It might be a long way from the African Savannah, or the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace but the Central West NSW town of Dubbo still manages to deliver exotic animals, an authentic timeworn gaol, and historic family home. Add to this a wealth of parks and playgrounds, good food, abundant shopping and Dubbo really is the passport to a fabulous family getaway.
The BIG4 Dubbo Parklands is superbly located just minutes away from two of Dubbo’s main attractions – the Western Plains Zoo and Dundullimal Homestead. It’s also an easy drive back across the picturesque Macquarie River and into the city centre.
Accommodation includes tent and caravan sites, cabins which will sleep from 2 to 7, self-contained safari tents, and a lodge which caters for school camps and large groups.
BIG4 Dubbo Parkland managers’, Allan and Deirdre Kernahan, have lived in Dubbo for 9 years and are passionate about what the park and their local community has to offer. ‘We have alot of families who come together here,’ says Allan. ‘Families will do reunions as well as people just coming for weekends – getting away from places like Sydney, Canberra or Newcastle.’
Deirdre also admits that the park is regularly booked out, particularly over school holidays. ‘A lot of people base themselves here and do daytrips as well,’ says Deirdre.
Ultimately though the main attraction for most visitors is the zoo.
Formerly an army camp during World War Two, the 300 hectare site was opened to the public as a zoo in 1977. Today it is home to hundreds of unique animals who graze, swim, fly and swing amidst ample grounds.
Watch the lion cubs tussle with each other under the watchful eyes of their majestic parents.
Przewalski’s (pronounced Shah-cal-ski) horses gallop and frisk around their paddock while the zebra’s graze quietly up the road.
Walk up to a wallaby and pat it while close by a koala finishes off its gumleaf lunch.
There’s elephants and rhinoceros, hippopotamuses and giraffes, monkeys and tigers, lemurs and meerkats.
Watch the pudgy face of a Siamang Ape nibbling on his banana while his mate acrobats through the ropes above with a goofy self-assurance.
Feed the giraffes their daily dose of carrots and kiss an otter through the glass.
In the last enclosure 5 giant Galapagos Tortoises eye off their curious visitors making it hard to tell who is the most fascinated. Right here you can reach out and almost touch these ancient mystic creatures.
Dubbo is, in fact, pretty good at doing ‘old’. A short bike ride up the road from the zoo, the property of Dundullimal gives visitors the opportunity to soak up life in rural pioneering Australia.
Rustic sandstone, wide wooden white slabs hemmed by verandas, corrugated iron, green grass and gum trees make for an enticing wander.
Milo, the resident black Labrador keeps the kids entertained with his ball skills while lunch is prepared in the original old working shed.
Back in town the Old Dubbo Goal delivers a fascinating history into the world of unlucky criminals. Listen to stories of great escapes and gruesome murders, shiver in the dank, dark corridors of the men’s cells, count the thirteen steps to the hangman’s noose, and learn about the daily routine of officers and prisoners in the 1800s.
After a heavy day of activities it’s good to know where a yummy meal and fast service will be. The Pastoral Hotel hands out kids activity packs on arrival (Oh YES please!), a drink and dessert come complementary with the kids meals, and there are decent adult offerings. The best bit: Kids Eat Free on Monday nights.
The South Dubbo Tavern also has an excellent outdoor playground with easy access to eating areas just so long as it’s not raining. Other family friendly restaurants recommended include The Lion’s Pride with Aussie barbecue fare, Sticks and Stone’s Woodfire Pizza’s, and traditional Thai at the Rose Garden.
For more to do and see in Dubbo the following have been highly recommended:
- Dubbo Town and Country Tours
- The Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens
- The Royal Flying Doctors Service Visitors Centre
- Adventure Watersports
- Western Plains Cultural Centre