Drink yourself to sleep: Top 5 outback pub stays in Australia

Drink yourself to sleep: Top 5 outback pub stays in Australia

The tradition of bunking on top of the boozer continues at these five heritage hotels
Nindigully Pub
The Nindigully Pub, the oldest in Queensland where you can sleep off the biggest slabs of meat.

Pubs have always been at the core of the Australian lifestyle.

They are not just places to unwind with mates, spin yarns, rest your elbows on a wooden bar and knock the head off an schooner of beer; many of these great Aussie watering holes were also once the only place a traveler could lodge for the night.

These days, staying at a fair dinkum pub and mingling with miners, cattle drovers and colorful local characters is one of the best ways to absorb the country's culture.

From the sun-blistered red earth of the outback to most isolated parts of the Aussie bush, here are five classic pub stays.

1.Nindigully Pub

Nindigully PubThe Nindigully Pub, where you shouldn't expect fast service.The ‘Gully proudly wears its badge of honor as the oldest pub in Queensland.

On the banks of the Moonie River, it used to be shearers' accommodation in the township before getting its license in 1864.

It’s famous for frosty XXXX beer, Bundaberg rum, one-kiloT-bone steaks and the heart attack-inducing Roadtrain burger -- a monstrous, 5.7-kilo burger big enough to feed a family. It’s a cheerful, convivial place with a hotchpotch of well-worn Akubra hats and kitsch paraphernalia lining the walls.

Staying here will suit long distance road trippers, as caravans and campers can pitch up in front of the pub or alongside the river banks of the river. There, you can splash around and trap yabbies at your leisure.

There are two fuss-free double rooms and a bunk bed room but none of ‘em have an en suite -- everyone uses the pub’s public hot showers and dunny. Swags are also welcome on the verandas.

The watering hole is a blissfully peaceful spot for a beer and a yarn most of the year, except during the Nindigully Pig Races and Country Music Festival (held in November) and the New Year’s Eve fireworks, which draw several hundred people. That’s a big crowd in the ‘Gully.

Nindigully Pub, Sternes Street, Nindigully, Queensland, +61 (0)7 4625 9637. Rates: Bunks $15, rooms from $40.

2. Prairie Hotel

The Prairie HotelPatrons at The Prairie Hotel swell the outback town's population above its baseline of seven.The Flinders Ranges has to be one of the most authentic outback settings in Australia and the Prairie Hotel, near the township of Parachilna (population seven) is every bit the quintessential Aussie pub.

This historic structure, with its corrugated-iron roof and hand-cut stone walls fronts the beautiful vista of the ranges and the burnt-red desert plains, sweeping toward Lake Torrens. At sunset -- or beer o’clock -- it’s a magical sight over a sundowner.

Little wonder the location is loved by the directors of films like "Rabbit Proof Fence."

Inside the pub, the bar is littered with historic memorabilia and artifacts like a collection of stockmen’s hats, an oversized buffalo head and for the art buffs, contemporary Aboriginal artworks from remote regions of Australia.

For an outback pub, the rooms are on the fancy side, beautifully refurbished with luxury linen, ensuite bathrooms and some with double spas.

Don’t leave without sampling some so-called Flinders Feral Food -- like emu, camel sirloin or a ‘roo pie -- cooked up with native herbs.

Prairie Hotel, Corner High Street & West Terrace, Parachilna, South Australia, +61 (0)8 8648 4844. Heritage Rooms cost $145 single/$175 double, www.prairiehotel.com.au

3. Palace Hotel

The Palace HotelThe Palace Hotel, a much-loved ol' girl in the outback film capital of Broken Hill.Established in 1892, this historic, three-story pub has a long, wraparound veranda and elaborate cast-iron balustrades that might look familiar. That’s because it starred in the hugely successful film, "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert," in this film capital of the outback.

It’s always been the unequivocal heart of Broken Hill -- the favorite social spot for live music and natter.

The retro interiors are hilariously kitsch, featuring walls painted with wacky quasi-Renaissance-Australiana style frescoes of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus," Aboriginal tribesmen and native landscape scenes.

Six locals bought the hotel last year to save it from falling into further disrepair. The much-loved lady of Argent Street is slowly being returned to her former glory, with careful restoration works being carried out thanks to government grants.

Accommodation isn’t what you’d call flash but it’s homely and comfortable enough, consisting of a variety of rooms including balcony and en suite rooms, family rooms, singles and doubles and –- yep -- the renowned Priscilla Room.  

Palace Hotel, 227 Argent St., Broken Hill, New South Wales, +61 (0)8 8088 1699. Rates: from $60 to $120 a night.

4. Birdsville Hotel

Birdsville HotelMight not look it, but this snap is of the middle of nowhere, at the end of the Birdsville Track.Around 1,600 kilometers west of Brisbane on the edge of the Simpson Desert, Birdsville is as close as you can get to the middle of nowhere.

It’s in the heart of the Australian outback, steeped in indigenous heritage with Big Red, the largest sand dune in the Simpson Desert, 40 kilometers west. Over the past couple of centuries, red-soiled land has been traversed by pioneering European explorers and stockmen driving their cattle between Queensland and South Australia.

Right there in the centre of nowhere is the Birdsville Hotel, its stone-walled bar area crammed with outback curios, stockmen’s hats and bumper stickers.

The welcoming, comfortable pub, which dates from 1884, makes a popular rest stop for outback travelers tackling the Birdsville Track, or those in town for the raucous, annual Birdsville Races.

Drink your beer from a stubbie, get stuck into a tasty OBE organic beef and call it a night in one of the 27 motel rooms.

Birdsville Hotel, Birdsville, Queensland, +61 (0)7 4656 3244. Rates: Single $125/Double $150, www.theoutback.com.au

5. Daly Waters Pub

Daly Waters PubThe watering hole near tropical, freshwater springs -- swim and sleep it all off.Daly Waters has been little more than a stopover for people traveling along the Stuart Highway, but it’s an area that has always hosted the traveler. The natural freshwater springs have been a vital source of refreshment for the men and cattle enduring tough stock routes.

Drovers and herds of cattle have quenched their thirst here for years, but the pub, built in 1893 as a hotel, now tends to attract herds of another kind: thirsty backpackers.

This classic pub offers a legendary Barramundi barbecue, various types of inexpensive accommodation from camping to cabins -- with the added bonus of a shaded swimming pool.

The burning question most bar visitors want to know is: where did all the bras come from? There are dozens dangling from the pub’s ceiling, along with knickers and jocks. The answer is that the pub asks all female patrons to donate some sort of underwear.

Not everyone obliges, but judging by the amount of stuff crammed around the character-filled bar, many visitors decide to leave behind a memento, whether it’s a pair of panties, a German bank note or foreign flag.

Daly Waters Pub, Stuart Street, Daly Waters, Northern Territory, +61 (0)8 89759927. Rates: cabins $115-155, motel $95, shared facility rooms $60 and camping from $7 a night, www.dalywaterspub.com