On the road: Barrow Creek, Northern Territory, Australia

Barrow Creek Roadhouse

IT’S just gone 10 in the morning and Les Pilton, owner of the Barrow Creek Roadhouse, is serving pies rather than pints. In fact, the only one in the bar, or on the bar to be exact, is Tiger. And he’s flat out asleep. Just as he has been most of the morning.
Most times Les passes by as he serves customers he gives Tiger an affectionate tickle. It’s no more than Tiger expects. That’s his spot, says Les indulgently. It’s clear who is top dog. And it’s not the two canines Ed and Sophie.  
Every inch of the bar and the walls of the Roadhouse is scrawled with signatures or festooned with photographs. They are a permanent testimony to the hundreds of thousands of visitors who have stopped in at the Roadhouse on their way through Barrow Creek travelling to Alice Springs or Darwin in the Northern Territory, Australia.
They come from all over the world. There’s Ireland, Switzerland, Japan, China, Poland and Russia and countless more. Even a supporter of the Wolverhampton Wanderers soccer club, cheering on his team despite being a very long way from home.
Les was a cartographer draftsman by profession, originally based in Darwin until the whole department was moved following Cyclone Tracy.  After posts in Brisbane and Darwin, post-Tracy, he joined the Northern Territory Land Administration in Alice Springs, working on projects such as the Alice Springs Golf Course redevelopment and the weapons range complex.
Les has run the Roadhouse for more than 32 years. He hadn’t set out to buy it, or anything else in Barrow Creek for that matter. He’d actually come to the small community to attend a funeral of Tom Roberts, a retired former linesman who became caretaker of the historic Barrow Creek Telegraph Station after a new microwave system made it redundant in 1980. After the funeral, the previous owner of the Roadhouse offered it to Les and the deal was sealed with a 10 cent deposit.
In a little room off one end of the bar, there’s a different kind of wall of memories, a mini-museum including fascinating photographs and memorabilia from the early days of Barrow Creek, and the people who weren’t just passing through.


  1. Good to know Barrow Creek is still up and running we spent 4 weeks helping Les Pilton at the pub. Thousands of people stopped there on their way up or down. very interesting.

    • christine hansen (miss chris)

      Thanks for the up date on Barrow Creek. I have been wondering if Les was still the owner of the pub, i worked for him for about a year and enjoyed it every much. I am hoping to go back up and see him soon. All my love to you les and family. From MISS CHRIS xxxxxx


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