New South Wales
Lauren Mcgroder discovers that there is a
whole new world to be explored on the
plains of Dubbo.
There’s a lot to love about Dubbo, a
rural city in NSW renowned
Australia-wide as being the home of
the ever-popular Taronga Western
Plains Zoo . The town’s star
attraction lures many a family to the Central
West, but it’s the wealth of activities beyond the
zoo that encourages them to stay. There is an
entire itinerary worth of things to do and see
that are reason enough to extend your stay.
From its rich Indigenous heritage, to its
unwavering community spirit, the city of Dubbo
delivers enriching family moments in spades.
Take me to Taronga
The Taronga Western Plains Zoo is
undoubtedly deserving of its reputation as one
of Australia’s best. Here, you can cycle, stroll or
hire an electric cart to tour the six kilometres of
circuit, spotting lemurs, gorillas and Tasmanian
devils as you go. Book ahead to reserve your
place on the boardwalk for the Giraffes in
Focus encounter or go inside the meerkat
enclosure to meet with the resident troop.
Big cat enthusiasts over the age of seven can even
get up close with a Sumatran tiger on the and
go behind the scenes with Wild Africa. For a
special experience, opt for the Zoofari Lodge
and Billabong Camp overnight stays, which
include accommodation in a luxurious tent
overlooking the giraffe-dotted savannah and
unique open-style encounters.
Alternatively, stay in town at BIG4 Dubbo
Parklands , located so close to the zoo you
can practically hear the lions roar. While the
kids play in the heated pool and water park,
adults can enjoy a break under the stars and
amongst nature. Don’t forget to check out their
array of holiday deals online.
The word Dubbo means ‘red ochre’, and apart
from being a nod to the incredible scenery of
this part of country NSW, its namesake is also
a reflection of the Indigenous history that has
shaped much of the city today. Take a peek
inside the tunnel of time at the Western Plains Cultural Centre, where museums and galleries
capture the stories of the Tubbagah people,
and those that have since made the rural city
Continue on the path of discovery via the
Tracker Riley Cycleway along the Macquarie
River, named after the first Aboriginal police
tracker to reach the rank of sergeant and
receive the King’s Medal.
Just north of Dubbo, the Terramungamine
Reserve is first and foremost a preservation
area of Aboriginal heritage, in addition to a
public recreation area where families can camp
alongside the Macquarie River.
At the reserve, families can witness
examples of grinding grooves used by the
Tubbagah people to sharpen tools and
weapons (around 150 can be seen on the
outcrop of rock that extends for a hundred
metres or so along the river).
Freedom and farming
Dubbo was first proclaimed a village in 1849,
but by then, Old Dubbo Gaol (as we now refer
call it) had already been in operation for two
years. It continued to house convicted
criminals for 119 years in its position on the
main street. Today, the 19th- and 20th-century
buildings remain an important legacy of
Australian history, particularly with collections
featuring objects like the hangman’s kit and
gallows and the cells themselves on display.
You can experience Dubbo’s dark side in a
number of ways, be it a self-guided tour of its
gloomy cells, a guided tour (in which the littlies
can choose to capture or assist a ‘runaway
prisoner’) or a family-friendly Twilight Tour
during the NSW school holidays (prepare
yourselves, these can be especially spooky!).
For a bird’s-eye view, climb the stairs to the
watchtower to take in the goings-on below,
just like a real-life prison guard.
Discover the ins and outs of attempted
escapes by prisoners of the past on the
Escapes Tour. Stories range from two prisoners
once dared to burn through the roof of their cells
and burrow through a cavity, only to be caught
on the other side, to a fugitive who was chased
down the main street by a gaoler in his pajamas!
The kids will no doubt be enthralled with
stories of times gone by and thanking the gods
above that they are not sleeping here tonight.
Built at approximately the same time, but
with a very different purpose in mind, the
is also an important
factor in Dubbo’s past. The National Trust
property – head station of a 6500-hectare
squatting run – transports you to early colonial
life, just five minutes from the centre of Dubbo.
Curious kids can experience life in the 19th
century walking through the home and
sandstone stable complex.
By now you’ll be enthusiastic to see what
Dubbo can do in the outdoors department.
Channel your inner tranquillity at the four
distinct gardens of Dubbo Regional Botanic
Garden. The Shoyoen is recognised as one of
the most authentic Japanese gardens in
Australia, featuring a miniature landscape of
waterfalls, streams, a tea hut or chaoya and
Japanese Koi, while the Oasis Valley promotes
the conservation of dry rainforests that today
are found scattered across the Kimberley, Top
End, Cape York and down the east coast of
Only seven minutes from Dubbo, the next
outdoor adventure awaits at Aladdin’s Cave
Bottlehouse. Kids will adore this quirky
yurt-like structure made from 3000 bottles.
Some even have messages, photos and toys
tucked inside, making inspecting it an exciting
prospect for curious little ones. While you’re
there, allow yourselves to get lost in the fairy
gardens, housing famous fairytale characters
from Snow White to Thumbelina.
Let the fun continue!
Open since 2011, the Education Centre at the
Royal Flying Service Doctor Service (RDFS)
is an exceptional learning experience. Visitors
can experience a behind-the-scenes look at
the life-changing work this national icon does
for patients in remote Australia. Watching the
real-life medical footage of RDFS doctors,
nurses and highlights is a special highlight.
The biggest advantage of Dubbo’s wide
open spaces and countryside location? Seeing
the constellations lit up like you’ve never seen
them before with some otherworldly stargazing
at Dubbo Observatory! Discover the secrets
of the galaxy on a tour of the Milky Way and
audio visual programme, try your hand at
astronomy on a high-tech telescope or take a
ride to infinity and beyond on the Space
Shuttle. The observatory is just a 10-minute
drive from Dubbo’s City Centre and a next door
neighbour to the zoo.
The wonders of Wellington
Just a 50-minute drive from Dubbo is the
quaint and picturesque town of Wellington.
Known for being home to the last known pistol
duel to be fought in Australia, the community is
also host to the Wellington Caves Complex, the
Osawano Japanese Garden, the fisherman’s
paradise of Lake Burrendong and wineries
The Wellington Caves & Holiday Complex
was discovered in 1830 by a colonist, George
Ranken, when he accidentally fell into one of
the caverns. The unusual formations are now
known as the first place in Australia where the
bones of megafauna – giant marsupials and
birds – were first found. Soon, it could also
become the place where paleontologists
identify how these extraordinary oversized
creatures became extinct, with a new
excavation project beginning in 2016. Discover
the caves’ hidden secrets on a guided tour
(which are sure to be more informative than
ever!) to the Cathedral Cave, Gaden Cave,
Bone Cave and the Phosphate Mine. Standing
beneath crystal formations of stalagmites,
stalactites and coral is otherworldly and sure
to have little ones wide-eyed with awe. The
caves’ biggest formation measures a huge 32
metres wide and 15 metres high! If you want to
spend the night, sleeping options include semi
self-contained accommodation and caravan
and camping sites.