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20 summer school holiday adventures

Dubbo and Western Plains

1. Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is widely recognised as Australia’s greatest open-range zoo and is home to more than 1,500 animals from around the world. Lions, black rhinoceros, Sumatran tigers, elephants and giraffe roam 300 hectares of wide open space. The best way to explore the 6-kilometre circuit around the plains is by bike or cart, and every day there are keeper talks, animal shows and close encounters to choose from, including big cats, meerkats and giraffes.

2. Old Dubbo Gaol
At the Old Dubbo Gaol, get a taste of what life was like for prisoners in the 19th and early 20th centuries. This remarkably intact goal operated for 119 years from 1847 to 1966 and is still located in the main street of Dubbo. Step inside the tiny cells, watch a costumed re-enactment, take in the birds-eye view from the watchtower or enjoy a spooky Twilight and Beyond the Grave Night Tour.

3. Wellington Caves
The Wellington Caves are about 8 kilometres south of Wellington in country NSW and offer fascinating cave tours where you can observe stalagmites, stalactites, columns, flowstones and coral. There are three main caves to see: Cathedral Cave, Gaden Cave and the Phosphate Mine. The kids will love the giant kangaroo megafossil which was uncovered in 1830. On the grounds opposite the caves is the stunning Japanese Osawano Gardens and you can stay overnight at Wellington Caves, with camp and caravan sites, park cabins and units available.

4. Dubbo Aquatic Centre
Cool off during the summer months at Dubbo Aquatic Centre, which has a brand-new splash pad and twin water slides to enjoy. Little kids will love the children’s leisure pool and there’s an on-site kiosk and barbecues, making for a great day out for all the family.

5. Trike Adventures in Dubbo
Trike Adventures has been offering unique and fun motorcycling tours in the Dubbo region since 2010. You can choose from a range of tours from a half-hour Dubbo highlights tour to a High Tea Safari or an Outback Pub Adventure. Owner Peter has over 40 years of motorcycling experience and Trike Adventures has a three-wheeled motorised, custom-built four-seater, along with a red trike with a Volkswagen 1.9L engine. The team are happy to tailor a tour for you and your family.

6. Dubbo Farmers’ Market
Pick up some fresh local produce at the Dubbo Farmers’ Market, held on the first and third Saturday of every month. There’s great coffee and plenty of breakfast options to tide you over while browsing stalls of fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, olive oil, jam, honey, nuts and wine.

7. Village Bakery Café
Grab one of the best pies in the state at Dubbo’s Village Bakery Café, run by fourth-generation bakers. The pies have won more than 100 awards over the years and are made using 100% Australian beef.

8. Western Plains Cultural Centre
Dubbo's state-of-the-art Western Plains Cultural Centre is home to the city’s art gallery and museum, and features a range of frequently changing exhibitions and school holiday workshops. The gallery’s collection focuses on The Animal in Art, inspired by its rural location and proximity to Taronga Western Plains Zoo.

9. Macquarie Regional Library
Macquarie Regional Library has eight branches across the Great Western Plains which run regular activities and school holiday programs, including a Reading Club, Creations Stations with science, engineering and Lego challenges, as well as Coding and Robotics Workshops.

10. Dundullimal Homestead
Discover Dubbo’s pioneer history at Dundullimal Homestead, a National Trust building circa early 1840s. Wander through picturesque gardens and enjoy a picnic, have coffee in the tea room and take an educational tour.

11. Lake Burrendong
The vast Lake Burrendong, close to the town of Wellington, is the Great Western Plains’ water playground. It’s a popular spot for fishing, boating, canoeing and swimming. The Kids’ Club at Lake Burrendong runs a school holiday program including kayaking, rock climbing and grass skiing. There are camping areas close to the shore and two holiday parks offering cabins and other amenities.

12. Narromine Aviation Museum
The small town of Narromine has a storied aviation history dating back nearly 100 years. The Narromine Aviation Museum celebrates this legacy with a captivating display of historical aircraft, photographs and artefacts.

13. Dark Sky Park
The southern hemisphere’s first and only Dark Sky Park is in the Warrumbungle region of country NSW, renowned for its breathtaking starry nights. Camp under the stars and view the wonders of the galaxy from your own quiet corner of the park or visit the nearby Siding Springs Observatory for guided tours, hands-on activities, multimedia and interactive presentations, and Australia’s largest optical telescope.

14. Tracker Riley Cycleway
As the name suggests, the Great Western Plains is perfect for exploring on two wheels. Cycling trails run through the centre of Dubbo, along the Tracker Cycleway out to Taronga Zoo, beside the Macquarie River or through rolling farmland on the 65-kilometre Rawsonville to Minore Loop. The 12.5-kilometre Tracker Riley Cycleway is named after Dubbo’s famous Alec ‘Tracker’ Riley, the first Aboriginal tracker to reach the rank of Sergeant. The circuit extends between the central business district and historic Dundullimal Homestead via Taronga Western Plains Zoo. The cycleway is the perfect way to experience the natural beauty of the Macquarie River foreshore. No bike? No problem. Call the Dubbo Visitor Information Centre for bike hire options.

15. Mount Arthur Reserve
Go bushwalking in Mount Arthur Reserve which covers an area of 1300 hectares of bushland and takes in three peaks: Mount Arthur, Wellesly and Duke. There are several walking trails to choose from, with a number of lookouts providing spectacular views over Wellington, the valley and the Bell and Macquarie Rivers.

16. Emu Logic Farm
Get up close to Australia’s largest flightless bird at Emu Logic Farm. Take a tour and meet some of the 900 emus that live on the farm, then pick up some emu oil, soap, wax or emu eggs to take home. Visit from mid-July to see newly hatched chicks chasing after their parents.

17. Nickname Hall of Fame
Just about everyone in Coonamble has a nickname and the town has embraced its unique claim to fame by creating the Nickname Hall of Fame. Look out for the billboards set up around town honouring locals with one-of-a-kind monikers like Gooey, Icey and Useful.

18. Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve
The Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve is one of the largest remaining inland semi-permanent wetlands in southeastern Australia and of global significance. The wetlands are located around 100 kilometres north of Warren and 30kilometres west of Quambone, and are a major habitat for a large number of wildlife and an important waterbird breeding area. While the marshes do not cater for daytrippers or campers, RiverSmart Tours offers one-day guided tours every Thursday during September until late November, departing from Dubbo via Warren’s Window on the Wetlands Centre.

19. Adventure Craft Hire
To experience the serenity of nature and spot wildlife, families can take a kayak trail along the Macquarie River. Adventure Craft Hire in Dubbo has been providing safe equipment and river adventure ideas for families for the last couple of years. There are single-seat or double-seat kayaks with a variety of different time slots available, and paddles, life jackets and dry bags included. The Macquarie River is fairly easy paddling and there are many reserves along the trail where you can stop for a well-earned lunch break.

20. Terramungamine Rock Grooves
The Terramungamine Rock Grooves were created by the Tubbagah people and are located along the Macquarie River on a rocky outcrop. This site of ancient rocks is of historical significance and there’s a small sign with information on how the grooves were made and the fascinating Indigenous history. The grooves were used by the Wiradjuri Tribe to shape tools and spears and became an important meeting place for the Tubbagah people. You will easily find the rock grooves after a short walk from the campground along the banks of the river.

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