Dine on Australia’s Dinosaur Trail

A Foodie’s Journey in Queensland’s Dinosaur Country

IT’S incredible how the Outback Queensland landscape has transformed over millions of years. Back when dinosaurs roamed, it was lush forests and inland seas, teeming with food. But even though today’s Outback might seem barren to some people, it’s alive with tasty treats for we humans.

I’ve been making the journey back to my hometown of Barcaldine and the surrounding region for some years now, and every time I do, I’m struck with the contrast between the ancient past and the modern food scene. There’s something about that link between history and cuisine that keeps me coming back for more.

So, if you’re up for it, let’s explore the foodie scene along Australia’s Dinosaur Trail, starting right from Barcaldine. It’s a fascinating journey. Ready to dig in? Let’s go!

Dinosaur Trail - Outback Australia Scene

A spectacular view from the Australian Age of Dinosaurs near Winton in the heart of Queensland’s dinosaur country.

 

***Jocelyn Magazine is affiliated with Booking.com and the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet. When you make purchases through links on the website, we receive a small commission, which helps us provide you with more great content.***

Table of Contents

Dinosaur Trail - signposts at Barcaldine.

This signpost at the Australian Workers Heritage Centre in Barcaldine gives directions north, south, east, and west.

Barcaldine, A Gateway to Queensland’s Dinosaur Country

While Barcaldine doesn’t have dinosaur museums, it’s the perfect launchpad to explore Queensland’s land of the dinosaurs. Why? Well, the town is right next to the fossil-rich Winton Formation that stretches across central-western Queensland.

Barcaldine is a crucial junction point where several highways meet. You’ve got the Landsborough Highway, also known as Matilda Way, heading north from Charleville. Then there’s the Capricorn Highway, shooting off west from Rockhampton. And let’s not forget State Route 19, snaking south from Hughenden, Muttaburra, and Aramac.

Now, here’s where the fun begins. You can kick off your dinosaur adventure from Barcaldine and take a scenic clockwise loop through Longreach, Winton, Richmond, Hughenden, Muttaburra, and Aramac before coming back to Barcaldine. Or, if you’re feeling a bit rebellious, you can start in Barcaldine, head north to Aramac, and complete the loop in an anti-clockwise direction.

Oh, if you’re rolling into Longreach on Queensland Rail’s Spirit of the Outback or flying in, you can easily rent a car and join in on the loop, starting and ending in Longreach.

Before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to plan your route. I suggest using the RACQ Trip Planner to calculate distances and travel times between each town. It’ll save you a lot of hassle.

 

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An open-air dinosaur exhibition stands atop boulders at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs in Queensland’s outback.

Unearthing Prehistoric Secrets of the Winton Formation

Dinosaur Trail

Australia in the Cretaceous period. Author Unknown.

In the heart of Queensland’s dinosaur country lies the Winton Formation, known for its incredible fossil finds. In the Mesozoic era, specifically the Cretaceous period, this place resembled a dinosaur fairytale.

Think lush forests, winding rivers, and inland seas. And the weather? Warmer and stickier than today’s average summer day.

Imagine roaming dinosaurs like the Austrosaurus and Muttaburrasaurus, tucking into a smorgasbord of ferns, cycads, and conifers, which were among the dominant plant species that provided a vital food source for these herbivores.

And let’s not forget about the rivers—they were teeming with aquatic life, while big carnivore theropods like the Australovenator prowled the shores, on the hunt for their next animal-based protein meal.

Fast forward to today, and you’ve got a whole new kind of adventure waiting for you. Visitors can dive into the world of fossils all across the Winton area.

Whether you’re exploring museums, checking out interpretive centres, or tagging along on guided tours, there’s no shortage of ways to immerse yourself in the prehistoric past.

Plus, these centres aren’t just for show—they’re buzzing hubs of paleontological research and education, where the tales of ancient giants come alive for anyone with a curious mind.

Culinary Delights in the Heart of Ancient Lands

When it comes to exploring outback pubs, cafes, or restaurants, the menus found along Australia’s Dinosaur Trail rival those of many other tourism hotspots across Australia. I’m talking about classic Outback favourites like juicy steaks and hearty pies, alongside Australian specialities such as kangaroo, barramundi, and damper.

