Enjoy a family holiday in Dubbo in Central New South Wales. It’s packed with fun things to do with kids and it’s just a manageable four-hour drive from the Newcastle & Hunter region. We recently visited Dubbo and enjoyed a number of attractions including the Royal Flying Doctor Experience, Taronga Western Plains Zoo and Wellington Caves.
Royal Flying Doctor Experience
Located near Dubbo Airport, this centre is worth visiting. Recently opened in 2019, this technologically advanced and innovative centre is great to visit with kids.
The centre charts the history of the Royal Flying Doctor Service from its humble beginnings to what it is today. You’ll learn about the various bases of the service as well as its expansion into dental surgery vans and mental health services.
Kids will love playing with interactive displays. There are iPads to pick up and interact with different rooms, drawers to pull out and inspect and of course an aircraft that kids can sit in.
The main focus of the centre is its large four screens. Here you’ll see real-time flight data about current RFD missions including location and aircraft speed. Make sure you catch the 8 minute documentary film on the RFD. It runs every 45 minutes and explains the impact of the Royal Flying Doctor service to regional and rural Australia.
Once the film is over, check out the various kid-friendly interactive displays. Here you can do a simulation of a flight including pre-flight preparation, flying and even clearing kangaroos off the landing strip before arrival.
If you get hungry, stop for a snack or lunch at the Outback Trek cafe. It has incredible food and you can dine next to a replica of a mothball plane.
Location: 21 Judy Jakins Drive, Dubbo
Website: Royal Flying Doctor Experience
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
For a different zoo experience, visit Taronga Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo. The sister zoo to Taronga Zoo Sydney, this large zoo is a safari-style park with large open range exhibits. Getting around the zoo is half the fun. You can explore the five-kilometre circuit on foot, by car or by bike or electric carts which can be hired at the entry. (You can also bring your own bikes from home). If you want to get up close to animals, exploring the zoo by bike is recommended as you can venture off onto smaller paths and trails off the main circuit.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo features lots of different animals from around the world as well as a section on Australian animals. Being a larger facility, the zoo has some large creatures including elephants, lions, Sumatran tigers, black and white rhinoceros, zebras, giraffes and cheetahs. There are also a selection of herd animals including the Bongos and Takhi horses.
Don’t forget to pack the kids’ swimmers as The Waterhole has recently opened. This is a new area which features a water play area, cafe and seating area.
The water play area is a top spot for kids to cool off on a hot day before they return to animal spotting. You’ll also find meerkats and Barbary sheep enclosures at the Waterhole. For more tips about visiting Taronga Western Plains Zoo, check out our review.
Location: Obley Road, Dubbo
Website: Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo
Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden
Botanic gardens might not be on your list of family fun but it should be. With free entry, the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is worth a visit especially as it’s conveniently located next door to the Dubbo Regional Adventure Playground. Made up of four separate gardens, Shoyoen Japanese Garden, Sensory Gardens, Oasis Valley and Biodiversity Garden, it’s a relaxing spot to visit and see different types of plants. On the day we visited, there were lots of kids enjoying the gardens including families and a school group.
The Japanese Garden is sublime with large koi swimming around and a pagoda. Walk through the Sensory Gardens and use your senses to connect with the plants. The herb garden is especially fragrant.
As well as plants, you’ll also find sandstone sculptures dotted around the gardens.
Walk through the Biodiversity garden and identify the traditional Wiradjuri uses of different plants with this handy guide. Look below a plant to see it’s name and icons for different uses.
Location: Coronation Drive, Dubbo
Hours: Open from 7am to 5pm Monday to Friday and 9.30am – 5.00pm on weekends. Closed Christmas Day, New Years Day and Good Friday.
Website: Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden
Dubbo Regional Adventure Playground
Located next door to Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is the Adventure Playground. This is an amazing large playground with over 40 different play elements. It’s a beautiful playground with lots of timber equipment and sandstone spread around a landscaped hill.
There is plenty to keep kids happy including a massive climbing structure with a giant slide, flying fox, basket swing and lots of balancing equipment.
There is also accessible elements including a wheelchair friendly Liberty Swing.
