‘On a tight budget? Try staying at pubs, like we do!’

Published: October 19, 2023

When grey nomads De and Greg Hemburrow set off on a multi-year journey around Australia, they knew that finding free and budget campsites was going to be crucial if they were going to be able do all they wanted to do.

It’s now been a full year since the retirees hit the road in their 100 series LandCruiser towing an off-grid Kimberley Karavan … and one of the surprise hits has been pub camping.

“So far on our travels we have come across some really friendly and forward-thinking publicans who have allowed camping either adjacent to, or behind, their country pub,” said Greg. “Even though we are self-sufficient, many of these pubs provide true country hospitality with the availability of cheap or free showers, water and even power … with nothing more than the expectation of coming in for a drink and/ or a meal if you wish.”

The couple have also loved the quirky atmosphere at iconic hostelries such as the Lion’s Den, and the ones at Innamincka, Silverton, and Birdsville.

“But the added bonus for us has been talking to some of the friendly characters you come across,” said Greg. “We learn about their town and often get very useful travel information and insights about local hidden places to explore.”

The dancing dog on the bar in Thallon.

One of their favourite pubs with free camping out the back has been at Hebel in Queensland. The Hebel Hotel officially opened in 1894 as a Cobb & Co changing station before later becoming a pub.

“Outside the pub a few of the original hitching rails for the horses are still standing,” said Greg. “And inside of the pub, walls are filled with memorabilia from wool bale bags to station brands.”

However, besides the history of the pubs and the surprise treats – like camel burgers at the Marree Hotel – it’s the people that have stood out.

“Along the way we’ve met some really interesting characters,” said Greg. “From the publican proudly showing off his beloved blue heeler dog dancing on the public bar at Thallon to Dave, the ringer, who takes his glass eye out on cue and tells you stories of breaking in brumbies and snake bites where, in his day, you didn’t go to hospital … it was ‘she’ll be right’!”

But it’s not all been about the pubs.

“We have also enjoyed the silo art trails, the waterfalls, gorges, and the native fauna and flora in so many national parks in this wonderful country,” said Greg. “Our next adventures will take us over to WA to continue our journey of this vast and magical country.”

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