It didn’t take the kids much to twist our arms and have us agree to take a road trip with their cousins to Dubbo in central west NSW.
It was, after all, the very location where T and I had adventured on our first couples trip a good seventeen years ago and also the destination of an early travel adventure when the kids were small.
Situated around five hours from Sydney, Dubbo is fast becoming one of New South Wales most popular holiday destinations and a great place to base yourself if you want to explore some of the most amazing regional locations.
I was bursting to explore again, and super keen to stay on site for the first time.
Educational Things to do in Dubbo with Kids
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Without a doubt, Taronga Western Plains Zoo is the top attraction and one of the best things to do in Dubbo with kids.
Spreading across 300 hectares of bushland and integrated grasslands, the zoo is home to over 700 animals from five of the world’s continents.
The large space provides ample room for animals to free roam – exactly how zoos should be!
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is an all weather location. Whether it’s sunny, overcast or drizzling with rain, I’m pretty certain the whole family will have a blast.
The free roaming enclosures mean that you can see each animal type in a near to natural habitat. It’s almost like seeing them in the wild!
Dubbo zoo is structured around a 6-kilometre circuit which visitors can navigate by foot, bike, electric buggy or your own vehicle.
On our trip, we arrived early so we could snag an electric buggy, something all of the kids were super excited about.
Whilst the electric buggy was a lot of fun for the kids, the animals were their absolute favourite thing about Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Each time we came to another enclosure they would all excitedly point out the animals, taking turns to read the information panels so could learn about their habitat and food preferences.
Having studied the daily keeper talk itinerary, we were able to fit in a few as we drove around the zoo in our buggy. Whilst the information panels gave a lot of information, the beauty of a keeper talk is they’re always interactive and you can ask a few questions.
The kids loved this opportunity and put the keeper to the test with their tricky questions.
Having visited in Spring, we just missed out on the grand opening of the Savannah Safari. If you plan a trip now you will catch it.
For an extra $10.00 for adults and $5.00 for children, you can experience a unique guided tour amongst the African animals on the Savannah Safari truck. Cheaper than a trip to Africa!
Savannah Cabins Dubbo
Travelling with two families, we felt that this option lent itself to an intimate, family focused stay.
We wanted to make a real adventure out of our trip so had travelled to Dubbo via Canberra.
Arriving at the Savannah Cabins at the end of a long drive was perfection. The cabins were not only fully self-contained but had a few little extras that made our stay truly amazing, like gorgeous toiletries and fruit.
Whilst the adults unpacked the cars, the kids headed off to find themselves some giraffes.
Armed with the binoculars they had found in our cabin, they trekked through the long grass to an opening where they could see the giraffes over the fence. They also spotted a number of kangaroos resulting in a lot of excited squeals of delight.
Shortly, the kids had recruited other children from neighbouring cabins and before long they were all playing tag, then footy and then tag again. This continued into the night where we shared a barbeque on our verandah. It was perfection.
If you do stay at the Savannah Cabins and the kids are up after dark, I highly recommend going outside to one of the clearings, laying back on a picnic blanket and watching the stars.
Without the lights from a city brightening the sky, you should be able to see the Milky Way in all its glory and even spot a shooting star.
Old Dubbo Gaol
A trip to the Old Dubbo Gaol must be included on your itinerary if you’re staying in the area. It’s an opportunity for you to step back in time with the kids and, if framed well, won’t be scary at all.
Visiting on the school holidays is perhaps the best time to go with the kids as quite often the staff create amazing school holiday programs that a perfectly geared for the younger visitor.
Our visit coincided with the Guided Escapes Tour. It was far from the traditional guided tour, with an inmate showing us around before he was abruptly interrupted by one of the guards.
This is where the show really took off, and with the kids helping the inmate, became quite interactive.
I don’t want to give away the whole experience by detailing it in any length, but let’s just say hysterical laughter was heard across the audience as the kids were brought to task for getting up to a whole of mischief with the inmate. Make sure you do it! (It’s included in the entry ticket).
Surely exploring a cave system is on your family bucket list?
At Wellington, just south of Dubbo, you can explore a cave system that has formed in an outcrop of 400 million-year-old Early Devonian limestone.
Wellington Caves is the most significant site for mammal fossils in the world with those found here ranging in age from 30,000 to 4 million years! You can see Megafauna in the cave walls! This made a little exploration of the caves a “must see” on our great Dubbo adventure.
At the Wellington Cave site, you can take a guided tour of Cathedral Cave, Gaden Cave and the Phosphate Mine. They are spread out across the day, so I highly recommend choosing your preferred caves in advance and identifying their tour times so you don’t miss out.
The idea of spotting a giant Diprotodon was almost unfathomable, but sure enough, by the end of our visit, we had checked it off our list.
The kids learned that a giant kangaroo, a carnivorous goanna that was seven metres long and a marsupial lion were also found in the caves. Amazing stuff.
Whilst the Phosphate Mine is famous for its bones, the Cathedral Cave is famous for its stalagmites and stalactites which the kids found fascinating. They learned the sayings “Stalagmites MIGHT grow up” and “Stalactites hold on TIGHT” which helped them to remember what to call the formations.
Our trip to Dubbo was an amazing adventure with the kids not only learning a little about animal conservation but also widening their knowledge of both scientific discovery and Australian history through our respective tours of Wellington Caves and Old Dubbo Zoo.
On arriving back at home, our youngest traveller decided to do a little research on Megafauna after being inspired by the university project work she had observed at Wellington Caves.
The middle kids decided they wanted to be zookeepers and promptly booked an experience at Taronga Zoo It’s amazing to see travel adventures leading to new projects between our travels.
I wonder if Dubbo will have the same impact on your kids!
While in the Dubbo area, don’t forget to check out:
- Short Street Store – This is a local secret, but if you make your way to this little hideaway you will discover the best coffee and homemade bites in town.
- Livvi’s Place Playground – Built just how playgrounds should be, this interactive and accessible park is just the spot for the kids to burn up some energy.
- Dubbo Observatory – Remember my suggestion to lay back and watch the stars when staying at the Savannah Cabins? Well if you want and even closer look, drop by the Dubbo Observatory.
- Dubbo Royal Flying Doctor Base Visitor Education Centre – I’m absolutely kicking myself that we missed out on dropping by for a visit.
Want some more exciting things to do in the Dubbo Region:
- 7 spectacular things to do in Coonabarabran
- 6 captivating things to do in Coonamble and the Pilliga in NSW