Did you know that Australia has its very own dinosaur trail? The Australian Dinosaur Trail is a journey linking three Outback Queensland towns, famous for their prehistoric discoveries and where some of the world’s most amazing fossils are still being found. It’s the perfect trip to take if you have kids who are dinosaur fans or there’s a budding palaeontologist in your family. Be prepared, it’s a long way to get there. It’s a 19-hour drive from Newcastle but shorter if you fly into Townsville and drive!
The Dinosaur Trail encompasses three Outback Queensland towns; Richmond, Winton and Hughenden, with each town providing a unique insight into the history of dinosaurs in Australia.
Stop 1 on Dinosaur Trail – Richmond
Our first stop was Richmond. When the kids spotted the full-sized Kronosaurus Queenslandicus sculpture in the main street, they became incredibly excited to begin our dino adventure.
Kronosaurus (not actually a dinosaur but an extinct marine reptile, or pliosaur) guards the entrance to Kronosaurus Korner, Australia’s premier marine fossil museum. Inside we learnt all about the extinct marine reptiles, fishes, ammonites and squids that once dominated Australia’s ancient inland sea.
Richmond also boasts discovery of Australia’s most complete dinosaur, ‘Kunbarrasaurus Leversi’, on a nearby property.
With the purchase of a Mini-Palaeo Adventure Package (subject to availability), it is possible to participate in an actual palaeontology dig and dig for fossils. Tools, training and transport to the fossil hunting site, located a short 12km out of town, are all included. We felt that our kids, aged two and four at the time, were too young to enjoy this, but older kids and teenagers would love it. Dig finds are able to be bought back to the museum for identification by museum staff.
In Richmond, we also discovered a great, free, dinosaur-themed splash park. Located on the edge of beautiful Lake Fred Tritton, it was the perfect place to stop for lunch and a cool-off before heading to Hughenden, next town on the Dinosaur Trail.
Stop 2 on Dinosaur Trail – Hughenden
120km east of Richmond is Hughenden, home of a huge Muttaburrasaurus Langdoni sculpture nicknamed ‘Mutt’.
My kids loved standing under ‘Mutt’ and marvelling at the size of this extinct, plant-eating dinosaur from the early cretaceous period. The Muttaburrasaurus Langdoni was named after the town Muttaburra in central Queensland, where its remains were first discovered, and Doug Langdon, the local grazier who discovered them.
At the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden we found ‘Hughie’, a life size skeletal replica of Muttaburrasaurus. As well as housing a huge collection of fossils, ranging from cretaceous animals in rock to ammonites from around the world, the Flinders Discovery Centre has a great hands-on area especially for kids.
A walk around Hughenden itself revealed more ‘prehistoric’ surprises, from the dinosaur-themed sculptures, by local artists, located all around town to the dino-claw shaped garbage bins. Our kids had so much fun searching for and discovering these.
10kms away, we visited Mount Walker Lookout, approximately 478 metres above sea level and with spectacular 360 degree views of the region. From the top of the jump up, looking out over the vast beauty of the Queensland outback, it wasn’t hard to imagine dinosaurs once roaming the land.
Stop 3 on Dinosaur Trail – Winton
Our final stop on the Dinosaur Trail was Winton, the ‘Dinosaur Capital of Australia’. Not only is Winton home to the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum, but it is also steeped in history, being the birthplace of Waltzing Matilda and QANTAS.
The Dinosaur Stampede National Monument is located at Lark Quarry National Park, a 110km drive from Winton and houses the 95 million year old footprints made during a dinosaur stampede. Discovered in the 1960’s and stabilised and protected for future generations to appreciate, it was interesting learning all about how the footprints were discovered, analysed, interpreted and preserved.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is home to the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils in the world and was the highlight of our Dinosaur Trail adventure.
Our day began with a walk through the Valley of the Cycads and a photo next to a sculpture ‘Banjo’, an Australovenator Wintonensis predatory dinosaur, remains of which were discovered in 2006.
From here, we boarded the shuttle to Dinosaur Canyon and the outdoor galleries.
Our whole family loved the dinosaur galleries, a series of incredibly detailed dinosaur sculptures set amongst the stunning outback landscape.
The kids were given a packet of pencils and enjoyed being able to take dinosaur tracings from the plaques at each exhibit.
The final part of our day was a guided tour of the Collection Room and Fossil Preparation Laboratory. Here we were able to view the specimens of ‘Banjo’ and ‘Matilda’, Australia’s most complete sauropod. We also learnt all about how dinosaurs are found and recovered and were able to watch fossil technicians prepare bones for research and display. The kids even got to touch and have their photo taken with a REAL dinosaur bone.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum is the vision of David Elliott, a man passionate about Australian natural history. Dinosaur Canyon opened in 2017 and is an amazing place to visit. There are still more plans in the works for the museum, which is exciting.
Exploring Australia’s Dinosaur Trail is an experience our family will never forget and one we all enjoyed. We all learned so much and I certainly have a new appreciation for Australia’s natural history, including dinosaur discovery. Even though our kids were only young, they loved it and still talk about it often. If they are still interested in palaeontology when they are older, I’d love to take them back, if only to check out the new additions to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum.
Good to Know
Location: The Dinosaur Trail starts in Richmond, Queensland (19 hour drive from Newcastle). You need 5-7 days to explore the trail (plus travelling time to and from the trail). Being located in outback Queensland, Australia’s Dinosaur Trail is remote, but well-prepared families and families ready to embrace an adventure would love it. You can also fly into Townsville and hire a vehicle. It’s a 5 1/2 hour drive from Townsville.
Australia’s Dinosaur Trail pass: An Australia’s Dinosaur Trail pass can be purchased at all attractions or on the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum website and includes admission and guided tour of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and Dinosaur Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry Conservation Park, entry to Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond and entry to the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden.
Meg is a stay-at-home mum whose interests include gardening, reading, writing poetry and not staying at home. A born and bred Novocastrian, Meg enjoys camping and travelling with her family and weekend road trips to discover new and interesting places. Meg has two energetic kids and is passionate about kids having the opportunity to be outdoors as often as possible.