Alcohol Restrictions Whilst Travelling

The grey nomad population has a thoroughly enjoyable travelling tradition commonly referred to as ‘Happy Hour’. The unwritten rule is that camp will be set sometime between three and five in the afternoon and an hour or two shall be spent with the neighbours enjoying a couple of cold drinks and some nibbles.

Likewise for a large percentage of the travelling population, sitting around enjoying the sunset over a glass of something cold is an all-important part of the travelling and camping experience. Sadly some of the more remote communities in Australia are battling an ongoing problem with alcohol addiction and the associated crime that goes with it. By far the region with the most obvious effects of alcohol abuse on the local population would have been, for us, Kunanurra. We witnessed clearly intoxicated people staggering about the local shopping centre as early ten in the morning, some asking for spare change, some arguing amongst themselves and others sleeping off the effects of last nights bender. This was a view of a people who had clearly been negatively affected by the introduction of alcohol to the local community. As a result of this type of culture, many of the regions and communities have implemented strict alcohol limitations and restrictions, which affects all of us, not just the local residents.

The difficulty for the modern traveller around Australia is that these laws aren’t universal and differ from not only state-by-state but in some instances region by region. There are also strict trading hours for the sale of alcohol and in many cases photo identification is required to purchase alcohol. How do these bans and controls affect the average couple enjoying their time travelling the country? Well if you don’t drink alcohol then it doesn’t. If, like me you enjoy a beer in the afternoon then it definitely has an impact. For example when we were leaving Kununurra we were anticipating at least a month of roaming and meandering our way down to Broome, the next major town where we could replenish supplies. Sure you could still buy alcohol in many of the small towns and road houses that dot the remote regions of the country but, like most we travel on a strict budget and try and buy provisions in bulk from the larger towns and cities and cart what we can with us. So we packed up camp and headed into the township to stock up before hitting the big blue yonder. As I mentioned it was about ten in the morning when we rolled up at the local bottle shop only to find that it didn’t open for another two hours. We decided we would make today a short day on the road and spent the next two hours stocking the pantry and enjoying the sunshine beside the Ord river.

Twelve o’clock rolled around and I wandered through the bottle shop grabbing two cartons of beer, four bottles of wine and a bottle of bourbon. Upon arriving at the checkout the attendant was having a battle with one of the locals explaining that he couldn’t sell her any alcohol as she had already exceeded the daily limit. All licensed premises in Kununurra are connected via a software program and it showed that she had already purchased elsewhere. She eventually accepted his decision and moved on. As I sidled up to the counter the lad advised me that I wouldn’t be able to purchase everything that I had laid out in front of him. I ended up having to do two transactions, one in my name and one in Rainey’s and we still had to leave one carton and two bottles of wine behind.

To help you enjoy a happy hour tipple and stay on the right side of the law we have put together a comprehensive guide to buying and transporting of alcohol in restricted areas and regions.  This by no means constitutes legal advise and as always you should conduct your own research but we have endevoured to put as much information and as many links as possible all on one site.  We have omitted New South Wales, Victoria & Tasmania as at the time of compiling this information they had no laws specifically aimed at alcohol consumption within the indigenous communities that we are aware of. 


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