You don’t need a town, when you’ve got a pub as good as the Packsaddle Roadhouse.

Story + Photos Andrew Hull

There are two ways into the locality of Packsaddle. You can enter from the northern end, where the road leads to the villages of Milparinka and Tibooburra, or from the south where the next town (and by far the largest in the region) is Broken Hill. The road is the Silver City Highway, and Packsaddle is located where it crosses the Packsaddle Creek, one of a network of ephemeral streams created from rainwater coursing out of the Barrier Ranges to the west, and the Koonenberry Range to the east.

Short-lived shadows form at the front of the west-facing Packsaddle Roadhouse complex, as birdsong from the nearby creek heralds in another day for the remote locality.

“Our day usually starts around 6.30am with lots of cleaning up dust,” says Mia Degoumois, licensee and hostess of the Packsaddle Roadhouse. “We are always open at 8am, and sometimes it takes us that long to clean up the dust of the day before – but it is one of the things we pride ourselves in, and something that the community values.”

Packsaddle was originally sited as one of a network of government stock-watering points located approximately a day’s ride apart, (16–40km depending on the terrain) and typically sporting a shanty or bar of some description to provide refreshment for men, as well as horses. In the late 1800s the coach routes were busy with prospectors making their way to the Albert and Mount Browne goldfields, with the first routes navigating north-west from Wilcannia, the major river port of the day, and roughly the same distance as the later favoured road from Broken Hill. In addition to gold, tin was also mined in the region, and the first Packsaddle Hotel was believed to have been built in 1887.

This story excerpt is from Issue #131

Outback Magazine: June/July 2020