Exploring an iconic Aussie town: Winton
IF YOU SQUINT and stretch your imagination on the almost treeless plains of Mitchell grass in Queensland’s vast and rolling outback, you might just be able to visualise the great shallow sea that inundated this region about 120 million years ago.
This is dinosaur country, an area thick with fossilised remains. You can fossick for fossils, participate in an organised dig and allow yourself to be carried away in a dinosaur’s clutches to a fascinating part of Australia’s prehistory. The so-called dinosaur triangle is formed around the towns of Winton, Hughenden and Richmond.
Many fossils were preserved in the muddy shallows of the massive Cretaceous-era inland sea, and the ranges around Hughenden point to the sea’s ancient shoreline. Nearly all of the dinosaur triangle is set upon a sedimentary layer known as the Winton Formation and this vast rock unit has produced the remains of more than 12 dinosaurs since 1999.
Winton is home to the excellent Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History (AAD), and, 110km south-west of Winton, is the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument where you can see the tracks of hundreds of fleeing coelurosaurs and ornithopods and their hungry predator. The museum, which is built on a mesa 24km south-east of the town, was founded by local sheep graziers David and Judy Elliott after they dug up the thighbone of Elliot, Australia’s biggest dinosaur, on their sheep property, Belmont Station. Instead of the bones finding a permanent home in a city centre museum far away, they have remained close to where they were originally found and helped make Winton a must-see destination for dinosaur lovers. Through the AAD it’s possible to participate in organised residential digs and volunteer to prepare fossilised bones in the museum’s laboratory.
Beyond all things dinosaur, Winton hosts the Waltzing Matilda Centre, which is the world’s only museum dedicated to a song. The town is a lively rural centre with a number of popular pubs.
In Richmond you can make a visit to the Kronosaurus Korner museum, tourist and educational complex for information and maps of marine-fossil sites around Richmond where you can fossick for marine fossils and take them home. The centre features a number of famous fossils, including the Richmond pliosaur and Minmi, a 100-million-year-old armoured dinosaur. And in Hughenden, visit the Flinders Discovery Centre, where you can see a replica of the complete skeleton of local dinosaur Muttaburrasaurus langdoni.
Visit Australian Age of Dinosaurs for more.
Take a tour
Outback Spirit’s Longreach and Outback Queensland Spectacular 14-day small group tour starts in Brisbane and finishes in Cairns. It explores outback destinations like Carnarvon Gorge, Longreach, the dinosaur and fossil landscapes of Mount Isa and Winton, before turning east and visiting the geological gems of Cobbold Gorge and the Undara Lava Tubes. The tour takes in Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) NP and a ride on the legendary Gulflander train (above).
Visit Outback Spirit for more.