As magnificent as Taronga Western Plains Zoo (aka Dubbo Zoo) is, planning a trip out here can be a daunting prospect, simply because it’s so far away from anywhere.
At approximately 5 hours from each of Sydney and Canberra, you definitely need to allow some time to get here. On our recent trip we headed off at lunchtime on the Friday before a long weekend, had two days at the zoo, then travelled home on the holiday Monday. This worked really well and allowed time to stop off at a few gorgeous spots along the way. All the details of our Sydney to Dubbo road trip are here.
But whether you’re making a road trip from Sydney or Canberra as we did, driving through on the way somewhere else, or perhaps even flying in (you jetsetter you!), you need to know what to expect when you arrive.
Take a cute souvenir photo out the front. Although on the way out, rather than in, is easiest.
The Savannah Visitor Plaza is your first stop for tickets and maybe a coffee at the cafe. It overlooks the idyllic Savannah Lake, with lemurs and spider monkeys to watch as you relax.
How to get around
Dubbo Zoo is an open-range zoo with plenty of wide open spaces. There is a core 6km long sealed loop road with many walking paths to explore along the way.
You can simply drive around and this makes your visit easy in one sense, but it does detract somewhat from being in such a beautiful setting, and it can become a bit of a pain having to park and get out repeatedly.
This is definitely the most popular way to get around the zoo, with many visitors bringing their own bikes. But you can hire them at the entrance with all sizes available, including helmets. And they even have those cute little cabooses so you can tow little kids around.
This is a typical scene around the zoo, where everyone has parked their bikes and then walked the rest of the way to see an exhibit.
The road is in excellent condition, flat, wide, with plenty of space. Apparently it was really busy when we were there (a long weekend in the school holidays), but it was nothing like as busy as Taronga Zoo in Sydney gets. It was positively peaceful.
By electric cart
This is what we did and it was AWESOME! There are very few of these golf carts available, so you have to arrive at opening to get one. We saw many disappointed people being turned away.
These win on convenience and fun factor! They were so easy to drive and park and hop in and out of as you stop to look at the animals, but even just driving around in it was fun.
It was one of the absolute highlights of our visit for the kids!
The focus at Dubbo Zoo is on conservation, breeding and providing the amount of space that many animals need.
Some of the animals that you will find here and not at Taronga Zoo in Sydney are –
- White Rhinoceros and Black Rhinoceros
- Siamang Apes
- Oryx, Eland and Addax
As well as seeing animals like lions, tigers and giraffes in huge, natural-looking environments.
There’s plenty of opportunities to see animals up close, especially if you pay attention to the feeding and keeper talk schedules. But even just driving slowly through, there are classic outlooks like this one in the Australian section, with kangaroos resting under a tree and an emu wandering about.
The most convenient food option is BYO, because they have provided several very attractive, shady picnic grounds with BBQs. But, as well as the main cafe back at the Savannah Visitor Plaza at the entrance, there is a kiosk halfway around. The offering and seating is limited, but there’s always a patch of grass nearby.
An on-the-move selfie!
There are several additional experiences that can be purchased with your tickets on arrival.
The Early Morning Walk is particularly popular as the animals are more active at this time of day. There are also encounters with tigers, meerkats and rhinos.
But the one we chose and ABSOLUTELY LOVED was the Giraffe Feeding! Aren’t these creatures just incredible? So beautiful, so unique, so gentle. And they loooove carrots!
Here’s a quick video of Hamish having his turn (38 secs) –
Visiting Dubbo Zoo is partly like visiting a zoo and partly like going to a park. The kids enjoyed seeing some animals, but they also loved having so much space to race around. And the environment is very kid-friendly. Bikes set the pace on the road, and there’s often animal statues or huge rocks to climb on near the exhibits.
At the Savannah Visitor Plaza at the entrance (before you need a ticket), there’s a brilliant playground. We enjoyed a coffee at a picnic table while the kids ran wild, with this view in one direction –
And this view in the other –
The playground is vast, with activities for tiny tots, up to an impressive flying fox for the bigger kids.
There are three incredibly immersive accommodation experiences available at the zoo –
Zoofari Lodge is the luxury option with accommodation in safari-style lodges overlooking giraffes and zebra. Dinner and breakfast and behind-the-scenes private tours are included.
Savannah Cabins are two bedroom self-contained cabins sleeping up to 6 people.
Billabong Camp, like Zoofari Lodge, is fully-inclusive of meals and behind-the-scenes tours, but it is more casual. Dinner is a BBQ and accommodation is in tents. This is what we did and it was SENSATIONAL! A camping experience, but everything is done for you! Loved it! Read more about our experience here.
If you have a membership to Taronga Zoo Sydney, Melbourne Zoo, Adelaide Zoo, Perth Zoo or Monarto Zoo, then entry is free! Come and go as often as you like.
Otherwise, tickets purchased are valid for two days.
More information here – Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
Click here for more photos and info about our Dubbo road trip, including all the other brilliant places we visited.
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Have you been to Dubbo Zoo?