WINTON: Dinosaur, Opal and Waltzing Matilda Country
Winton is a town in Outback Queensland where you can find the world’s only recorded dinosaur stampede and see where Australia’s unofficial national anthem, Waltzing Matilda, was played in public for the first time at North Gregory Hotel.
This small town of 875 people (2016 Census) also has the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum nearby, as well as other places worth seeing, such as the increasingly popular opal mining township of Opalton.
I took my own trip to Winton in 2021. These are some photos from that journey.
Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, located 25 kilometres from Winton, is a world-class organisation and home to Australia’s largest collection of fossilized dinosaurs.
The museum houses over 1000 scientifically proven fossil skeletons, making it an incredible resource for those who want to learn about our ancient history.
There’s even an exhibit on how these giants lived in their time.
From what we know now about paleontology, those ancient creatures could have done freakish things like stampede through forests while eating anything they pleased, without worrying too much about packs smaller than themselves… or maybe not?
You’ll just have to take my word.
Lark Quarry Conservation Park
At Lark Quarry Conservation Park, you can see traces left behind by dinosaurs who roamed this area millions upon millennia ago.
The footprints are known all over the world as one-of-a-kind evidence that proves there was more than just running and chasing going on back then.
Some 4000 impressions have been found so far, but new research suggests they may not have been made by large herbivores at all.
Instead, it might’ve actually involved swimming or wading animals trying their best not to get caught up in an angry, hungry pack pursuing them across rivers.
Lark Quarry is located 110 kilometres from the Winton township.
The town of Opalton is one that holds a special place in Australian history. It was here, 125 kilometres away from Winton, where people have been mining and working with opals since 1888 when they first discovered this beautiful gemstone there.
In 1899 an incredible 10-foot long piece made headlines for its size– nobody had seen anything like it before or since then.
Opalton is now experiencing a tourist boom thanks to being featured on the internationally popular TV show Outback Opal Hunters, which follows Australian opal miners across various sites in New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.
Local miners say that since this reality series was aired, many more tourists have come into their area looking for where they can find precious stones just as those shown in the broadcasts.
The two opal miners pictured here – Joseph Taranto (left) and Stephen Tasic – mine at Opalton and other areas in the region, and operate stores in the main street of Winton.
North Gregory Hotel, Winton
The North Gregory Hotel’s story is one of hardship and survival, but it’s also the tale of how she became an Australian icon– known far beyond these shores.
When the original North Gregory burned down in 1899, it was quickly rebuilt. Tragedy struck again in 1916 when fire again swept through this grand old lady of hotels.
During World War II, yet another fire destroyed the hotel. With the support of the Winton council, the construction of a modernised building began in 1952. It eventually opened in 1955 and still stands today.
Affectionately known as ‘The Queen Of The Outback’, the iconic hotel in the heart of Winton has a history that cannot be ignored by any True Blue Aussie.
Australia’s unofficial national anthem ‘Waltzing Matilda’ was first played for a public audience at the North Gregory on 6 April 1895.
The piano you see in the third photo of this gallery is the spot where it happened.
It was in the 1920s that local people gathered for secret meetings at the North Gregory to form the QANTAS airline company.
And, during World War II, the United States’ 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson, checked into a room the North Gregory after his plane came down over a remote part of the area.