Did you know that there were real dinosaurs in Queensland? And you can find them on the Dinosaur Trail QLD!
Karen Ghidella did a road trip in Outback Queensland and tells us about the best holiday ever! (Watch the video too!)
Digging for Real Australian Dinosaurs in Queensland
As a Mum of twin 5 year old boys, there have been quite a few ridiculous things I’ve said over the years. “Don’t lick the dinosaur bones kids, they’re 95 million years old, it’s a little gross”. I think this one tops it.
We’ve been on the hunt for real Australian dinosaurs. We returned home from our 14 day road trip through Outback Queensland with a handful of fossils and a huge bucket full of rocks. They’re hidden away and ready to examine for fossils on a rainy day.
Up until a year ago I had no idea that Queensland has the world’s only recorded dinosaur stampede, that you can dig for REAL dinosaur fossils, that OUR country has an attraction that’s real, that’s fun, that’s educational, that tops anything you’ll ever see and do at Disneyland!
And… I had no idea that this city chick (whose idea of “roughing it” is a staying at a motel that doesn’t have room service) could actually do this!
I took along my friend Shakira (a Mum from my kids’ school, I accidentally called her Anastacia for 6 months after meeting her and she never corrected me, so I figured she’d be able to put up with me for a few weeks). We took our kids, left our hubbies at home and explored the outback with not much more than a tent, our clothes and several bags full of random stuff that we really shouldn’t have packed.
Australia’s Dinosaur Trail
The Dinosaur Trail is the name of this amazing attraction, it’s situated several hours north of Longreach and it’s a bucket list item, a family holiday must do.
It’s made up of lots of mini attractions scattered between three towns: Winton, Richmond and Hughenden, and it’s only a 1, 400km from Brisbane!
The BEST Dinosaur Games for Kids – click here
Winton Qld – Dinosaur Paradise
Winton is a fun town with an amazing history, a place, the home of the waterhole used as inspiration for Banjo Patterson’s Waltzing Matilda, and the North Gregory Hotel, where he first performed the song. If you head 2.5 hours north east, you’ll be able to visit “Walkabout Creek”, remember the hotel from Crocodile Dundee? Australia’s Dinosaur Trail starts at Winton, a 2 hour drive from Longreach.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, Winton
It’s here that you’ll be able to join a guided tour and get up close and personal with Australia’s largest dinosaur fossil collection (and meet Banjo, Australia’s most significant and complete carnivorous dinosaur). If you were wondering why my children were actually licking dinosaur fossils, you can blame the tour guide for this little incident as he cheekily explains “the quickest way to determine if a fossil is a dinosaur fossil or some other animal is to lick it, if it sticks to your tongue it’s a fossil”.
Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways, Winton Outback Qld
Also in Winton is Lark Quarry Dinosaur Trackways, the world’s only recorded evidence of a dinosaur stampede.
Here we were thinking that the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Uluru were our biggest national monuments and tourist attractions. Hello! I’d think that seeing a 95 million year old dinosaur stampede with footprints of over 3,000 Australian dinosaurs would kind of trump the others. Given it’s the only one on the planet and all.
Richmond is where you can find dinosaurs in Queensland
Don’t worry about the heat, they obviously strategically placed their gorgeous free water park in the middle of town for crazy tourists like us. After the dig, you’ll be able to cool down on the main street, but onto the highlight of everything dinosaurs… the dinosaur dig!
Fossil Hunting Site Tour, Richmond
No, it’s not a sandpit at the museum, no, it’s not a little fenced off area that’s been setup to allow visitors to have a play… this is real dinosaur digging people!
A word of advice, please don’t use the phrase “dinosaur hunting” if you have young children, as we drove along the dirt road heading towards the dig area the children were suddenly quite silent. One of my children asked “ummm, Mama, are they friendly dinosaurs, will they eat us”? “They are dead sweety, remember, don’t lick the bones”.
We could have spent the whole day here, I was convinced I was going to find myself a 10 metre long dinosaur fossil (I just didn’t have enough time), but much to the children’s delight we left with several fossils …. And DINOSAUR POO! Yes, 95 million year old dinosaur poo!
Kronosaurus Korner is a spectacular museum that is perfectly structured for kids, there’s plenty to look at and even a lot of things to touch and do.
Right in the corner, next to the kids play area, there are experts ready to identify your dinosaur digging treasures. One of the staff told me about the 7 year old who found ancient ichthyosaur bones. Whatever! My dinosaur poo is way cooler. Pffft.
The BEST Dinosaur Games for Kids – click here
We went to Hughenden to visit the Hughie at the Flinders Discovery Centre. He’s the famous life size replica of the Muttaburrasaurus.
However, if you’re a budding photographer (or just like photos of your kids), head up to Mt Walker at sunrise or sunset with your wine and cheese and enjoy the most spectacular sunset you’ve ever seen. It’s an amazing opportunity to take some beautiful photos of your children.
Other places on the way
If you’re planning on visiting the Australian Dinosaur Trail via the scenic route (which I’d thoroughly recommend), here are the best of the best locations to stop along the way.
Before driving to Bonus Downs Farmstay, we called into the Great Artesian Spa at Mitchell. We melted in the warm water whilst the kids tried to convince us to “come on over” to the cold side.
