There’s something captivating about a lonesome pub situated along a remote stretch of road or in a tiny one horse town, and nowhere does that ring more true than the outback. Here, temperatures soar and distances between shady places with cold drinks are vast. The pub becomes the meeting place for otherwise disparate locals and weary travellers alike; a social hub in a lonely landscape. It’s little wonder the outback pub is much revered.
Here’s our selection of the most unique pubs of Outback NSW.
1. Packsaddle Roadhouse, Packsaddle
On the long, lonely stretch of highway north of Broken Hill you’ll stumble upon the welcome sight of the Packsaddle Roadhouse. No, it’s not a mirage and yes, the beer taps run icy cold. Quench your hard-earned thirst as you wander beneath a canopy of old boots and hats from bygone travellers in the dining hall, imagining the feet and heads that filled them in this harsh but beautiful arid countryside amidst the ancient Barrier Ranges.
The roadhouse is located on Packsaddle Station, formerly part of a larger property owned by Goldborough Mort and Co in the 1890s, and Kidman in the 1920s. It served as a horse exchange and hotel in the days of horse, camel and coach transport, and retains elements of its pastoral history in the aforementioned dining room where farming and transport relics from days past are proudly displayed.
The Packsaddle Roadhouse is located 174km north of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway and offers hot meals, fuel and caravan sites with amenities.
2. Family Hotel, Tibooburra
Not every outback town can boast a pub with an entire wall painted by an Archibald Prize winning artist, let alone the most remote town in NSW. At the Family Hotel in Tibooburra the service is friendly, the food is tasty and the story of that mural depicting an amorous scene with the devil? Well, that takes us back to the swinging ‘60s when the pub was under the ownership of Barney Davie.
Barney’s good mate, renowned Australian artist, Clifton Pugh, would visit regularly during outback art expeditions and always stayed at the Family Hotel. A three-time Archibald Prize winner (including for the portrait of Gough Whitlam that still hangs in Parliament House), Pugh got stuck in Tibooburra during a flood and began painting the walls in the main bar to alleviate his boredom. The impressionistic mural is racy to say the least, with a naked devil bearing an uncanny resemblance to Pugh’s ex-wife’s boyfriend, and a number of female nudes, two of whom were inspired – rather cheekily – by the publican’s daughters. It was the free-lovin’ ‘60s, after all!
3. Silverton Hotel, Silverton
Possibly one of the most photographed outback pubs in Australia, the Silverton Hotel is an icon of the bush and the social hub of the quirky, ghost town of Silverton. Made famous by Mad Max and home to the museum of the same name, these days it’s artists, tumbleweeds and donkeys that call Silverton home, but it wasn’t always that way. The town was home to 3000 silver miners before nearby Broken Hill’s huge deposits were discovered, but the population dwindled soon after. It’s now home to just 36 people.
The pub has enjoyed somewhat of a dazzling career on the silver screen, having appeared in numerous commercials and films including Razorback, Wake in Fright, The Slim Dusty Movie, Mission Impossible II, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – and the list continues. Parked in front of the pub is a black Volkswagen beetle, a cheeky nod to Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor.
The Silverton Hotel has its own unique drinking game – be sure to ask the bartender when you visit. But don’t say we didn’t warn you!
4. Palace Hotel, Broken Hill
Made famous by The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Palace Hotel is a vibrant, rambling desert oasis full of lush landscape murals, taxidermy animals and a restaurant well worth travelling for. A number of scenes from the movie were shot in the pub, and it’s not hard to see why; it absolutely suits the flamboyant nature of the film.
Originally known as Mario’s Coffee Palace, the pub’s Italian owner had a vision to reproduce Botticelli’s artwork ‘Birth of Venus’ on a wall of the pub. A local aboriginal artist, Gordon Waye, made the recreation of the painting, and Mario was so impressed he commissioned him to paint the entire three-level grand stairwell, the entry foyer and the front bar. His only request was that each mural include water, in keeping with his vision of the Palace as a desert oasis. The result is incredible, albeit entirely kitsch, with visions of waterfalls, horses galloping across lush fields, and more.
Rumour has it this sprawling corner pub is linked to the mines far underground by a network of secret tunnels carved by thirsty workers seeking liquid reprieve from their harsh underground existence.
5. Cameron Corner Store, Cameron Corner
While Tibooburra might be the most remote town in NSW, Cameron Corner Store is the most remote pub. Just follow that old Dingo Fence ‘til you get to the spot where NSW intersects with Queensland and South Australia, and you’ll find yourself at the bar at Cameron Corner Store.
More of a pub than a store, at Cameron Corner the only thing that penetrates the gentle whir of the wind across the endless outback plains is the belly laugh of the publican and his red dirt-encrusted guests who travelled miles by 4WD to get here.
Located 140km northwest of Tibooburra via a very scenic unsealed road through Sturt National Park, a trip to Cameron Corner Store makes an ideal Corner Country daytrip and can be taken in as a loop from Tibooburra.
Located at the intersection of three states, the Cameron Corner Store has a Queensland liquor licence, a New South Wales postcode and a South Australian telephone number. New Years Eve revellers enjoy triple the fun here, with three midnight countdowns on account of the store’s location across three summer time zones.
6. Tibooburra Hotel, Tibooburra
The second entry for NSW’s most remote town, the Tibooburra Hotel looks for all the world like it should form part of the set of the western film someone really should make out here. It’s a towering two-story watering hole where friendly locals gather nightly as though it were church.
You need only look to the Wall of Fame to see how much they love this place; there hang the Akubras of locals who have passed, many weathered, tattered and holey, their owners’ names written below in sweet, understated outback memorial. For these folks, the Tibooburra Hotel is the final place they’ll hang their hat. The tradition started because the pub used to stock Akubra hats, once upon a time.
This elegant, old world sandstone pub offers plenty of alfresco seating on its broad veranda and serves meals seven nights a week. It has friendly service, friendly locals and air-conditioning, and that’s about all you really need in an outback pub.
7. Shindy’s Inn, Louth
“A place that loved a drink, a party and a punt”, wrote the great Henry Lawson about Louth, and the sentiment still rings true today. There’s really not too much more to this tiny, isolated town than Shindy’s Inn, perched on the banks of the Darling River. The place comes to life during the famous Louth Races in August, in which horses scramble through the dust and revellers scramble to the bar to drink their winnings. The races attract locals and tourists alike, who travel from far and wide to join in the tomfoolery of a classic outback event.
With accommodation and fuel on site, Shindy’s Inn is an excellent waypoint for travellers traversing the Darling River Run through western NSW.