Words Paul Makin


Famous for its fields of sugar cane, home to the magnificent Mossman Gorge and Kuku Yalanji people, Mossman is a picturesque little township nestled at the foot of lush mountain ranges. The main street offers an eclectic mix of country stores - look up and you will see lovely examples of Australian architecture, including some classic Aussie pubs.  Front Street, as it is known, weaves its way through the heart of the township.  The vibe is local and friendly. 

While pubs and Mossman go well together, wine bars and Mossman don’t exactly roll off the tongue. Yet thanks to an industrious local entrepreneur, this is becoming a reality.

Meet Paul McMahon.  Paul grew up in Park Orchards, 23 km north-east of Melbourne. He was attracted to hotel management from an early age and travelled to Sydney to manage pubs for four years. Ironically, one of the hotels he managed was the Bridgepoint Tavern at Mosman, the other Mossman with one ‘s’. His next stop was the historic Orient Hotel at the Rocks where he was the 23-year-old licensee. Then it was onto the Marlborough Hotel in King Street Newtown. Subsequently he joined CUB (Carlton United Breweries) and worked in several places in Queensland, including Cairns. It was then back to Melbourne with CUB to look after Woolworths and Coles. After 16 years it was time to move on. Paul joined the Independent Distillers organisation which was ultimately purchased by Asahi who ended up buying CUB. It had come full circle.

At that time, Paul found himself redundant. Here he was out of work with a wife, four children and a mortgage, but this small bump in the road only spurred him on to achieve some sort of independence in the hospitality and retail sectors. It was decided the family would start their monopoly set by selling their home and buying a pub. But where? Where was there an opportunity? Maybe Brisbane? No, the numbers didn’t stack up there. But then Mossman Hotel came up for sale and the numbers did stack up in a town where he felt there was potential for growth. A renovated Mossman Hotel in Far North Queensland proved to be a great investment. Then, another bottle shop. Located next to Woollies, the Bottle-O seemed the right fit. In their second year of business, Paul and the team won the award for best bottle shop in Queensland, proud of their great service, product selection and knowledge that had won them gold.  I guess if the hat fits …. the Bottle-O went on to win this coveted award for the next three years!

Back in Port Douglas, a takeover of the Barrier Reef Tavern and a spruce up once again proved if you give people what they want and work hard, success will follow.  Landlord was now added to this entrepreneur’s resume. Fortunately, the space was taken by talented chef Jed Sneddon and now hosts the busy and award-winning restaurant, Kai.

As a 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry, Paul did not sit idle and he continued to look for opportunities in Mossman.  He wanted to create something special that would both complement the portfolio but more importantly for his community. “I realised there were a number of locals who didn’t want to drink in the pubs,” Paul said. “It was just not their style, but they felt starved for choice when it came to a high-end destination.”

When the Mossman Cycle Sports shop came up for sale (ironically the next-door property to the family’s Mossman Hotel), Paul secured it and his vision to open Mossman’s first wine bar took a big leap forward.  The old shop needed some massive TLC, completely gutted inside to become a project three years in the making.  Paul and wife Susie set out to create a beautiful space, determined not to settle for less. “Everything we do we try to do it first class, spend money, do it once and do it properly,” said Paul. Where possible, local trades people and materials were used too. “For example, Chris Jenkin from Galaxi Homes did an amazing job with our vision of what the bar should look like”. Mossman’s Richard Davis did all the upholstery work and Hatfield Electrical were the sparkies on the project. Even the beer garden was designed and landscaped by John Sullivan from Hortulus Port Douglas.  Considerate of staff, the second floor was also fully renovated offering accommodation, a bathroom and a share kitchen for the team to use.

With the project nearing completion, an opening date was sealed when the venue received its first official booking, a local wedding.  Now all they needed was all hands-on-deck, a bit of good luck and oh, a name!

Taking a step back in history, George Elphinstone Dalrymple was an early Australian explorer, colonist, public servant, and politician. Naming the Mossman River on 6 December 1873 as a tribute to his close friend Hugh Mossman, the town followed suit and the township of Mossman was born. Hugh was also a Queensland politician and he owned mines (he discovered gold in Charters Towers).  By all accounts though, Hugh Mossman was also known as a bit of a bit of a larrikin. Paul felt such an interesting character, locked into the history of the town seemed a fitting choice to carry the wine bar’s name - welcome to Hughie’s!

In their second year of business, Paul and the team won the award for best bottle shop in Queensland, proud of their great service, product selection and knowledge that had won them gold

It was certainly a ‘wow’ moment for me as Paul gave a me a guided tour of the new venue. He and wife Susie set out to create a beautiful space and they’ve succeeded in spectacular fashion.

What will hit you immediately as you walk in is the ambience, a warm relaxed space accentuated by the timbers. The bar top for example is white mahogany and the steel beams are disguised with New Guinea Rosewood.

Mossman is slowly but surely making a name for itself outside of sugar. It’s a credit to everyone with a business there helping to make Mossman a more attractive town for visitors and locals alike. Tapas is the food of choice for the bar, and of course there is a fine selection of wine and cocktails too.

So next time you are visiting and wish to sample some tapas and fine wine, or simply start the weekend in the right way, make sure you add Hughie’s Wine Bar in Mossman to your list.  I guarantee you won’t be disappointed, and it will leave you planning your next cheers or special event! And if you are game and enjoy rum, then why not try the rum that Bundaberg has created especially for Hughie’s?  Named the ‘Undertakers Blend’ … I dare not ask what the origins of that one are!