Australian Age of Dinosaurs, Winton Qld

Before we left home I had booked online with Red Dirt Tours to do a half day tour of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum. To meet the tour we had to pack up camp and drive into town, park out the back of the Waltzing Matilda Centre and be waiting out the front 15 mins before pick up time of 8.30am. The 4WD Red Dirt Tours bus arrived right on time and, after another couple of stops to collect passengers, we set off heading back towards Longreach.

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is located out of town on one of the ‘jump ups’. These tall mesa type formations are scattered around the Winton area. Australian Age of Dinosuars was incorporated as a not-for-profit organisation in 2002 and was originally based at ‘Belmont’ a sheep station owned by David and Judy Elliot. In 2006 a huge 4,000 acres of rugged mesa wilderness was donated by the Britton Family and the Museum relocated there in 2009. The museum now houses the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils.

In 1999, while mustering sheep, David Elliot discovered the fossilised bone of what was, at the time, Australia’s largest dinosaur. The bone was identified as a femur belonging to a Cretaceous period sauropod that roamed the Winton area 95 million years ago. Following this and more discoveries the Elliots called a public meeting in Winton with a view to establishing a dinosaur museum at Winton and the rest is history.

The Red Dirt Tour bus toiled up to the top of the ‘jump up’ and our first stop was the Laboratory where we were shown the process for finding, preserving and processing of the bones that are found in the regular digs that take place in the area.

Next stop was the new Reception Centre where our tour was led into The Collection Room. The Collection Room houses the bones of Australia’s most complete sauropod Diamantinasaurus matildae (known as Matilda), sauropod Savannasaurus elliotorum, the most complete theropod dinosaur Australovenator wintonensis and pterosaur Ferrodraco lentoni. We were shown a presentation of these famous dinosaurs and what they might have looked like. This was very well done. The Reception Centre also houses a cafe and a gift shop.

Next stop on our tour was the March of the Titanosaurs exhibition. This is amazing. It is a 54m long track site that was discovered on a property near Winton and removed piece by piece and reassembled in the spectacular new building at the Museum. The track site was made when herds of sauropods roamed the area when the landscape was covered in temperate rainforest and muddy billabongs. The track site also has tracks of small mammals, turtles, lungfish, crocodiles and tiny therapods as well.

Outside are two enormous bronze sculptures of an adult and juvenile sauropod. They made for a great photo opportunity.

Also near this building is the new Gondwana Stars Observatory that was opened in May 2021. The Jump Up site has been designated as Australia’s first International Dark-Sky Sanctuary. The building has been made to look and feel like a meteorite that has landed in a simulated impact crater.

Next stop was the Dinosaur Outpost and the Dinosaur Canyon exhibiton. This fabulous outdoor experience follows an elevated concrete pathway some 300 metres above the gorge below. At various points along the walkway are recreations of dinosaur life including a billabong where a large sauropod has died and it’s bones are left scattered probably by scavengers much like they do today.

The next exhibit is a family of pterosaurs perched atop a large boulder. They had small conical teeth perfect for catching fish or other aquatic creatures.

The next exhibit is a dinosaur stampede that has 24 small dinosaurs leaping across a chasm to escape the sharp claws of a 5m long theropod dinosaur Australovenator. This large predator was 2m tall at the hip and 5-6m long and weighed 500-1,000kgs.

The last exhibit at the end of the walkway is a small group of Kunbarrasaurus ievesi. These were an armoured dinosaurs and they were plant eaters.

What struck me during the walk along this exhibiton was how stunning the scenery is at the top of the ‘jump up’. I just couldn’t stop taking photos of the spectacular views.

Future plans for the museum include a natural history museum that will be built on the edge of the jump up. That will be worth coming back to visit in the future.

One of the interesting people we met on the tour was the husband of our tour operator Vicki. Her husband Hylton is a pilot and he told us he will be taking his bright red helicopter to Birdsville for the Big Red Bash. When we explained that’s where we are going he said to make sure we do a flight with him and to mention that we know him when we book. Can’t wait for that one!

Our trusty bus took us back to Winton and dropped us back at the Waltzing Matilda Centre. Hilton has told us while on the bus that the best place for lunch was the ‘Tatts’ Hotel so we parked up and walked to the pub for a crumbed steak sandwich. It was a pleasant spot out on the footpath watching the caravans go by.

Vicki, the tour bus operator, had told us that 1-5mm of rain is forecast for tonight and not to get stuck out on the blacksoil if we can help it as it is very easy to get bogged. So where to camp for the night. After checking out the Showground camping area that we thought looked OK we had to go back to the Waltzing Matilda Centre to pay our $20 and get a permit to camp there. We got one for Kevin and Sally too as they were still out at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs.

As I wrote this we were camped at the Showground waiting for Farrells to arrive after their sightseeing day. I have a lamb roast cooking in the oven and it smells amazing!

The rest of our BRB Makin’ Memories group are all slowly making their way to Birdsville and are at various places such as at Windorah and on the Birdsville Track.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s