The Russell Hotel, The Rocks
Hero of Waterloo, Millers Point
The Slip Inn Hotel, Sydney CBD
Q Station, Sydney Harbour National Park
It’s only been active for a few centuries, but Sydney has had a rather storied past. From the colonial era to the crime-ridden ‘teething’ years and beyond, the city’s been home to many colourful characters – and some of them never quite left their favourite drinking haunts.
So, if you’re brave enough, enjoy a bevvy with the spirits at Sydney’s most mysterious bars…
A former quarantine station from 1833 to 1984, the site where Q Station now sits was used to isolate those who had been exposed to dangerous diseases like smallpox, scarlet fever and the bubonic plague. Over 500 people died there, and it’s said many of their spirits remain. Now a popular tourist spot, ghost-hunters often catch glimpses of a girl with blonde plaits and a youthful energy.
1 N Head Scenic Drive, Manly
Along with being the oldest pub in the country, Hero of Waterloo is one of Australia’s eeriest sites. Built by convicts, the hotel was a smuggler’s dream – they’d use a secret tunnel in the cellar to transport their goods directly to the wharf. But that tunnel had another use: recruiting unsuspecting men to work as sailors. As the story goes, men who got drunk at the bar might find themselves dropped through the trapdoor and dragged through the tunnel, only to wake up next morning aboard a ship. To this day, it’s also claimed the hotel is haunted by its former landlady, Anne Kirkman, who was thrown down the cellar steps in 1849 by her husband. It’s said her restless spirit keeps tabs on the pub and sometimes plays the piano when it’s closed for the night.
81 Lower Fort Street, Millers Point
Perched on the southern shores of Sydney Harbour, The Russell Hotelplayed host to many visiting sailors who docked on the nearby wharves. Apparently, some of them are still hanging around. While there have been several ghost sightings, it’s believed Room 8 is haunted by the spirit of an old seaman. Guests and staff members have reported seeing him dressed in colonial clothing, and others others have felt cold gusts and heard the floorboards creaking upon entering the room.
143A George Street, The Rocks
Once The Royal George Hotel, this was the sipping spot of the 1950s left-wing subculture group called the Sydney Push. If these walls could talk, they would have plenty to say – with pioneers and envelope-pushers like Germaine Greer, Robert Hughes and Wendy Bacon among the pub’s regulars. More storied than haunted, it’s said the pub’s back room had a closed-door policy.
111 Sussex Street, Sydney
In the mid to late-1900s, The Carousel Cabaret (now The Empire Hotel) was a nightclub owned by local crime boss Abe “Mr Sin” Saffron. It’s also shrouded in mystery. In 1975, independent newspaper publisher, activist and heiress Juanita Nielson vanished from the site. Many people blamed Saffron for her disappearance as she had grand plans for Kings Cross. Forty years later, and the case has still not been closed.
32 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
Ask locals and they’ll tell you: the bustling Coolibah Hotel offers pub grub and drinks with a side of spectral visitors. Staff and neighbours alike have reported seeing ghost-like figures hovering in and around the tavern after closing time, but no one knows their stories.
15-25 Sherwood Road, Merrylands
The legend goes something like this: during the Capitol Theatre’s major refurbishment over a decade ago, a security guard saw the ghost of a man wandering around the site. He was so creeped out, he decided the stress wasn’t worth the money, and promptly quit his job.
13 Campbell Street, Haymarket