Tips for road trips in Australia: The top 10 gimmicks you'll find at Australian roadhouses

Australia's roadhouses are the workhorses of the outback. Rarely glamorous, often with pretty bleak food menus and a sense of stoic isolation, they are nonetheless essential to those big drives through nowhere. Some, however, try to make themselves a little bit more interesting ...

Camel riding

Where? Stuart's Well, NT

One of the first roadhouses on the Stuart Highway after you cross from South Australia into the Northern Territory, Stuart's Well provides alternative transport for anyone wanting to get out of the car for a bit. Camels are rife in the Central Australian desert, so why not round some up and train them to give rides to passing motorists? Camels Australia offers 30 minute and hour-long camel treks. See camels-australia.com.au

Aliens

Where? Wycliffe Well, Northern Territory

Wycliff Well goes all out.

Wycliff Well goes all out.

Further up the Stuart Highway, a little while before you get to the Devil's Marbles, Wycliffe Well goes all out with its pretence that it is the UFO sighting capital of Australia. That means acres of newsprint inside about alleged flying saucers spottings, and a yard full of cheesy paraphernalia and big model aliens outside. See Wycliffe.com.au

The Giant Koala

Where? Dadswell Bridge, Victoria

The chlamydia-ravaged koala in Dadswell, Victoria.

The chlamydia-ravaged koala in Dadswell, Victoria. Photo: Alamy

There are many, many roadhouses that have put up some giant fibreglass monstrosity to trick passing tourists into taking pictures, but the Giant Koala deserves special praise for being so spectacularly ropey. The koala is indeed enormous, but it doesn't half look like it has been ravaged by chlamydia. See thegiantkoala.com.au

The boxing crocodile

Where? Humpty Doo, Northern Territory

Gloriously silly: The boxing croc.

Gloriously silly: The boxing croc. Photo: Alamy

Outside the United fuel station is a gloriously silly depiction of the creature the Arnhem Highway is best known for. The enormous croc, with a cheery cartoon face and boxing gloves over his front feet, stands to attention, making drivers stop for a photo on the way to Kakadu National Park.

Raging pinkness

Where? Oodnadatta, South Australia

The Pink Roadhouse lives up to its name.

The Pink Roadhouse lives up to its name.

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The Pink Roadhouse tries its darndest to live up to its name, with everything in sight being covered in generous lashings of pink paint. It all started with a 1969 Dodge car, which the owners sprayed bright pink and put outside to attract passing drivers. And once you've started something, you may as well finish, so the makeover was applied to the rest of the roadhouse too. See pinkroadhouse.com.au

Golf

Where? The Nullarbor Roadhouse, South Australia

The hole at Nullabor Roadhouse.

The hole at Nullabor Roadhouse. Photo: Wikipedia

Consider this a somewhat arbitrary pick, because the 18 holes of the Nullarbor Links golf course spread across the Nullarbor Plain from Ceduna to Kalgoorlie. Pretty much every roadhouse on the way plays host to a hole, with a long dusty fairway to conquer. But the Nullarbor Roadhouse also has photogenic signs pointing out the huge distances to Aussie towns and cities. See nullarborlinks.com

Funky time

Where? Border Village, South Australia

Kangaroos hold things Part 1: Here, a jar of vegemite at Border Village.

Kangaroos holding things Part 2: Here, a jar of vegemite at Border Village.

Just before crossing into Western Australia, one of the world's weirdest – and unofficial – time zones kicks in. Central Western Standard Time (UTC+45) is designed to straddle the gulf between Central Standard Time in South Australia and Western Standard Time. The zone covers a few more roadhouses over the border, and a population of about 250 people. But Border Village has the clocks on the wall. Oh, and it also has a Big Kangaroo holding a jar of vegemite. See bordervillageroadhouse.com.au

The Telegraph Station

Where? Eucla, Western Australia

On the Nullarbor drive, it's worth stretching your legs and walking across the sand dunes to the Southern Ocean from the Eucla Roadhouse. On the way are the rather atmospheric, sand-encroached ruins of the old telegraph station, which was the main base for the telegraph line that connected WA with the rest of Australia. Signs have a bit of info on the historic significance. See euclastay.com.au

A crashed space station

Where? Balladonia, Western Australia

When the Skylab space station crashed to earth in 1979, most of it came down around Balladonia on the lonely Eyre Highway. This sparked a mad rush into the middle of nowhere to reclaim pieces around what's now called the Balladonia Hotel Motel. More than 40 years later, it is still milking the story, with replica pieces of the debris attached to the roof and a small museum explaining the tiny settlement's moment in the spotlight. See balladoniahotelmotel.com.au

All manner of nonsense

Where? Cape York, Queensland

Lion's Den Hotel.

Lion's Den Hotel. Photo: Alamy

The Lion's Den Hotel fits the fine tradition of several outback pubs – the Daly Waters Hotel in the Northern Territory and William Creek Hotel in South Australia offer much the same experience – of just covering the building in any old tat tourists leave behind. Just south of Cooktown on the road up from Cape Tribulation, the Lion's Den brims with donated caps, number plates, foreign bank notes, hard hats and scrawled signatures. See lionsdenhotel.net

See also: Ten amazing ways to take the 'bore' out of driving the Nullarbor

See also: Oversold Australia: Ten major attractions that don't live up to the hype

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