The central-western Queensland town’s annual film festival is but one reason to visit surprising Winton.

Story Kirsty McKenzie  Photo Ken Brass

Winton shire, population 1,150, covers 53,000sq km of rolling downs punctuated by startling mesas, or jump-ups as they are known locally – rocky sandstone outcrops that are the weathered remnants of the banks of rivers, which flowed into a vast inland sea that covered Central Australia during the Cretaceous period (146–66 million years ago). It’s this landscape that attracted the attention of filmmakers, earning the district a reputation as the Hollywood of the outback. Nick Cave led the charge when he filmed The Proposition here in 2004 and Ivan Sen followed with Mystery Road in 2013 and Goldstone in 2016. More recently, the first series of ABC TV’s Total Control was filmed in and around town, with many locals having roles as extras.

But it’s not just the landscape that draws visitors to Winton. The town also claims credit as the headquarters for Queensland’s boulder opal industry, the dinosaur capital of Australia with the Australian Age of Dinosaurs (AAOD) museum, the home of Waltzing Matilda, the home of the Diamantina Heritage Truck and Machinery Museum, the location of the first QANTAS board meeting in 1921, as well as the site of the then fledgling airline’s first landing field. In the coming year, it will also add the home of Australia’s first dark sky sanctuary, one of only 12 in the world, to the list of reasons to visit, when an observatory at the AAOD is completed.

This story excerpt is from Issue #144

Outback Magazine: August/September 2022