Cruising along the Arnhem Highway about 30 minutes’ drive from Darwin last Sunday, a Big Boxing Crocodile came into view. That’s when we knew we’d arrived at Humpty Doo.
It’s a funny-named town located in the NT's Litchfield Shire that’s got no known connection with Humpty Dumpty... “except that some intoxicated locals have fallen off walls and other things” one local said.
According to the 2006 census, more than five thousand people live in Humpty Doo, which has seen much commercial and residential development in recent years - including the construction of a shopping centre, schools, police and emergency services station, as well as new housing subdivisions.
But when you cruise around the town centre, you don’t see anyone, probably because everyone’s at the pub. As locals say, “When in Humpty Doo, do as Humpties do” – go fishing, get drunk or engage in other naughty activity – and for Christ’s sake, don’t bypass the World Famous Humpty Doo Hotel, a few kilometres down the Highway, conveniently plonked right beside the local golf course.
The beer flows like flash flooding in this Cyclone-Tracy surviving pub that’s popular with everyone in the Top End. It’s a large, single-storey pub with a long bar, an iron roof, cement floor and metal gates – kind of like you’d see at a prison - and it has the largest set of buffalo horns in Australia up on its wall. Apart from the bar itself, the pub provides mediocre-at-best accommodation facilities and basic pub grub.
When I asked a couple of the patrons at the Humpty Doo Hotel where the funny name ‘Humpty Doo’ came from, “I dunno, actually!” was the stock-standard response. Taking advantage of their friendliness/drunkenness, I did manage to find out a few interesting points about the history of the pub itself.
I learned that Nev Skewes was the bloke who built it with his own two hands in 1970, also exploiting the help and skills of a few tradesmen mates. The now 40-year-old Hotel is ‘world famous’ and features in several bush ballads, including ‘The Man from Humpty Doo’ by Ted Egan and ‘Humpty Doo Waltz’ by the late Slim Dusty. We were there on a Sunday and the locals said we picked the right day, as Humpty Doo has the best Sunday Session in the Top End.
On days like those, nothing tastes better than a cold beer and there is no better place to have one than in a classic country pub like the Humpty Doo. Live music was an exciting bonus: ‘Humidity’ was the ironically-named band who played last Sunday, a day when the air up there was at 100-percent humidity. They played a bunch of classic pub favourites ranging from ‘Khe San’ to ‘Land Downunder’ and every other pub song you can think of.
The Humpty Doo Hotel is certainly one of Australia’s best boozers and definitely one of the highlights of my trip to the Top End. Cheers, mate!
Posted: February 4, 2010