by Ian Williams
Leigh Creek Tavern in South Australia’s far north has bounced back to life with a new name and purpose, in a major vote of confidence for the town.
A former watering hole for thirsty miners, the tavern closed just before Christmas, a year after the town’s mine produced its last coal.
General manager Leigh Kentwell says 1834 Hotels has big plans for the resort in a timely boost for the local community, providing jobs, confidence and optimism for the future.
“The opportunities are pretty much endless, as we see Leigh Creek as the northern gateway to the Flinders Ranges,” says Leigh. “We’ll be driving tourism in the region with tours and charters for visitors, and marketing Leigh Creek and its iconic scenery as a base for them to head out and explore.”
The hotel group is progressively upgrading the resort, which has 60 accommodation rooms, bar and restaurant, swimming pool and gymnasium. There is also a 250-seat auditorium which will be turned into an outback conference centre.
“We’ll also be developing events in the town to drive people to Leigh Creek and use the facilities,” says Leigh. “We’ve been holding meetings with local groups, with a view to staging events such as concerts and arts festivals, maybe focusing on Indigenous art.”
Local residents are throwing their support behind the plans, which will reinforce Leigh Creek’s position as a regional hub.
The town’s population has shrunk from about 500 to 170 since the mine closure, and about half of them turned up for the hotel’s reopening.
“We thought a handful of people might come out, but we ended up with about 80 people for dinner, so they obviously appreciate it,” says Leigh.
Manager of the Leigh Creek Post Office, Kirsty Nicholls, is “very excited” about the reopening.
“Having somewhere to go to have a drink or a meal with friends is really important for the residents of the town,” says Kirsty. “It’s also great that the hotel is going to be run differently and targeting tourists – it presents so many opportunities for Leigh Creek and will give the town a whole new lease on life.”
1834 Hotels manages a growing portfolio of hotel properties across metropolitan and regional South Australia and interstate.
“We’re an Adelaide-based company and our heart’s here – we really want to see regional South Australia flourish.”