We’d been to New Zealand and the USA, we’d taken holidays to Tasmania and beautiful beaches and yet living in Queensland for all our lives, we’d never ventured into outback Qld. Our son is also a dinosaur enthusiast, so we paired the two together and decided on a road trip from Brisbane to Winton Qld, to see the Winton Dinosaur Museum, particularly to see the Winton Dinosaur Stampede site.
Our 1000km+ road trip from Brisbane to Winton underway
We hired a six berth campervan and made our way from Brisbane to Winton with a few scheduled stops in between, our first overnight stop being in Dalby to give the kids, then 6 and 2, a little break. They were fully prepped with activities for the journey, but you know what kids are like!
From Dalby, we travelled to Morven, another 446 kilometres and it was at this point we’d lost count of the number of road kills we’d seen. Morven was simply another rest stop for us; we set up camp at Morven Recreational Facility alongside a local football field. It had showers, toilets and some van sites with electricity if you get there early enough (we didn’t). This facility works on an honesty box system at the front gate. During our trip, we learnt there were a number of these types of places to stay at, particularly at local showgrounds; good to know if you cannot get a site elsewhere.
From Morven we did our longest leg of 487 kilometres to Longreach, the long stretch was made a little less taxing by trying to spot Emus in the wild. This was the first of two times we’d stop in Longreach; we used it purely as another rest stop on our way to Winton.
Longreach and the Longreach River Cruise
We travelled in Winter, but Longreach was surprisingly warm, the sunsets stunningly beautiful and the red dirt was something we hadn’t experienced. We stayed at the Longreach Tourist Park, it was red dirt everywhere and a bustling little city of campervans and caravans. It was a great spot for the kids to loosen their limbs, scoot around, dig up the red dirt and even go for a swim in the pool. It was also a great opportunity to stock up on essential items at the nearby petrol station and the Longreach Caravan Park store.
On our first night in Longreach, we were collected by bus from the Longreach Caravan Park and taken to experience the Sunset Cruise on the Thomson River; it was absolute magic. We enjoyed drinks and appetisers as we appreciated the serene surroundings, watched birds and turtles and were shown locations where aborigines had carved timber out of trees for canoes. Both my son and daughter captained the boat at the end of the trip, they both felt very special.
We arrived back and guided to where we would have our dinner and show (included in the cruise), at Smithy’s. If I were ever to imagine what an outback bush dinner would be like, this was it. The only artificial light was from softly lit fairy lights in the trees; fire pits were burning and a little timber shack at the front with the veranda being the stage. We were entertained all night with music and comedy, the kids were awarded their certificates for captaining the boat, the food was amazing (including delicious damper), and the setting unforgettable.
Although we would return to Longreach, the next day we left for Winton, a quick 180 kilometres away. As you drive into Winton, you will pass the exit for the Age of Dinosaurs Museum. It’s an interesting experience actually, driving on a completely straight road without undulation until you exit to the dinosaur museum and experience what is known as a ‘jump up.’ In Outback Queensland, a ‘jump up’ is a slight and abrupt rise in the road. We started to experience a few of these near Winton.
Age of Dinosaurs Winton
It was exciting arriving here knowing that not many people get to experience it considering its remote location. It’s here at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum that you’ll find the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils anywhere in the world. You can tour the fossil prep laboratory, and you can visit the dinosaur canyon they have designed to re-create what it was once like. We went into a room where we saw some impressive fossils and watched a video that explained how they were found. Super interesting! It’s great for the kids; they can follow a dinosaur passport and complete various activities.
The Winton dinosaur museum has a café where you can sit and enjoy the surrounding landscape, and there are plenty of photo opportunities with the dinosaur out the front! This place is certainly a great way to learn about dinosaurs found in Queensland, quite fascinating actually and perfect for budding palaeontologists.
Finally, we arrived at our Queensland outback destination and set up our van at the very comfy Tattersalls Hotel Van Park Winton that had all the facilities we needed including showers, toilets and laundry facilities and conveniently over the road from Tattersalls Hotel Winton which serves hearty lunch and dinner and has loads of character. If you’re looking for a well-kept Winton caravan park, give Tattersalls Hotel a call.
