Your road is framed by dramatic landscapes as you travel under a whopping big sky from Winton to Kynuna. This 164km fully-sealed stretch of the Landsborough Highway forms part of the Matilda Way which stretches from the New South Wales border 1812km to the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Winton may only be a small town but it whacks a gigantic punch on things to do, especially as the start of your journey. History buffs, dinosaur fanatics, opal addicts, film-makers and artists of all genres are drawn to the town, its characters and scenery. It's the Dinosaur Capital of Australia, home of Waltzing Matilda and Queensland's Boulder Opal; abundant in nature, culture and heritage.
Take some time to stroll this little outback town’s main street. Visit Searle’s, the outback store with the lot (in case you’ve forgotten anything), meet local opal miners with bargain prices for their fiery coloured gems, or head just off the main street to the quirky Arno’s Wall. It’s art and architecture coming together on a wall that reaches two metres high and about 70 metres in length. Arno Grotjahn, or as everyone calls him, Arno, constructed the wall from rock bought back from his opal mine at Opalton and it must contain almost every household item you can imagine and more.
The town is so attached to Banjo that it has the Waltzing Matilda Centre, which we know sounds cliché but is truly a must-visit. The original centre was destroyed in an early morning fire in June 2015. The newly built award-winning centre incorporates a museum, art gallery and the Qantilda Museum with interactive displays telling stories of the history of the shire, the Great Shearers Strike of 1891, and the birth of QANTAS.
For those that can and cannot play or sing a musical beat, the Musical Fence, behind the Diamantina Heritage Truck and Machinery Museum near the Industrial Estate, is some good old-fashioned fun. For a small admission fee, see the large truck and machinery display up close next door. The wire fence was designed by percussionist and composer Graeme Leak and designed to be played as a musical instrument and is the first permanent musical fence installation in the world. There’s also a set of drums, tin cans and chimes to compose your unique rendition.
Adding to the free list of things to do is to roam around the garden of Mar Yen Shoo (Willie Mar). Willy, a kind, gentle soul, had the longest operating Chinese market garden and shop left remaining in any Western Queensland town before passing away in 2007. Fresh fruit, vegetables and green lots adorn many Winton-ites’ gardens, feeding off water from the Great Artesian Basin (GAB), the largest and deepest artesian basin in the world. The basin stretches over 1,700,000 square kilometres in length from the Gulf, with the water from underground extending beyond Queensland to the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales.
Winton’s jump-up country is striking and within this dramatic landscape, giant ancient dinosaurs once roamed. Discoveries of their skeletal remains continue to fill in the jigsaw of the evolution of these enormous creatures of the past that once inhabited a much wetter outback than the one you visit today. The unique mesa formations of the Vindex Ranges are nothing short of simply spectacular.
For something exceptional, join local Vicki Jones on one of her many tours. The Rangelands Rifts and Sunset Tour is magnificent as the sun sets over the jump-up (mesa). Then for something on a high, take a scenic flight with Hylton Ward and truly appreciate this remarkable setting from a bird’s-eye view.
At night, look up into the sky where the milky way stretches forever and zillions of billions of stars glisten and glow. Shooting stars pierce the velvet black skies and satellites orbit the earth. Australia’s first international Dark-Sky Sanctuary has officially opened with guided tours with astronomers scheduled to be operating by September 2021. The Star Gallery viewing area is free, open year-round and located at the base of The Jump-Up. Bring your telescope, binoculars and a picnic and enjoy our spectacular southern skies, keeping in mind the new tours starting soon.
Pull over for a picnic at Combo Waterhole. Located on the Diamantina River, 156km north of Winton, it is said to be the inspiration for Banjo Paterson's most famous song, Waltzing Matilda. It’s also renowned for its historic stone pitched causeways built by Chinese labourers in 1883. There are picnic facilities, but no camping is allowed.
It’s only just over another 23km into Kynuna on the mighty Diamantina River and the end of this drive. First gazetted in 1894, it was once a bustling town of over 700 people and several hotels. The Blue Heeler Hotel is fittingly the last pub standing on our Waltzing Matilda journey. If only the walls of this pub built in 1889 could talk. Then named the Kynuna Hotel, it is believed that the squatter, Bob MacPherson, and the swagman, Samuel Hoffmeister, drank their last drinks at the bar of the Blue Heeler Hotel. Banjo Paterson is also said to have downed an ale at the hotel and recited his most famous and well-loved folk song. So, will you come a Waltzing Matilda with us?
DID YOU KNOW?
The main streets in Winton were named after the stations lying in the directions in which the streets were running. For instance, east and west include Elderslie, Vindex, Cork and Dagworth (Banjo wrote the words to Waltzing Matilda while staying at Dagworth Station.) Those facing the north and south include Oondooroo, Manuka, Sesbania and Werna.
STAY AND DUMP
Dump Point located in Vindex Street, Winton.
Within the township there are three caravan and camping parks.
LONG WATER HOLES
Located 4km south-west of Winton, Long Waterhole is a picturesque, free campsite on the banks of a man-made billabong. Good for birdlife, bush walking, canoeing, kayaking and watching the sunset over the water. Suitable for everyone from 2WDs to big rigs. No facilities, some mobile phone coverage (depending on your carrier) and pets are welcome. Drive down Winton-Jundah Road for 2km then turn left and travel along a dirt road for another 2km. [-22° 24' 42.96", 143° 3' 29.47"]
The ancient, eroded hills are covered in stunted Gidgee and this area by the side of the highway on the way to Kynuna is often used for an overnight stay. There are no facilities so please be self-sufficient and take home anything you bring with you. [21°58'13"S 142°37'44"E]
AYRSHIRE DOWNS CARAVAN AND CAMPING
This is one of the newest farm stays in Outback Queensland on a property steeped in Australian history and only 58km north of Winton on the Matilda Way. At time of printing there are no facilities, however the communal fire pit is a fabulous gathering point. Individual fire pits also available. Located along the beautiful Wokingham Creek, you’ll get a taste of the outback with stock and other native animals surrounding your stay.
Well priced with the station owners also offering tours and shearing demonstrations. Nearby is a Cobb & Co coach pub ruins and original shearing shed ruins from the famous shearing strikes. Pets are welcome if well behaved.
Kynuna Roadhouse and Caravan Park
Large grassed areas with drive-through powered and unpowered sites. Shower, toilet facilities and dump point. Meals available. 07 746 8683