Great Outback Pubs

The nation still boasts stacks of old-school pubs where the meat raffle rules and Aussie hospitality remains. Pull up a pew and check out the icons

By: Karen Halabi

NEW SOUTH WALES

In Broken Hill call into The Palace Hotel, the historical three-storey pub with long verandahs and elaborate cast-iron balustrades that featured in the movie The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Or visit The Silverton Hotel, 26km away, in a mining ghost town known for its hospitality and 50 or so quirky local residents. Much further north there's The Billi Pub, in historical Billinudgel, the former home of Mar Ring, Australia's (and possibly the world's) oldest publican. Mar was publican for 53 years until the age of 101. She lectured Bob Hawke on how to pull a beer, and was awarded an MBE. A timber pub in the Brunswick Valley, near Byron, The Billi is steeped in history. The bistro tucker is home-style and Norma is the best pub chef this side of Uluru.

QUEENSLAND

Knock back a toast to Australia's hardestworking dog at The Blue Heeler Hotel in Kynuna. It's the 100-year-old hotel where Banjo Paterson himself saw champagne being handed through the window to end the angry shearers' strike of the 1800s. On the same outback highway, heading north-west towards Mount Isa, meet local experts in pointing out what is and isn't a knife at the historical Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay. Crocodile Dundee's regular drinking spot in the original film, it was sold for $290,000 after the movie was made. The Birdsville Hotel, on the Outback's desolate Birdsville Track, near the SA border, dates to 1884 and epitomises the dead heart. North on the Sunshine Coast, historical Eumundi boasts Joe's Waterhole. Formerly The Commercial Hotel—a much better pub name—this pub's wide balconies, dimly lit bars and swirling ceiling fans are classic.

SOUTH AUSTRALIA

The only stopover on the 528km Birdsville Track, The Mungerannie Hotel sits on the edge of the Sturt Stony, Simpson, Tirari and Strzelecki deserts, in the heart of Burke and Wills country. The Innamincka Hotel at Cooper Creek played host to early drovers coming down the Strzelecki Track, and the boozer's convivial ‘Outamincka Bar' has become the stuff of bush legend. The William Creek Hotel is right smack-bang in the middle of the world's largest single cattle property, the 23,800km2 Anna Creek Station. That's almost half the size of Tasmania, but by way of contrast, William Creek - population six—is SA's smallest town. The William Creek Hotel is the only watering hole on the Oodnadatta Track between Marree and Oodnadatta, and the only corrugated iron hotel still trading in the state.

WALTZING MATILDA

Australia's unofficial national anthem was sung for the first time at the North Gregory Hotel in outback Winton in 1895. It was written about an incident at the nearby Combo Waterhole, 20km south of Kynuna, Queensland

A PUB WITH NO BEER?

As country singer Slim Dusty once lamented, "There's nothin' so lonesome, morbid or drear than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer." But as legend has it, that's what happened at one famous boozer. The song was based on a poem about the Day Dawn Hotel (now Lees Hotel) in Ingham, Queensland, written by old Irishman Dan Sheahan and published in The North Queensland Register in 1943. Gordon Parsons picked up the verses, injected the characters and set it to music, then Slim Dusty recorded it, calling it A Pub With No Beer.

The Exchange holds the record for the biggest sales
of Jim Beam bourbon in regional WA.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA

The Roebuck Bay Hotel (‘The Roey') lives by the saying: "If it's going to happen in Broome, it's going to happen at The Roey." Pull up a chair beside local raconteur ‘Swindle' for pearling and gangster tales to last a week. The best-known pub in Kalgoorlie, with 11 beers on tap, The Exchange holds the record for the biggest sales of Jim Beam bourbon in regional WA; it was originally constructed as a shed in the late 1800s. The population of the small goldmining town of Kookynie, 200km from Kal, is under 10, but the 1894 vintage Grand Hotel lives on. Drink with the ghosts of local prospectors on its big verandahs and in its spacious rooms.

NORTHERN TERRITORY

The corrugated-iron-clad Daly Waters Pub, on the Explorers Way between Alice Springs and Darwin, served Australian and American airmen—including a fighter squadron—who were based in the town during World War II. The pub gained fame as a stopover for pilots and passengers arriving on the new Qantas international airline in 1934. (Daly Waters, incongruously, was the site of Australia's first international airport.) From Maluka's Bar at Mataranka Springs, just south-east of Katherine, toddle off to see the nearby replica of the hut in which Jeannie Gunn lived at Elsey Station. The first white woman in the area, Gunn told her story in the 1908 novel We of the Never - Never. The world-famous Humpty Doo Hotel in Arnhem Land is conveniently located for travellers heading to Kakadu and is chockers with eccentric locals. At The Barra Bar & Bistro, on the Kakadu Highway, you can cook your own local delicacies on a supplied barbecue to enjoy with the accompanying buffet. Just south of Darwin at Berry Springs is The Litchfield Pub, home of the bull arena and shed and a 55m-long bar.

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