Thursday, March 14, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

A Decade Of Spectacular Views At Anchor Bar Airlie Beach

With friendships made over the pool table, Anchor Bar tattoos seen around town and people recommending the ‘retreat from the main-street’ as you board a plane from Brisbane – it is easy to see how this iconic local venue has become both a meaningful and memorable place for many people over the years.

Opening its doors 10 years ago, Anchor Bar came to life when couple Josh Knutson and Leah McMillan saw an ad in the local newspaper and jumped at the opportunity to run their own place.  

The pair had met in Airlie Beach a few years earlier and had known each other from their homeland of New Zealand before this chance reconnection changed the trajectory of their lives.

Leah recalls that Josh had been working in construction and landscaping on the main-street revitalisation project when she called into town for two weeks to take a sailing course.

Having travelled the world for five years prior, when the couple met, Leah decided to stay and make a life here in Airlie Beach with Josh.

“You travel all around the world, but end up finding another Kiwi from your hometown!” she laughed.

When they first took over the venue it needed a little love as it had previously been a quiet bar that did not serve food and predominantly looked after resort clientele.

With a vision to create something different, but in-fitting with the casual coastal atmosphere of the town, Josh and Leah began to organically develop the offering.

Over the past decade Anchor Bar has evolved to become the popular place it is today.

“It’s our secret hideaway, the ‘retreat from the main street’ and it has its own unique identity, its own cult following,” shared Leah.

“We’ve seen people with Anchor Bar tattoos and had people come in who said they’d been told about us while boarding the plane from Brisbane.

“We are loved by locals but also travellers and holidaymakers who come through town.”

When asked the reason for their success, Leah said it is to do with consistency, especially when it comes to food.

“Putting consistently good food out has been our main goal,” she shared.

“We saw the potential to make this beautiful space into a family-friendly spot for everyone and I think over the years we have achieved that.”

With limited hospitality experience before they opened Anchor Bar, Josh and Leah say it was a whirlwind first few years when they managed the business before buying it in 2014 and then finally purchasing the freehold in 2017.

“It’s such a fun industry to be in and we love it!” Leah said.

“Usually, you pay to go out but we’re getting paid to be out and have fun!

“All this would not have been possible without our fantastic staff, our loyal locals and of course our amazing local suppliers – thank you all so much for making Anchor Bar what it is today.”

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