The dining rooms in Outback pubs are cosy yet spacious, oozing with character. Vintage photographs and historical memorabilia often adorn the walls, creating a nostalgic vibe. The furniture is modest yet sturdy, perfect for intimate gatherings and larger get-togethers. And let’s not forget the friendly staff who welcome visitors with open arms.

But it’s not just about traditional Outback fare. Along Australia’s Dinosaur Trail, you’ll find a melting pot of international cuisines. Whether you’re in the mood for Italian pasta or Asian fusion, there’s no shortage of options in the towns along the way.

So, if you’re hungry for adventure (and delicious food), keep reading for a rundown of the dinosaur trail’s must-visit destinations.

Dinosaur and Foodie Adventures Along Queensland’s Dinosaur Trail

1. Barcaldine

Dinosaur Trail - Hotel Shakespeare (aka The Shakey)

The Hotel Shakespeare at Barcaldine is under new management and has undergone a major renovation. A new feature is the bar next to the staircase.

Barcaldine, aka Barcy, holds a special place in the hearts of dinosaur enthusiasts like me, serving as a gateway to prehistoric Queensland. It’s not just a town; it’s the launching pad for epic self-drive adventures along the dinosaur trail. Barcaldine is also a treasure trove of history and culture.

You shouldn’t miss attractions like the Australian Workers’ Heritage Centre, where the stories of hardworking Aussies come to life, or the iconic Tree of Knowledge, steeped in the tales of Australia’s labor movement.

As a Barcy local, I’ve handpicked three of my favourite eateries that are sure to tantalise your taste buds:

  • Dinosaur Trail

    Fish Tacos are a real treat at The Shakey.

    First up, is the charming Hotel Shakespeare (aka The Shakey). This cosy spot, now revitalised, boasts a diverse menu featuring everything from classic pub fare to refreshing salads and decadent desserts. Fish tacos are a real treat! In the heart of town, it’s the perfect pit stop for weary travellers.

  • Next is Turf N Surf Restaurant at Landsborough Lodge Motel. This gem blends the finest cuts of meat with fresh seafood, offering a mouthwatering array of dishes from crumbed prawns to juicy steaks and everything in between. The Stockman’s Reef & Beef is a flavour explosion to remember!
  • Then there’s the tranquil ambience of Roses ‘n Things Tea Garden. Tucked away in a serene setting, you can indulge in a delightful Devonshire Tea or savour a hearty breakfast surrounded by lush greenery and blooming roses.

For more dining options, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

2.     Longreach

Dinosaur Trail - Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame.

The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach is one of the many attractions to see as you head to the dinosaur trail. Photo: Queensland University of Technology, Creative Commons.

Longreach isn’t just about outback heritage—it’s also a gateway to Outback Queensland’s dinosaur-rich landscapes. The Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame shares tales of pioneering history, while the Qantas Founders Museum honours Australia’s aviation legacy.

With its blend of outback charm and paleontological neighbours, Longreach is a must-visit for anyone fascinated by Australia’s history dating from the prehistoric era onwards.

Whether you’re in the mood for Australian classics, international delights, or a fusion of both, Longreach has something to offer every foodie.

  • At Harry’s Restaurant, named after the legendary Captain Starlight, you’ll embark on a food journey through contemporary Australian cuisine. From marinated olives to succulent seafood spaghetti, every dish is delicious. Don’t miss out on their divine dark chocolate and honey tart for the perfect sweet ending!
  • For a taste of local history and flavours, head to The Branch Cafe. Housed in a historic building dating back to the 1930s, this charming spot serves delicious meals made from local ingredients. Their sausage rolls and pies are absolute must-tries.
  • Are you craving something with a bit of spice? Little Star Indian Restaurant has a wide selection of curries, pizzas, and wraps. The mango chicken with rice and naan bread is a crowd favourite, bursting with exotic aromas and bold flavours.

For more dining options, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

3.     Winton

Dinosaur Trail - North Gregory Hotel

Step into history at the iconic North Gregory Hotel, where ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was heard for the first time in public. Foodie experiences can be had at the Daphne Mayo Dining Room, Music Fence Cafe, the Horseshoe Bar, and Banjo’s Beer Garden.

