Essential Guide: Bars at the End of the World
People have found ways to live in the most inhospitable places on earth. Nearly immediately after finding a way to survive, they have found a way to get drunk.
Likely because of, rather than in spite of, the challenges of living in the far reaches of the world, establishing a communal space is a survival necessity. Be it at the base of an active volcano, inside a 6,000-year-old tree, or even on your way to Mount Everest, no matter how far off the grid you end up, you are likely to find a place for strong spirits and lively conversation.
In this Essential Guide, Atlas Obscura raises a glass to some of the oldest, most remote, and simply unlikely "Bars at the End of the World" in which to have a drink. Cheers!
THE BAR AT VERNADSKY RESEARCH BASE
Galindez Island, Antarctica
Vernadsky Research Base (photograph by ravas51/Flickr user)
Just off the small Zodiac boat required to access freezing Galindez Island in Antarctica lies the world’s southernmost bar — the Bar at Vernadsky Research Base.
This tiny, one-room social area is located among the same research facilities where scientists first discovered the hole in the ozone layer. The bar was built by carpenters during the station's British stewardship, although they were supposed to use the wood to build a new pier for the complex. Instead they decided the base needed a place to drink.
The carpenters built the bar to recall the rustic pubs of their homeland with exposed wooden beams and aging photographs of Antarctica explorers. After the station’s purchase by the Ukraine in 1996, the bar became a firmly Ukrainian establishment where you can drink and cavort with researchers during the off hours. In addition to the standard libations, the bar also makes its own vodka using the surrounding glacial ice. The drink can be purchased for three dollars a glass or it is free with the donation of some womens’ undergarments to display behind the bar. Judging by the decor, there have been a number of free drinks.
Essential drink: A glass of home-brewed vodka. (Your payment method is up to you.)
Bar at Vernadsky Research Base (photograph by ravas51/Flickr user)
Vernadsky Research Base (via Wikimedia)
Adamstown, Pitcairn Island
The treacherous road to the Pitcairn settlement. (Photo via QSL.net)
With no access by plane and a severely limited boat schedule, Pitcairn Island is one of the most remote inhabited locations on Earth, its closest neighbor being Tahiti, which is over 1,300 miles away. The outcropping of volcanic rock is home to only 50 people, receives all of its power from three generators, and, despite its limited services, contains a single bar called Christian’s Cafe.
The island is best known as the final resting place of the H.M.S. Bounty which was burned and sunk in 1790 when the mutinous crew settled on the island, leaving the 50 remaining descendants to carry on their legacy. Christian’s Cafe added spirits to its menu after 2009 when the local government lifted a law requiring a permit to purchase or consume alcohol. The bar itself is a white-walled, single room affair with a view of the island’s tropical foliage, and is only open on Friday from 6:30 until “late.”
Pitcairn Island is only accessible via a three, or ten-day pass which will deliver you to the island as a passenger on its single passenger/trading boat, or as a stop on a cruise vessel. No matter how you get there, make sure it's on a Friday so you can have a tipple at Christian’s Cafe.
Essential drink: A tall glass of rum, ye mutinous dog.
Meals are offered in the cafe when the bar is not in service. (Photo via Visit Pitcairn)
Pitcairn's single boat landing. (photograph by John Cooper)
The entrance to the Birdsville Hotel. (via Wikimedia)
Through dust storms, floods, and dwindling population, Australia’s Birdsville Hotel has stood the test of time in one of the most unforgiving climates on the planet.
Located on the edge of the arid Simpson Desert, in the population 273 town of Birdsville, the 27-room lodging and its attendant pubs act as a last bastion of civilization and camaraderie for anyone entering the nearby outback where the temperature averages over 100 degrees and rain is seen as a miracle.
Built in 1884, the one-story, sandstone establishment has three drinking areas, including two traditional outback pubs and a beer garden to accommodate the mix of tourists, outdoorsmen, and locals. Despite its remote location and demanding surroundings, the hotel’s rooms and facilities are modern and well kept thanks to the annual influx of spectators of the Birdsville Horse Races which bring in thousands of people to the otherwise small town every September. However, the bar areas retain the cacophonous charm of a traditional outback pub with exposed rafters strung with the accumulated remains of countless drunken evenings at the edge of civilization.
Essential drink: A cold can of Australian beer.
A game of pool in the Birdsville main pub area. (photograph by Toby WoolleyFlickr)
The collection of offerings behind the bar. (via Travel Vivi)
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha Island
Tristan da Cunha Island. (Photo via Wikimedia)
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is a small British settlement of under 300 people who live 1,800 miles of ocean from their nearest neighbor, but dangerously close to an active volcano. This mix of isolation and natural danger would make anyone need a drink, and to that end the Albatross Bar was created.