Must visit in Winton: Waltzing Matilda Centre
Not long before we arrived in Winton, the Waltzing Matilda Centre was rebuilt and reopened after a fire. Inside was very impressive, and if I didn’t have two young kids to keep an eye on, I think I would have appreciated it even more. It is a museum dedicated to telling the story of Waltzing Matilda, there are interactive exhibits of local history, and the museum exhibits other art. The light show installation was incredible; this place is a real asset to Winton.
The much anticipated Winton Dinosaur Tour
To get to our final destination, Lark Quarry and the Winton dinosaur stampede site, we opted for a private tour with Red Dirt Tours. The trip to Lark Quarry from Winton is mainly dirt road which was a no go zone for our hired van; we would see a lot more with Red Dirt Tours because they have special access to the stampede site via Carisbrooke Station. With the special access, we had the opportunity to experience landscapes and learn things that we wouldn’t have if we had done a self-drive. I don’t think I’ve ever had morning tea prepared for me with such an amazing view! If you’re looking for Winton dinosaur tours to the stampede site, I highly recommend this one.
Lark Quarry Dinosaur Stampede Site Winton
I wasn’t sure what to expect at Lark Quarry, but as you arrive you will notice a big modern shed like structure coming out of the landscape; this houses and protects the footprints but it hasn’t always been that way. For years the footprints were exposed to the air and weather, and as a consequence, their integrity suffered. Now, it’s completely protected and air controlled for preservation.
Before you see the actual footprints, they show you a video explaining how the footprints are likely to have come about. As you sit and allow yourself to go back in time, it’s amazing to realise how different the landscape was and to realise that exactly where you’re sitting, dinosaurs once roamed.
As you enter the large room where the footprints are, it’s quite a solemn feeling, the light is dim, and you imagine yourself being invisible as hundreds of tiny chicken-sized dinosaurs and emu sized dinosaurs run for their lives across the wet river bed as the huge meat-eating dinosaur chases them for her next meal. The footprints are over 95 million years old, but the perspective it creates from the moment you are, there is quite an experience. I couldn’t help myself but wait for everyone to leave so it was dead quiet and I could experience the feeling for myself, just for a minute.
As we travelled through outback Queensland landscapes of red dirt, spinifex and mulga trees, I felt I learnt more about Outback Queensland from our tour guide than I’d learnt in my whole life.
Goodbye Lunch at the Gregory Hotel Winton
On our last day in Winton, it was a chance to take in some of the town and relax. From rubbish bins shaped like dinosaur feet to saddle stands on the footpath, it’s a quiet and slow town but full of character, just the way I like things. We had lunch at the famous North Gregory Hotel where Waltzing Matilda was performed for the first time on the 6th of April 1895. Supposedly this is the hotel where talks started about starting Australia’s first airline – QANTAS. Winton is such a history rich, town.
After our dinosaur fix, we headed back to Longreach for a couple of nights, staying at the same Longreach Caravan Park. There are plenty of things to do in Longreach, and we definitely couldn’t leave without visiting the two most famous Longreach attractions – Qantas Founders Museum and The Stockman’s Hall of Fame!
Qantas Museum Longreach
Sometimes we tend to take things for granted; we just hop onto an aeroplane and to our destination. The Qantas Museum is a wonderful way to go right back to what it was really like flying in the first passenger planes (not good if you’re claustrophobic). Here you learn through interactive exhibits how Qantas came about; there are full-scale replicas, you can walk through the heritage listed QANTAS hangar where it all started and if you’re lucky, walk on the wings of a Boeing 747.
Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame
Give yourself plenty of time to visit this place because there’s so much to take in. The Stockman’s Hall of Fame does such a beautiful job of showcasing the unsung heroes of the outback. As you stroll through the different galleries, you will learn more and more about pioneering Australian history.
But all good things must come to an end, and from Longreach, we headed back to Brisbane. On our way to our last overnight stop in Augathella, we stopped to see the Barcaldine Tree of Knowledge and have some lunch. It’s a shame someone poisoned and killed the tree, but I could still feel its significance. From Augathella we decided to bypass another stay in Miles and took a long drive straight back to Brisbane.
I would highly recommend anyone who hasn’t experienced the Australian Outback to try it, one day. It’s a different kind of beauty; the land is vast, the lifestyle slow, everything rich in history and hard work. It encourages you to stop and think; it’s quite an enriching and enjoyable experience for young and old. Whether you travel Brisbane to Winton Qld like we did or from Victoria and straight up like a family who we met in Winton, travelling with just their Commodore Wagon and swags, it’ll certainly be an experience.