Vic gives us the lowdown on some of his top outback watering holes
Can anyone else see the irony in the Editor asking me, a non-drinker, to write up a list of the best Outback pubs? Obviously Dex couldn’t find anyone else on the team that could remember their stay at any of them…
Putting that aside I do have to say that our Outback pubs play a huge role in any four-wheel drive journey and not only for the cool lemonade at the end of a long, hot, dusty drive. They are a source of accommodation; they provide places to share experiences; and, if you are truly lucky, they give you time to meet and appreciate the locals who live in the town or the desolate Outback.
1. Birdsville Hotel
Of course it had to be on the list, the most famous pub in Australia. I would say that every four-wheel driver has heard of it and so have most true Aussies – even though the majority have never been there.
The Birdsville Pub is found at the northern end of the Birdsville Track in the far south-western corner of Queensland. If you are going to cross the Simpson Desert, you will either start from the pub or end at the pub. The town attracts over 7,000 people to two major events each year – the Races in September and the Big Red Bash in July. Apart from all the tourists in the bar you occasionally get to meet a local or two (they are pretty hard cases but once the hotel quietens down they become more talkative). Best time to visit? Avoid the busy times and you will have a chance to soak up the atmosphere, have a chat to the bar staff and possibly a local ringer.
Yes, over 20 motel rooms out the back
three-course dinner and even a cooked breakfast
Click here for more info: http://theoutback.com.au/birdsville-hotel
2. Mungerannie Hotel
Just down the Birdsville Track, 315 kilometres to be precise, is one of the must-visit pubs in the whole of the Outback. The Mungerannie Pub is smack bang in the middle of nowhere. The pub (and its donga-style accommodation) is all that is found here; there is no town, blink and you will miss it. But try not to blink, as it is a pearler! Old Phil behind the bar with his long hair and dusty beard and complete lack of political correctness or diplomacy is worth the stop in his own right. But there is also a campground beside the man-made billabong and even a small hot spa fed by the warm artesian waters. Sounds like a resort… it isn’t! But it’s worth an overnight stop, even if it is just to be insulted by Phil.
Yes, basic donga rooms and a campground
Yes, the biggest
burgers on the Track
Phone 08 8675 8317
Click here for more info : http://www.mungeranniehotel.com.au
3. Marree Hotel
Where the Birdsville Track and the Oodnadatta Track meet is the town of Marree. Once a major rail station for the Ghan railway, it now serves the vast Outback and it’s the last place to refuel and restock before really going bush. The Marree Hotel, built in 1873 and now managed by Phil and Maz Turner, is just superb. Constructed from sandstone ballast that came out on the sailing ships from England in the 1800s, with its two-storey structure and fabulous leadlight windows this hotel now houses a fabulous tribute room to Tom Kruse – the Birdsville mailman.
Even if you don’t plan to stop here overnight, make sure you check out that room.
The Marree man is back!
Yes, hotel rooms upstairs and motel rooms out the back
Yes, breakfast, lunch and dinner
Phone 08 8675 8344
Click here for more info: http://www.marreehotel.com.au
4. William Creek Hotel
If you aren’t going up the Birdsville Track it is very likely that you will be tackling the Oodnadatta Track. And halfway along this remote road is the William Creek Hotel. You can’t miss it, and shouldn’t. It has a tiny bar area, but a great restaurant out the back. William Creek boasts a population of four with seven planes. It is the home of Wright’s Air; and the whole town (including the pub) is owned by the likeable Trevor Wright.
The town is on the world’s largest cattle station, Anna Creek. It is also the best place from which to see Lake Eyre. Whether it has water or not the Lake is an awesome spectacle; and this is also why there are so many planes. Here is a little hint: Pay the extra and get a flight over the Painted Hills.
Not in the pub but across the road in the campground
Yes, dinner is excellent
Phone 08 8670 7880
Click here for more info: http://www.williamcreekhotel.com
5. Tilpa Hotel
We have all heard of the Darling River Run and apart from the drive along this mighty Outback river there are couple of great pubs along the way. Louth, just 100km west of Bourke, comes to mind; but my personal favourite is the pub at Tilpa – another 90km further down the river. There isn’t much else at Tilpa other than the hotel, but the bar with its colourful walls (all Outback pubs seem to have ‘trophy’ walls with various undergarments and hats adorning them) is the main meeting place for locals and tourists. I like the beer garden out the back. Overlooking the muddy waters of the Darling and enjoying a giant steak sandwich for lunch is what this place is all about. Did you know that just across the road from the pub is a memorial bearing the name of Breaker Morant? Possibly the only such memorial of its kind in Australia.
Lunch in the beer garden
Phone 02 6837 3928
6. Dargo Hotel
Now for something completely different. While it’s not strictly in the Outback, Dargo Pub is definitely a four-wheel driver’s kind of place. The town of Dargo is nestled deep in the High Country of Victoria about 80km south of Hotham Heights and just 30 minutes from the base of Billy Goat Bluff. This town is surrounded by some of the best four-wheel drive tracks in Australia. At any time of the year it will have a 4X4 or two parked out the front. A visit to the High Country is not complete without either lunch or dinner in this great hotel. Here you will definitely get the chance to meet a local and find out what life is really like in the Alpine region.
Yes, you can rent a log cabin next door or camp out the back
Yes, lunch and dinner
Phone 03 5140 1231
Click here for more info: http://thedargohotel.com.au
7. Kingoonya Hotel
Here is one not many people get to visit. But if you are doing Goog’s Track you will pass it, so drop in and have a throat cleanser. Found 40km west of Glendambo off the Stuart Highway on the Transcontinental Railway. Many of the towns along the rail line are dying or dead, and Kingoonya is hanging on by its fingertips. The pub is alive and well and needs you to drop in and say hi.
Yes, three rooms
Snacks through the day and dinner at night
Phone 08 8672 1002
Click here for more info: http://www.kingoonyahotel.com.au
8. Sunset Tavern, Karumba Qld
If you have ever sat in the shady grounds of the Sunset Tavern on Karumba Point in Far North Queensland and watched the setting sun over the Gulf of Carpentaria, you will know why I have included it in this list. A superb setting, hard to beat anywhere else; and you have had to do a bit of driving through some rather remote country to get there. The food is superb, but it can be pricey… but a little indulgence after doing the Savannah Way is a worthy reward.
No, but there are nearby caravan parks
Yes, lunch and dinner with a view!
Phone 07 4745 9183