Billabong Camp is one of three accommodation options in the grounds of Taronga Western Plains Zoo (aka Dubbo Zoo), but it is not merely a spot to lay your head, it is an all-inclusive camping experience, chock-full of unique activities from late afternoon until morning.
I am not a camper. My camping experience is limited to girl guide camps and a high school tour of Central Australia. While they were great fun, I prefer four walls instead of canvas. But this was wonderful. Everything is done for you!
When I came across Billabong Camp when planning our road trip to Dubbo, I thought it would kill two birds with one stone – we get to stay overnight at a zoo with animals all around us, plus the kids get to try camping. And it turned out to be one of the absolute highlights of our trip thanks to top quality facilities, a spectacularly beautiful setting, and incredibly helpful staff who are PASSIONATE about animals.
Arrival at Billabong Camp
We arrived at around 4pm on a Saturday afternoon, after spending a brilliant day looking at animals, feeding giraffes and driving a golf cart around the zoo – read about our visit here).
We got our beds ready and started exploring.
Billabong Camp Accommodation
Billabong Camp is a huge fenced campground within Dubbo Zoo. There must be around 40 spacious 2-person tents.
The tents are permanently erected on wooden platforms and furnished with two stretchers, and a mattress if you have a third person. Plus a couple of camping chairs out the front.
Here’s our site. We slept the boys in one tent and the girls in the other. You can BYO sleeping bags, pillows and towels or hire them onsite.
It’s remarkably cosy inside. It was about 9°c overnight and I feared we may need to wear every bit of clothing we brought, but we were quite comfortable with just winter pyjamas. In fact I was warmer in the tent than I was in our cabin at the caravan park the next night!
The setting is exquisite.
Billabong Camp is surrounded by a beautiful and tranquil billabong and, while you can’t see any animals, you can certainly hear them! There’s something quite thrilling about lying in your bed listening to a lion growl or apes call to each other. You may not be in Africa and the animals are safely tucked up in their enclosures, but it still feels like being a part of nature.
Note that due to the water, the minimum age of guests is 5 years old.
Pirate Island was the kids’ favourite spot. This little island is perfect for junior exploration.
All facilities are modern and spotless. This central seating area was the site of the native animal talks and interactions, the BBQ buffet dinner, and delicious pancake breakfast.
Here is my quick video tour of Billabong Camp (2 min) –
Activities at Billabong Camp
The kids soon made themselves at home, racing around with all the other kids. So hubster and I relaxed with a drink! There were a range of beers and very reasonably priced local wines available for purchase, so I sampled an enjoyable Mudgee rose.
One of the best things about staying at Billabong Camp are the native animal encounters on-site, plus after dark and early morning behind-the-scenes walks around the zoo.
Our kids thought they were so grown up hanging out with all the kids rather than sitting with mum and dad. But while they’re making new friends, they’re learning about our native animals in the interactive talks.
Or they’re stepping outside their comfort zone walking through the bush in the pitch black. These guided after dinner walks go through the Australian native animal enclosures by torchlight.
But the best memories come from those precious moments we spent together.
While there were quite a few couples, the whole experience is really ideal for families.
Morning at Billabong Camp
It’s a late night by the time you do the night walks, then have supper under the stars, but we all slept pretty well considering our unusual environment. The kids were exhausted!
At 6.15am next morning the bell rings for breakfast. This was the chilliest time with us all rugged up in parkas and beanies. The kids even went for a jog out to Pirate Island to warm up!
But once the sun gets higher and with a hot breakfast in our tummies, we soon warm up and set off on the morning behind-the-scenes walk.
It is such a peaceful time to be in the zoo, before opening, when the animals are active and ready for their breakfast.
The tigers were especially lovely to see, because some of them are out here on holiday from Taronga Zoo in Sydney, while their enclosure there is being renovated. This was the behind-the-scenes part, and was just a tiny bit terrifying seeing these majestic beasts so close.
The kids were particularly interested in learning about the different containers the keepers use to feed the various animals, in order to stimulate their natural instincts.
But sadly our stay had to come to an end.
Thank you Billabong Camp. This was an unforgettable experience which turned our trip to the zoo into an adventure.
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.
Or find out How to plan your first trip to Dubbo Zoo.
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Have you ever stayed overnight at a zoo?