Outback Pubs

Words and photos by Carlisle Rogers

The last great cultural movement in Australia is happening right beneath our pints.

I am not a fan of McDonalds, despite its inescapable ubiquity from one end of this country to the other, and around the world. And it’s not because I’m precious. I like that some things don’t change when you travel. Case in point: when I am beyond the bitumen, I generally eat chicken parmigiana almost exclusively when I’m in a pub or club. It’s not that my palate is exceptionally unrefined, it is just that, when in Rome, you order pasta. When in the outback, I order parmas. You just don’t know how well a Thai prawn green curry is going to turn out in a town with more vowels than streets.

I don’t walk into a pub in Victoria and ask for XXXX, nor do I drink VB unless I absolutely have to. There is such a thing as local custom, and if the local custom doesn’t change much from Cunnamulla to Fitzroy Crossing, then so be it.
What I don’t like about McDonalds, then, has nothing to do with the dependable menu or reassuring colour scheme.
When I go to a pub in the middle of nowhere, I have friends. Instant friends.  These people will loan me a smoke, push my car, tell me about their adventures, lie about the fish they caught and do everything else my real mates do. And we get to do all of that while sharing a beer - something else you sure can’t do at McDonalds. So begins my ode to outback pubs, and so it will no doubt end.

Isisford’s Golden West Hotel hosts a few locals for a Sunday afternoon session in the shade of the huge beer garden.


Wyandra’s Gladstone Hotel, one of the most down home country pubs I’ve ever seen.
One thing is for sure, though, you are going to end up in a pub one day in the middle of nowhere. There is going to be beer flowing like the fountains of a desert oasis, and you are going to be given the choice between a chicken parma and some other high-falutin’ dish that the chef who moved out here from Sydney thinks is going to change the world, one redneck meal at a time. And my advice to that chef is that the only city you find in the outback is the city you bring with you, and that’s not what I’m here for, so bring me my parma and if you want to make something fancy, that is why God invented dessert.

Art at the Golden West Hotel, Isisford.

Charleville’s Hotel Corones, built between 1924 and 1929. That’s the original bar, made from huge slabs of Queensland maple. The rest of the fittings are English, to suit royal visitors in its heyday.