Settlers Tavern was thrilled to come away from this year’s Wotif awards with the people’s choice for best country pub in Australia. The annual awards now in their fourth year were dominated by east coast offerings – questioning whether judges made it out west with travel restrictions in place – with the Beechwood Hotel in NSW taking the official gong. But Settlers owner Rob Gough was happy to take the people’s prize which came “as a complete surprise”. “It’s been a pretty crazy couple of years and we owe a giant thank you to our team for this recognition,” Mr Gough said. “All of our crew, and especially our kitchen team, have worked so hard in a time when our whole industry has been extremely short staffed. “We also appreciate the great support we’ve received from our patrons who have more than filled the gap left by the closed borders. “A country pub’s just an awesome place to work. You meet quite a few interesting characters in our business, and we wouldn’t trade that for anything. “There’s no doubt we’re in the luckiest place in the world.” Wotif’s Uniquely Aussie awards spokesman and managing director Daniel Finch said he hoped the awards spurred Australian travellers to seek out new offerings. “With national travel restrictions beginning to ease in November after almost two years of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever for Aussies to support our world-renowned tourism and hospitality industries,” he said. Settlers scored fifth in the overall national category.