By Rebecca Lawson
Stunning bike paths, brilliant fishing, fascinating local history and the best organic cafe ever to serve a gluten-free carrot cake; Dubbo has lots to offer families looking for a break, but the biggest draw card is, of course, Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
The zoo offers enough to justify a visit to Dubbo all on it’s own (although it would be a shame to miss the rest of the area’s gems.) There is a wealth of amazing animals that can be discovered by bike, cart or car, and many great daily encounters such as Giraffes in Focus, where those who have booked can hand-feed one of the long-necked beasts. The talks, which also include meerkats, tigers and hippos, are a good way to ensure you will actually see the animals who are often sleeping off lunch in the heat of the day, as well as give you some great info on each species, so try and plan your day around them. Also important to note is that during weekdays, the half way kiosk is closed, so the only place to purchase food around the zoo is at the entrance. Any food or drink needed will have to be carried on these days, which is admittedly a little heavy and inconvenient to say the least, especially with tired kids in tow.
Besides its wild residents, the zoo also offers a fantastic park facility complete with clean BBQs, flying fox and two play grounds, as well as views over the monkeys and access to the surprisingly well-priced and delicious Bakhita’s cafe. These facilities can be visited at any time without a ticket and are well worth making the most of.
Dubbo doesn’t have to be all about the animals, though. The gaol is a very interesting piece of Australian history. A $1 million revamp is scheduled to make the experience even more entertaining. Make sure to drop into Sprout Cafe after you ‘get out of gaol’ – it is directly across the road and offers a delicious array of organic produce. Dubbo also surprisingly boasts one of the prettiest botanical and Japanese gardens I have been to. The calm serenity is the perfect place to settle the kids down after the excitement of the zoo.
When looking for a place to rest the family’s weary heads, consider the zoo itself which offers several really great accommodation options, like Zoofari or Billabong Camp, but these can be expensive and often budget-conscious families can only afford one night there, which is often not enough to justify the trip to Dubbo. But that’s where Big4 Parklands comes in. After one night at the zoo, the perfect option is to then move the short drive down the road to this newly-purchased Aspen Parks property where comfortable, well-priced family accommodation can be found.
The property is literally a five minute drive from the zoo. Neatly appointed cabins and lush, grass-lined avenues make the property feel more like a high class gated community than a holiday park, but a brand new jumping pillow, well-equipped family cabins and BMX track ensure families feel welcome and kids are entertained. Managers Deirdre and Allan are beyond welcoming and easily be found most days working around the property, willing to help guests in any way they can.
If even one night at the zoo doesn’t appeal, but you’re still after the safari experience, book one of Big4 Parkland’s Savannah Tents. They give guests an authentic ‘glamping’ experience and even boast a flat screen TV which will be a relief to any parent during ‘witching hour’.
The most exciting news, however, is the imminent arrival of a fantastic water park at Big4 Parklands. Scheduled for building in February, the splash-tastic addition will boast a tipping bucket, cannons, slides and every other feature kids expect these days. It will provide the perfect way for the littles (and adventurous mums and dads) to cool off in the warmth of Dubbo’s inland summer.
The town also boasts several great bike tracks and brilliant fishing. Dubbo is undeniably a town worth taking the family to.
For more visit aspenparks.com.au