48 hours at Outback Queensland’s Sundance Film Festival
Los Angeles may have Hollywood, but Queensland has Winton; the Outback Queensland town which brings the star power (and we’re not just talking about the sky) to the bush every winter for the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival.
It’s no surprise this Outback town – 177km north-west of Longreach – is such a magnet for filmmakers. The story of Winton is a riveting plotline in itself, starting 66 million years ago when dinosaurs walked the earth, with things only getting better with age.
It’s officially the home of Waltzing Matilda, the birthplace of Qantas, dinosaur capital of Australia, discovery site of the Boulder Opal and in its spare time, home to Australia’s answer to the Sundance Film Festival, the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival. Want more? What about a music concert that causes the town to balloon from 900 people to 6000, AKA Winton’s Way Out West Fest.
Regardless of what time of year you find yourself in the central-west, Winton’s going to need your full attention. We’ve got you covered with this 48-hour guide.
2pm: Getting there
Either way, keep your eyes peeled because stunning scenery is what’s most remarkable about this area atop the Great Artesian Basin.
Don’t just take our word for it, Winton’s landscape defined by ancient jump-ups, has caught filmmakers attention, with movies Goldstone and Mystery Road filmed in Winton’s surrounds.
3pm: Check-in to the Queen of the Outback
Stay somewhere not just convenient but significant, the North Gregory Hotel on Winton’s main street.
Expect to be treated to history not just from the pub’s art deco design, but at every turn. The North Gregory Hotel is the exact spot Waltzing Matilda was performed for the first time. There’s usually an obligatory sing-a-long of the unofficial anthem each night by whichever musician is on the amp, which is a timely nod to Banjo’s ballad.
Accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes, and there are 29 rooms (with varying degrees of quietness) and 18 van sites at the back of the hotel to check into for the night.
You won’t have to walk far to the onsite dining room where you’ll find the usual pub favourites along with a seafood menu that makes the 800km between Winton and Karumba seem like a hop, skip and a jump, it’s so fresh.
8am: Start the day on the right note
The Musical Fence Café (onsite at The Gregory) will leave you buzzing after breakfast with its healthy menu (yep, there’s GF, DF options) and barista-made coffee.
In Vision Splendid season, you’ll find groups gathering for a programmed breakfast which is served here along with the opportunity to talk to industry guests.
10am: Dig deep for dinos
If you have a Ross Geller from Friends fan in your troupe, you’ll be pleased to know Winton’s got its own natural history museum, Australian Age of Dinosaurs.
Far from the stuffy, boring kind of museum where you have to press your nose up against the glass to see teeny-tiny objects, everything here is dino-sized.
Inside, you’ll find the largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils and including some Australian ‘first and only’ dinos – Matilda, Banjo and Wade.
You can also get hands-on with annual dinosaur digs, open to anyone over the age of 12.
2pm: Visit the first museum dedicated to a song
Long before Salzburg created a museum dedicated to the Christmas Carol Silent Night, Winton had the Waltzing Matilda Centre, the first museum in the world to be dedicated to a song.
The museum had a facelift in 2018 to the tune of $22 million and the results are architecturally award-winning.
You can’t miss its rammed earth walls on the main street. It replaces the former museum which burnt down in 2015.
You’ll find more than just banter about Banjo here. Inside you’ll find art and history interpreted from the Great Shearers Strike of 1891 to the birth of QANTAS and a cafe we’d recommend making your pitstop for afternoon tea.
4pm: Record a song
Playing it is simple – grab a stick (or really anything that will make noise) and hit the wires, which were designed by percussionist and composer Graeme Leak.
You won’t be the only person to come up with an original composition here – Grammy award-winning musician Gotye actually used the fence to create the bass line in his song Eyes Wide Open.
7pm: Dine like a local
If you’re the kind of traveller who plans meals at least two in advance, take note. Tattersalls (or Tatts as the locals call it) is regarded as the best food in the west.
Its menu is encyclopedic in size but its specials board is always a good indication of the pick of the day.
There are the usual finds like crumbed steak, pork ribs and chicken schnitzel, best enjoyed at an outdoor table.
10am: Walk a mile in dinosaur shoes
You definitely don’t need a magnifying glass to spot the tracks of a dinosaur stampede that took place at Lark Quarry 95 million years ago.
Scientists, a bit like CSI detectives who solve the crime by working backwards, have dusted off the footprints to find out why this is the only place in the world a stampede was known to happen.
Using the prints, scientists have triangulated stride length, pace and angulation to tell the story of bird-like two-legged dinosaurs who were cornered by a carnosaur while standing on the edge of a lake.
While science tells most of the story, you’ll still need to use a bit of your imagination; it’s hard to believe the now dry, arid landscape was once defined by rivers, channels, swamps and lakes.
By the time you’ve finished exploring Lark Quarry, you’ll leave with a better dinosaur vocabulary than a six-year-old boy.