Winton is my first go-to spot for dinosaur adventures in Queensland, boasting iconic attractions like the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and Dinosaur Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry Conservation Park.

At the museum, I’m blown away by the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils. And don’t even get me started on the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument; it’s like stepping back in time with hundreds of dinosaur footprints frozen in stone.

If you find yourself in Winton, be sure to carve out some time to experience the local dining scene—it’s a treat for the taste buds and the soul.

  • Dinosaur Trail - dinner at the North Gregory Hotel

    One of several dinners I enjoyed at the North Gregory Hotel.

    For a taste of history with your meal, head over to the Daphne Mayo Dining Room at the iconic North Gregory Hotel. Steeped in tradition since 1879, this historic gem offers a diverse menu featuring everything from pub favourites to light bites like Thai Beef Salad. With live music, a beer garden, and even a heated spa, it’s the perfect place to unwind after a day of outback adventures.

  • Next, we have the Australian Hotel. In the heart of town, this cosy spot boasts an authentic outback atmosphere and mouthwatering spit-roasted meats. From hearty Aussie classics to inventive pizzas like the Outback Roast, there’s something to satisfy every craving. Plus, the friendly staff will make you feel right at home.
  • Don’t miss the culinary delights at the Boulder Opal Motor Inn. With generous portions, friendly service, and dishes like sumptuous beef cheeks and decadent chocolate fondant, this hidden gem is a must-visit for foodies and weary travellers alike.

For more dining options, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

4.     Richmond

Dinosaur Trail - inside the Kronosaurus Korner museum.

Prepare to be amazed as you step into the Kronosaurus Korner museum in Richmond.

Richmond is a dream come true for dinosaur buffs like me, thanks to the incredible Kronosaurus Korner museum. It’s like a treasure trove of fossils, especially those of marine reptiles like the mighty Kronosaurus.

A walk through the exhibits feels like diving into ancient oceans, with each fossil offering a glimpse into prehistoric marine life. Plus, the guided tours and interactive displays take the experience to a new level. Richmond is an absolute must-visit for anyone intrigued by Australia’s prehistoric past!

Let me introduce you to two dining hotspots in Richmond:

  • At the Federal Palace Hotel, the chefs make hearty country meals with quality produce and serve them with genuine outback hospitality. Whether you’re craving a juicy T-bone steak or some crispy barramundi in Pandora breadcrumbs, this place has you covered. And don’t forget to quench your thirst with a selection of ice-cold Aussie beers while soaking in the friendly atmosphere at the bar.
  • If you’re in the mood for something a bit more international, check out the Rivers Restaurant. Here, you’ll find a delightful fusion of flavours from around the globe, prepared and served with a smile. From tasty dishes to friendly service and reasonable prices, it’s the perfect spot for a memorable evening out.

For more details, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

5.     Hughenden

Built in 2001 to celebrate Australia’s Federation Centenary, this Federation Windmill Rotunda is a testament to Hughenden’s history.

Hughenden is a hotspot for dinosaur fanatics like me, thanks to its incredible fossil finds showcased at the Flinders Discovery Centre.

Hughie is awe-inspiring—a life-size skeletal replica of a Muttaburrasaurus that steals the show. But that’s not all. There are other fascinating specimens and interactive exhibits to explore. And let’s not forget about the guided tours that highlight Hughenden’s pivotal role in palaeontology.

If you’re ever cruising through Hughenden, Queensland, and find your stomach rumbling for food, I’ve got just the spots to satisfy your cravings:

  • From the moment you step into Cheng’s Chinese Restaurant, you’re greeted with hospitality that makes you feel right at home. Their menu boasts an array of Chinese and Asian dishes, each bursting with flavour and made with love. Whether you’re craving classic Sweet and Sour Pork or a hearty Chicken Cashew, Cheng’s has got you covered. And it’s great value for money.
  • If you’re in the mood for some good old-fashioned Aussie fare, check out the Windmill Inn Cafe. Picture this: mouthwatering bacon and egg burgers stacked high with fresh salads, served with a side of friendly service and a cosy atmosphere. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or a quick coffee fix, this place is worth visiting.

