The Tom Price Hotel Motel is the highest pub in WA.

Story + Photos Eleanor Lukale 

In the heart of the Pilbara, in the hills of the small mining town of Tom Price, you’ll come across the Tom Price Hotel Motel – the highest pub in WA, at 747m above sea level. As in many Australian towns, the pub was one of the first establishments to stake a claim, in December 17, 1967 – the year after the opening of the Tom Price Mine. At first it was known simply as Uncle Tom’s Cabin, after mining boss, CRA group head Tom Barlow.

“When they built the pub, both private and public bars were just one room, with no separation,” former miner James Richards says. “On opening day, most miners came straight from the mines all covered in red dust, anxious for a drink. Before long both bars were covered in the red dust – on the floor, on the bar and the walls – and it was decided it would be prudent to partition the two bars.” And so the infamous ‘Animal Bar’ was born.

Things sometimes got a little bit wild in the Animal Bar. Tales include streakers running through the place during the women’s dart competitions, a bullet hole through the roof from a shotgun and times when the whole area was cleared because a snake had been let loose or a stick of explosive (no detonator) was thrown over the bar.

This story excerpt is from Issue #134

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2021