A surge of interest in regional hospitality by metropolitan-based investors has seen a long list of country pubs change hands in recent months.
With international borders closed, more people have travelled domestically, and real estate agents say this has encouraged investors to also look at what the regions had to offer.
"There's no question about it, especially larger regional centres or tier-one regional cities are really flying ahead in terms of domestic tourism," John Parsons Hotels sales director Reggie Henderson told ACM.
"Your mainstream city hoteliers are coming out into the bush and buying those big hotels, there's even a few new players in the market and regional pub funds have been established to buy up big driven by low interest rates.
"Regional centres are seeing massive growth," he said.
In Armidale the Whitebull Hotel sold for $13.25 million, quickly followed by another of the city's pubs, The Royal Hotel, which sold for more than $5 million.
The buyer of the Royal was the Roche Group which holds significant pub, hospitality, and accommodation assets in both the Hunter Valley and Mid-North Coast regions, including the Mercure Hotel and Harrigan's Irish Tavern at Pokolbin, as well as the Hunter Valley Gardens.
The Whitebull was bought by established hotelier Jim Knox, who has also purchased another country pub this month a little further west in Moree.
When the Harrington Hotel sold near Port Macqurie on the NSW Mid North Coast, it was the 10th such hotel sale in the active stretch of real estate between Newcastle and the Gold Cost in six months.
The acquisition of the Harrington pub by Hunt Hospitality added it to a prortfolio which already included hospitality properties in Port Macquarie, the Hunter Valley, Newcastle and the Central Coast.
The historic Kincraig Hotel in Naracoorte was purchased by a group of owners who had already been responsible for the redevelopment of several other hotels.
In Yass, 280km south west of Sydney on the Hume Highway, two iconic hotels were bought by the same investors.
On the south coast of NSW, the Cooee Hotel in St Georges Basin sold for close to $7.75 million, purchased by a Wollongong consortium.
Elsewhere on the south coast, the North Nowra Tavern sold for $13 million to a private equity consortium, Pub Invest, headed by ex- Citigroup banker Damian Kelly.
The small community of Berry nearby saw its Great Southern Hotel sell for $6 million to a consortium spearheaded by well-known Sydney Inner West publican Ged Dore.
HTL Property managing director Andrew Jolliffe said of their firm's 18 sales last month, 10 of them had been in regional communities.
"I think the domestic market has looked a bit inwards because borders have been closed, and people have been travelling to regional areas for recreation and reconnected with these areas," Mr Jolliffe said.
"It's given them some confidence to turn those recreational thoughts into commercial investment thoughts."
There had been an 'extraordinary increase' in the number of metro-based investors prepared to invest regionally, Mr Jolliffe said.
"We've always had a handful, but now we've got substantially more," he said. "We think the paths that have been well worn over this past 18 months will retain interest regionally in pubs and accommodation being attractive investment assets for capital that's domiciled in metro areas."
Other factors as well as 'highly desirable yields' in regional areas were driving sales.
"Increased regional migration, regional infrastructure spending, a lower susceptibility to COVID-19 related lockdown measures; and a robust agriculture-led rural economy are all major drivers of positive sentiment in the regional hotel space," Mr Joliffe said.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.