Fireplaces, beer gardens and friendly locals: if you’re looking for an immersive introduction to the soul of regional Australia, there’s nowhere like a country pub. Here are five you should know.

Burrawang Village Hotel, Burrawang

The sprawling beer garden of Burrawang’s eponymous pub is reason enough to visit the picturesque town, less than two hours from Sydney. Throw in the establishment’s hearty fare (the BBQ Sticky Pork Ribs with Asian slaw is a must-order), impressive collection of local craft beer and open fire pits and you won’t want to leave. Make the most of your trip by starting your day in neighbouring Robertson with a bacon and egg roll on house-made potato bread from Moonacres, before a bushwalk at Fitzroy Falls. Coffee and pottering more your style? Spend the morning meandering through Bowral with a takeaway brew from The Press Shop before whiling away the afternoon in the gardens of heritage-listed Retford Park.

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The Palace Hotel, Broken Hill

Broken Hill, NSW

Blockbuster films, larger-than-life characters and sequins galore: the history of Broken Hill’s Palace Hotel is as colourful as the iconic murals adorning its walls and ceilings. The hotel was established in 1889 as a coffee palace and was made famous by its appearance in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (the film’s legacy plays on in the Broken Heel drag festival, held annually at the pub). Pass through for a pint and an eggplant schnitzel or stay overnight in the disco ball-tiled, chandeliered Priscilla Suite. Be sure to drive 15 minutes out of town where you’ll find the Living Desert Sculptures, 12 artworks made from locally sourced sandstone that appear to shapeshift as the sun sets.

The Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba

The Dromedary Hotel, Central Tilba

Built in 1895 (believed to be with recycled wood from ships docked at Bermagui Harbour), “The Drom”, as it’s affectionately known by locals, is the beating heart of heritage-listed Central Tilba. Stop in for a Tilba Brewing Company beer and local produce such as Wapengo Rocks oysters and Mystery Bay chilli-infused kelp.

Looking for more things to do in the area? Hike Gulaga Mountain – a 14-kilometre round trip journey up an old miner’s trail that traverses the ancient volcano. Neighbouring coastal town Narooma is also worth visiting; newly-hatted restaurant Queen Chow is located inside Justin Hemmes’ recently reopened Whale Inn.

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Wollombi Tavern, Wollombi

Wollombi, NSW

A few hours north of Sydney lies Wollombi, the gateway to wine country and home to the 155-year-old Wollombi Tavern. Dotted with wine-barrel planters, this character-filled pub spoils guests with views across Wollombi Brook out to the Yango State Forest. It also serves up generous country-sized meals (it's known for its “biggest burger”) and try-if-you-dare Dr. Jurd’s Jungle Juice, an old bush remedy for an upset stomach that includes port, spirits and “a secret recipe handed down from father to son”.

Before you get back in the car, stretch your legs with the easy one-kilometre Wollombi Village Walk (a map is available from the Wollombi Museum) which winds through heritage sites including the old school and original general store.

Tumbulgum Tavern, Tumbulgum

Tumbulgum Tavern, NSW

Hugging the Tweed River in Northern NSW is the Tumbulgum Tavern or “Tumby Pub”. The laid-back watering hole comes with a kid’s playground, beer garden and a buttery chilli garlic prawn dish that will make you grateful you drove the eight-and-a-half hours from Sydney. Along the way, stop in at neighbouring Murwillumbah’s Margaret Olly Art Centre which offers a glimpse into the life of the Australian interiors painter through a recreation of her home studio, complete with the 20,000-odd objects Olly collected for her work.

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