Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
May 2013

Winton, Qld
location map
Winton is a rural centre of 954 people (2011 census) in central west Queensland on the Landsborough Highway between Longreach and Cloncurry. The are was initially traversed by Landsborough while searching for Burke and Wills and his good reports prompted settlers into the region. Initially the settlement was at Pelican Waterhole but flooding prompted a move to the present site. The local postmaster selected the official name (of Winton) in 1876 in memory of Winton in Dorset, UK, where he was born.

pelican statue This commemorative statue of a Pelican near Pelican Waterhole was unveiled in 1975 to commemorate 100 years of settlement at Pelican Waterhole/Winton.
Winton is the centre of sheep and cattle grazing country. Formerly sheep were in the majority but cattle have largely replaced sheep for a variety of economic reasons. Mitchell Grass Plains extend around the town with elevated rocky mesas to the west, south and south-west; these are locally known as jump-ups, they often have different plant communities (especially spinifex on red earth) on top and offer spectacular scenic vistas.

Winton's climate is classified as "hot", average highest temperatures are 31°C to 38°C between September and April with 24°C to 28°C from May to August. Coldest month is July with average minimum temperature of 8.2°C. Average annual rainfall is 414.7 millimetres with most rainfall between November and March; January and February have the heaviest rainfall with March nearly as wet.

Winton relies on the Great Artesian Basin for water which reaches the surface at 83°C. The water is held in cooling ponds where the temperature drops before being reticulated through the town. Water is still noticeably warm when it comes out of the tap and has a definite smell of sulphur about it but not the overwhelming stench experienced in some other town using artesian water.

Winton shops
Part of Winton's shopping area with the newsagent, bakery, haberdashery and library between two hotels.
Travelling Australia - Winton - page 2
Winton has a useful range of shops and a branch of the Commonwealth Bank in the Post Office. Finding some businesses can take time; neither the butcher, the electrical retailer, nor the four small supermarkets are in the main shopping/business area where the pharmacy, newsagent, fruit and vegetable business, bakery, library, haberdashery, post office, gift shop are found. There are two petrol station on the Longreach side of town. A couple of caravan parks are on the edges of town. Three of the four hotels are in the main centre.

Winton has a variety of activities to interest travellers. Boulder opal is mined locally and some is available in town but opal is not the major activity it has become in other opal towns. The main tourist activity relates to Waltzing Matilda. The town long ago took advantage of the fact that Banjo Patterson wrote the words of Waltzing Matilda at a station near Winton and has adopted both the poet and the song. Winton Shire Council web site proudly proclaims that Winton is "where Matilda Waltzes". The well-equipped information centre (called the Waltzing Matilda Centre) is adjacent to the Waltzing Matilda Museum which examines every aspect of the song and incorporates an extensive local museum.

Waltzing Matilda Centre
Waltzing Matilda Centre in Winton. Banjo Patterson's statue is in front of the building
In parallel with the Matilda image Winton also proclaims itself as the Dinosaur Capital of Australia. In the 1970s evidence of a dinosaur stampede in footprints was discovered at Lark Quarry 120 kilometres from Winton; since then a purpose-built shelter has been erected, a Conservation Area proclaimed, and guided tours organised. Winton is an excellent starting-point for a day trip to Lark Quarry and the town makes the most of that location. A diaroma of the Lark Quarry stampede in the Corfield and Fitzmaurice building in Winton town shows reconstructions of the dinosaur species involved in the stampede as they were understood to be in the 1970s.

Fossils of dinosaurs have been found around Winton for many years. In the 1990s some particularly noteworthy finds were made by local pastoralists who were not content to see their finds added to the Queensland Museum collection. Eventually the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum was established to process, preserve and display these Winton dinosaurs. The Museum is now housed on a jump-up 24 kilometres by road from Winton and has become a permanent tourist attraction. Stage Two of an ambitious building programme was completed in 2012 when a new building containing reception centre and fossil display room were opened a few hundred metres from the well-established fossil processing building.