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Dubbo Zoo: everything you need to know for great family visit

Getting wild at Dubbo’s Zoo is an animal encounter like no other. You’ll almost feel like you’re in Africa as you cycle, walk or drive to see the lions, giraffe and rhino.

The facts

Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo is the sister zoo of Sydney’s harbourside Taronga Zoo. But with more space and a free range design, a visit to Dubbo Zoo is as close as you’ll get to a safari in Australia.

Watching the rhino at Dubbo Zoo
Watching the rhino at Dubbo Zoo. Credit: Adam Fernandes

Getting to Dubbo Zoo is easy if you’re already in Dubbo in the NSW Central West. Point your car towards Obley Road and follow the big brown tourist signs. There is plenty of free, onsite parking.

If you’re driving to Dubbo from Sydney, Canberra or Newcastle plan for a five to six hour drive. Our suggestion is to take your time exploring the Central West and spread the drive over a couple of days. If you’re pushed for time you can fly to Dubbo from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Newcastle in around an hour.

Read more: Pack up and get driving on a road trip to Dubbo

family riding their bicycles around Dubbo Zoo with zebras in the background
One of the best ways to explore Dubbo Zoo is by bike. Credit: supplied

Dubbo Zoo is open from 9am to 4pm each day. If you’re a Taronga Zoo friend in Sydney then your pass is valid for in Dubbo too.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, check the Taronga Zoo website for information on COVID-safe booking requirements. At the time of writing, visitors need to purchase tickets in advance, and Zoo Friends need to register their visit.

What to see at Dubbo Zoo

Your family of eager beavers will be busy fitting all the circuits into a self-guided adventure.

One of our favourites areas is the Lion Pride Lands where you can see (and hear) the lions up close. Opened in 2018, you can explore a replica African village and learn how villagers live with their livestock in close proximity to lions.

To get even closer to the kings of the jungle, buy a ticket for the daily Pride Lands Patrol. It’s a safe safari truck experience that will take you into the Lion’s den.

It is also worth considering one of the other tours, keeper talks and special meet and greets. Check the Dubbo Zoo website for the weekly schedule. We enjoyed Savannah Safari truck ride and walking with the deer at the Wild Herds exhibit. And the giraffe feeding experience was a hit with young and old.

Read more: African Safari adventures for kids

For an hour-long educational interaction with the Black, White and Great One-Horned rhinos, join the daily Wild Rhino Tour. Or pre-book a spot on the Big Cat Encounter and feed a Sumatran tiger.

If you prefer smaller animals, you can monkey around meerkats at the Meerkat Encounter. You’ll get to go inside the exhibit to sit among the lively meerkat community and chat with their keeper.

Fun little animals keep the little kids entertained at Dubbo Zoo. Credit: Janeece Keller

Where to stay

Accommodation at Dubbo Zoo

Wake up bright eyed and bushy-tailed from a great night’s sleep in the zoo’s overnight accommodation. Pick from three options to find something suited to your mob’s budget and travel style.

At the top end of the options, Zoofari Lodge is a glamping experience as close as you’ll get to a five star safari camp without leaving Australia. The lodges can sleep up to four or six people and have an unmatched view of the giraffe and zebra plains. Choose either a premium or standard package and your family will be able to enjoy a banquet dinner, buffet breakfast, two days’ admission to the zoo, behind the scenes guide tours and bike or cart hire.

An affordable accommodation option for families, the Savannah Cabins also look across grassland to the savannah exhibit in the distance, and are self-contained, three kilometres from the zoo entrance and have two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Animal updates at Taronga Western Plains Zoo. Credit: Rick Stevens

Read more: A campervan road trip from Sydney to Dubbo

For a bush camping experience, opt for the Billabong permanent camping area. Your tents will be already set up for you, with three beds in each. Staying any of these overnight options, as night falls over the jungle and the nocturnal critters come out to play, is a unique and memorable getaway for a family of animal-lovers. The best bit? The next morning, you early birds can catch the worm and explore the zoo before the crowds flock in.

view of the billabong from the permanent tents at the Billabong permanent camping area at Dubbo Zoo
Waking up to the sights and sounds of the billabong at the Billabong permanent camping area. Credit: supplied

Accomodation close to the zoo

There are plenty of hotels and motels available in Dubbo town if you don’t want to stay at the zoo.

Our top pick for where to stay is Discovery Parks Dubbo. Not only is it the closest holiday park to Dubbo Zoo (a 2 minute drive), but it also has the best facilities in town. We’ve stayed in cabins (the three bedroom cabins can sleep up to six people) as well as in an ensuite caravan site. Both are very comfortable and well priced for what they offer.

An ensuite site at Discovery Parks Dubbo. Credit: Janeece Keller

All the facilities at Discovery Parks Dubbo are well maintained. The kids will love the bike track, jumping pillow and water park. For the adults there is a coffee van for your morning caffeine hit, well equiped camp kitchens and basic staples can be purchased at reception.

If you’re not into holiday parks and would prefer a city hotel, try the Best Western Bluegum Motel. It’s located right in the centre of Dubbo town and only a 10-minute drive from the zoo. You’ll find that the rooms are a reasonable size, clean come with free Wi-Fi. One handy addition is the empty bar fridge, which means there’s somewhere to store in-room supplies without any worry about the kids running up a big snack bill.

How to get around Dubbo Zoo

Whether you want to move at snail’s pace or as fast as a cheetah, there are a number of ways to explore. You can follow the 6-kilometre circuit in your car, stopping at animal exhibits and picnic spots along the way. You can unhook trailers or caravans at the entrance.

Golf buggy fun at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo
Golf buggy fun at Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo. Credit: Adam Fernandes

We think that one of the best ways to see Dubbo Zoo is on bicycle. If you don’t have your own you can rent one while you’re there. If you’re travelling with non-riders or babies and toddlers, consider hiring one of the golf carts to transport you during your visit. And if you need a car seat, you can hire one of those too.

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