Bar Profile: The Walkers Arms Hotel


36 North East Road, Walkerville, SA
08 8344 8022

2011 was a cracker year for the Walkers Arms Hotel. They scooped the pool at the South Australian AHA Awards and were given the title of best overall hotel. Yet this revamped and tech-savvy hotel, just a short distance from the Adelaide CBD, has had a long history that runs parallel with the history of South Australia  itself.

Established in 1839, just a few years after the first settlers arrived in 1836 there are many mentions of the Walkers Arms in the annals of the first years of the new province. It was originally situated closer to the River Torrens, if descriptions at the time are to be believed. Put on the market in 1840 by then owner, a Mr. P. S. Laws it was described in ad in the Southern Australian at the time as “The well built inn, or public house in the rapidly improving village of Walkerville, known as the Walkers Arms, and situated on the banks of the River Torrens” and was “well stocked with fruit trees”.

In the South Australian Register, the renewal of its annual licence was stated, subject to one request by the Bench of Magistrates: “Granted on condition of a stable being built and the accommodation enlarged.”


It was the site of political meetings in 1851 as electors chose the representatives of the first ever South Australian legislative council. By 1893 the Walkers Arms had moved to its current North east road location and was the site of an address by a “Labour [sic] candidate” – the first year that the Labor party contested elections in South Australia. That candidate, Richard Wood, went on to be elected, but in November of that year was subject to a very high profile accusation of being a bigamist. It just goes to show how often the life of pubs are intertwined with those of the people that came by them.

But it was an electrical fire in late 2007 that provided the impetus for a complete rebuild of the site and an embrace of technology. “The old Walkers Arms consisted of an outdated 1950’s built hotel with a front bar,” said the hotel’s marketing manager, Dion di Vittorio, “[with] dated accommodation and a large gaming room.”

The approach they’ve taken is to completely modernise the hotel both in look and in function. “There are two food offerings including a buffet and  a la carte dining area,” said di Vittorio, “eco-sensitive accommodation, a sunken lounge with hearth fire place, a 14 meter marble bar and a multi-levelled spacious beer garden with two super screens, smoking and non-smoking areas and individual huts with iPod docking stations.”

This required a thorough vision and patience (not to mention capital, with approximately $11.7 million allocated to the redevelopment) to execute the build, which faced the usual challenges of obtaining council permission and delays. “The project took approximately 24 months from conception to completion,” said Di Vittorio, “including 54 weeks for the rebuilding process.”

The emphasis on drinks here is clearly those brewed mainstays of the Aussie pub, but with plenty of attention given to craft brews and ciders. “We have a focus on supplying a range of craft beers,” said di Vittorio, “including local and interstate suppliers such as White Rabbit, Stone and Wood and McLaren Vale Ale.” Increasingly, though, cocktails are playing a bigger role in what the modern pub offers.

“Cocktails have become an important element in our venue, especially Friday through Sunday, with our live music and DJ Sessions.” said Di Vittorio.

“Our cocktail menu is constantly evolving with seasonal changes made frequently. All cocktails are made with fresh ingredients to ensure that the correct flavours are conveyed. Having introduced our take on Belvedere Vodka pitchers, we have seen a noticeable effect on sales, and the general feedback we have received
is positive.”

The hotel is part of The Dean Group of hotels, with other venues in the stable being the Largs Pier Hotel, London Tavern, and Macs Hotel. Owner Tim Dean and Operations Manager Peter Johnson wanted to create a venue that embodied the best in environmental design, that included “solar panels and hot water systems, 91,000 litre rain water tank, [and] double glazed windows,” according to Di Vittorio.

What is striking however, is the incorporation of technology into all elements of design, whether it’s the two super screens televising sport or beer taps that incorporate LED displays, and Clipsal mood lighting.

Not bad for a venue that just turned 173 years old.

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