History: Looking Back

Looking Back history feature: The Beaches Hotel, Thirroul

Looking Back


beaches todayIT’S difficult to imagine how The Beaches at Thirroul would have looked during the 1970s and 80s.

Colleen and Barry Gilbert transformed the pub, then known locally as The Rex, into one of Illawarra’s best houses of entertainment and hospitality in 1999.

Originally opened as the Thirroul Rex Hotel by pub chain company Rex Investments in 1953, The Beaches is a far cry from the male dominated watering hole.

The history of the hotel unfortunately stems from the misfortunes of a NSW rural town.

The 1950s was the beginning of the demise of many a country pub. The bush was well catered for when it came to pubs, but times were a changing.

The 50s and 60s saw the growth of registered clubs and a mass exodus of country folk, especially the young, to the lure of the larger coastal cities. The Illawarra, with its huge…

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About Mick Roberts

A journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


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