The small village of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, known locally as “The Settlement,” was established in 1818 at the base of the volcano on the island of Tristan da Cunha as an act of English military strategy. The Settlement’s single taproom takes up the eastern portion of Prince Philip Hall, the local common house. It consists of a newly refurbished linoleum bar in the single room, having been rebuilt after a hurricane severely damaged the building in 2001. The bar itself is small, but in a farming community where the constant threat of famine, disease, storms, and volcanic eruption loom large, the simple watering hole is more than sufficient.
Reaching the island will take seven to eight days aboard one of the irregularly scheduled fishing trawlers which picks up locally caught lobster and drops off supplies, but if you can make it, the Albatross Bar should give you company in the shadow of the volcano.
Essential drink: A lager and a locally-caught-lobster pie.
Prince Philip Hall, home of the Albatross Bar. (photograph via Colin's Notes)
Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (via Wikimedia)
THE OLD FORGE
The Old Forge Pub. (via The Independent)
While many of the bars on this list lay claim to “most remote bar” only one holds a Guinness World Record for the honor, and that is Scotland’s Old Forge Pub, which has the distinction of being Britain's most isolated pub. Originally built as an actual blacksmith’s forge on the shore of Loch Nevis, the building evolved into a social club for the local workers after World War II, before finally becoming a pub in 1981.
The long, exposed-wood interior of the establishment offers a warm, cozy environment and the walls are adorned with various musical instruments which the patrons are welcome to play if they know what they’re doing. In addition to a number of locally brewed beers, the large taproom offers a full menu of food and coffee for any weary traveller who succeeds in reaching the place.
As the pub has gained popularity for its hearty food, impromptu musical performances, and welcoming atmosphere, the ways to reach the Old Forge have increased, now including multiple ferries. However over land there is still no road to the blissfully isolated alehouse, but the scenic 12-mile walk from the nearest car-stop will make leaving the world behind all the easier.
Essential drink: A brew from the local Glenfinnan micro-brewery, run by a retired math teacher.
Sunland Ranch, South Africa
The massive verdant exterior. (photograph by Hannes via Atlas Obscura)
A baobab (alternately called a dead-rat tree, a monkey-bread tree, or an upside-down tree) is a tree indigenous to Africa, recognizable by its wide, thick trunk and sparse, broad canopy. These trees can grow exceedingly large, and in the case of the ancient baobab on the Sunland Ranch in South Africa, large enough to build a whole bar in.
The "Big Baobab” as it is known is 155 feet around and 75 feet high, leading some to believe that it is the largest tree on the African continent. Whether or not this is true, the really remarkable feature is that the tree is naturally hollow, creating the space in which the van Heerden family, who own the land, built a bar the size of a railway car. The English pub-inspired interior of the tree can comfortably fit up to 20 people and features a dart board among other knickknacks placed along the tree's natural contours. The space even features a natural cellar to keep the drinks cool.
The Sunland Baobab has been carbon-dated to be over 6,000-years-old, and may even be one of the oldest living organisms on the planet, but don’t be intimidated by the pub’s size and age, just enjoy a beer in the bar nature gave us.
Essential drink: A beer from the literal root cellar and a can of ant repellant.
The cozy bar interior. (Image via Atlas Obscura)
The small door in the huge tree. (Image via Atlas Obscura)
IRISH PUB AT THE NAMCHE BAZAAR
Namche Bazaar, Nepal
Namche Bazaar. (via Wikimedia)
Hiking to the apex of Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is thirsty work. Luckily, as the Nepalese trading community of Namche Bazaar evolved into a village, one smart entrepreneur established the simply named, Irish Pub, the highest bar in the world.
Namche Bazaar is a small village on a steep mountain slope which was built in response to the increased number of hikers looking to follow in Sir Edmund Hillary’s footsteps, and many of those adventurous souls come together at the Irish Pub to share rousing tales of their travels. The pub consists of one long bar and a number of entertainments, including a pool table, foosball, and a wide-screen television where travelers can keep up with their local game. While the traditional taproom amenities are a welcome sight for many travellers, the opportunity to meet fellow wanderers and interact with the local people is just as attractive. In this vein, the bar offers a number of Irish whiskeys and standard draughts, but customers can also choose from a number of traditional Sherpa alcohols to spice up their Everest experience.
To reach the Irish Pub at Namche Bazaar you will need to fly into the only airport in the Everest region (oft thought of as one of the most treacherous airports in the world due to its short, sloped, and frozen runway) and trek in to the village on foot. The hike can be done in one day, but it is suggested that travelers take up to two days to avoid altitude sickness.
