Imagine making a once in a lifetime discovery of a 100 million year old fossil while on holiday at the Queensland Outback. As much as that may sound impossible, it's exactly what recently happened to two families on holiday in Outback Queensland.
The discovery of a 100 million year old fish with a swordfish appearance and monster-sized teeth was made at the fossil hunting site along Australia's Dinosaur Trail.
The trail is a gold mine for fossil hunters and an absolute must for those looking to fossick into a prehistoric wonderland full of amazing discoveries waiting to be found. From Mount Isa to Eromanga, the geographical structure during the Jurassic era was very much different from what it is today. Once an inland sea full of marine life, the lands are now rich in dinosaur fossils as well as marine and megafauna finds.
It's time to discover the prehistoric creatures that once roamed these very lands and visit the fascinating museums that house some most magnificent fossil displays and reconstructed dinosaur skeletons worldwide.
Where to find the best fossils in Outback Queensland
If you're looking to learn more about marine fossils, head to Kronosaurus Korner in Richmond. A fossick in one of the designated fossil hunting sites around Kronosaurus Korner may lead to a spectacular marine fossil find.
If you're looking to discover dinosaur fossils and megafauna finds when fossil hunting, head to the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre in Mount Isa. The centre itself holds a wealth of dinosaur and fossil knowledge, including an interpretation of the spectacular megafauna finds discovered at the Riversleigh Fossil Fields, which has been listed as a World Heritage area.
When Covid-19 restrictions were in place, the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre took on the opportunity to pursue big renovations of $2.2 million, which happened over the course of four months. The easing of restrictions has opened up opportunities for visitors to witness the upgrades first hand.
With new installations of state of the art interactive displays, audio and visual equipment and lighting, landscaping work and new entrance ways, the upgrades have amplified the fossil hunting displays, including the new marsupial lion found this year. Self-guided tours run for only $25 (and half price for Mount Isa residents), and guided tours go for $38 running at 10am and 2pm most days.
To get your hands busy with fossil hunting, Riversleigh covers 35 square kilometres with 280 identified fossil sites scattered around. To truly understand the significance of Riversleigh in the fossil discovery journey, a good point of reference begins with David Attenborough once calling Riversleigh one of the four greatest fossil sites in the world. Put simply, if you're looking for a fantastic fossil hunting expedition in Outback Queensland, Mount Isa is the place to be.
For good accommodation when visiting the Riversleigh Fossil Discovery Centre in Mount Isa, head to the Isa Hotel. A strategic 4 minute drive away, the Isa Hotel offers comfort, great customer service, and the local favourite steakhouse – The Rodeo Bar & Grill. With several different accommodation options suitable for groups of all sizes, a stay at the Isa Hotel will not disappoint.
Other good places for a decent fossil hunt include the Flinders Discovery Centre in Hughenden which houses many international fossils. You will also find a life size replica of a gigantic Muttaburrasaurus and an excellent presentation detailing the formation of Porcupine Gorge.
If you're looking to see a fossilised version of a dinosaur stampede, the Dinosaur Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry Conservation Park will surely impress. There, you will witness over 3,000 dinosaur footprints scattered over rock, which is the only recorded evidence of a dinosaur stampede.
Head to the Eromanga Natural History Museum for some of the largest dinosaur discoveries in the world at around 95 to 98 million years old. A visit to the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum in Winton will expose you to the largest collection of Australian dinosaurs in the world. The Outer Barcoo Interpretation Centre in Isisford depicts the evolution of nature over a period of 100 million years to date and features a life size replica of Isisfordia Duncani who is the ancestor of all crocodilians today, or the Corfield and Fitzmaurice Centre in Winton which features some dinosaur fossils and a good story of Elliot who was once the largest dinosaur find in Australia.
Where you choose to fossil hunt will depend on how many different fossils you wish to see, as well as the types of fossils – for example, marine, dinosaur, megafauna or international. Rest assured, Australia is blessed with its numerous fossil sites to explore and discover the history underneath.
Banner image credit: Outback Queensland