March 12, 2012


WON in a card game, the Peel Inn
at Nundle in northern NSW.
HOLDING their own in pride of place,
Daly Waters Historic Pub's bra bar.
DID Ned Kelly take a drink or three here
 – today's owners like to think so.
AUTHOR Lee Mylne: was paid
to do a six month's pub crawl.

David Ellis

LIKE all good journos, Lee Mylne isn't averse to a quiet drink on a warm day. Or a cold day for that matter. Maybe even a wet one.

And despite many other scribe's accreditations, she's just out-manoeuvred them all in the art of drinking man's one-upmanship – she got herself paid to go on a six months pub crawl.

It sounds like our kind of a job and Lee threw herself into it with vigour, fronting up to the bars of 100 pubs across the length and breadth of the Australian mainland and Tasmania. And then beating any suggestions of a hang-over, she wrote a 256-page book that's a delightful romp through these colourful and historic watering holes in cities, towns, villages and remote communities (one with a population of just 9.)

Lee's tome is loaded with ripper tales: some tall, most true and some ghostly, there are plenty of colour pics – and a column dubbed The Facts gives each pub's address, phone number, website, trading hours, kinds of food on offer, top drops on tap, accommodations, nearby attractions, and a website for tourist information.

We were so impressed with such diligence we thought we'd pick the best and share some of Lee's findings about them. But how wrong could we be – all 100 turn out to be individually worth the space we're allowed for our weekly scribbles, meaning we'd be writing nothing but Aussie pubs for the next two years.

Like the Peel Inn at Nundle outside Tamworth in NSW that John Schofield actually won from its hapless owner in a card game 150 years ago. Although sold in 1922 after John's death it was bought back by third-generation grandsons in the 1950s and is still run by the Schofield family today.

Or Tanswell's Commercial Hotel in Beechworth in Victoria in which Ned Kelly is said to have taken a drink or three – at a time when Beechworth had sixty-something pubs on its main street during the 19th century Gold Rush.

Then there's Caves House Hotel at Yallingup about 300ks south of Perth where a ghost named Molly reputedly roams the place in the hope her lover will return from the sea and meet her in their favourite Room 6… or Goat Island Lodge on the Northern Territory's Adelaide River where the bar is named Casey's after the "resident crocodile" who comes up most nights for a feed of caramelised potatoes.

And while in the Northern Territory how about the Daly Waters Historic Pub that's 600ks south of Darwin, the only business in a "town" of 9 people – and whose interior decorations include scores of bras strung above the bar… although staff forlornly claim they've never seen a patron actually donate one.

And of course, Lee had to chance her luck for a drink at The Pub With No Beer (originally the Cosmopolitan Hotel) at Taylors Arm near Macksville in NSW, the Silverton Hotel outside Broken Hill that's been used for the filming of scores of feature films including Mad Max and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, plus hundreds of TV commercials promoting everything from booze to soft drinks, cars to communications – and Queensland's Birdsville Hotel that plays host when the annual Races are on to a local population of 12 – and nearly 6000 visitors.

Then there's the North Star Hotel at Melrose in South Australia whose accommodations include two trucks that have been converted into "guest suites" with queen beds, and conversely, Western Australia's New Norcia Hotel set in a village built by Spanish Benedictine missionaries north of Perth – complete with National Trust listing and black-robed monks wandering the streets…

And down in Tassie, the Customs House Hotel where Sydney-Hobart yachties gather at race-end, The Shipwright's Arms at Battery Point with its resident ghost Max, and the Richmond Arms in Australia's best-preserved Georgian Village.

The list goes on and on – 100 in all: Sydney's Pittwater Arms and the Australian Hotel at the Rocks, Young & Jackson in Melbourne with our most-famous nude Chloe, the Breakfast Creek in Brisbane, King O'Malleys Irish Pub and the Wig & Pen in Canberra, The Spotted Cow in Toowoomba, ...

We just wonder how Lee beat us to it.

Lee Mylne's Great Australian Pubs is published by Explore Australia and costs $34.95; details


Main photo: PUB that inspired a song on a bad day.

(All Images Lee Mylne)

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