We're certainly not short of pubs in our beautiful heritage listed city, that's for sure, although numbers today are a long way short of the 70 pubs Broken Hill once boasted. The buildings themselves are beautiful, each one different and oozing character but nothing compares to the colourful characters and yarns that make this tour a 'must do' during your Broken Hill stay.
Here's a taste of what you can expect on our Broken Hill Pub Tour - BYO appetite, thirst and a sense of fun.
The Alma Hotel is a good way to spend a lazy Sunday.
A short walk away is the South Broken Hill Hotel, a good old joint with a bullring bar.
You can walk from there to the All Nations which has been used as a film location but is now sadly closed.
Around the mines you’ll find The Rising Sun, or ‘The Risin Sun’, as it says on the awning. The story goes that the signwriter was ducking inside for a beer after he’d completed each letter. He gave the publican a discount for the missing ‘g’ and everyone was happy. This too no longer operates as a pub.
Not far away is The Excelsior, where you’ve got to exit the pub and walk down the street a bit if you want to use the toilet. This worked well back on hot summer evenings when the wives gossiped outside and the kids skylarked around the parked cars, dad emerging every half hour or so with a few lemon squashes and some chips. If the family needed the loo, they didn’t have to bother the men inside.
The Palace is the grand old dame of Broken Hill pubs. It was built as a monstrous tea house in the 1880s by the Women’s Temperance League, alarmed as they were by the number of beer halls invading town. It surrendered in time and became a pub after all. They filmed a scene from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in one of the quaint rooms upstairs, which is now hawked as the ‘Priscilla Suite’. Deep in the pub’s basement, you’ll find the remains of a tunnel built by workers of the nearby Central Mine, who could clock on for work, make like mole rats for the pub, drink, then clock off at the end of the ‘working day’, mine managers and wives none the wiser.
The Black Lion is the preferred drinking spot of Peter Black, the town’s longest-serving mayor and former ‘colourful’ state MP. Black laments the decline in the number of pubs in town (there was once upwards of 70), laying blame squarely on the evil axis of bottleshops and home air conditioning.
The old Theatre Royal is in the middle of the main street. It’s first to open and last to close, if you count the Night Train disco that awakens late upstairs. Affectionately known as the ‘Fight Train’, it was the scene of warm celebration some years back when it finally fell from the state’s Most Violent Venues list.
The Old Willyama (now a restaurant) was a gentle sort of pub directly next door to the studios of ABC Radio.
The Junction Hotel lies at the extreme east end of Argent Street, its beer garden a labyrinth of corrugated iron and indoor foliage, where one can easily get lost on the way to the rest rooms.
Out north is The Northern, where, one evening some years ago, police found a popular local identity after discovering his light plane wrecked and smoking in the mulga just short of Broken Hill airport. The man, who appeared well drunk, said he’d been at the pub all day, and thanked the police for finding his aircraft, which he said had been stolen earlier that morning.
The Tydvil is owned by former Australian cricketer Darren Lehmann, who took a shine to the old pub when passing through years ago. He doesn’t often come to town, but that didn’t stop the locals boasting when Lehmann took charge of the Australian cricket team a couple of years back, local media reporting that “a Broken Hill publican” was now the coach of the Aussie XI.
The Southern Cross features prominently in the 1971 film 'Wake In Fright' with Chips Rafferty (born in Broken Hill) ushering Gary Bond inside to meet a man he’ll later wish he hadn’t. The Cross also has the proud honour of having hosted the only outrage of the legendarily peaceful post-war festive season of 1945, local newspaper The Barrier Miner reporting the incident on December 27 under the headline: “Quiet Christmas in Broken Hill; One Drunk”.
And then there’s the Mulga Hill Tavern, or the “vulgar Mulga”, as you’ll often hear it called. This nickname has nothing to do with the class of the establishment or its patrons, owing more to how one feels the morning after due to the Mulga’s late closing time. It also says a little about Broken Hill’s love for poetry, the Mulga being singled out simply because nothing rhymes with Tydvil or Willyama.
Old Royal Hotel, which recently reopened after long being closed.
Information Credit: Walkley award-winning writer, journalist and Australian literary bad boy Jack Marx, courtesy Travel In (27th August 2015).
Duration: 3 hours
Experience Capacity: 10 Guests
Start Time: 4:00pm
End Time: 7:00pm