|Travelling Australia - Journal 2009|
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|14-16 July 2009 - Winton Description|
Winton is a service centre for surrounding pastoral properties with a sale yard served by train lines and highways to carry stock. Winton also seizes every opportunity to enhance tourism in the town. The major tourist activity is based on the belief that "Waltzing Matilda" was written near Winton and the Waltzing Matilda Centre fully exploits that belief.
Outside Winton (more than 100 km away) the Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackway displays footprints left when a large dinosaur chased a group of smaller dinosaurs across a mud flat millions of years ago. Tracks preserved in rock are protected by a shelter so they can easily be viewed. In town the Corfield and Fitzmaurice former department store in the main street displays life-size models of those dinosaurs in a display complementing the tracks as Lark Quarry.
South of Winton, opals are mined at the settlement of Opalton and Winton includes opals on the tourist trail with an "Opal Walk" showing different sorts of local opal along a corridor leading to the open air theatre with canvas deck chairs lined upon a concrete floor under the sky. The opal display was well done and was a better display of native opal than Coober Pedy provides.
About twenty minutes drive from Winton, Bladensburg National Park is a former pastoral property now de-stocked and reverting to a natural state. This is a fairly new park and has not been much developed but the River Gum Drive self-drive tour includes part of the national park as it takes visitors through land south of Winton. Other tracks in the park are suitable only for high-clearance 4WD vehicles - and then very slowly if the track I explored is typical.
Literature on several other self-drive tours starting and ending at Winton indicate growing awareness that the land itself is interesting to some tourists. At least two local pastoral properties offer station stays for visitors wanting something a little different.
Winton tries to claim a major part in the formation of Qantas with the accurate claim that the foundation board of directors of Qantas first met in Winton. These claims rarely mention the decision of that meeting to adopt Longreach as Qantas' operating base.
Winton is a popular tourist destination; caravans and motorhomes are common in the main street and so are people (usually couples) who are clearly tourists. The township has encouraged tourism by erecting a large covered parking area beside the road-train bypass only a block from the shopping centre. The need for convenient parking for larger recreational vehicles is easily overlooked but some recreational vehicles are long; a converted 44 seater bus towing a car on a trailer is a significant vehicle by any standard and some caravan rigs (caravan plus towing vehicle) are thirteen or fourteen metres long. Rigs of this size cannot easily park in shopping centres and a spacious car park within walking distance of shops and tourist attractions indicates a local council taking tourism very seriously.
Buildings along Winton's shopping centre differ from many other places in the bright and clean colours adopted. Whether this is council policy or a matter of property owners deciding to brighten up the town is unknown but the result helps to make the town attractive to visitors.
The Winton caravan park is heavily patronised at this time of the year and many vans are turned away each night. Travellers at Winton this month were entertained each night by a country singer (Graham Rodger) and a combined bush poet and stand-up comic (Melanie Hall) who provided excellent entertainment.
|Winton is primarily a cattle area. These cattle were steadily moving along a roadside as if they were under the control of a droving team but there was neither person nor dog in attendance.|