Ever since William Blair first built the Birdsville Hotel in 1884, it’s weathered sandstone walls have been a welcome refuge to travellers from across the globe for more than 130 years. A destination in its own right, the pub has endured floods, fires and even cyclones to stand as a symbol of the spirit and character of the outback.
The Birdsville Hotel is steeped in history and has played a fascinating, yet important, part in the exploration and settlement of Australia’s desert country.
The Birdsville Hotel has social value as an outback cultural icon of national significance: a place that has become part of central Australian legend.
Today, the iconic award-winning pub is the main focus in Birdsville at any time of the year but more so during the running of the famous annual Birdsville Races and the Big Red Bash. The hotel was completely refurbished in 1980 by the then owners Kym Fort and David Brook after a terrible fire damaged much of the premises. The pair enjoyed a remarkable forty plus year tenure before the hotel was sold to Courtney and Talia Ellis at the end of 2019. Both Courtney and Talia have a long and extensive experience in remote hospitality with Courtney once a founder and co-owner of Outback Spirit, an award winning Australia tour operator and Talia, a respected bush pilot and chief pilot once based in outback South Australia. Both have loved Birdsville and the historic hotel for many years and are thrilled to have taken ownership and the tenure baton.
The pub offers visitors excellent accommodation which has recently undergone a full soft refurbishment by the new owners. With all new bedding, complemented by soft feather pillows, new quality linen and new furniture, the 28-room motel attached to the hotel now boasts the best quality accommodation in the remote Queensland outback. While the motel will ensure you get restful night sleep, the hotel offers visitors traditional quality pub fare accompanied by quality wine list, ice-cold drinks and with everything else needed for an authentic outback experience.
Whether you parked your car out front or your plane on the airstrip opposite, once you enter the Birdsville pub, you’ll find yourself in a place like no other — a place where you can immerse yourself in the ambience and stories told by characters as colourful as a painted desert landscape.
The Owners Past and Present – A History Timeline
1979: A likeable rogue and second-hand dealer named John had heard that the Birdsville Pub was up for sale after a fire devastated the building.
He and three mates asked Kym Fort, a young builder who enjoyed renovating old buildings, to join them in a partnership to purchase the pub. Kym joined them not having laid eyes on the building beforehand. He wondered what he had done when he saw the Birdsville Hotel’s front bar and the lounge completely destroyed, and the rest of the building barricaded with cyclone mesh.
Still, Kym saw it as a challenge and recognised that it was a beautiful old building and, with a passion for old buildings, timber, trusses/exposed beams and for making good, began renovating the front bar, kitchen and dining room.
1980: Hotel is up and trading again, just in time for the 1980 Birdsville Races.
Two of the partners in ‘Birdsville Enterprises’ soon decided that running a business in Birdsville wasn’t for them and left within the first 3 months. A third (the Proprietor) lasted only 12 months.
Having worked on ‘Adria’ Station as a young lad, John invited patriarch Bill Brook and his son David to be involved in the hotel sometime in 1980. He figured they were locals and the family had previously owned the hotel, and this was an opportunity for them to be involved again.
1983: John left the business leaving Kym and David as partners and owners of the Birdsville Hotel.
1983 & 1996: New accommodation was added with an initial 20 rooms followed by another 8 in 1996.
2019: Courtney and Talia Ellis buy the hotel in November 2019 and take over it’s operation in January 2020.