February 23, 2023
6 mins Read
It’s a rare person who, in 2022, doesn’t wish to turn back the clock and travel to a simpler time when nature was king and enjoying yourself was all that mattered. True, you were probably thinking more like 2018 or 2019 but John Stainton, the TV producer and director behind The Crocodile Hunter franchise, is keen to transport you all the way back to a time when Outback Australia was an ocean and Planet Earth was inhabited by dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes.
Suffice to say, this isn’t a ‘Let’s take the DeLorean’ situation; Stainton’s method of time travel is far more elegant, appearing in the form of his all-new Rangelands Outback Camp – a luxury property some say was 95 million years in the making. Located in the heart of dinosaur country in Outback Queensland (atop a flat-top elevation on Rangelands Station, a working cattle property 10 kilometres north of Winton, Queensland, to be more precise), six luxurious oversized tents lie in wait to transport guests to another time, but in a manner that caters to 21st century needs for comfort and style. It’s a project Stainton admits has been a ‘real labour of love’.
“I’ve been coming out to Winton since 1992,” he explains. “I first came out to film with Steve Irwin and we both just fell in love with the vastness of the space and culture of the area I’ve been bringing friends for the last 20 years too, so they could immerse themselves in that feeling of wonder.”
Red rock formations bubble up out of the earth near the Rangelands.The local accommodation was great but didn’t quite offer a true five-star luxury experience. “Accommodation in Winton has long been geared towards the road-trip market and, while comfortable and clean, the standard is best described as simple, motel-style,” Stainton explains. “I wanted to offer something that’s both in tune with the region, and with discerning guests and flip on its head the idea that Winton couldn’t be a luxurious fly-in-fly-out outback experience.”
The level of attention to detail Stainton applied to the build meant it was complicated – or shall we say, ‘character building’. “You would think building six tents atop a hill would be the simplest thing in the world, but I reckon I now have the experience to put a NASA space station on Mars,” laughs Stainton. “It turns out it’s not actually six tents on a hill, but a self-contained, eco-friendly mini city in one of the most remote corners of the planet, and one that’s complete with solar panels and air-conditioning.”
To that end, Rangeland Outback Camp guests can expect a large luxury tent with a king-size bed (or king singles), a bathroom with the ultimate red-earth view, designer comforts and a decor that is informed by the land’s heritage. Outside, at the in-house ‘restaurant’ a gourmet chef delights taste buds and satisfies curiosities about the regional cuisine by serving decadent dishes steeped in outback culture. Fine wines, beers, spirits and mixers are included, too, but Stainton is keen to shine a light on some of the camp’s less tangible highlights. “When you’re sitting on the deck with a sundowner and watching the sky bathe the scorched red earth in a glowing pink light, when you’re watching the world’s best sunset on the awe-inspiring Rangelands Reef or when you’re gazing at millions of twinkling stars [Winton has got the eighth darkest sky in the world], you feel like the whole sky becomes a part of your life,” he explains. “You will spend every minute of every day here in awe of nature.”
There’s no doubt about it, while Rangelands Outback Camp provides plenty of time for rest and reflection (not to mention spine-tingling moments to let your imagination run wild with the region’s prehistoric history), guests should expect a hive of activity during the days. So much so, in fact, that a three-night, four-day stay is recommended. “That’s just enough time to give someone a taste of what the outback has to offer,” says Stainton. “A few days and it will be understood that the Australian outback is equal as a tourism destination to the Great Barrier Reef and the vastness of Dinosaur Country has so much to offer.”
Tours offered by Rangelands Outback Camp have been carefully curated to showcase the best of what the region has to offer, with Stainton advising Tours One and Two are best served with the three-night stay. The former takes in the Laboratory, Collection Room, Dinosaur Canyon and the March of the Titanosaurs exhibition at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs before lunch is served and it’s back to Winton for a deep dive of the Waltzing Matilda Centre; Yep, it’s the world’s first museum dedicated to a song. A horse and carriage ride around town accompanied by commentary about the characters and history of Winton serves as the charming finale. The latter? A visit (by air-conditioned 4WD mini-coach of course) to Lark Quarry Conservation Park to marvel at the footprints of a dinosaur stampede (some 3,300 of them) 95 million years old, before travelling on to Carisbrooke Station to view the (other) Three Sisters and enjoy the open expanse of what is known as ‘The Channel Country’.
For the more adventurous among us, there are a range of helicopter tours, too, ranging from the Remotest Pub Crawl to Joining the Opal Diggers. Or you can simply opt to add-on a helicopter transfer to Tours One and Two. While a stay at Rangelands Outback Camp is a largely all-inclusive experience (all breakfasts and dinners including a selection of fine wines, beer and top-shelf spirits are included when dining at Rangelands, as is welcome sunset drinks and canapes on arrival, road transfers from Winton township, and guided tour of the ‘Rangeland Rifts’), the tours are offered for an additional cost.
Whichever way you want to experience Rangeland Outback Camp, Stainton recommends throwing yourself in wholeheartedly. “Say yes to a screening at the 100-year-old outdoor cinema experience that is the Royal Theatre Winton and yes to meeting the locals down at one of the town’s historic pubs. When you’re walking around town, it feels like time stopped 100 years ago and there’s something wonderful about that,” he says. “It’s only when you’re on our deck and musing about the past 95 million years, that you realise just how wild this place really is.”
“A modern Butterfly soars as art and spectacle combine on Sydney Harbour” (Limelight).
Pack your bags and escape with the best winter and mid-week deals created just for you.
Never have we wanted to seek different more than now. And nowhere lets you find what you seek, with who you want to share it with, like the NT. Book your NT holiday today with these flight offers!View More >
While most people pass through this part of Queensland on the way to somewhere else, the outback region of Balonne Shire has plenty to offer those who...
One man, one motorcycle and 1800 kilometres of white-knuckle terrain: how did our off-road novice, Steve Madgwick, fare on the long way down adventure...
The drive between Boulia and Winton in Queensland's West covers some of the most spectacular land in our country, but few are lucky enough to see it, ...
The Birdsville Races is an Australian outback bucket list item of mythical proportions, with around 7000 pilgrims covering thousands of kilometres to ...
You wouldn't guess it but there's only one site in the world that shows evidence of a dinosaur stampede. And it just happens to be in our Aussie backy...
For the best travel inspiration delivered straight to your door.$29.95
LEAVE YOUR COMMENT