By Bev Malzard
There’s nothing like the experience of walking into an Outback pub in Australia. You might be greeted with an effusive “welcome” or a taciturn “g-day”, be surprised by a city slicker hipster serving coffees at the bar or a bartender who looks like he wrangles steers. A gap-toothed smile is always on the agenda but the dim, cool bar will be your best first impression out of a blazing hot day – and the beer is always cold.
Classic Aussiness in very sense of the word
Tilpa Hotel, NSW: The population here is eight and the pub looks after its own. It’s kind of quaint and sits on the banks of the Darling River. Don’t expect gourmet food, but as expected, the beer is cold.
Daly Waters Hotel, Northern Territory: an historic NT hotel, it has a long, colourful history that has seen murders, cattle stampedes (in the street, not the bar), shoot outs and drunken brawls. A five-hour drive south of Darwin and you’ll be there. Sorry, all’s calm and civilised these days.
Tattersall’s ‘Tatts’, Winton Qld: The real deal, smack bang in the middle of Queensland, with wide verandah overhang and a fine bar. Grab a meal here – this is where you’ll find the ‘great steak slab’.
The Tattersalls Hotel in Winton has been serving beers since 1855. The ‘Tatts’ has had a second storey added and the odd bit of modernisation but it sits with authentic aplomb. A few changes here and there but it’s as good as it gets when the rodeo is in town. And for the Guinness aficionado’s, there’s Kilkenny on tap!
Middleton Hotel, Winton Shire, Qld: and again in the remote middle of Queensland, the Middleton (between Winton and Mt Isa) built during the Cobb & Co. era has a history that tells many tales of fortitude and survival. Middleton has declined over the years but the pub’s still standing, the hospitality is warm and the pub now enjoys the distinction of being known as one of the most remote hotels in Queensland.
Prairie Hotel, Parachilna South Australia: this is something else, a ‘luxury accommodation’ hotel, a casual grab-a-beer bar and a much awarded restaurant serving exquisite gourmet creations. In the Outback in Australia’s desert zone (and after the main course – a remote dessert zone) which stretches from Parachilna to the south to Birdsville – pull into a true blue surprise.
Palace Hotel, Broken Hill NSW: the building was once a coffee palace in 1889, built by the Temperance Movement. No surprise, the idea was not successful and the place ultimately became a licensed hotel. The splendid old building was one of the stars of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. The crazy grandiose murals were painted by an Indigenous artist Gordon Waye. Accommodation ranges from dorms to kitschy suites and the restaurant always gets a good rave.
Family Hotel, Tibooburra NSW: 340km from Broken Hill, way out in Corner Country (NSW, Queensland and South Australia are nudging each other here) the hotel sits to serve visitors and the town’s population of 135. It has held appeal for musicians and artists and inside the hotel are some authentic works of Aussie artist Clifton Pugh.
Birdsville Hotel, Birdsville Qld: since 1884 the sandstone walls of this famous pub have weathered floods, fires, cyclones and rowdy crowds that drive or fly in for the annual weekend of Outback eccentricity – the Birdsville Races. For those who brave the unpredictable track, the reward of ‘being in Birdsville’ is the simple thrill of being in this far flung location.
The Grand Hotel, Koolkynie, Western Australia: on the old Goldfields region of this bustling town of 20 residents there’s an ex racehorse called Willy who visits the pub on his own accord every day at 3pm. He sticks his head in the front door or a window looking for carrots.
Palace Hotel, Southern Cross Western Australia: interesting how many hotels throughout Australia are called the ‘palace’, lack of imagination or imagining these establishments to be right royal watering holes! The Palace here is between Meridan and Coolgardie on the way to Kalgoorlie (where many of the pubs are nicknamed ‘skimpies’, because of the bar staff wearing underwear – or not). Anyway – the Palace is a splendid example of Gold Rush era style architecture.