Getting wild at Western Plains is an animal encounter like no other. You’ll feel like your family is on an African savannah as you explore the expansive enclosures of lions, giraffes, rhinos and more. The sister zoo of Sydney’s harbourside Taronga, Dubbo’s Taronga Western Plains is an exotic safari on Aussie soil, from the comfort of your own car or bike.

Eyes like a hawk – what to see

Free as a bird to explore the habitats as you please, your family of eager beavers will be busy as bees fitting all the zoo circuits into your self-guided stroll or bike ride. It is also worth perusing the lion’s share of tours, keeper talks and special meet and greets available on the zoo’s weekly schedule. Starting at $5 on top of your admission, you can take a short guided truck ride past African animals on the Savannah Safari, or participate in Giraffes in Focus, which will have you feeding and photographing the loping, long-necked beasts up close.
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 mega-fauna have you chickening out, monkey around with something smaller at the Meerkat Encounter, which grants you access inside the exhibit to sit among the lively meerkat community and chat with their keeper.

Cat nap – where to stay overnight

Wake up as bright eyed and bushy-tailed as a possum 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. The Zoofari lodges can sleep up to four or six people, and are situated with an unmatched view overlooking 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.
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.

Super safari – how to get around

Whether you want to move at snail’s pace or as fast as a cheetah, there are a number of ways to wander around Western Plains Zoo. 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. Mums and Dads can also drive an electric cart instead, costing $69 for three-hour hire. Alternatively, horse around on the back of a bike and cycle your way past lions and tigers and bears, oh my! You can bring your own set of wheels, or hire a bike for $15 for a whole day from the Zoo Hire Centre.