Travelling Australia - Journal 2011
4-19 June 2011 - Winton
We ended up spending a bit more than two weeks in Winton. This is a rural support centre with a population of 980 (2006 census). A range of services is available in the town, including a panel beater, tyre dealer, RACQ agent and hydraulics specialist. There are three food supermarkets and a variety of other retails businesses. There is a state government agent; two banks (NAB and Westpac) have branches and there is a Commonwealth Bank agency in the Post Office. The Visitor Information Centre publishes a very useful and comprehensive services directory which is invaluable for travellers.

Winton shops Looking along one side of Winton's main street. Through traffic goes around the business part of town.

Water is from artesian bores and Winton has a reputation for strongly flavoured water but we found the taste barely noticeable on this visit, apparently different bores around the town produce different tasting water.

Winton is on the Western River which flows into the Diamantina River and, eventually, into Lake Eyre. To the north and east lie Mitchell Grass Plains with the Channel Country to the west and south; the region is famous for the quality of livestock. The stockyards are near the caravan park we use and we see, and hear, a stream of stock road trains coming and going as well as frequent livestock trains loading cattle.

We stayed at the Matilda Country Tourist Park. This is a busy caravan park with a very pronounced daily cycle. The park is usually full overnight then more than half empty in the morning leaving a minority of caravans staying longer than one night. Later in the morning, at about 11:00, vans start arriving after the short drive from Longreach; many of these travellers unhook their caravans and go off to look at some of Winton's tourist attractions. There is a steady stream of new arrivals during the afternoon with the main influx late in the afternoon; by then the park is nearly full and caravans are parked in every available spot. Unavoidably overhead mobile phone conversations confirm that many of these travellers are stopping only for one night enroute to Cloncurry or Mt Isa. Others (a minority) will stay for a couple of nights and spend one day looking at tourist attractions.

Bush Poets Susan and Melanie - the bush poets at Matilda Country Tourist Park.

Travelling Australia - Winton - page 2
Each night the caravan park provides an evening meal (roast beef) and provides entertainment during the tourist season. During our stay the entertainers were bush poets Melanie Hall and Susan Carcary who put on an excellent one hour show each evening after the evening meal. On previous visits we have been entertained by bush country singer Graham Rodger.

Because we stayed more than two weeks we saw the daily cycle repeated over and over again. At sunset we would look around us at a full, or nearly full, park. By ten o'clock next morning, when we drove out of the park to go into Winton for a cup of coffee, many sites were empty.

According to a member of Winton's tourism committee, the town traditionally accepts this role as a stopping place for people going elsewhere but is considering re-directing tourism advertising to change Winton's image to being a tourist destination in its own right.

Winton has already put a lot of effort into tourism. There is a large bitumen off-street parking area with large sunshade area available for recreational vehicles within walking distance of the shopping centre. A range of useful information is readily available including the service directory, colour map of the town and local vicinity, "What's on in Winton" monthly booklet, and a list of road distances to surrounding places to facilitate trip planning. This volume of information completely removes the uncertainty facing newly arrived travellers who are interested in quickly finding out what's available, where it is and what there is to do in the town.

The belief that Banjo Patterson wrote Waltzing Matilda near Winton has been seized on and exploited with the Matilda Centre in Winton serving as Visitor Information Centre, as Museum and Art Gallery, as Waltzing Matilda Commemoration and as Banjo Patterson Memorial Centre. The Matilda Centre is also the only place in Winton to buy a cup of coffee on a Sunday.

The number of tourist buses at the Matilda Centre and the number of caravans and motor homes parked outside the centre indicates the importance of the centre to Winton's tourism industry.

Matilda Centre in Winton The Matilda Centre in Winton. The sign on the right of the photograph "Home of Australia's National Song" illustrates Winton's ownership of Waltzing Matilda.

As well as adopting Waltzing Matilda and applying the 'Matilda' name to a variety of places and venues, Winton has recognised dinosaur fossil sites in the area. A trip to the dinosaur footprints uncovered at Lark Quarry is a full day round trip from Winton while the Age of Dinosaurs fossil centre 23 kilometres from Winton (12 kilometres on the bitumen highway and 11 kilometres on the gravel access road) operates four guided tours a day lasting about an hour each.

There is also the boulder opal industry; fairly subdued compared with Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy or even with Quilpie, but opal fossicking information is available in the Visitor Centre.

Travellers interested in nature tourism can complete the River Gum Drive running partly through Bladensburg National Park and described in a comprehensive leaflet. There is at least one other tour through the local countryside (more than 400 kilometres). As well, at least two local grazing properties offer station stays; this is part of a growing trend towards pastoral properties diversifying into tourism in the hope of establishing another income stream. Bladensburg National Park is close to Winton, about 12 kilometres to the park information centre and former property homestead. This National Park offers varied scenery and habitats.