Long travel distances in Australia make its Outback Pubs or roadhouses an essential feature of any overland adventure, not least in the Top End. Food, refreshment, often fuel, and local culture offer a glimpse of what it’s like living in remote regions of Australia. The Northern Territory is home to some great Outback pubs.
The Humpty Doo Outback Hotel – famous don’t you know – is not quite what it was in the good old days, when the public bar rejoiced in resident buffalo, emu and other Top End critters.
Some law and order has finally caught up with the Northern Territory – Australia’s final frontier – they have even now introduced speed limits on the roads! But when health and safety ruled out livestock in the bar they had a mighty big BBQ.
Humpty Doo is actually the agricultural area outside Darwin, and seems mainly home to endless mango plantations. I think I would have had to visit here because of the name if nothing else. Apart from the local colour, and a cold beer on a hot Top End day, the Humpty Doo Outback Hotel has great food! If you fancy a Buffalo, Barramundi or crocodile burger with all the trimmings this definitely the place to go.
Another Outback pub I visited is on the way to Kakadu National Park. Bark Hut Inn is on the Arnhem Highway and a good refreshment stop en route from Darwin. It used to be a basecamp for buffalo hunters back in the 50s and has a massive buffalo trophy head above the bar, as well as live buffalo in a paddock out the back.
Water buffalo were introduced from Timor by white settlers in the 1820s and by the second half of the 19th century were wild in such numbers that a semi-commercial hunting industry sprang up. An out of control population was ruining the precious wetlands so they were culled in the 1980s. The population is now around 1,000 with the Aboriginal people desiring their continuing in the area as a food source.
Apparently you can do a pub crawl by helicopter to five Northern Territory Outback pubs, including the Humpty Doo Hotel, Mandorah Beach Hotel, Crab Caw Island, Goat Island and Litchfield Pub. The locals must think that’s crazy.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited one of Australia’s Outback pubs? What’s your favourite?