State Hotel (Babinda, QLD)

The stately, State Hotel, Babinda.

The stately, State Hotel, Babinda.

The town of Babinda is one of those places that is easily missed when flitting through between Townsville and Cairns, or vice versa. It once was home to a substantial sugar mill which was immediately adjacent to the highway, with the main township itself tucked away between the highway and the hills on the western side.

These days the sugar mill is no longer, however the town soldiers on, still getting by on the back of the cane industry.

The actual town of Babinda is easily missed due to its off-highway location, and for all the years Ive been touring Australian roads, I am somewhat embarrassed that I hadn’t realised sooner that there would be far more to the town than the one or two small stores visible near the railway line and by the highway.

A Saturday afternoon set aside to dedicate to scanning paddocks and farms from the districts roads in the pursuit of a particular old bus (another story in itself), led to the fortuitous capitalisation of the chance to actually visit the pretty little town, and check out its dominating pub, the State Hotel.

If you’re like me and love a nice two storey timber style building, and one of seriously large proportions that evoke thoughts of a multitude if hidey-holes, rabbit warren like joined hallways linking different areas of the pub, hidden cellars and the likes, then you will enjoy the vibe that this lovely hotel offers.

Now over 95 years old, the State is arguably the main watering hole for the town. Its public bar boasts terrazzo floors, and an original tiled bar, topped off with a more recently applied bar top made of that vertically sliced and polished tree, which uniquely has a tilt on it – towards the patrons side. There were two pool tables, a darts board, a fairly reasonably sized TAB area in the back corner, and a chips vending machine all within sight. The public bar is a substantial bar, with 7 beer taps present, with at least 6 appearing to be operative. Whilst I am sure there is a sensible reason for the presence of a chip vending machine, I found it a bit off putting to not be able to buy a bag of chips over the counter. Its no biggy, but one and the same an observation none the less.

Building wise, in addition to the terrazzo floors already mentioned, there is a good presence of lead-lighting above several of the entrance doors, with SHB (or maybe vice versa) wovenly inscribed.

A magnificent and sturdy internal staircase made of polished timber, but lined with a red rug runner, all carefully held in place with antique brass rod inserts to keep the rug snugly in place in the stair cavities, leads to the upstairs accommodation. The accommodation has recently has a refit to provide some rooms with ensuite facilities – an increasing trend some pubs have taken on in an effort to make better use of the accommodation space. The one room observed on this occasion so treated, was tastefully decorated with quality fittings used in the bathroom area. A lovely broad veranda, with appropriate seating provides a pleasant place for hotel guests to relax in the evening sunset, or enjoy the rainy (the town is known locally as “Umbrella town”) mornings.

There is much more area to the entire building than was able to be easily observed on this occasion, however judging by the framed black and white prints located in the foyer – graced by a stunning chandelier, there may have been staff accommodations and other facilities at one time.

Perhaps a very favourable and not widely known point of interest outside of the district itself, is its in house Chinese restuarant, located in the bottom left corner o the main building. This Chinese has a solid and long standing reputation for being of great quality. Evidently, a local tradition on select nights, is dinner at said Chinese restaurant (which I might add, comes complete with its own in house bar made of beautiful silky-oak and decorated with era-appropriate fixtures), before heading off for a night at the movies in the nearby cinema – itself worthy of its own write up, noting its reported swing back canvas chairs, the story of its rebuild after the various cyclones and its art-deco inspired foyer – complete with still functioning original deco ticket window. Nor should I forget about mentioning the Dolby sound system, and seemingly late release movies on offer.

If you’re to be concerned with getting rained on in this rainy tropical north QLD town, this should not deter potential pub-Chinese-movie goers, as a considerately placed covered walkway conveniently links the two facilities.

I am known for digressing, I know. In any case, if your a vintage cinema buff, check out for further details. However, its suffice to say that at a time of earliest convenience, it is my solid intention to arrange a time to stay overnight at this classic pub, try out the Chinese and head off for a night at the flicks before retiring to the stately accommodations provided by the delightful State Hotel.

PS – tip for new players – avoid parking in the centre parking on the street – the local birds enjoy the target practice availed to them courtesy of the wires than run above the parked cars 😉

The separate take-away sales bar.

The separate take-away sales bar.

Chinese restaurant bar. Clean, crisp and a period treat :)

The upstairs corridor.

This sign has stood the test of time above a little window, which may have been an accommodation office enquiry window perhaps...or something else...

This sign has stood the test of time above a little window, which may have been an accommodation office enquiry window perhaps…or something else…


The lounge style bar in the Chinese restaurant. Clean, period appropriate and just straight out lovely.

The lounge style bar in the Chinese restaurant. Clean, period appropriate and just straight out lovely.

  1. #1 by Mike on 16 February, 2014 - 2:03 pm

    Good post, and nice to se an update on this site. Only observavle improvement would be to use the NGG gallery for the pics.

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