If you’re travelling west from Broken Hill across to the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, there’s a track you can take to make your trip more scenic and interesting. Turn north onto the Arkaroola track at Yunta, but then turn left a few kms after the Waukeringa ruins, where the sign post points to Hawker. It’ll take you through some isolated but picturesque country as you come into the eastern foothills of the Flinders Ranges. (There can be a few spots on this track where it’s handy to be in a 4WD, particularly after rain. Also, I recommend you have some local maps, since it’s not always obvious which is the track to take.)
When you get to a T-intersection with a bitumen road, you’re at Cradock on the road between Orroroo and Hawker, and just a few yards away on your right is the Cradock Hotel.
It was built about 1881, and was originally known as the Heartbreak Hotel, as, with the encouragement of the government, people took up land grants in the area, built cottages, and tried to grow crops. But Cradock was way to the north of the Goyder Line, and sooner or later it became clear that you couldn’t reliably grow crops in the area (as SA Surveyor General George Goyder had claimed when he drew his eponymous Line back in 1865). Hence the heartbreak of giving up and walking away.
Today the Cradock Hotel is a delightful boutique establishment, with friendly hosts Peter and Shiree Holden. The rooms are tastefully presented, and the dining room meals are delicious, all without being pretentious. The Cradock has even appeared in Vogue Entertaining & Travel magazine. There’s sometimes a few local characters in the bar, and although the village population hovers somewhere below ten, there often seems to be some special event taking place, such as the Christmas Pageant, the opening of a remarkable wildlife reserve, cricket matches, and even flamingo races (I know that’s hard to believe). Back in 2007, they even had a flood (which gave new meaning to the road sign just near the pub). You can phone the Cradock on 08 8648 4107. Tell ’em Bobby Dazzler sent you.