Ultimate family road trip to Winton, Australia’s Hollywood of the Outback

Family holidays will take a different route in 2020. With international travel out of the question, many are turning to out-of-the-box adventures in our own backyards. 

Experts tip drive tourism will experience a significant increase in the second half of 2020. So what better time to pack up the family and hit the open road for Australia’s own Hollywood of the Outback, Winton. Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival is making the journey to the town once again and will roll out the red carpet this September 18 to 26. 

From unmissable screenings to masterclasses, workshops and live entertainment, the nine-day festival is a unique family-friendly experience – but half the fun is getting there. The five-day trip from Brisbane to Winton will take you through some of Queensland’s most untouched landscapes, from charming country towns to mountain ranges and sweeping deserts. 

What better way to enjoy a film than under the open outback sky! Credit: Alan Mathieson

Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival Director, Mark Melrose, is a father of two young sons. He shares the ultimate family road trip route to Australia’s Hollywood of the Outback. Let’s hit the road! 

Day 1: Brisbane to Roma 

Pack the car, kids and other essentials and hit the Warrego Highway for a cruisy two-hour drive to start your trip to Winton. Head towards the Southern Queensland town of Toowoomba and find out why it is called Queensland’s Garden City. The town’s 150-plus parks and gardens will give your family the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs while strolling among some of the most magnificent park and garden settings in Australia! What’s even better? The renowned Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers coincides with the Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival so you can do the both in the one road trip! 

From Toowoomba, drive the one-hour leg to Dalby for a much-needed snack break. A country road trip is not complete without a treat from the local bakery. There are plenty of options in Dalby – try Scrummy Cakes, Katty Cakes or Darbys Fresh Bake. 

Full of sweet and savoury treats, the final stretch is the three-hour journey to Roma. It’s been a big day of driving, so fill your belly with some outback hospitality at Roma Explorers Inn before you call it a night. 

Day 2: Roma to Carnarvon Gorge 

Day Two will take you through some of Queensland’s most untouched landscapes. The drive from Roma to Carnarvon Gorge takes a little under three-hours. Pull out the favourites like “I Spy” before you catch a glimpse of Carnarvon Gorge National Park’s beautiful cliffs. 

Once you set up camp in Carnarvon Gorge (Mark recommends the Sandstone Park Camp Site!), there is plenty to see and do. From towering white sandstone cliffs to vibrantly coloured and lush side- gorges, a wealth of cultural and natural heritage awaits. So put on your best walking shoes and experience all the Gorge has to offer! The best place for swimming is the Rock Pool, about 600m return from the car park. You can find the map of the walking tracks here. 

Day 3: Carnarvon Gorge to Jericho 

Wake up early and catch a final glimpse of the Gorge before you settle in for the five-hour drive to Jericho via Capricorn Highway. Your drive along the Capricorn Way will take you past some incredible sights, such as the gem fields near Emerald and the Drummond Range near Alpha. Get the camera ready and make sure you stop to take it all in before you arrive in Jericho! 

The charming town of Jericho has a population of just 100 people. The best spot to park up is along the serene banks of the Jordan River at Redbank Park. Bring along your binoculars as it is a great place to bird watch as the sun goes down. The town is also home to the smallest operating drive-in theatre in Australia. Time your trip right and you might able to catch a flick! 

Day 4: Jericho to Longreach via Barcaldine 

Day Four is cruisy driving – nearly at Winton! Follow the Capricorn Highway for an easy one-journey into Barcaldine. Barcaldine has an interesting and famous history. The small town is home to the Tree of Knowledge and the birthplace of the labour movement in Australia. You can also catch a movie at the Radio Picture Theatre before you make the one-hour trip to Longreach. 

Longreach punches well above its population-weight in family-friendly attractions. Learn about Australian agricultural life at the Australian Stockman’s Hall of Fame or tour the Qantas Founder’s Museum to find out more on the iconic Australian airline. A night in Longreach would not be complete without dinner at Harry’s – expect quality home-cooked food and great outback hospitality. 

Day 5: Longreach to Winton 

All that lies between Longreach and Winton is a beautiful stretch of road. Credit: Peter Lik

Take a slow start to the day before you hit the final two-hour stretch of road into the charming outback town of Winton. Wondering how Winton earned the title of Australia’s Hollywood of the Outback? The town’s rocky hills, mountain ranges and sweeping deserts have made it the perfect backdrop for renowned movies, like Goldstone, The Proposition, Mystery Road and Total Control! 

When in Winton, make sure the family visit the Waltzing Matilda Centre and Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum to get a taste of the town’s rich history. 

The town centre is also home to Winton’s Walk of Fame, featuring renowned actor Steve Le Marquand, director Ivan Sen, film critic Margaret Pomeranz and former Winton Mayor Butch Lenton. 

This open air cinema is more than a century old! Credit: Maree Azzopardi

The only way to finish your jam-packed day is to enjoy a film under the stars in Winton’s 102-year-old cinema, the Royal Open Air Theatre. Head to bed knowing there’s nine-days of the film festival’s program ahead of you. For more information on Vision Splendid Outback Film Festival, head to their website.

This story is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas

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