12 November 2022

Farmers bring a taste of outback pub life to ... Gundaroo

| Sally Hopman
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Man and woman behind bar

Kylie and Jimmy Finn behind the bar at their new Sheep-O outback pub on their property outside Gundaroo. Photos: Sally Hopman.

There’s something about an outback pub. It is usually built from what was something else, and decorated, slowly over the years, with things that look like they’ve always been there.

Jimmy and Kylie Finn, who run Bushfield Farm just out of Gundaroo, have just opened their version of a pub in the shearing shed of the property. Jim’s family has lived in the district for more than 100 years. It’s called the Outback of Gundaroo, with the bar named Sheep-O, perfect for former shearer Jim.

For years the Finns have run sheep on the 80-hectare farm, but began to diversify a few years ago when what started as a favour for friends and family – hosting weddings in their shearing shed – became good business.

“We just started doing weddings for family and then other people started asking us if they could have their wedding here too. It really took off and helped during the drought when the dams were empty and we had to destock,” Jimmy said. “The weddings helped keep us going.”

With about 40 weddings a year now, and Jimmy cutting back on contracting work, Kylie said the dream to run their own outback pub – about 35 km from the nation’s capital – “sort of just happened”.

Man and camel

Jimmy Finn with Trevor the Camel – one of the star attractions at the new Sheep-O pub at Gundaroo.

The couple are keen travellers, especially to outback locations across the country, so know a good bush pub when they see one.

Their last trip was up to the Gulf Country where they crossed the Simpson Desert. They carried a book about iconic outback pubs – “which took us to some amazing places”.

“Over years of outback travel, we have discovered that a visit to the local watering hole is an authentic way of getting to know your locals, history and quirky memorabilia,” Kylie said. “That’s when we thought, ‘Why don’t we do something like that here?’

“What we wanted to do was a bring a slice of that old-fashioned hospitality, the sort of service you can only get out in the bush, to this place that is so near Canberra.”

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“There are always characters at these outback pubs,” Jimmy said. “The publican usually has stories to tell – real stories. No one can better tell you about the area than that bloke.”

Their plan was to create a pub where locals and visitors could come, where the kids could play out the front safely, where stories could be told and where memories could be created.

They were also keen to bring another piece of the outback to Bushfield – in the form of Trevor the Camel. In his former life, Trevor carried tourists around Uluru in the Northern Territory, but was trucked down to Bushfield to “retire” and accept pats from visitors.

He joins Edwina the Emu, miniature donkeys, sheep, horses, dogs, and goats that also live on the farm.

Wiman with emu

Kylie Finn with Edwina the Emu, one of the “characters” of the outback pub at Gundaroo.

Kylie has decorated the pub so it looks like everything has always been there, with its pieces of recycled furniture, mostly from other shearing sheds, and other bits and pieces that she has found just the right home for. Customers can enjoy their drinks on the verandah on a wool classing table, the wooden floor underneath them came from another shed, while the walls around them carry everything from swags of hessian to old bottles and signs.

“We want people to feel at home here,” Kylie said. “If there are a few people around having a drink, I’ll bring out a tray of nibbles – but it will be real food like a big hunk of cheese and kabana and of course Jatz crackers – and of course bowls of peanuts on the bar.

“We want to keep it simple, but real. It works very well,” she said. “I have the amazing ideas and Jim is the master at creating them,” she laughed.

The Outback of Gundaroo is located on Bushfield Farm, Back Creek Road, Gundaroo. It will be open by arrangement.

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