Billed as ‘Australia’s most unique pub’, the Great Western Hotel in Rockhampton serves as a clubhouse for bull riding and rodeo.

Story + Photos Mandy McKeesick

In old-town Rockhampton, Qld, where buildings pre-date the 20th century and where vehicles share the wide streets with trains carting cattle, the Great Western Hotel squats prominently on a corner. A line of people snakes around its entrance. It is Saturday night. It is time for bull-riding.

Past the bars and pool room, past the award-winning steak restaurant, past the beer garden, Akubra-hatted patrons file to the enormous covered arena at the back of the hotel. Here, professional riders say their prayers and stand for the national anthem before attempting to sit on 600kg of bucking bull for 8 seconds. Whether they grew up riding in Broome or in a small town in New Zealand, all know the Great Western Hotel as a mecca for their sport.

This story excerpt is from Issue #153

Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2024