Every destination has a story to tell. We’ve been guilty of bypassing lots of small towns and localities when travelling in Australia, but to be fair, it’s a huge country to discover.
I’ve been surprised so many times though, by the off the beaten track places and I can now add Pine Creek in the Northern Territory to that list.
Pine Creek is 220 kilometres south of Darwin or 90 kilometres north of Katherine, and when travelling the Stuart Highways our usual thing has been to stay in Katherine and then drive on in to Darwin the next day. In future we are going to be adding Pine Creek to that itinerary.
We were given a recommendation to stay in Pine Creek at the Lazy Lizard caravan park and visit the tavern while we were there. That was an easy exercise because they are part of the same complex, which also includes a visitor centre, mini mart (which was really well stocked and priced) and fuel. That was just the beginning of this surprising destination though and here is what we loved about it.
Location, Location, Location
You know it’s a good start to your caravan park stay when the view from your caravan door is the resort style pool. The caravan spots are spacious, shady, with tropical palm trees and frangipani abundant in the park. The sites are long enough to leave your car hitched to the van if you want, and with almost everything to see in town within walking distance, that’s a good option.
The park also has a camp kitchen and excellent clean amenities with a quirky touch from the tavern, of kegs being used as wash basins and cisterns for the toilets. The resort pool is large and there are plenty of chairs, lounges and space for patrons to relax. And keep an eye out for the crocodile in the bottom of the pool! (It’s ok, he’s painted on).
The tavern is so comfortable and the décor is said to give a ‘Top End’ atmosphere, which it does and not in a tacky way which a lot of ‘outback’ watering holes do. (No bras and sweaty clothes hanging from the rafters here). The building is made of mud bricks, made from termite mounds and the bar and eating areas are interesting and very Territorian.
The food was excellent with lots of choices on the menu of mainly pub food with some fish dishes and salads as well, the wine list surprised us with a range of labels to select and really good prices per bottle.
The town has oodles of history including the oldest prefabricated building in Australia. Over the years it was used as a pharmacy, doctor’s residence, clinic and small hospital before becoming a military communications centre, then post office, telephone exchange and now houses the local museum and library.
The original Pine Creek Bakery building in the main street was moved from a nearby goldfield in 1915, where it operated until it was commandeered by the Australian Army during WWII, to supply bread to the troops. It remains today as an example of the iron and timber buildings of the region from the early 20th century.
A railway museum is housed in the 1889 built railway station building and here you can also see two locomotives and carriages that you can get up close to and explore.
This is a local institution and you need to get in early to get some of the daily baked pies and sausage rolls that are their specialties, and trust me, they are worth saving for a main meal.
Pine Creek is only a short detour off the Stuart Highway between Katherine and Darwin in the Northern Territory and an easy ring road means you can enter and exit in whichever direction you’re still heading.
Can’t wait to visit again!