So, how many of these iconic outback pubs have you been to?
Prairie Hotel, Parachilna
This could well be the prettiest of the outback pubs. With the awesomely stunning Flinders Ranges not far off in the distance, the Prairie Hotel is a great old pub along the Outback Highway, around 500 kilometres north of Adelaide. Food, service and accommodation here is really top-end, and perfect for a bit more of a pampered experience.
Mungerannie Hotel, Birdsville Track
Head south from Birdsville or north from Marree along the iconic Birdsville Track, and after a couple hundred kilometres you’ll come across a real pub in the scrub: the Mungerannie Hotel. This would have to be one of the most character-filled pubs around. Anything and everything adorns the walls and ceiling, and Phil the publican is out of this world, and makes for a very unique experience. There are some hot springs out the back, as well as hot showers, cabins and camping.
Birdsville Hotel, Birdsville
Also known as Camp 25 on the Madigan Line (bonus points for finding the plaque), the Birdsville Hotel is as iconic as they come. The pub (and whole town) becomes absolutely heaving twice a year for the Birdsville Races and Big Red Bash; the experience is a bit more quaint during other parts of the year. It’s steeped in Australian frontier history, and is now at the top of many travellers’ bucket lists.
Cameron Corner Store, Cameron Corner
CAPTION: Cameron Corner Store, Cameron Corner
Technically, this could also run in NSW and South Australia, but Fenn and Cheryl Miller are still Queenslanders at heart. They’re also purveyors of top-shelf outback hospitality, behind the bar at the character-filled Cameron Corner Store at the very corner of the three states. There is tri-state golf on offer, as well as donga accommodation and camping.
NEW SOUTH WALES
Royal Mail Hotel, Hungerford
“Hungerford consists of two houses and a humpy in New South Wales, and five houses in Queensland. Characteristically enough, both the pubs are in Queensland. We got a glass of sour yeast at one and paid sixpence for it – we had asked for English ale.” This is from Henry Lawson, 1896.
Some things have changed since then: there are some new buildings, there’s only one pub these days (the Royal Mail in Queensland, an original building dating back to 1873), and the beer is just as good as anywhere else. Actually, it’s probably a bit better. Having seen over 140 cold winters and stinking summers, the amount of character that exudes from the Royal Mail is wonderful … a combination of ramshackle, charm, functionality and history that is really something to behold.
Family Hotel, Tibooburra
You’re spoilt for choice in terms of drinking holes in Tibooburra: there’s two! There’s the Tibooburra Hotel, known as the ‘two storey’ by the locals. Across the main drag is the Family Hotel.
The Family dates back to 1883, and has a very different personal touch. Well-regarded Australian artist and thrice winner of the Archibald prize Clifton Pugh turned the main bar’s interior into his own canvas. It’s an amazing piece, coming about (as the story goes) because he was stuck during rain and got a bit bored. It has since brought along a tradition of artists in residence, who then leave their work on a wall.
Dargo Hotel, Dargo
For us, the Victorian outback pub is best encapsulated by those in the High Country. These places have histories dating back to those pioneer days of timber-getting, gold chasing and cattle grazing, serving as remote outposts for those weary remote-area travellers.
A trip to the High Country isn’t complete without dropping into this pub, the Dargo Hotel. It serves cold tap beer and piping hot food, and also has accommodation available for those who want to give the swag a rest for the night. I can personally vouch for the schnitzel, which was gigantic and delicious.
Daly Waters Hotel, Daly Waters
Drive about 900 kilometres north of Alice Springs, and you’ll end up at Daly Waters Hotel, just near the historic Stuart Tree. His third attempt to cross the continent from south to north, the Stuart’s expedition would have probably appreciated a cold beverage back in 1862. Conditions for them were so tough, they were covering as little as one kilometre in a full day.
Alas, Daly Waters Pub came about later in 1930. A true frontier pub of its time, these days it’s a popular watering hole for travellers from around the world. There’s hardly a spare bit of floor or roof that isn’t covered in something, including a huge collection of donated brassieres.
Ironclad Hotel, Marble Bar
No, it’s not named after the quintessential corrugated iron roof, as you might think. Some say it’s named after the Ironclad warships of the 19th century; others say the name is from a lucrative local mining lease. Either way, it’s the original pub of Marble Bar, dating back to 1892. It’s in the middle of some quality 4X4 destinations, as well. Millstream and Karijini National Parks are all close by in the Pilbara, and the world-renowned Kimberley is further up the coast.
Pub in the Paddock, Pyengana
Otherwise known as the St Columba Falls Hotel, this is one of Tasmania’s oldest establishments. In fact, it has been pulling beers since 1880. As the name denotes, this pub is as if someone literally grabbed a nice old pub, picked it up, and plonked it down in the middle of a paddock. There are a half-dozen rooms for accommodation out the back, and the pub also calls itself ‘RV-Friendly’. In other words, you can allow yourself to indulge in an extra drink or two, and you can camp out the back. Brilliant.
OTHER HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Because there are lots more than just ten awesome pubs in Australia.
- Warrego Hotel, Fords Bridge, NSW
- Nindigully Pub, Thallon, Qld
- William Creek Hotel, William Creek, SA
- Humpty Doo Hotel, Humpty Doo, NT
- Matso’s Broome Brewery, Broome, WA
- Jamieson Hotel, Jamieson, Vic
- Wollombi Tavern, Wollombi, NSW
- Packsaddle Roadhouse, Packsaddle, NSW
- Albert Hotel, Milparinka, NSW
- Kulgera Roadhouse, Ghan, NT
What’s your favourite outback pub? Let us know in the comments below.