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Winton is a small town in outback Queensland, famous for its link with Australian dinosaurs. We came for the dinosaurs and found that Winton has so much more to offer travelling families. In this post, I will highlight the best things to do for families while in the Winton area.
Australian Age of the Dinosaurs Museum
This has to be Number 1 on the list. We loved it and all felt like it was a major highlight of our trip.
It cost $115 for a family entry to the museum. We are budget travelers (we have to be if we want to go for 18 months as planned) but the $115 we spent on this museum was worth every cent.
Your entry fee includes 3 tours. One of the laboratory. One of the collection room. And one of the outdoor exhibition. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete the tours.
I have never been to a museum like this one before. It is so hands-on. The museum is not designed to display things behind glass cases. They want you to touch and see and experience. An example of this – we all got to touch a real dinosaur bone!
I would recommend this museum to anyone heading to the area. Lala is 5 years old and found it a little bit boring at times, but it was mostly engaging. There was something in each of the tours that she found engaging.
In the laboratory, she got to touch the dinosaur bone. In the collection room there was a couple of videos depicting what the dinosaurs would have looked like. And on the outdoor tour she had a little book and pencils that she could use to create a ‘rubbing’ of the different dinosaurs from stencils they had located on the walk.
What they are unearthing and learning about dinosaurs in Australia 95 million years ago is absolutely incredible and so exciting. For more information on the museum, have a look at their website.
Dinosaur Stampede Winton
We chose not to do the dinosaur stampede as it would have added quite a few extra kilometres to our Winton trip. It is a 110km trip one way, but mostly on unsealed road and google estimates it would take 3 hours one way. We decided that it would be too much for a day trip (also considering the extra cost in petrol!) Please see the next heading though for more information and what we would do differently next time.
If you choose to skip the dinosaur stampede like we did, the outdoor tour at Australian Age of Dinosaurs is a reproduction so you can get a bit of a sense of what it is like.
Australia’s Dinosaur Trail
It is possible to do the whole dinosaur trail, which is something like a triangle, including Winton, Richmond and Hughenden.
We chose not to do this. We skipped the rest except for the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. In retrospect, I think we should have taken the time, and spent the extra money to do it all.
We paid $115 for a family entry to Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. For entry to all the sights (Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden; Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond; Australian Age of Dinosaurs in Winton; and the Dinosaur Stampede in Winton) the cost is $215.
Now considering what a highlight the Age of Australia Dinosaurs Museum was, we think it definitely would have been worth the extra cost. For more information on what is included and to buy a pass have a look at this website.
Waltzing Matilda Centre
As a part of our home schooling curriculum, we have been teaching Lala to sing Waltzing Matilda. We didn’t realise that so much of what we learnt as we travelled through the NT and Queensland would tie into the Waltzing Matilda story. As a result of this she has learnt about history, politics, geography and literature.
You may be surprised to learn that we decided to skip the Waltzing Matilda Centre. We had already decided to spend our money on the Dinosaur museum, and a family pass to the museum is $65. When we looked at what the museum included we thought that we had already covered a lot of that with our own research so didn’t feel like we were missing out by not visiting.
If you have visited I would love to hear what you think about the museum in the comments below. If you are also thinking of skipping it, please see my next 2 point below.
North Gregory Hotel
We camped at the back of the Gregory North Hotel for $10 per night which was great value. There is a maximum of 3 nights per camp. It is quite tight out the back (ie, no room to put out your awning) but we found it sufficient for our needs for a few days.
There are also rooms available within the hotel itself, so that is another great option, if you are not camping or caravanning. Have a look at its website for accommodation options.
The Gregory North Hotel was the place of the first public performance of Waltzing Matilda by Banjo Patterson. At 4.30 each afternoon, the hotel has a performance on Banjo Patterson or Waltzing Matilda (alternate each day).
We watched the Banjo Patterson one and heard a few of his other poems and also learnt the history of where and why Waltzing Matilda was written. We found it was a great alternative to the Waltzing Matilda centre to learn about Waltzing Matilda’s history.
It did become a little bit boring for Lala, however she did love singing along to Waltzing Matilda at the start of the performance. An orange juice and some colouring in kept her occupied for the rest of it.
Bladensburg National Park
We did the scenic drive through the National Park and came across the Shearers Strike Memorial commemorating a strike which was held in the area.
We also looked through the homestead and the shearing shed. The homestead had some great displays on the history of the homestead and was completely free to explore and wander around at your leisure.
It fit right in with our homeschooling exercise around Waltzing Matilda and that period of history as it was a working sheep station and homestead during the period that Waltzing Matilda was written.
The Musical Fence
A great initiative by the Winton Shire. Basically a whole bunch of junk has been repurposed and turned in to musical instruments. We spent more than an hour here and Lala and El Enrique got to bang on the equipment to their hearts content while I ran around filming all of their different creations.
An interesting wall full of junk. It was opposite where we were camped so we enjoyed having a wander around with our coffee in the morning and seeing what we could find. Quite a few motorbikes, a microwave and an old washing machine all went into the building of the wall.
The hubcap gate really reminded me of my Dad. I’m sure he would have loved it.
The Opal Miner on the main road offers this for free, but it is really a ploy for you to spend $10. Still it was an interesting exercise for Lala.
You can fossick through a container of rocks looking for rocks that had opal seams throughout. If you find one that you like they will cut it open for you for a cost of $10 and you can then keep the rock.
Operates on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday and is $8 per adult. They were not going to charge for Lala. We were all set to go for a show at 7pm. We were told it starts at 7.30 and to come back then. We were also told that tonight it would be a later viewing as a tour group was not able to get a dinner booking until later.
We decided to skip it after all as an 8.30 start is a bit too late for a 5 year old.
They show some old time programs like Laurel and Hardy. The cinema itself did look very atmospheric and there was a small room at the back with some displays on the history.
Fitzmaurice and William General Store and Museum
Entrance into the general store is free and is now full of local arts and crafts sort of items. The other half of the store has been turned into a museum.
A gold coin donation gets you into the museum. We thought it was worth it as it reinforced a lot of the bits and pieces that we had learnt in the area. They had a small exhibition that looks at the dinosaur footprints at Lake Quarry, the history of sheep shearing in the region, and the history of a small town general store.
We found that this was the best place for a meal on the main street, and the rest of the people in Winton all seemed to agree with us. It was so busy! Lots of people were sharing tables.
I would recommend getting there shortly before 6pm as the tables seemed to fill up fast. They begin their dinner service at 6pm as well so it is a good idea to be one of the first to order if it is as busy as when we were there. They did seem efficient and people were being served fast. And we all enjoyed our meals.
Where to Stay in Winton
As we mentioned we stayed at the North Gregory Hotel which was in a fantastic location right on the main road. They offered 8 camping sites out the back as well as rooms within the hotel itself.
There is also a caravan park which had a pool, which may be worth it if it is going to be hot when you visit.
Bladensburg National Park also had campsites which you can book online. It is a bit further out of the main town but is a good option if you like peace and quiet.
Three nights in the town is just about the perfect amount of time for you to see and experience all the town has to offer.
How to Get To Winton
We travelled to Winton via the Landsborough Highway, in from the NT, via Mt Isa to Cloncurry. When we left we headed towards Longreach, Augathella and Roma heading towards Brisbane. A large chunk of this route is known as the Matilda Way, which offers a lot more on the history of Australia’s unofficial National Anthem.
If you are travelling along the coast, the best way to get there is inland from Townsville. Be warned, it is still a 6 hour drive one way. Despite its remoteness, Winton is definitely worth the effort as there is a lot more to Winton than just Dinosaurs.