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Eat & Drink

The Family Hotel, Tibooburra


An iconic outback pub adorned in murals from some of Australia’s most famous artists. 

Tibooburra enjoys a reputation as one of the friendliest and most charming outback towns in Australia, and at its heart stands the Family Hotel.

Built from local sandstone in 1881, the pub was originally known as Tattasall’s Hotel, before its name was changed to Downie’s Family Hotel in 1887. It’s retained the ‘Family’ part despite a number of different owners down the years.

Once part of the Cobb & Co coach network, it still has some of the original stables standing today.

But the era that really formed the pub’s character was the 1960s, when it was under the ownership of Barney Davie. Barney’s good mate, renowned Australian artist Clifton Pugh, would visit for weeks at a time to paint outback scenes, using the pub as his base and often bringing fellow artists with him. A three-time Archibald Prize winner (including for the portrait of Gough Whitlam hanging in Parliament House), Pugh got stuck in Tibooburra during a flood and began painting the walls in the main bar to alleviate his boredom. The impressionistic mural is racy to say the least, with a naked devil bearing an uncanny resemblance to Pugh’s ex-wife’s boyfriend, and a number of female nudes, two of whom were inspired – rather cheekily – by the publican’s daughters. It was the swingin’ 60s, after all!

Clifton Pugh's mural

But not all were so open-minded to the free-love orgy on the walls of their pub; the story has it there was uproar amongst the locals, and Pugh was ordered by the police to paint over the devil’s rather prominent nether region. It is said he did so reluctantly – repainting it once the dust had settled. You’ll be pleased to hear, the offending appendage is very much present today!

The artwork frames the bar, along with others by artists Russell Drysdale, Eric Minchin and Rich Amor, rendering the Family Hotel much more than a watering hole in the desert. Rather, it’s a living outback art gallery born of mateship and ‘passing time’; two themes that continue to define this little outback town.

In addition to its famous bar room gallery, the Family Hotel offers accommodation at its Family Lodge Motel, and serves up hearty country-style meals seven days a week. London-trained head chef Tim Burn is a delightful character who whips up delicious meals while somehow making time to pop out into the dining room to keep you posted on the wait time for your meal, and to check you’re enjoying it once it arrives.

Indeed, Tim’s friendliness is mirrored in that of the bar staff and the owners, Melissa and William Thomson. Everyone is treated like family at the Family Hotel, which is why it gets a very big tick of approval from the Travel In team.

The Family Hotel is located at 30 Briscoe Street, Tibooburra, NSW. Book now to stay at the Family Hotel.

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