Almanac Pub Review: In which our heroes discover that the Victoria Hotel is victorious and the Terminus Hotel is terminal

It’s 140 metres from Strathalbyn’s Victoria Hotel to the Terminus Hotel. However, a wide aesthetic divide reveals itself inside these proximate pubs. How did this happen? We were about to find out.


Arriving mid-afternoon, Claire and I saunter about the fetching park and gardens, River Angas, bowls club and swimming pool. As a measure of its prosperous agricultural location there’s many handsome and sprawling homes. We go to the oval where the Strathalbyn Roosters Junior Colts are training ahead of Saturday’s Preliminary Final against the Willunga Demons. The surface is lush and closely mown. Circle work is underway.


We peer in the window of the footy club. The bar’s open and some parents are yakking around a table. Pausing on the verandah, with the yelling and the voices leaping about the damp oval, we conclude that with its small court and limited players, netball doesn’t need much vocalising whereas footy, played on massive meadows with 36 participants, demands constant interaction. The young Roosters move the ball well and I hear, “Macca, Macca! Run hard Josh. Good pass Scotty!” Their full-forward takes a few grabs and leaning back, Grenville Dietrich style, he slots a couple majors while we watch and chat, the soundtrack of Thursday afternoon training making me nostalgic for my own small, distant playing days.


The Victoria pub is open-hearted with a fire place, multiple tap beers, and exposed brick and stonework. After our strolling it’s a treat to park ourselves by the flames and, just as I think it needs some attention, mine-host emerges and hoicks on some logs before prodding it like a gruff publican. The orange warmth cloaks us and our cold thaws. In the morning, with snow forecast, we’ll drive to Mount Lofty and step out of the car into a tumble of silent flakes. In late September! In Adelaide! Back in the boozer, Claire has a sparkling white while I select a Balter XPA. Both are crisp and tipped in with joy.


The dining room features table candles and wine barrels sitting atop the ceiling beams in acknowledgement of our closeness to Langhorne Creek, picturesque home to fine cabernet sauvignon. My salt and pepper squid is fleshy and tasty and I ask Claire, “How’s your vegetarian curry?” to which she replies, “Curried and vegetably.” There’s a gladdening buzz in the bar as we jettison ourselves into the rainy darkness.


Late Saturday, we learnt that The Terminus is truthfully named and my only doubt is if it best describes the clientele, staff, or pub itself. Recently renovated, it includes clean walls and a wide, self-possessed bar that have only rendered it charmless and incurably grim. It’s a place for devoted punters and should at least smell of fresh paint, but I detect despair and plummeting testosterone. Our drinks were slopped out by a sour type who ensured all her coloured-glass water bottles were filled to the brim before she lifted her lifeless eyes and sullenly served us, understanding, of course, there’s immense profit in tap water compared to tap beer.


Suddenly craving fresh air we bypassed the bent menfolk, watery-eyed over their warm glasses and, like the pesky kids in Scooby Doo, crept outside. A beer garden should cultivate sunshiny conversation and laughter but, despite overlooking the emerald park and the river, that of The Terminus merely nurtures ugly tables, upturned plastic chairs, unendurable dog poo, and disappointment.


I’ve been to Paris three times but, until last week, never to Strathalbyn which is less than an hour from Adelaide. How does this happen? We’ll soon return to its pastoral cosiness if not all its pubs.



Read more of Mickey Randall’s great stories HERE.


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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. Gee, that Terminus pub really left an impression, Mickey.
    I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen you deliver an elbow such as that!
    I was in Strathalbyn once, and I reckon I went to a pub called the Robin Hood? Or I may be mistaken.

  2. Paul Minogue says

    There is the Robin Hood, and also the Commercial, on the other side of the Angas River for a future visit.

  3. Thanks Smokie and Paul.

    We visited both The Robin Hood and The Commercial on Saturday and found both to be satisfactory, dining at the former and enjoying a drink in the front bar of the latter. These may feature in subsequent stories and we ranked them at 2 and 3 out of the town’s four pubs. The (unsuccessful) Strathalbyn Roosters colts and their families popped by the Commercial when we were there. Isn’t it great to be close to footy finals action?

    In this curious year I’ve missed seeing the usual country/ Victorian footy club trips to Glenelg across September with all the attendant nonsense and abandon this suggests.

  4. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I went to the Strath dogs one midweek night around 1981, the joys of a half share in a greyhound with a bloke from work. Strath Special Butter was triple triple triple triple pasteurised.

  5. Thanks Mickey for the transportation as usual safe to say the Terminus might receive a v wide berth next time I’m in Strath

  6. Hi Mickey,

    Perhaps you’ll appreciate this story about locally renowned Treblig bicycles that were hand built in Strathalbyn. The archival footage in this little film depicts cycle races at Strath showgrounds.


  7. Swish- can you remember the name of your dog? As a fan of Pulp Fiction I always thought Vincent Vega would be a great handle for a hound.

    Rulebook- while we didn’t eat at the Terminus I must say that I saw some very favourable online reviews of their meals.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    We had two dogs, Quarterflash then Towards The Dawn – think it was ‘Flash at Strath. Towards The Dawn had one win at Angle Park at 16s. I had a whole $2 on it because the trainer didn’t think it had a hope that night.

  9. Swish with your 1981 earn from Towards the Dawn you could’ve bought 59 loaves of bread. And that’s always a good thing unless you don’t eat bread!

    Thanks Malcolm. Was interested in the unusual Kenny Blake statue outside the Robin Hood pub too. Most impressive!

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