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Sometimes the best holidays happen when people and places come together in one effortlessly magic mix. That’s exactly what makes a getaway to Dubbo most memorable – the warm, friendly locals plus a host of fascinating attractions that keep you wanting to see and do more. Located 400-kilometres from Sydney on the Great Western Plains of New South Wales, Dubbo is a cracker of a city and the heartland of the region. As the name implies, this is pure plains country with wide open spaces, an abundance of fresh air and mighty big skies. An honest-to-goodness outback aura certainly marks the landscape. The immeasurable sense of expanse that surrounds Dubbo will instantly trigger your relaxation reflexes. But while it’s a great place to unwind and de-stress from the hustle and bustle of the big smoke, Dubbo is packed with many fun and engaging features that will make you want to extend your stay.
When you’ve sorted your hire car in downtown Dubbo, you may wonder what to do first. Being an all-round tourist-friendly destination, Dubbo has devised some handy visitor passes to guide your holiday itinerary. The Great Big Adventure Pass will give you entry to all the major drawcards of the Dubbo region, plus some bonuses to boot. Slip between the Taronga Western Plains Zoo, the Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience, the old Dubbo Gaol and the Wellington Caves – situated in its namesake neighbouring village.
But perhaps you’d like to settle into your visit at a slower, more contemplative pace. The Dubbo Wiradjuri Garden is a striking and serene space of grasslands, native vegetation and winding red paths which reflect the three main rivers running through the region. The cultural history of the traditional owners of the land is beautifully honoured within this garden design which features a 50-metre rainbow snake planting as its centrepiece.
The waterways around Dubbo carry a wealth of significance to the local Wiradjuri people that goes back 40,000 years. Wander the banks of the Macquarie River – or Wambuul, meaning ‘winding river’ – where ceremonial sites and meeting places are scattered along the way between Dubbo and Wellington. Visit the area’s most important cultural landmark at Terramungamine Reserve, where 150 grinding grooves carved in rock can be viewed from platforms, revealing how tools and spears were shaped at this ancient gathering place. Take a tour with an elder and learn about bush tucker and medicinal plants in the area. Set up camp overnight, view a legendary Dubbo sunset from the river’s edge, and sleep beneath a blanket of stars. Let your visit to Dubbo unfold with a myriad of experiences that will reward and enrich you.
To explore Dubbo’s colonial past, take the Dubbo Heritage Walk with a guided map from the Visitor Information Centre. Immerse yourself in tales of bushrangers and gangsters, and see the charming buildings that remain from the era. A tour of the heritage-listed Old Dubbo Gaol puts it all together in one experience: animatronic guards, and holographic and theatrical displays, show the visitor (very vividly) where a life of crime would lead.
For a slice of early rural life at its finest, visit the Dundullimal Homestead – a pastoral vintage home that’s been delightfully preserved, complete with sandstone stables, timber church and blacksmith’s forge. The house itself, built in the 1840s close to the centre of town, is the oldest surviving slab residence in Australia.
Shift gear and head across the road to join the African safari at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Easily the most popular attraction in Dubbo, you’ll be thrilled to meet over 350 species of animals – from a rare king cheetah to the king of the big cats – roaming across the savannah-like plains of this open-range sanctuary. Here’s where your hire car comes in handy! Though you can also walk, bike or take an electric cart to cover this epic 5.5 kilometre circuit, or hop on a safari truck with a tour guide. Make your adventure even more special: opt for exclusive personal encounters with meerkats and feeding the giraffes.
Continue your Dubbo escapade at the centre – the Western Plains Cultural Centre, to be precise, housing contemporary galleries, museums and a community arts space. Enjoy the latest touring exhibition, see an event, take a workshop, and discover a collection of local historical artefacts that will satisfy your curiosity about life in the region. Have a bite at the café, or meander around the area and choose from a great selection of restaurants, cafés and cuisines. From decadent gluten-free doughnuts to casual fine dining, Dubbo’s food scene has something to suit every taste.
Walk off lunch with an afternoon stroll around the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden. There’s an adventure playground for the littlies to expend some energy, a tranquil Japanese Garden that will lure the visitor with some grown-up rest and repose, and three other themed gardens to explore. Whatever tempo you’re travelling at, Dubbo has activities and attractions to keep the whole family smiling.