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Cheers to our iconic Aussie pubs
From their craggy-faced locals and tasty ‘counteries’ to their fiercely adored amber nectars and dunny doors eloquently labeled ‘sheilas’ and ‘blokes’, Australian pubs are the thirst breakers/rest stops/gossip centres for many a local and wandering drop-in. Need to get out of the Big Smoke for a bit? Check out our guide to Australia’s most iconic out-of-town watering holes.
Yes, I know it’s not an official state, but the Northern Territory is where you’ll probably find some of Australia’s down-and-dirtiest pubs. The Adelaide River Inn (south of Darwin) is a great start with its rollicking beer garden, decent Barra ‘n’ chips and Charlie the Buffalo (from Crocodile Dundee) perched bar-side.
The Humpty Doo Hotel in Arnhem Land is known for its croc burgers, Sunday seshes and colourful characters who (thank God) are sticklers for the venue’s ‘must wear pants’ dress rule, and one of Australia’s most famous, the Daly Waters Historic Pub, is also high on the gotta-see meter. Located 1,000 kilometres north of Alice Springs, this corrugated iron covered ‘shack’ is one of the Territory’s oldest. A popular drover’s rest, it has its very own thong tree and is filled to its tiny brim with memorabilia including foreign bank notes and a collection of randomly discarded bras. Legend has it a passing traveller lost a bet involving beer consumption and ironically the tradition continues.
If you’re north coast bound and land in Rockhampton, check out the Criterion Hotel which offers a warm vibe, a freshly poured coldie and a story or two about Queen Elizabeth II’s visit, or the Great Western Hotel which is widely regarded as the central Queensland venue of choice for beers, steaks and rodeo cowboys (in that order).
Further north you’ll find the Imperial Hotel in Ravenswood, with its stained glass windows and heritage interiors (it’s also reputedly haunted, so dare you to stay the night) and for a few more iconic pearlers, steer your road trip inland and start with the Walkabout Creek Hotel in McKinlay.
This is Mick Dundee’s pub (it featured in Crocodile Dundee) and is chockers with colourful locals keen for a chat, and further south in Kyuna you’ll find the Blue Heeler Hotel, a 100-year-old beer stop that is a monument to Australia’s hardest working dog.
Winton is the home of the North Gregory Hotel, where the iconic tune Waltzing Matilda was first performed way back in 1895, and the Tattersalls Hotel is also worth a stop-in for a chin wag with a range of patrons from miners and shearers to station owners and true-blue truckies.
And head southwest and you’ll land at probably Queensland’s most famous watering hole, the Birdsville Hotel, which is pretty much your last refreshment top-up before the vast barrenness of the Simpson Desert. Oozing Aussie character, it’s a great spot for pub grub and also home to a hoard of swaggering punters during September’s Birdsville Races.
If you’re on a coastal pub crawl (partaking in a couple of shandies of course), stop in at the Billinudgel Pub near Brunswick Heads, once home to Australia’s oldest publican, Ma Ring (she worked here for 53 years and was 101 when she passed away), then journey south to the Pub With No Beer Hotel in Taylors Arm which inspired that little ditty by country crooner Slim Dusty.
The Loaded Dog in Tarago is a hoot for country music fans (legendary artists perform here regularly), the art deco Hotel Gearin in Katoomba is famous for its classic Aussie ‘long bar’ and for a glimpse of a retired bushranger or two, stop off at the Binalong Hotel where famous outlaw John ‘Happy Jack’ Gilbert met his demise.
If you’re prepared to travel a bit for a frothy ale, head west for Broken Hill and the Palace Hotel, one of the locations used for the movie Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and the Silverton Hotel which keen Mad Max fans will spot a mile away.
And finally, way out in Corner Country you’ll find the Family Hotel in Tibooburra, a visual bush culture feast and home to artworks by a number of famous painters including Russell Drysdale.
For a taste of Australia’s gold rush history, grab a pint at the Railway Hotel in Castlemaine or head north east for the Corryong Courthouse Hotel, which is in the heart of Snowy Mountains country and the home of Jack Riley, who was said to be the inspiration for Banjo’s famous poem, The Man from Snowy River.
A short drive away, you’ll also find Beechworth’s Tanswells Commercial Hotel, a magnificent heritage-listed pub with a beautifully preserved bar and prospecting nostalgia dotting the walls. Prepare to get a little loose here too as this was also the venue of many a Kelly Gang pow-wow (Ned and his bros used to plan their future bushranging exploits here).
And for even more High Country hospitality, take a drive to the Victoria Hotel in Rutherglen which features traditional architecture including a sprawling lacework verandah. Beware its pretty exterior though, apparently its cellar once served as the town’s mortuary. Creepy!
Smack bang in the middle of Burke and Wills country, Cooper Creek’s Innamincka Hotel is a tribute to our early drovers, with its Outamincka Bar now the stuff of bush legends (the ill-fated explorers apparently ‘hang out’ here).
As the only stopover on the 528-kilometre-long Birdsville Track, the Mungerannie Hotel is literally an in-the-middle-of-nowhere must-see, and further south-west you’ll find William Creek Hotel, which is located on the world’s largest cattle property, Anna Creek Station. Be prepared – it’s ginormous – at 23,800 square kilometres, it’s pretty much half the size of Tasmania, but a great spot for a beer and a yarn with one of the locals.
And you can’t get more outback than the iconic Prairie Hotel at Parachilna. Built in the 1890’s, it’s famous for its magnificent Flinders Ranges views and a road-kill-inspired ‘feral foods’ menu, which features delights such as camel sausage and emu fillet mignon.
The ‘Freo’ or Freemasons Hotel in Geraldton with its restored spire is undoubtedly one of this coastal city’s icons, frequented by everyone from fishermen and miners to local surfers.
Out west in Kalgoorlie you’ll find The Exchange, which holds the record for the largest volume of Jim Beam sold in regional WA (nuff said), and around 200 kilometres north of this lies the Grand Hotel in Kookynie. As a past epicentre for local gold diggers (no, not the female kind), it has a fascinating history and is still inhabited by the odd ghost or two. Dubious? Stay the night in one of its old-school rooms and find out for yourself.
Waaayyyy north in the Pilbara is the ramschackle Iron Clad Hotel in Marble Bar. Officially known as Australia’s hottest town, you’ll find nothing more satisfying than downing a glass of ice-cold bitter here, and further north near the coast, the bright-pink Whim Creek Hotel offers up a few of its own colourful tales (including enduring battles with cyclones and camels).
Lastly over on the west coast, The Roebuck Bay Hotel, Broome’s oldest pub, offers everything from quintessential Aussie tucker and thirst quenching ales to pumping outdoor parties hosted by some of the biggest music acts in the country. As their motto goes, “If it’s happening in Broome, it’s happening at the Roey”.
For a bucket list tick to rave to your mates about, down a refreshment or two at Australia’s oldest continuously licensed pub, the Bush Inn in New Norfolk, stop in at the Man O’Ross Hotel for a drink at a classic heritage boozer, or further north, visit the Mole Creek Hotel for some insight into the valley’s Tasmanian tiger sightings.
And although not technically an outback pub, the Pub in the Paddock in the Pyengana Valley is a must-see if not purely for its famed (beer swilling) resident. One of the lush locals? No, it’s a pig named Pinky who adores his brew (he can down 76 stubbies in one session). But if that doesn’t impress, this watering-hole-in-a-paddock’s amazing views surely will.
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