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Way out to the north west of Sydney, in the flat sheep-covered plains of central New South Wales, lies Dubbo, home of the magnificent Taronga Western Plains Zoo. With the Sydney to Dubbo drive being over 5 hours drive, this road trip needs at least a long weekend to do it justice, preferably more. Especially when there’s so much to see along the way.
On the recent ANZAC Day long weekend we took the new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport to visit Dubbo with kids, and we were captivated by the beauty of the natural wonders that we discovered.
Sydney to Dubbo drive
Mitsubishi Pajero Sport
First of all, let me introduce you to our home away from home for this Sydney to Dubbo drive with kids. We must have spent at least 15 hours in this baby, so its comforts were greatly appreciated!
The new Mitsubishi Pajero Sport is the ultimate family sports car. It has all the style, luxury and technological gadgetry that I know I like to have, together with genuine four-wheel drive performance. To be frank, I like a car to look good. And this one does. It has you sitting up high (the kids loved the running board to step up on!), with masses of interior space, but doesn’t feel huge to drive.
Inside is all leather and chrome, with lots of buttons to press. I could get used to this!
And in the back you’ll find a magical invention – the rear DVD player with wireless headphones. I particularly like that the screen doesn’t block the driver’s view out the back window – a problem I’ve come across in similar cars. But the big win is the peace and quiet that results! And while the kids are happily occupied, I love pinning hubster down for a heart to heart when we’re in the car and he can’t escape.
The kids tried the boot out with Bailey the maltelier (Maltese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cross), having a quick cuddle and play before we took him to his doggie boarding for the duration of the trip.
Believe me, the boot did not look like this when I packed it on the way there. Everything was thrown in haphazardly! But hubster was in control coming home, so you’ll find four suitcases and sleeping bags in two neat rows, with four camping chairs, four pillows, towels, parkas and bike helmets all fitting in easily, together with apples that we picked at Bilpin. And a fresh apple pie snuggled happily in a corner.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
We had limited time to get from out to Dubbo on the Friday, so we did minimal stops, and sightseeing only through the window. There are plenty of kangaroos out there on the plains, so try to time your trip to be driving in daylight if possible. You do not need the heart attack (or something much worse) when one leaps out of the darkness in front of you.
First thing Saturday we headed to the main objective of our trip – Taronga Western Plains Zoo (aka Dubbo Zoo). This is an impressive open range zoo, which works in conjunction with Taronga Zoo in Sydney to provide breeding and conservation programs, and the open plains needed by larger animals. There is a 6 kilometre circuit that you can drive, cycle or walk.
Having grown up in Melbourne, I had never been, so we were all very excited as the day welcomed us with postcard-perfect weather.
Click here for How to plan your first trip to Dubbo Zoo – all the tips and tricks to make your first trip a great trip!
Between Sydney and Dubbo
Located less than an hour out of Dubbo, Wellington Caves manages to combine adventure and education. It was the kids’ first time in an underground cave filled with stalagmites and stalactites, which ticked the adventure box. And there were some fascinating dinosaur/geological/fossil tidbits to learn along the way.
Surrounded by vineyards, this friendly town played host to a moving ANZAC Day ceremony, so we listened and sang while we took a break from our long drive with some tasty bakery treats. A special prayer went out for my great-grandad who thankfully returned from Gallipoli.
Lake Windamere is a huge dam just off the highway near Mudgee. It is popular for water sports and fishing, but also offers some lovely lookouts for road trippers keen to stretch their legs.
Hassans Walls Lookout
You can see forever at Hassans Walls Lookout near Lithgow in the Blue Mountains. It is the highest lookout in the Blue Mountains at approximately 1,100 metres above sea level. Look out to Mount Wilson, Mount York, Mount Tarana and Mount Blaxland and the whole Hartley Valley below.
Bilpin Fruit Bowl
The kids loved picking apples in North Carolina last year, so we had to stop in at Bilpin on Dubbo to Sydney drive home. They were thrilled with their haul of Pink Ladies, and hubster and I snaffled a fresh apple pie to be enjoyed after the kids have gone to bed.
Where to stay in Dubbo with kids
Billabong Camp at Taronga Western Plains Zoo
This is an unforgettable experience which turns your trip to the zoo into an adventure.
Billabong Camp is one of three accommodation options in the grounds of the 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’m not a camper, but this was wonderful. Everything is done for you!
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.
Click here for our full review of Billabong Camp, including the accommodation, facilities and activities.
BIG4 Dubbo Parklands
After staying at Billabong Camp for one night, move to this caravan park just down the road from the zoo. With a swimming pool, water slide, water park, playground, jumping pillow and BMX track, it is more resort than campground. And if your kids are anything like mine, they will go crazy for the bunk beds. The novelty of sleeping in them never seems to wear off!
Where to eat in Dubbo
Your meals are all provided at Billabong Camp and you’re likely to have a kitchen at the BIG4 Dubbo, but if you’re looking to have a meal out then the Milestone Hotel in the centre of town has a very family friendly bistro with a terrific range of pub food plus friendly service.
The Mitsubishi Pajero Sport was the perfect car for our road trip to Dubbo. I loved all the gadgets like the one touch start (you press a button – keys are so last century!), automatic wipers and lights, and dual controls on the air conditioning. And she’s so cute the way she tucks in her side mirrors when you park and lock up.
I’ll never say no to leather seats, and the reversing camera screen is huge! You can see super well because the screen is so big, but you also get a bird’s-eye view of your car! Very very clever. It may not have been used too much during our road trip, but it was an absolute winner when I had to back into those minuscule spots at the supermarket!
The thing that really did stand out during the road trip was the fuel consumption, or lack thereof. I’m the one who fills our car, but I couldn’t tell you how much fuel costs a litre. I just don’t notice this stuff. But even I noticed that the fuel gauge hardly seemed to move with all those kilometres we travelled. We put some fuel into it in Dubbo, but the 8.0L per 100km it offers does seem to be quite remarkable for a big car like this.
For more information visit the Mitsubishi Pajero Sport Showroom.
Or read our comprehensive Review of Billabong Camp, the all-inclusive fully immersive on-site camping experience.
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Have you been to Dubbo Zoo?