LIKE Broome of old, the original Continental Hotel, in Western Australia’s Kimberley, has made way for the new.
In his book, ‘Australian Pubs’, John Larkins described the original corrugated iron pub, with its cooling verandah slung along its front, as “a great, ugly edifice, but oh, so charming”.
In the early 1970s, writer, Larkins and photographer, Bruce Howard went on a 40,000km pub crawl around Australia, telling their wives, “Don’t wait up!”
With Larkins wonderful words, and Howard’s fabulous photos, they chronicled an amazing snap shot of Australian pub culture.
Larkins and Howard visited Broome on the eve of the demise of the old Conti, as the finishing touches were being made to its replacement. Larkins wrote:
“There could have hardly been a more Australian pub than the old tin Continental at Broome. A great, ugly edifice but oh, so charming. One day they decided it had lived too long. So they began to build a smart new pub behind it, but they used their imagination – the interior decorators came from Perth and sat in the old bars to absorb the atmosphere. And finally they created a new pub which looked almost as ancient as the original. In a country where so many old places are being ruthlessly destroyed, it is a refreshing sight.”
Maybe so, but it’s difficult to recreate ‘charm’, or replace the atmosphere of a pub that evolved in a truly frontier Australian town.
Broome today is a resort town, offering sunset beach camel rides, a restored Chinatown, overlooking Roebuck Bay where cruises can be made to pearl farms.
The “new Conti” is now part of a resort hotel complex, with tropical gardens, glittering pools and diverse dining option. Today’s Conti even offers patrons ‘drag-bingo’ – times have certainly changed in the old pioneering pub.
I suppose we should be grateful that the Conti pub has survived – at least in name.
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Categories: Western Australia hotels