Family-Friendly Destination: Dubbo
By: Phoebe Ackland, ellaslist
At ellaslist, we're always on the lookout for family-friendly getaways that are easy on the wallet, and big on the kid-friendly activities. We think we've found another NSW gem with Dubbo! Full of friendly people and surrounded by the natural terrain that Australia is famous for, we think it's definitely worth the 5-hour road trip from Sydney, or super quick 1-hour flight. Here are some places to go, places to stay and places to eat for families when visiting Dubbo.
Taronga and Western Plains Zoo
A must-stop spot for Sydney families visiting Dubbo. This open-range zoo is home to hundreds of animals, boasting a 6km walking track that you can follow (via foot or hired bikes/carts!) that meanders through natural bushland and large, open-style exhibits. Daily schedule highlights include Meerkat Encounters, Elephant keeper talks, black Rhino keeper talks and feeding, African Wild Dogs feeding, Tortoise keeper talk and feedings and loads more. The Savannah Visitor Plaza is home to a shop, cafe and playground, overlooking lemur and monkey-inhabited lakes and islands. They also offer some super-exciting accommodation options including Savannah Cabins, bush-style camping at Billabong Camping and a touch of luxury at the Zoofari Lodge. More information here.
Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden
The perfect spot for a family picnic! The Sensory Garden is alive with flowers of contrasting colours and shapes, water trickling into ponds via fountains, bamboo swaying, and a range of scents- your senses will indeed be stimulated. In the Biodiversity Garden, you'll see the best of Dubbo's local plants in settings that replicate their natural habitats; native birds flock to this area so prepare for a spot of bird-watching! In Oasis Valley, there's a 65m boardwalk that follows a running creek and over 40 dry rainforest species, and families are bound to be delighted by Shoyoen, one of Australia's most authentic Japanese-style gardens! More information here.
Fresh Local Produce
A trip to Dubbo is incomplete without experiencing the best of what local farmers have to offer. The Dubbo Farmers Market is run fortnightly on the 1st and 3rd Saturdays of every month, and showcases everything from local fruit and veg to jams and preserves, herbs and plants, honey, wine, nuts, bread, and meat. The Riverside Markets are held monthly in Dubbo, and showcases not only fresh local foods but merchandise including arts and crafts, second-hand items, clothes, plants, tools and more.
The Best Cafe In Dubbo: Press
Trust us, we've been! I visited Dubbo last year, and we came back to Press again and again for breakfast, brunch and sneaky afternoon coffees. As their website says, they are one of the most "progressive" places to eat in Dubbo, and their delicious menu and rustic-elegance decor wouldn't be out of place in the likes of Bondi. It is located in a Heritage building, almost like a big, sprawling house with gorgeous art on the walls and natives in vases on the tables. The menu includes Avocado, Local Feta, Tomato Salsa & Pistachio Dukkah with Sourdough, and the super fresh Mango & Macadamia Salad, Cucumber, Salsa, Baby Spinach & Citrus Dressing. Top Tip: Try their roast mushrooms! They are, just like the rest of Dubbo: super-relaxed, so kids and prams won't feel out of place. Visit their stunning website.
Bike Tracks & Adventure Watersports
Not what immediately comes to mind when you think of Dubbo! Explore the majestic Macquarie River in the Dubbo region by hiring a single ($20/hour) or 2 seater ($30/hour) kayak, or a stand-up paddleboard ($20/hour). This service is available from Ollie Robins Oval Dubbo on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 9am-5pm, and on public holidays. This one's best for families with older kids! More information here. If water isn't your family's thing, the Tracker Riley Cycleway is a 12.5km track that will take you around the Macquarie River foreshore. Bike hire available through Dubbo City Holiday Park. More information here.
Old Dubbo Gaol
A state heritage-listed must-see! Smack bang on the main street of Dubbo is this exceptionally intact gaol that operated for 119 years. It is a truly chilling experience- you'll get to see the hangman's kit and gallows, step inside a dark cell, check out the view from the watchtower, or, for the very brave, take a night tour! Full of frights and theatrical re-enactments. The twilight tour is family-friendly and runs during school holidays, long weekends, or for groups. More information here.
Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre
If you happen to be in Dubbo during the Summer months, cool down at the Dubbo Aquatic Leisure Centre! Here you'll find an Olympic-sized swimming pool heated to 26 degrees, a children’s leisure pool, with solar-powered heating up to 28 degrees, water slides, BBQ's, a kiosk and all the facilities families need for a day at the pool.
Where To Stay
There's a range of home-style, kid-friendly, super hospitable accommodation options for families in Dubbo. The Best Western Bluegum Motel has recently renovated their 4-star rooms and an outdoor heated saltwater swimming pool. Quest Dubbo offers a range of 4.5-star serviced apartments complete with kitchen and laundry facilities, with 1, 2 and 3-bedroom options available. There's an onsite gym, outdoor BBQ terrace, and onsite parking. Country Apartments Dubbo (pictured) will feel like your very own home in Dubbo, with self-serviced apartments and 3 bedroom townhouses available for larger groups. They are known for being extremely family-friendly, have an outdoor saltwater pool, shaded outdoor seating areas set in a sweet garden, a Tuscan style outdoor eating area, spas in selected rooms, and breakfast can be delivered to your door!
One of the best places to stay, albeit the most extravagant, is at Taronga Western Plains Zoo in their Zoofari Lodge. These luxurious African-style lodges feature African-inspired decor and overlook a paddock with views of Giraffes, Zebras and Elands roaming across the savannah. Amazing!
The good thing about Dubbo is that pretty much wherever you stay, you're close to all the major attractions and near the main shops and cafes. Staff, just like the locals, are extremely welcoming and accommodating, and accommodation is well known for being fantastic value for money.
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