The outback pub in the Northern Territory is the hub of the community – even if said community has to travel for several hundred kilometres to reach it. For travellers, getting around the red, hot, dusty Top End sure is thirsty work. Luckily, in places where there’s little else, there’s almost always a watering hole. And even more miraculously, there are always people in them. Head to the centre of town – or the middle of nowhere – to find some of the Northern Territory’s finest outback pubs.
Monte’s is filled with life, colour and people kicking up their heels in the desert night. The entertainment line-up ranges from cabaret and comedy to DJs and bands.
Corner of Todd Street and Stott Terrace, Alice Springs; (08) 8952 4336
Adelaide River Inn & Resort
Cheerfully paying tribute to buffalo hunters of yore, this inn is also home to Charlie the buffalo, now stuffed but last seen being hypnotised by Paul Hogan in Crocodile Dundee.
106 Stuart Highway, Adelaide River; (08) 8976 7047
Barrow Creek Hotel
A seemingly impossible pub surrounded by implausible distances (it’s 285 kilometres to Alice), this lonely bolthole may seem daunting at first but publican Les Pilton is genial and knowledgeable and has run the 1932 landmark for 29 years. No space is free of scribbles or mementos.
Stuart Highway, Barrow Creek; (08) 8956 9753
Grove Hill Heritage Hotel
Located a two-hour drive south of Darwin, the Grove Hill is a genuine throwback
to a different era. This old tin shed has been serving grog to gold-seekers since 1934. It’s now a museum of sorts (piled with relics, including a hub cap from a B-24 Liberator) but there’s still a bar in there. Somewhere.
Goldfields Road, Douglas-Daly; (08) 8978 2489
The Aileron Roadhouse is the only sign of life 130 kilometres north of Alice Springs. In case you’re in any doubt that you have arrived, the name of the town is erected on the hillside in Hollywood fashion and safeguarded by a 12-metre-tall, eight-tonne Aboriginal warrior. It’s the brainchild of owner Greg Dick, who, in true outback fashion, keeps a lively bar.
Stuart Highway, Alice Springs; (08) 8956 9703
Daly Waters Pub
This is a pub that also plays up to frontier archetypes, with mementos, signatures and an extraordinary collection of bras left by travellers who’ve driven the 600 kilometres from Darwin to get here. The lumpy old Daly Waters Pub has plenty of gritty outpost history under its belt, including shootouts, fights and a ghost in the kitchen.
Stuart Street, Daly Waters; (08) 8975 9927
Max Anderson, Lee Atkinson, Keith Austin, Melanie Ball, Max Brearley, Hilary Burden, Mal Chenu, Mark Chipperfield, Carla Grossetti, Kendall Hill, Belinda Jackson and Natascha Mirosch.