For more details, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

6.     Muttaburra

Dinosaur Trail - Muttaburrasaurus

Muttaburra is a big deal in Outback Queensland – the tiny town is home to the Muttaburrasaurus langondi, chosen in 2022 as Queensland’s fossil emblem.

Let me fill you in on Muttaburra. This little town in the geographical heart of Queensland is where my father, William C. Scott, was the first baby born after Dr Arratta arrived in 1925. That hospital is now home to the Dr Arratta Memorial Museum.

Muttaburra may be small, but it’s a big deal in Outback Queensland, especially for dinosaur lovers like me. This town is famous for its dinosaur tourism, thanks to the discovery of the Muttaburrasaurus.

You can check out this dino superstar at the Muttaburrasaurus Interpretation Centre. The town’s role in dinosaur tourism highlights how important this region is for paleontological research and education.

If you’re wandering through Muttaburra and your stomach starts rumbling for some good eats, I’ve got the spot for you—a little slice of culinary heaven called Rivers & Roads Coffee Shop. Inside, it feels like stepping back in time, with its cosy atmosphere and historical charm. Whether you’re craving a brewed cup of joe or a slice of homemade cake, Rivers & Roads is the place to be.

What sets this place apart is its commitment to preserving Muttaburra’s history. Housed in one of the town’s original buildings, this coffee shop is a testament to the community’s rich heritage.

For more details, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

7.     Aramac

dinosaur trail - aramac white bull

Though not a dinosaur, the white bull holds legendary status in Aramac. At a café where I stopped for lunch, I found one of its many incarnations. With a history that involves the infamous Captain Starlight, this bull’s tale is as fascinating as most fossils.

The charming town of Aramac holds a special place in Outback folklore, thanks to Harry Redford, aka Captain Starlight, and his legendary white bull escapade.

But Aramac offers more than just tales of cattle duffers. With its friendly locals and fascinating history, Aramac is a must-stop on your self-drive adventure along Queensland’s Dinosaur Trail.

For more details, visit TripAdvisor.com.au

TO BOOK A ROOM, VISIT BOOKING.COM

Reflections on Australia’s Dinosaur Trail

On returning to Barcaldine, I marvel at the incredible landscape transformation over millions of years. From the time when dinosaurs roamed amidst lush forests and inland seas to the present-day Outback, the contrast is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Yet, amidst this vast expanse of history and natural beauty, there’s a thread that ties it all together—the vibrant food scene that thrives in this rugged terrain. As I return time and again to my home region, I’m reminded of the profound connection between the ancient past and the modern-day cuisine that awaits us.

So, as we bid farewell to this adventure, let’s carry with us the memories of flavours discovered, stories shared, and the endless possibilities that await along Australia’s Dinosaur Trail. Until next time, may your travels be filled with delicious discoveries and unforgettable experiences.

IF YOU GO:

*CAUTION: For anyone driving a car, campervan, caravan, or motorhome, if there’s been any recent rainfall, it’s essential to check road conditions with RACQ before attempting to navigate the roads. Black soil, particularly north of Barcaldine, combined with single lanes or unsealed roads in some areas can create hazardous conditions, especially when wet. Trust me … I speak from experience!

Dinosaur Trail - collage of photos

This is a small collection of photos captured during my visits to Queensland’s dinosaur country. PHOTOS: Jocelyn Watts.

FEATURE PHOTO: Journey back in time over dinner amidst the prehistoric scenery of Outback Queensland in the Cretaceous period. AI Image.

Published 5 May 2024.

*All information provided was accurate at the time of publication. If you know of any changes to the eating venues mentioned in this blog, such as closures or alterations, please contact me via my contact page with the updated details.

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***Jocelyn Magazine is affiliated with the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet and Booking.com. When you make purchases through links on this website, we receive a small commission, which helps us provide you with more great content.***

2 replies
  1. Brian Pugh
    Brian Pugh says:

    Wonderful journey around that part of Outback Queensland. Those communities you mention are wonderful places to live and visit. Irrespective of if you live there or not, once you arrive, where ever it may be, you are home! Thank you for sharing. :). Brian Pugh

    Reply

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