Winton, QLD: Destination Guide

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Step back in time with a trip to the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, Winton.

Read on to discover the best things to see and do in Winton or find and book accommodation in Winton today.

About Winton

Decades of fieldwork reveal that Australia has large quantities of very well-preserved dinosaur fossils, the majority of which have been found in central-west Queensland, with several new sites being discovered every year. Winton Shire, in particular, has produced more fossil material from large dinosaurs than any other region on this continent, making it the undisputed ‘Dinosaur Capital of Australia’. The twin jewels in this paleontological crown are the Lark Quarry Conservation Park and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum (AAOD), each reportedly attracting tens of thousands of visitors annually.

Things to do in Winton

There are two walking trails on offer in ‘Jump Up Country’, which lies 110km south-west of Winton along the Jundah Road. The Spinifex Circuit is a relatively easy 500m track that climbs to a lookout on the mesa behind the trackways building, providing an excellent view of the facility and beyond to the Mitchell grass downs spreading to the east and the vast, flat channel country of the Diamantina River to the west. The 3.5km cross-country Jump Up Loop is more difficult but rewards walkers with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside as the track skirts gullies and winds along the western edge of the mesa’s escarpment. Be sure to wear a hat and sunscreen and take plenty of water for this one.

Attractions in Winton

Lark Quarry Conservation Park

Many millions of years ago, at about the time Australia was separating from Antarctica, the Lark Quarry landscape was part of a great river plain, with shallow streams running in sandy channels to a lake fringed by a shoreline of half-dried, plastic mud. This was the setting for a congregation of dinosaurs, captured in a fossil record purportedly comprising around 200 individual ‘trackways’ of nearly 3500 footprints – the most concentrated set of dinosaur footprints in the world. The site is also unique for containing what many believe to be the only known record of a dinosaur stampede.

Following discovery of the trackways in the 1960s, paleontologists and a team of volunteers excavated the site by removing more than 60 tonnes of rock to reveal the chaotic array of footprints fossilised in a layer of mudstone about 210sqm in size. However, the fossils’ sedimentary medium was found to be fragile and susceptible to erosion by the elements and damage by wildlife and human pedestrians. To protect the main part of the trackways, a building was erected over the site in 2002 and in 2004 it was given National Heritage status and renamed the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument.

Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum

The other star attraction in the ‘Jurassic Park’ of Winton Shire is the Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD). Located about 24km south-east of Winton, the AAOD occupies 1800ha of wilderness atop a 75m-high mesa, bordered by steep cliffs, massive orange boulders and deep gorges. The site commands panoramic views of the surrounding plains that were once covered with ancient lakes and primordial rainforest, and which now yield a wealth of prehistoric treasures.

After viewing a presentation in the Collection Room that lasts about an hour (and worth every minute), visitors are ushered to the storage shed for an up-close inspection of some of the fossils and the lab team busy at their extraction work.

Along one side of the shed is a rack of shelves reaching to the roof that support enormous plaster casts containing fossils from previous years’ digs, conducted annually in collaboration with the Queensland Museum. Current discovery rates from the region’s abundant fossil fields far exceed the laboratory’s capacity to recover and prepare this wealth of material and it is estimated that the store of treasures accumulated to date is enough to keep the museum’s team busy for the next 50 years. But the search continues year after year.

Getting to Winton

Winton sits about 600km south-west of Townsville.

By car

If driving from Townsville to Winton, take the national Highway A6 and State Route 62.

By air

REX operates two flights a week from Townsville to Winton.

Where to stay in Winton

For accommodation options in and around Winton, click here.