With so much space and so few people, Australia has the edge when it comes to country pubs. There are eccentric, outback institutions, hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, that have witnessed murders and shoot-outs and cattle stampedes. There are posh hotels with incredible views and gourmet menus featuring emu and camel and kangaroo. There are cosy joints with fireplaces where the locals will sidle up for a yarn within minutes and offer you a beer. Here are ten of the best of the lot.
There are two reasons to visit Tassie's Pub in the Paddock. One, it's actually in a paddock. So, you'll find yourself in the country — seriously — and surrounded by spectacular, rolling green scenery. Two, it's home to a beer-sculling pig by the name of Priscilla, who can knock back a stubby in seven seconds. Don't fret; the alcohol content is significantly diluted. You can stay the night in one of six private rooms, and the pub, which has been licensed since the 1880s, is famous for its fresh-fuelled menu and hug-worthy hospitality. Find Pub in the Paddock at 250 St Columbafalls Road, Pyengana, 30 kilometres inland from St. Helens. Give 'em a call on (03) 6373 6121.
GRAND HOTEL, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Built in 1902, the Grand Hotel is as friendly as ever. Back in the day, it was an epicentre for local gold diggers, but these days it shares its home town of Kookynie with just ten people. Travellers still drop by, though, to hang out on the Grand's wide, shady verandahs and stay the night in its spacious, old-school rooms. Keep an ear out for ghosts. The Grand Hotel is on Kookynie Rd, Kookynie, which lies 200 kilometres north of Kalgoorlie. Call on (08) 9031 3010.
Situated right where the Flinders Ranges turn into the outback, the Prairie Hotel, which has been licensed since 1876, serves up your cold one with excellent mountain views. It's also home to one of Gourmet Traveller's Top 100 Gourmet experiences, the Feral Mixed Grill. That's kangaroo fillet, camel sausage, goat chop and emu patty. There's enough accommodation for 90 people, from fancied-up heritage rooms to architect-designed executive studios to self-contained cabins. You'll find the Prairie Hotel on the corner of High Street and West Terrace, Parachilna, 90 kilometres north of Hawker. Make a booking on 1800 331 473.
It's possible that the Daly Waters has a bigger bra collection than any pub in Australia. The legend goes that, back in the '80s, a passenger passing through bet her coach driver that, if she couldn't drink a nominated number of beers, she'd leave her bra behind. She lost. Ever since, other patrons have felt the urge to donate their undergarments to the display. Built in 1930, the Daly Waters sits on the Explorers Way, 600 kilometres south of Darwin and 900 kilometres north of Alice Springs. Its official dress is 16 Stuart Street, Daly Waters. Call up on (08) 8975 9927.
On a sunny Sunday, many a Sydneysider scoots down to the Scarborough Hotel for a lazy afternoon overlooking the sea. Situated just an hour's drive from the city, it's not quite as hardcore countrified as other pubs on our list, but you'd travel a long way to find one with better Pacific Ocean views. The spacious 'Seacliff' Beer Garden comes with both tables and island-inspired huts. Best to book in advance on weekends. The Scarborough Hotel is at 383 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Scarborough. Make contact on (02) 4267 5444.
Country music fans crowd into The Loaded Dog every third Saturday of the month for its legendary live gigs. A stack of well-known country musicians have played there, including Amber Lawrence, Luke O'Shea and Felicity Urquhart. Built in 1848 in the then bustling, now disappearing town of Tarago, 69 kilometres northeast of Canberra, the pub used to be the main pit stop for travellers to and from the national capital. Now, it's on the scenic route, but worth the detour for its open fireplaces and hearty bistro fare. The Loaded Dog is at 1 Wallace Street, Tarago. The number is (02) 4849 4499.
Daly Waters might have the bras, but Nindigully has the Akubras. One-hundred-and-forty or so of them hang on the walls, donated mostly by local farmers and stockmen. Situated on the banks of the Moonie River, Nindigully is the oldest continuously licensed pub in Queensland, having been in operation since 1864. Visitors are welcome to camp and park their caravans nearby, and there are free showers on tap. Find this one on the Carnarvon Highway via Thallon, 160 kilometres west of Goondiwindi, 45 kilometres east of St George and 70 kilometres of the Queensland-New South Wales border. Call in on (07) 4625 9637.
One of Australia's most famous pubs, the Birdsville Hotel perches on the edge of the Simpson Desert, in the town of Birdsville, 1,590 kilometres west of Brisbane and 720 kilometres south of Mt Isa. One hundred people live there. The pub was opened in 1884 and is a gathering place for locals, who are only too happy to shout visiting strangers a beer and a story or several. If you're keen to stay, there's plenty of room at the associated motel units. Stay over on a Sunday night and you'll be treated to a traditional roast. The Birdsville Hotel is on Adelaide Street, Birdsville, and can be reached on (07) 4656 3244.
Tinamba Hotel makes the list for keeping its old-school, unassuming atmosphere, but introducing a delicious, locally sourced menu. The owners even list their producers on their website. Established in 1874, the pub has changed hands numerous times and is now owned by food-and-wine-loving pair Brad Neilson and Damien Gannon, who bought and revamped it in 2009. The pub is situated in Gippsland dairy farming country, in the small town of Tinamba. Find it at 4-6 Tinamba-Seaton Road and get in touch on (03) 5145 1484.
For getting in touch with your bush-ranging ancestry, Tanswells Commercial Pub in Victoria's northeast is the place to go. Ned Kelly and his Gang used to drink here while planning their next exploits. These days, there's an open fire and a long drinks list, featuring craft beers and wines from local, regional and international producers. Stay over and leave yourself time to wander through the historic goldfields town of Beechworth. Find Tanswells Commercial Pub at 50 Ford Street, Beechworth and phone in on (03) 5728 1480.