At least once a year, and in most recent years twice; the majority of the opal industry within Australia get together in the outback Queensland town of Winton to trade opal. Opal is what makes this town so famous! It is the main epicenter and largest town of Boulder Opal in the World.
The main street is shut off before the sun rises, and miners from the region pull up in their dirty, dusty and sometimes muddy 4X4s and trailers with buckets and drums of boulder opal. The keen opal buyers are up at this crazy hour running around between half set up stalls with headtorches and phones in hand with flashlight on trying to find the best deals before others get to them. Some are searching for the gem boulder opals, some are searching for good value lower grade parcels and some are searching for the popular sandstone crystal boulder opal (which is very rare to find).
A lot of people will swing past the bakery for a morning breakfast outback pie and coffee (that is somewhat hard to drink sometimes). Its not all bad to get up so early however, the sunrises in outback Queensland are nothing short of spectacular, and there is a lot of wildlife active at this time to see as well!
The festival runs all day, but most of the deals have been made by 10am. For the serious, well-connected buyers, they have already been thru the town a few days before to snap up the best deals on boulder opal that the miners have to offer.
Winton also puts on a few festivities at this time and other times during the year including an opal jewellery competition, rodeos and an outback film festival. There are a large number of tourists in town at the time of the opal show that also come to check out the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum. Winton actually has a lot to offer tourists to the region including a unique outback Australian experience with great national parks with gorges and volcano craters nearby, as well as being one of the best places in the World to learn about dinosaurs. Winton is also just an hour and a half drive from Longreach, a famous Australian outback town for its cattle stations and Qantas plane museum. Did you know that Qantas was actually founded in the town of Winton?
Winton is home to about 1000 people. Most of the people in Winton are very friendly and welcoming. If you are lost or need assistance just ask a local they are usually more than happy to help anyone. You will meet some of the most down to Earth people in Australia in outback Queensland towns like Winton! There is everything that you would expect from an Aussie outback town in Winton. A few fuel stations with greasy takeaway food, a few supermarkets, plenty of pubs, a hospital and even a mostly dirt golf course where you need to be good with a sand wedge. There is a famous hotel in Winton called the North Gregory Hotel. It was the first place where probably the most famous Australian song was performed by Australian Poet Banjo Patterson; Waltzing Matilda.
Boulder opal mining in the Winton region spans over about a 500km radius. It goes out as far west as Diamantina (about 3 hours drive west). Opal Creek is another famous spot for mining; located about 130km from Winton. South of Winton is a very famous called Opalton, and further south of this is Jundah.