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Pub of the Week: The Court House Hotel, Port Douglas

I’m an ‘80s chick and I’ve just spotted Barnsey*.

I think.

I squint my 40-year-old eyes, readjust the focal point, and realise the tight-bummed bloke standing on the stage of the Court House Hotel in the “Working Class Man” singlet is actually a doppelganger for Jimmy Barnes – albeit a foot shorter.

My disappointment lasts as long as it takes ‘Minnie Jimmy’ to strike a few chords of pure rock magic. Before I know it, the synaptic nerves in my brain make a decade-old connection with my body and I turn all brolga. My head bobs at whiplash speed, I raise my arms, and my knees automatically dip – sometimes in sync, mostly not.

This is the dance that makes the 20-somethings around me snigger, the kind of moves that are only seen late at night on Max TVs “Awesome ’80s” countdown. But I don’t care. The band at the ‘Courty’ – as this iconic old pub in Port Douglas is called – rocks as much as the atmosphere in the beer garden around me.

Everyone’s up and smiling… and why not? Port Douglas has to be the most chilled town in the universe. It’s Nimbin with money and on a Friday night the Court House Hotel is the oracle of all that happiness. No need to guess why this is a tourist haven.

The iconic Court House Hotel in Port Douglas

As the local rocker starts his second set, I sneak off to the Public Bar a little winded and grab a menu and a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The staff are young and friendly and the service is great. My salad of Thai beef on a healthy dose of green is simply sublime. For the die-hard carnivore, there’s also traditional pub grub on offer.

The guys behind the pub have been doing this for a long time. The Court House Hotel opened in 1878 and true to tradition, the design is pure Queenslander; the pub’s wooden exterior is painted sunny white and wide, shady balconies offer a respite from the balmy tropical heat.

I’ve been told that upstairs is one of the best spots to see a Tropical North Queensland sunset, so I decide to check it out.

The difference may only be a dozen or so steps but the mood is subtly more sophisticated… either that or the other winded groovers are also using it as a recovery room.

I grab a cocktail (Pina Colada, of course) and watch as the tourist boats come back to the marina for their nightly roost. Below me the picturesque St Mary’s by the Sea church bustles with preparation for the next day’s wedding.

This is paradise and I feel Barnsey almost got it right when he sang, “The Rising Sun just stole my girl away”. Here in Tropical North Queensland, it’s the setting sun from the balcony at the ‘Courty’ that will steal this girl away.

(*In case you weren’t born yet, Jimmy Barnes is a Scottish-born Aussie Rocker and front man for Cold Chisel. Once renowned for downing a bottle of Vodka a night – on stage and in full view – he’s now earned his stripes as a much-loved music legend).