Willunga Hotel, 5 High Street, Willunga

In 1868 James Castle, storekeeper and licensee of the Old Bush Inn, decided that Willunga needed another hotel. He relinquished his license of the Bush Inn and set about providing one. Fortuitously he owned an allotment at 5 High Street, next to the Castle’s General Store at 3 High Street that he had opened in 1850. Here he built a fine two storey building with a front balcony, stables and stockyards, in a position later described as ‘one of the best that could have been selected‘ for a hotel. It was ‘tastefully designed and neatly finished both internally and externally‘.

A license was obtained and Willunga Hotel opened for business in October 1868. When James moved to Adelaide in 1871 he leased out the Willunga Hotel until his son William took over the license from 1879 to 1881. Then followed a succession of licensees, including six years tenure by George Webb whose family later ran the Alma Hotel.

The Quinn family ushered in a new era at the Willunga Hotel, running it for fifty-two years until 1947. The women of the family were the mainstays of the business. When her husband James died in 1904, Dora (Dorothy) Quinn ran the Hotel singlehandedly until daughter Molly was old enough to help, assisted by son Andy. The Hotel was a popular refreshment stop and meeting place for locals and visitors who arrived in goods wagons and passenger carriages. Hotel income was supplemented by providing liquid refreshment at Willunga Shows and catering for the opening of Willunga Slate Quarries in 1922. A minor brush with the law resulted in a fine for unlawfully supplying liquor in 1919.

Keith Reynolds took over the Hotel in 1949, followed by James and Alice Glennon in the 1950s and 1960s. The SA Brewing Company owned it in the 1970s, then the Priess family from 1985-1993. In 2013 it wa owned by Heath DeBoo and Kellie Silvester.

Willunga Hotel has now expanded into the adjoining store buildings at Castle’s General Store at 3 High Street. The three buildings came under single ownership in 1976. The original railings and slate verandah remain, together with internal stonework on some walls. In 1971 the Premier of SA unveiled a Royal Institute of Architects plaque, still on an outside wall.

This building is on the State Heritage Register (SA Heritage Places database #5269)

Martin Dunstan remembers: Occasionally, my father would take me with him when he visited the Willunga Hotel, at that time owned by the Quinn family of which I do remember Andy and Molly. I was sat on the counter and Molly would give me a raspberry drink. What a wonderful flavour the drink had and I can say that I have not experienced its equal since. On the top shelf behind the bar were several glass fronted display cases which contained stuffed birds and I can still visualise the white cockatoo as though it were yesterday. Like most business premises in those days the floor of the bar room was slate. At the rear of the hotel was quite a large car park from where patrons were able to enter the hotel from a rear door near a large Moreton bay fig tree.


L Hoad. Hotels and Publicans in South Australia: 1836-1993,
M Dunstan. Willunga as I knew it,
Willunga National Trust Folder 42-14 and others.

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