A regular and local character Stewart Ferry at The Koumala Hotel, which he calls the best pub in Australia.
A regular and local character Stewart Ferry at The Koumala Hotel, which he calls the best pub in Australia. Nigel Hallett

Best pubs in Queensland: Drink in genuine country charm

IT OPENED as the Great Depression closed, standing expectantly just metres from the Bruce Highway as a newly motorised world whizzed by, then began stopping in for a drink.

The Koumala Hotel, 20 minutes drive south of Sarina, 900km from Brisbane, first traded in 1939 and grew rich on the war economy as sugar growers and cane cutters, who clustered at the southern end of that 200km green sugar belt stretching from Proserpine to the sea-side town of Clairview, began crowding the bar.

Today, cane is still king in Koumala but so are cattle, crocs and crabs with the pub's front bar festooned with prize-winning catches from across the decades, all granted immortality by the taxidermist's skill.

Gary Taylor, scion of a well-known Mackay family whose patriarch, Robin, was a gunner with 2 Field Regiment in World War II and fought in New Guinea, sits at the bar while a 20kg barramundi nailed to the wall 2m above his head eyes him balefully.

Gary caught it more than two decades ago when he was younger, fitter and a pro-fisherman up in the Gulf with brother Reville.

Reville died young - heart attack - the fish lives on in polished, formaldehyded splendour, staring down at Gary who, never an overly garrulous bloke, does grudgingly note for the record his affection for his favourite watering hole.

He has noted that hotels can attempt to conjure up a theme of "olde worlde” charm, but here amid the harvester crews and fishermen and little brass plaques honouring drinkers who have gone to the great bar in the sky, it's all unforced authenticity.

"This is all fair dinkum,'' he says briefly, raising his right hand and gesturing around the bar before returning his focus to his beer.

Stewart Ferry, something of a local character, is far more verbose, insisting the Koumala Pub is of national significance.

"Best pub in Australia,” he says.

The Koumala Hotel 20 minutes south of Sarina began life as the Great Depression ended and a war time economy took off.
The Koumala Hotel 20 minutes south of Sarina began life as the Great Depression ended and a war time economy took off. Nigel Hallett

Stewart walks to the pub and walks home after handing his licence over to local police because of minor medical problems he's battling.

But he could choose to scoot on over if he wished.

Such is his standing in the community, a member of the pub's staff had a little scooter custom made for him, complete with the salutation: "Stewie's 'Harley'.”

"As I said, best pub in Australia,” Stewie says. "Well, best one I've ever drank in anyway.”


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