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. Completely refurbished after current owners Kym Fort and David Brook took over the reins in 1980, the pub offers visitors comfy accommodation, traditional pub fare, 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.
In 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 and had the kitchen and dining room up and running 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.
In 1983, John left the business leaving Kym and David as partners and owners of the Birdsville Hotel — a partnership and friendship which has endured to this day.
Since then Kym and wife Jo along with David and his wife Nell have taken the pub and turned it into the icon it is today. They added motel accommodation in 1983 and again in 1996 both of which have subsequently been updated.
The two couples also bought and renovated the Innamincka Hotel in 1999.