The only pub in this Western Australian town keeps up the tradition of oversized meals and a bar safe enough to leave your wallet on.
Story By Fleur Bainger
Weary travellers won’t find a more aptly named watering hole than the Gibson Soak Hotel, 26 kilometres north of Esperance in south-west Western Australia. Since the late 1800s, it has not only been quenching thirsts with supplies from the bar, but also supplying fresh water from the soak it’s built on.
Not much is known about local Billy Gibson, the first white bloke to come across the soak while he was searching for stock. The permanent water source was officially recorded by surveyor A.W. Canning in 1896, the same year the pub was licensed.
Current owner, Phil Waddington, says the pub was a pretty busy place back then and its license was fiercely fought over. “This is the last fresh water between here and Norseman, so that made it very important,” Phil says. “This was the first stage of the camel and bullock trains that used to take mining equipment overland to Peel … It was a Cobb & Co station at one stage. Anyone who left Esperance going to the goldfields would stop here overnight. It used to take them a day to get here.”
The pub has had a number of incarnations over its 115-year lifespan. It started out as a tin and timber construction and was run by a miner from Marble Bar. Today, its outer skin is regal white Ravensthorpe stone, built over the top of the existing rooms over a long period of time, with the most recent additions being about 35 years ago. About 20 years ago, the pub was teetering on the edge of insolvency and was taken over by a syndicate of farmers who lived in the region. “I think they drunk more than they sold,” Phil says, laughing. “But they lasted long enough to prevent the pub from going down the gurgler.”
This story excerpt is from Issue #75
Outback Magazine: Feb/Mar 2011