The Noojee Hotel offers a relaxing stopover with live music, good country meals and a family atmosphere.

Story By Martin Auldist

Lisa Willems clearly remembers calling into the Noojee Hotel as a young girl during regular snow-skiing trips to Mount Baw Baw, Vic, with her parents. “Mum and Dad always made a point of dropping into the Noojee Pub after skiing,” Lisa says. “Dad would drink in the bar, but Mum and I would have to wait in the ‘Ladies Room’. I got to become very familiar with the place.” That was in 1973 and, back then, Lisa could never have imagined she and future husband Mick would one day own the hotel.

Lisa and Mick purchased the Noojee Hotel three years ago and the pub is a focal point for locals of Noojee, in West Gippsland. The bulk of the pub’s business, however, comes from passing trade. Nestled among the white gums on the banks of the Latrobe River in the Baw Baw foothills, the hotel makes a welcome resting and meeting place for lovers of the great outdoors. Fittingly, the meaning of the Aboriginal word Noojee is “place of rest”.

“We get all types here,” Lisa says. “The area is perfect for skiers, dirt-bike riders, horse riders, bushwalkers, hunters, four-wheel-drivers and birdwatchers – they all drop by for a drink or a meal, especially on weekends or holidays. There’s good trout fishing here, too, and the river’s only a long cast from the back verandah.”

A large undercover deck out the back of the hotel, which Mick built himself, helps the country atmosphere along. The verandah overlooks the expansive grassy grounds and, beyond that, the picturesque Latrobe River. There are even tame kookaburras on the handrail that the kids will enjoy feeding.

Publican Sydney Wentworth Smith first built the pub in 1925. Since there was no power a waterwheel was built and, against the regulations of the day, deployed in the Latrobe River to provide power for an illegal gambling house.

“The original owner used the gambling house to entertain gangsters from Melbourne,” Mick says. “Local legend has it that Squizzy Taylor was among those who frequented the Noojee Hotel, shortly before his death in 1927.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #65

Outback Magazine: June/July 2009