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Nothing beats a good ol’ outback pub

Glengarry Hilton and Sheepyard Inn, CumborahCREDIT: Destination NSW

The Glengarry Hilton Pub in Cumborah, south west of Lightning Ridge.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Nothing beats a good
ol’ outback pub

Glengarry Hilton and Sheepyard Inn, Cumborah CREDIT: Destination NSW

The Glengarry Hilton Pub in Cumborah, south west of Lightning Ridge.

#lovensw #newsouthwales

Hashtags #lovensw #newsouthwales

From quirky to historic, outback New South Wales is dotted with character-filled pubs that deliver both on service and charm. Wine and drinks writer Mike Bennie, who’s scoured every dusty corner of the state, reveals some of his favourite haunts. 

What makes a great Australian pub?

"It’s all about excellent and informal service, convivial atmosphere and an amazing location. Irrespective of the food and drink offering, great pubs seem to transcend based on staff, setting and a sense of comfort. Some of the best pubs are some of the simplest and humblest; they’re chock-full of authentic personality and deliver a memorable experience that keeps you wanting to come back.  

“I love an old-school pub with wash-down tessellated-tile walls and floors, a wooden front bar you can take a perch at, a decent beer garden (almost essential!), decorations that do little more than show off local sports heroes, beer brand bric-a-brac and the flotsam and jetsam collected by publicans, past and present. Oh, and cold beer is non-negotiable.  

“I’m into pubs that keep their food offering to staples ― think schnitzels, steaks with salad and fries or steamed veg and mash as options. The greatest pubs mainline the spirit of the town or parish they’re located in and give travellers a distinct taste of the place they’re visiting.”  

What are some of the more memorable pubs you’ve visited in outback NSW?

“The Glengarry Hilton, located about 70km southwest from Lightning Ridge in the heart of the Glengarry Opal Fields, is a unique bush pub full of character and characters. Rustic, sure, but the beer is cold and the location otherworldly. If you play an instrument, can sing or tell a poem or a joke, you might just find yourself the entertainment on a visit.  

“The Palace Hotel in Broken Hill is worth a look just to ogle the crazy interiors and artworks, but it also delivers a high-quality pub meal, excellent beer and a swathe of country hospitality. If the amazing interiors get too much, the balcony on the first floor provides one of the best viewpoints of the goings-on in the main street.  

“A short drive northwest from Broken Hill, the Silverton Hotel in Silverton is a tourist draw, thanks to its involvement in movies such as Wake In Fright, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Mission Impossible II. The beer garden and verandah are fantastic and the famed hot dogs superb alongside the broad range of very cold beers.  

“I’m also a fan of the Family Hotel in Tibooburra, six hours north of Broken Hill and one of the most remote pubs in NSW. It was established in 1882 and continues to be a bastion of warm hospitality, good food and a nice way to immerse yourself in outback NSW life. The pub also has an incredible mural painted by Archibald Prize-winning artist Clifton Pugh, Russell Drysdale and others.”  

Mike Bennie CREDIT: Dominique Cherry

Wine and drinks writer, journalist and presenter.

#ilovesydney

Mike Bennie CREDIT: Dominique Cherry

Wine and drinks writer, journalist and presenter.

#ilovesydney

What’s the best thing about discovering a good pub in a remote location?

“Like a siren song, a good pub beckons you in for a sense of discovery and genial times. Outback pubs are not just watering holes and places to find nourishment, but are also destinations for immersing in local culture and getting a grassroots feel for the pulse of the town and region they’re located in.  

“Remote pubs also seem to work as quasi tourist information centres, where locals will deliver intel on significant local landmarks, dining recommendations and directions to points of interest. They can also operate as confessionals, places of worship, schoolhouses and courts ― all rolled into one! To discover a new pub on your travels around NSW is to unearth some of the state’s most authentic, original and interesting people and culture.”  

Which other outback NSW pubs have made a lasting impression?

“In the small town of Tilpa, a little under five hours northeast from Broken Hill, you’ll find the Tilpa Hotel, a pint-sized, old-school bush pub in a glorious location on the western bank of the Darling River. Soak up the atmosphere, hang out with the lovely publicans, get a tasty meal and stay overnight for the full experience.  

“In Brewarrina, one hour east from Bourke, the Culgoa Community Sport Club is an amazing community hub and a great place to knock back a few with the locals at the Dead Fox Bar, which is more like a shed without walls, but is one of the most character-filled pubs of all and is set alongside the local dust-surface ‘sports ground’.  

“Just under two hours further east along the Kamilaroi Highway, in Cumborah, is the Grawin Club In The Scrub. It’s a marvellous watering hole that boasts raffles, good burgers, community events and a nine-hole golf course ― just expect the fairways and greens to be brown. It’s got a ‘wild west’ feel in a rustic, opal-mining township.”  

Apart from good pubs, what do you most love about venturing into outback NSW?

“Outback NSW provides an adventure at every turn and is incredibly picturesque. The grand road trips take in everything from undulating, verdant country through to stretches of impossibly impressive red earth, and can guide you across incredible bushland and native forest followed by endless stretches of scree and rock. It’s so very, very beautiful in the outback and mesmerising at all hours of the day. Native flora and fauna are in Technicolor and the exploration of this vast landscape is both fascinating and thrilling.  

“Whether you’re a local traveller or an overseas visitor, an outback trip provides a sense of ‘the real Australia’ and offers plenty of adventure. The towns of outback NSW come with their own distinct personalities and the people make the place unique; characters abound, as does kindness and the larrikin spirit. Heading into the outback is also an excellent way to investigate significant landmarks for Aboriginal communities and, with a commitment to research and cultural connection, gain a better understanding of Aboriginal people and their history.”  

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