rename the hotel, The Volkanovski as a tribute to world UFC featherweight champion and Windang local Alex Volkanovski.
The Bellambi Hotel opened within seven months of Bulli's Heritage Hotel in 1889, with its history detailed by historian Mick Roberts around the time of the two hotels' 130th anniversaries.
According to his book, Sister Pubs, the hotels opened within months of each other.
"The Bellambi Hotel and Bulli's Heritage Hotel opened seven months apart in 1889 to service an infant tourism industry, and the social needs of the surrounding communities," Mr Roberts said.
"The pubs were built by the same man, designed by the same architect, catered to the same customer, and opened seven months apart in 1889.
"The two pubs have stood the test of time, have similar histories, and have been sustained for most of their 130 years by the thirsts of hard drinking coal miners and blue collar workers."
Bellambi Pub is open seven days.
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