If you’re the type who enjoys exploring the great outdoors, then the natural wonders of outback Queensland is the destination for you! In addition to walking through ancient fossils, learning about Australian icons (think the country’s stockmen, its pioneers, the history of ‘Waltzing Matilda’ and Qantas), there are landscapes like no other. The spectacular scenery is best viewed off road.
Start in Longreach on the Australian Dinosaur Trail, which allows you to follow in the footsteps of the ‘big guys’ that walked these lands millions of years ago. You’ll be taken through towns of Richmond, Hughenden and Winton in outback Queensland (1,335km west of Brisbane or 600km from Townsville), which all have fascinating dinosaur trails.
The pioneering history of Australia sits at the core of this region and you’ll find it especially in Longreach at the Stockman’s Hall of Fame and the Qantas Founders Museum.
For natural wonders there is the majestic Thomson River, roughly 4.5 hours north-west from Longreach on your way to Winton, home to a number of fish species and turtles. It makes a great spot for the eager camper and there are plenty of walking tracks to be explored.
If you time your travel around April, you’ll be able to indulge in Winton’s Way Out West Festival as well as explore its year-round attractions, including the Waltzing Matilda Centre and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs and Lark Quarry. This outback town has a lot to offer.
Winton has developed quite a reputation for itself over the years — not only is it home to Australia’s unofficial national anthem (‘Waltzing Matilda’ for those playing at home) but it is dinosaur territory.
Head to Lark Quarry, approximately 110 kilometres south-west of Winton, to see the world’s only recorded evidence of a dinosaur stampede. There are 3,300 fossilised footprints of large and small dinosaurs dating back nearly 95 millions years. It is easy to spend several hours looking at our prehistoric past, and it’s an opportunity not to be missed for any adventurous outback traveller.
Other natural wonders include a trip to Queensland’s oldest opal fields, with Winton being home to boulder opals at Opalton. Located south-west of Winton is the designated fossicking land. It’s one of the largest and most extensively worked fossil deposits in the state. Because mining activity has been mostly limited to small-scale hand mining, Opalton is a popular spot for tourists.
It’s a place where you can speck or noodle fragments of opal from the surface, but serious fossickers looking for a unique gem might be better off looking in areas of known shallow ground. Commercial mining is still carried out in the area, so it’s important that you don’t enter these areas unless you have the permission to do so. You’ll easily be able to identify these locations by the pegs that mark each corner of the tenure.
Anyone interested in four-wheel driving, camping, bush walking or bird watching will love Bladensburg National Park. Located 17km south-west of Winton, the park is home to an array of wildlife, including endangered species and a tiny mammal known as a dunnart. It’s a wonderful destination to see red kangaroos in the natural environment on the open Mitchell grasslands, while eastern grey kangaroos and wallaroos can be found in the lower creeks and mesa areas. Bird lovers will enjoy the sight of emus, bowerbirds, bushlarks, wrens, bustards and babblers.
It’s recommended that anyone travelling into the natural park should ensure they have adequate food, water and emergency supplies. The park is remote and rangers might not be immediately available to help you. If you’re camping, you will need a permit and fees apply.