NT pub sale offers chance to commune over a beer with crocs

''It's a lifestyle. You won't make a fortune but you'll have a lot of fun,'' is Stan Haeusler's message to prospective buyers of the Grove Hill Heritage Hotel.

''It's a lifestyle. You won't make a fortune but you'll have a lot of fun,'' is Stan Haeusler's message to prospective buyers of the Grove Hill Heritage Hotel.

''IT'S a lifestyle. You won't make a fortune but you'll have a lot of fun,'' is Stan Haeusler's message to prospective buyers of the Grove Hill Heritage Hotel in the heart of the old Katherine goldfields.

Looking out from the beer garden across the railway line you can see his point.

It's an hour and a half's drive from Darwin, then 20 kilometres off the highway to the squat, white, corrugated iron shed that houses the Grove Hill hotel and museum, which goes to auction tomorrow.

In the wet season ''you'll get the occasional python or crocodile in here'', Mr Haeusler says. ''Only the little ones because we're only two kilometres down from Margaret River.

''It's a good licence, six o'clock in the morning 'til two o'clock in the morning, 365 days of the year,'' Mr Haeusler boasts, although he admits that the last kilometre of dirt road can put the tourists off.

When the pub was built from the scraps of the goldfields in 1935, the local rush was on its deathbed but the Overland Telegraph, the Stuart Highway and the new North Australian Railway line were all on the doorstep.

Telstra has replaced the telegraph, but the resources boom still sends a train a day of iron ore past the door, and the Ghan and freight train drivers toot when they see the lights on.

Grove Hill's isolation is half its charm.

One of the barmaids, Candy, rides her Harley-Davidson out from Darwin to work at the pub. ''I just love it here. I've been doing this for about four years.''

Free camping and peace and quiet are drawcards, but the collection of museum pieces is what sets Grove Hill apart from regular pubs - rusty tools and blacksmith irons, a portrait of Elvis, and a bathtub belonging to Margaret Lucy, the pub's first licensee.

''I bought it at 65 when I should have retired,'' says Mr Haeusler, now on the edge of actual retirement, but buying Grove Hill was his chance to fulfil the childhood dream of owning a pub.

He and his wife Mary took over in 2000. A two-metre sign, ''Under New Management, Stan and Mary'' hangs at the front door, declaring the couple's excitement at their arrival 12 years ago.

Returning to Darwin to retire was the couple's next dream, but a week after the pub was listed for auction Mary Haeusler died.

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