At Bonus Downs Farmstay we were greeted by the beautiful owners, Madonna and Lyle. I’ll always remember that lovely couple as the ones who first showed us what country hospitality was truly like.
At the farm you can go canoeing, visit the woolshed (even sleep in it), help feed the chickens, eat in the Smokehouse, go on a tour to the middle of nowhere for a campfire and the most amazing damper you’ve ever experienced. (In regards to damper, I have a childhood memory of Mum making one when we were camping at Birdsville. It was so damn hard that Dad decided to drive over it with the 4WD in an effort to break it. No luck). So whilst my standards for damper may not be that high, it was truly amazing. Sorry Mum.
Blackall / Tambo
On the way to Blackall we called into Tambo Teddies where I bought a beloved “Bickie Bear” for each of my kids. They were dutifully named “Steve” and “Floppy Woppy” and have been firmly embedded as a part of the family ever since (when the kids were sleeping in the back seat, they acted in a dual role of comfort item and sleeping pillow).
There’s heaps to do in Blackall, but unfortunately we arrived a little late due to the hospitality at Mitchell and Tambo, so we promptly checked in to Blackall Caravan Park, where we setup a tent for the very first time. Don’t go looking for food, eat here… and make sure your kids take a look in the “Dunny” next to the eating area. Surprise!
There was an upside and downside of Longreach. The upside is that there is more to do than you can imagine is possible in outback Queensland.
We stayed in a two bedroom villa at Longreach Tourist Park. It’s a place with a restaurant (with a kids room), with lots of different accommodation options, and very central to all of the action.
Whilst you’re there, here are some amazingly fun things to do with the family:
We visited the very interactive and hands on museum then headed outside for a tour on the Boeing 747 and 707, have your photo taken holding up the engine and learn some fun and interesting facts as you tour through the whole plane. Shhhhhh, they told us that they don’t dump the contents of the toilet mid-flight. That was totally a rumour.
I want to tell you about the fantastic sunset on the paddle wheeler whilst sipping on wine and eating nibblies, the outdoor movie theatre on the Thomson River, and the campfire with the hilariously funny show featuring a bush poet and a 4 year old with a whip. I just can’t. It was all so much fun. But I just can’t get past the stew they served for dinner. My mouth is watering thinking about it.
We rode on a stagecoach, ate amazing food, watched a classic movie in a bush theatre that I can’t quite describe, and it all ended with a live show (which was hilarious). They have the stew here too… go for round two.
Whilst there are a lot of interactive things for the kids to do, including a play area, if you can step back from the kid’s stuff and actually take time to read the information and stories you’ll leave with a new respect for this country we call home, and the people in it.
It’s funny, every second is entertaining, the property is beautiful with heaps of room for the kids to run around while you have a drink. But the food… why oh why don’t you deliver to Brisbane?
But there was one big downside of Longreach. I had to deal with the tears (and one tantrum) when I told my kids it was time to leave.
We were in the town for a few hours, the kids loved the Tree of Knowledge, a famous tree connected to the 1891 Shearer’s Strike. They played on what I’d call a “xylophone chair” which was nearby. It was constructed as a part of a public art works programme (I rocked out a pretty cool “Mary had a little lamb”, the kids were in awe of my superb talents).
We headed to Lara Station to spend the rest of the day and camp overnight. I wanted to stay there for a week. The wetlands were stunning, and there was an Artesian Spa “Swimming Pool”. I eyed it off but I couldn’t find my togs. I said one word to Shakira “Undies”? She gave me the nod. There was no need to shower that night.
The view of the wetlands was spectacular.
I spoke to Jo about her plans for the place (which sound like a little piece of heaven), I reached for my pen and paper so she could draw me a diagram but she’d already bent down and started drawing up her plans in the dirt. I smiled… this is one real outback chick, amazing woman that one.
We checked in at the Arcadia Valley Escape. As we were approaching we saw a “small” homestead. Shakira and I were in absolute shock as we walked around and attempted to count the number of beds and bedrooms. We failed. The place is a beautifully setup maze, it’s huge! The brochure says it sleeps 11 people, the kids had the best hide and seek game of their entire life.
If you’re thinking about a bush Christmas or Easter with the extended family… look no further.
While you’re there, go on Wally’s Station Tour, visit their Outback Movie Theatre, head to the Carnarvon Gorge and engage in all of the “back to nature” activities that are available.
Only a 5.5 hour drive from Brisbane is Roma. We checked into the Bungil Creek Motel, this place is like an Oasis to visit just before returning home. It’s obviously 4 star, if you visit the restaurant order one of everything! It also has a kids’ playroom with glass walls so you can easily supervise children from your table.
Just down the road was the Big Rig Museum, one of the most child friendly museums I’ve seen in my entire life. Next door we had some chill out time feeding the ducks and playing in the playground before heading home.
Best. Holiday. Ever. Cannot recommend heading out to Outback Queensland for a little authentic Australian dinosaur discoveries!
So, on your next family holiday, ditch Disneyland, go hunting dinosaurs in Queensland. Go lick some 95 million year old dinosaur fossils with your kids!
This article was published in Issue 13 of our print magazine, December 2015/January 2016.