Essential drink: A Raksi, which is a wood-distilled rice wine common among sherpa drinkers
Party time at the top of the world. (via the Irish Pub's Facebook)
Hookahs are a popular order at the Irish Pub. (via the Irish Pub's Facebook)
YE OLDE TRIP TO JERUSALEM INN
England's oldest inn as it looks today. (via Wikimedia)
Nestled in the stone crags beneath England’s Nottingham Castle lies the oldest inn in England which legend has it provided Crusaders with ale to gird their courage at the last stop before they went on to Holy War. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn began as a brewhouse in the 12th Century and takes its name from the apocryphal tales of Christian Crusaders who would supposedly drink one for the road before heading off to Jerusalem.
“The Trip,” as its called for short, consists of a large alehouse that abuts the cliff face is in the approximate location of the castle’s original brewhouse from the 12th Century. Inside this building is a classical English pub built directly into the sandstone beneath the castle. From here one can also access other, older chambers which were built into the cliff and are believed to have been used in the fermentation of ale during the Crusades. Even the ancient cellar tunnels beneath the cliff, which were once the castle jails, are used for keg storage.
Tourists to Nottingham Castle are encouraged to stop and have a drink at the Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn today just as the 12th Century Crusaders were, proving that be it a during a relaxing vacation, or a dire holy war for our very souls, there will always be a place to have a pint.
Essential drink: One of the locally imported Greene King ales, or a sip of sacramental wine.
A view of the connected castle architechture. (Image via Atlas Obscura)
New and ancient architecture meet beneath the inn. (via Atlas Obscura)
LAFITTE'S BLACKSMITH SHOP
New Orleans, Louisiana
The Blacksmith Shop's exterior. (via Wikimedia)
Unlike most of the entries on this list, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in New Orleans is not hard to reach, but having been in business continuously since its construction in 1722, the popular tourist attraction, and America's oldest operating bar, may be most likely to exist until the end of the world.
The aged brick building is one of the only remaining examples of the once ubiquitous French Colonial architectural style on Bourbon Street. While the space has been renovated over the years, the interior still maintains the original stone and wood decor. The bar takes its name from a local legend which says that the public house was once used as a base for the Lafitte Brothers, notorious smugglers.
Despite crime, wars, fires, and even potential hauntings, Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop continues to draw large crowds of tourists and locals, and if business continues as it has for the past 200-plus years the bar may still be serving when the sun goes out.
Essential drink: A souvenir t-shirt to show that you visited the bar before it was the only one left.
The spacious bar. (via The Vault Uncensored)
Patrons have been pulling up to the bar for centuries. (via Wikimedia)
San Fransisco, California
The bay view from Forbes Island. (via Atlas Obscura)
Built on the tiny, man-made flotilla called Forbes Island, the restaurant and bar of the same name is simply floating in a San Francisco dock waiting to sail into the ocean where the wealthy customers can continue sipping their cocktails should the world fall into ruin. While this may be a dramatic reading of the establishment’s intentions, the upscale eatery and lounge is in a unique position to act out this apocalyptic scenario.
The “island” itself was created in 1975 by millionaire houseboat designer, Forbes Thor Kiddoo, and is actually a marvelously designed concrete barge. The bar rests in a hut above the waterline next to an actual lighthouse. Drinkers can peer out at the bay as they sip a glass of fine wine from the barge’s underwater cellar, or order a nice summer cocktail and watch the birds that have made their home in the towering palms which were successfully transplanted to the boat. Below the waterline the island houses an upscale restaurant with portholes that look out under the sea.
Forbes Island is an easily accessible location permanently docked in the San Francisco bay and they are currently taking reservations. But should the need arise this floating marvel has the potential to set out to sea and become the most remote tavern on this list.
Essential drink: A sea breeze.
The bar on Forbes Island. (via Atlas Obscura)
The bar beneath the the sea level. (Photo by Jennifer Loring via Flickr)
BARS AT THE END OF THE WORLD:
THE BAR AT VERNADSKY RESEARCH BASE, Galindez Island, Antarctica
CHRISTIAN'S CAFE, Adamstown, Pitcairn Island
THE BIRDSVILLE HOTEL, Birdsville, Australia
ALBATROSS BAR, Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha Island
THE OLD FORGE, Knoydart, Scotland
IRISH PUB AT THE NAMCHE BAZAAR, Namche Bazaar, Nepal
YE OLDE TRIP TO JERUSALEM INN, Nottingham, England
LAFITTE'S BLACKSMITH SHOP, New Orleans, Louisiana
FORBES ISLAND, San Fransisco, California