Daydreamers and Dinosaurs in Queensland

Whoops of delight rang out from the Railway Adventures office when we heard the fantastic news that David Elliott, founder of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs had been awarded an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) and named Australian Local Hero of the in the recent 2024 Australia Day Honours.  

A sheep farmer one day, a dinosaur guru and OAM the next – only in Australia!

David Elliott OAM

We’ve been closely aligned with David’s bold dream for many years now, taking annual tours to the region and his Museum, and this much deserved award is a credit to what he has achieved.  From a pile of fossils in a humble shed on his Belmont sheep property outside Winton in Queensland, to a world class museum and preparation laboratory – a genuine labour of love driven by a fascination for evolutionary science.

It all started in 1999 when David stumbled across a dinosaur fossil while mustering sheep,  something he’d routinely done for years.  This bone was later identified as part of a giant femur from Australia’s largest dinosaur at the time, a Cretaceous sauropod that roamed the Winton area 95 million years ago. 

It would be fair to say this discovery put humble Winton on the global paleontology map, attracting paleontologists from around the world and resulting in numerous other dinosaur fossil discoveries in the ensuing years.  It turns out this part of Australia was home to hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dinosaurs.

This all led to David and his wife Judy, with the support of the local Winton community and other benefactors, founding the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History in 2002 as a not-for-profit charity dedicated to continuing the dinosaur digs, and preserving and displaying the fossils in an engaging, interactive Museum and Visitors Centre.  Today, the Australian Age of Dinosaurs centre is both a major tourist attraction and a centre for paleontological research and discovery in Australia. 

The Australian Age of Dinosaurs

However, getting out to Dinosaur country by public transport isn’t straightforward!  In fact it’s a bit of a palava that too often ends up falling into people’s “too hard” basket, meaning they don’t get to see it.  So, a few years ago the team at Railway Adventures decided to change this and designed a small group tour called – you guessed it – Dinosaur Country – which gets you up to the Winton dinosaurs with some interesting stops to other iconic places along the way.

Like all Railway Adventures tours, we start with a train or two, add in some history and culture of the region, get a few local personalities to drop in, throw in some great meals, and top it off with interesting activities you mightn’t even consider (or didn’t even know about) if you were trying to do all this on your own. 

Kicking off in Townsville with a few drinks and a slap up Welcome Dinner, we’re then on the Inlander to the old gold town of Charters Towers for a look around and a couple of nights to rest up for the dinosaur tracking adventure ahead.  It’s here we meet our private small coach and driver who will safely ferry us along the route until we can jump on a train again. 

Our trusty outback vehicle

As we travel out of Charters Towers to Hughenden, our first stop on our road journey to Winton, we’re actually travelling on the floor of the ancient Eromanga Sea, an inland sea that once inundated Australia from the Gulf of Carpentaria to NSW and Lake Eyre. It was home to a vast array of marine reptiles, including the giant Kronosaurus. The sea has long since receded, but it can still be traced by the Great Artesian Basin, deep under the ground.

The Inlander Train

In Hughenden, we come face to face with our first dinosaur of the tour at its home in the Flinders Discovery Centre – a full size cast of the mighty Muttaburrasaurus, a huge herbivorous animal similar to the Iguanodons of Europe. Hughenden is a haven for Outback artists, so to balance science and history with art, we also take a look at the magnificent water tower art in the town.

Flinders Discovery Centre, Hughenden - Credit Tourism and Events Queensland

Then it’s on to Richmond, home to Kronosaurus Korner, a museum of creatures from the ancient Eromanga sea, featuring complete skeletons and representations of the prehistoric marine animals that have been unearthed over the years from surrounding properties.  Ichthyosaurs, Elasmosaurs with their extremely long necks, turtles, crocodiles, bony fishes, ammonites, and the terrifying Kronosaurus Queenslandicus, a Pliosaur of huge dimensions and the fiercest predator in the sea at the time, are all there.   And if Kevin, the resident palaeontologist is around, we offer you the chance to go out to a local quarry currently being excavated to dig for your own fossils. Anything you find, as long as it is not a major discovery, is yours to keep.  And if it is a major discovery, then you may also be in the history books!

Now it’s across the black soil plains to the beautiful little town of Winton, the centre of dinosaur action.  Rumour has it that the classic old hotel we put you up in was where Waltzing Matilda was first publicly performed by AB (Banjo) Paterson and Christina MacPherson. 

It’s here you’re able to really immerse yourself in the incredible dinosaur history of Australia.  You’ll visit Lark Quarry, home of the world famous Dinosaur Stampede. Containing over three thousand footprints, this site represents a day in time when a number of smaller dinosaurs were disturbed by a much larger animal that stomped into their midst. 

But it’s the visit out to the Age of Dinosaurs that will stay with you.  

March of the Titanosaurs

Once you’ve got your head around the mammoth undertaking of creating this amazing place, you’ll start your visit at the preparation laboratory, now considered the most productive Fossil Preparation Laboratory in the southern hemisphere, to see budding paleontologists and volunteers carefully prizing fossils from their rock castings and painstakingly preparing them for display.  Working with dinosaur bones involves patience, a good eye and a steady hand and you’ll see all of that up close.  

Then it’s off to walk with the dinosaurs.  There’s the March of the Titanosaurs – a trackway of a sauropod family that walked along a creek bed millions of years ago, and other surprises to be had on a walk through Dinosaur Canyon. The day wraps up with an outdoor Barbecue amongst the dinosaurs to watch the sun set over the extended plains below before marvelling at the night sky at the Gondwana Stars Observatory before heading back to the hotel and falling into bed. Or the hotel bar – whatever takes your fancy!

The Dinosaur Stampede

We say goodbye to Banjo, Matilda and the others – yes, David has named some of them – and head off to another great outback town that’s become an international destination – Longreach, home to Stockmans’ Hall of Fame and Qantas Founders Museum, both of which you’ll get to spend time in during our stay here.  And there’s another train!  With dinner!  And a show! The Silver Tails heritage rail motor is your evening’s entertainment. 

Then it’s all aboard the Spirit of the Outback for an overnight run from Longreach to Brisbane where the tour ends.  With real sleeping cars and a fine dining car, it’s the only way to round out a bunch of dinosaurs on a railway adventure!


Railway Adventures tours are more than just a holiday, it is a unique way to experience the world. By train you are completely immersed in culture and adventure, exploring the most scenic corners of the world in the comfort of a luxury train. Whether you are an experienced traveller or just beginning to explore this wonderful world, Railway Adventures has something for everyone. Transform your holiday into the most unforgettable adventure of a lifetime with Railway Adventures.

Call 1300 800 977 or email us at [email protected] to request a Catalogue for all our tours in 2024 or visit our website.

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