For younger kids, head to the other side of the playground. There you will find a smaller play structure plus a water play area. The playground includes plenty of seating, toilets and barbecues so it’s easy to spend a couple of hours here.
Location: Coronation Drive, Dubbo
Website: Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden
Hours: The playground is open daily from 8am – 6pm except for Wednesday and some public holidays. Note that the playground is closed for maintenance from 8am – 12noon each Wednesday. Free entry.
Elston Park is a great place to visit to let kids run off some steam. Bounded by Cobra, Fitzroy & Gipps Street, it has a fun playground including a flying fox. There is also plenty of lawn area and flowers to enjoy. The park also features a water play area which is open during the warmer months.
Victoria Park is a beautiful historic park in the middle of Dubbo with beautiful gardens and lots of trees. It also features an All Abilities Playground called Livvi’s Place. There is a large climbing net, swings and equipment close to the ground. Also nearby, is a large skate park.
If you’re visiting Dubbo, consider a visit to Wellington Caves, a 45-minute drive from Dubbo. It’s your opportunity to tour caves in which they found bones of Australian Megafauna as well as see stalagmites and stalactites. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only the Cathedral Cave tours are running with smaller group sizes for the caves so you’ll need to book early to get a spot.
The tour starts from the Main Building and you’ll walk up to the entrance of the cave securely located behind a padlocked gate. It’s an exciting start to the cave tour which involves 300 steps in total.
The tour lasts for an hour and involves touring a series of caves including the famous Cathedral Cave. This contains a 15-metre stalagmite made of limestone and crystal as well as rock formation called The Altar. Historically, this cave was used for church services and actually contains a bible now covered with calcite from an overhead stalactite.
We also learned about the Devonian marine fossils located on the limestone walls. These are fossil corals and other marine invertebrates that indicate that this area was a sea bed roughly 400 million years ago.
One of our favourite features was The Well, a beautifully coloured deep well in one of the far corners of the caves. It shimmers due to the crystal floor which is a build up of calcite.
If you have time before or after a cave tour, book in for the fossil finding sessions in the Discovery Lab. In this 45-minute session, kids get to sift through dirt from Wellington Caves using brushes, tweezers and magnifying glasses. We found teeth, fossils, bone fragments and crystals.
There are additional Dubbo attractions to visit which we plan to do on our next trip to Dubbo.
Old Dubbo Gaol
Step back in time and visit Old Dubbo Gaol to learn more about the harsh penal system of the 1800s. Due to COVID-19, there are no performances or guided tours. Currently, only self-guided tours are available.
A self-guided tour allows you to explore the restored gaol grounds, read the displays and learn about the harshness of prison life. Meet, hear and see the Condemned Man and view original and rare Gaol artefacts.
Location: 90 Macquarie Street, Dubbo
Website: Old Dubbo Gaol
Dubbo Aquatic Centre
Enjoy some fun in the water at Dubbo Aquatic Centre. You can’t miss seeing this in the middle of town with its large waterslides. This centre includes an Olympic size swimming pool, children’s leisure pool, splash park and waterslides. There is also disability chair lift and wheelchair equipment for those with accessibility.
Location: Corner of Talbragar and Darling streets, Dubbo
Website: Dubbo Aquatic Centre
Western Plains Cultural Centre
If your family likes museums and galleries, visit the Western Plains Cultural Centre. You can learn more about the Dubbo region at the Western Plains Cultural Centre which includes a Gallery, Museum and Community Art Centre. Through cutting edge exhibitions and programs, the Western Plains Cultural Centre aims to connect and share the culture of Western NSW with visitors. Highlights include Australia’s largest wool wagon, a carved tree of significance to local indigenous people and 1950s Classroom, an interactive exhibit which reflects upon the old school days of regimented desks, blackboards and ink wells. It’s free admission and open daily.
Location: 76 Wingewarra Street, Dubbo
Website: Western Plains Cultural Centre
In 2012, Reena founded Newy with Kids to share information about family-friendly Newcastle. Originally from Canada, she had no idea about what to do with her toddler and after searching unsuccessfully for a local family guide, decided to start her own. Since that time, both the toddler and Newy with Kids have grown keeping Reena busy. If you see her out and about, say hi.