Central Hotel Port Douglas
YOU don't normally think of "oasis" and "pub" in the same sentence but the Central Hotel in Port Douglas has managed to combine the two with a clever makeover of a grand old dame.
The much-loved hotel underwent a massive refurbishment by new owners four years ago and while locals feared it could be the end of an era, it has instead broadened the venue’s appeal.
Built in 1878, the Central was one of the earliest land sales in Port at a time when lots were offered at the police office "tent" for the going rate of £25 an acre.
Originally called the North Australian Hotel, it was as a single storey structure but after receiving extensive damage in the 1911 cyclone it was rebuilt as the two-story Central Hotel.
The recent renovation saw the spacious beer garden updated with lush plants, an award-winning shade structure and a big screen, while upstairs the ladies can sip cocktails in the chic Verandah Bar.
But the original section of the pub has been retained, with its creaky polished floors, painted white shutters and sporting memorabilia adorning the walls.
A painting of Port character Percy Hutchings and one of his bush poems hangs above a corner of the main bar where the content bachelor enjoyed a daily drink with his mates.
"Us kids used to muck about and swim in the back pool – I knocked a few teeth out there," he said.
One of his more memorable working experiences was on the day a brown snake wriggled down the footpath in front of startled punters.
"One of the locals had to pin it down with a stool – it was looking a bit dangerous and angry," he said. "There were women screaming and children running, it was mayhem."
From the roof to the cellar, after 13 years as manager Helen Colvin knows the Central inside out.
"You’re never bored – you’re always meeting new people and you never know what you’re doing from one day to the next," she said.
Although the huge sail didn’t blow away during Yasi, two nights later the torrential rain that followed the cyclone took the sail down with its immense weight.
"We called it the Central Tsunami – all the heavy wooden furniture ended up on the grass and it smashed the roller door," Ms Colvin recalls. "It was just so lucky that it happened after midnight when no one was here – it could have killed them."