Harwood Hotel is a historical pub situated on the banks of the Clarence River.
Often described as an eclectic little pub with a wonderful atmosphere. A long and varied history sees the current building which was once the managers residence for the bridge construction over 50 years ago still standing with some improvements over the years.
Considered the social hub of the small island community The Harwood Hotel remains popular amongst the locals as well as the greater community and visitors alike. Boasting a great bistro (with a couple of Good Pub Food awards), regular live entertainment and fantastic cold tap beer keeps the locals and visitors turning up. Located just off the Pacific Highway on the northern side of the bridge between Yamba, Iluka and Maclean. The pub is a popular place to stop either by road or water."
A Brief History of Harwood
Early settlers came to the Harwood area in the 1850-60’s but it was not until CSR bought a local sugar mill in 1872 that Harwood really started to go ahead.
The community itself was growing steadily due to the rich alluvial soil and successful cultivation of sugar cane, however, the town also bustled due to the thriving Clarence River.
Until the entrepreneurial Harry Bushnell purchased a ferry, the only means of crossing the Clarence River was by rowing a boat. In 1885 Harry bought an old steam ferry and charged passengers a toll to cross the wide river.
It was always a busy crossing, even as far back as 1908 when on an average Saturday the ferry carried 176 foot passengers, 31 bicycles, 130 horses, 16 buggies, 71 sulkies, 6 wagons, 15 horses and 152 head of cattle.
The ferry originally operated from 6am to 6pm Monday to Saturday with no Sunday service.
Harwood also had 2 passenger boats from Sydney each week, as well as a cargo boat, and 3 river boats daily from Grafton, these boats brought mail and passengers which were met by coaches and taken to the Richmond river district.
Harwood was a busy, thriving town with 3 pubs, a post office, public school, police station and thriving cane industry. By 1937 two ferries were operating a regular quarter hour service. A third ferry was available when traffic was heavy.
The Morpeth Hotel
The Morpeth Hotel, as the Harwood Hotel was originally called, was built by local John McLachlan. John McLachlan migrated to Australia from The Isle of Skye with his parents at the age of 2, on the “SS Brilliant”.
John settled in Harwood in 1861, married his wife shortly after, they had 8 daughters and 3 sons. The family originally cleared the land and grew corn but soon switched to cane.
John built the first hotel in Harwood in the 1870's and called it the Morpeth Hotel, after Morpeth on the Hunter River. The building was strategically located on the pacific highway before the 1966 opening of the bridge. It was a large 2 story house with a drinking room. The first tenants were the Hurley family.
The Harwood Island Bridge opened on the 20th of August 1966 and the Morpeth Hotel burnt down in April of that same year!
Sid Gibbs the owner in 1966, rebuilt the hotel from timber from the pay office of the bridge construction site. The name was changed from the Morpeth Hotel to Harwood Hotel in the late 1970’s.
Over the past 60 years the building has undergone some improvements but remains the quaint, slightly rickety, low-set building from 50 years ago.
Floods are as much a part of this community as is the cane and you see the best of people when faced with adversity.
We have had a number of floods in recent years and the locals rallied together after the 2009 flood to raise funds for our own flood boat. This enables us to get emergency supplies to the isolated and the elderly.
The hotel is considered the community hub when the town floods. Thankfully the beer is still running and still cold!