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. With lots of space, it’s an ideal zoo to visit and practice social distancing.
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.
Note that as the zoo is on a circuit, you’ll need to do the whole route by car (or take a few shortcuts by bike to get from Kilometre 1 marker to Kilometre 3 to shorten your route).
Because the zoo is so large, your entry fee gives you entry on two consecutive days. This provides you with plenty of time to explore the zoo and is great for those with kids who might not be able to do a whole day at the zoo. You’ll need to check the box on the ticketing purchase form to confirm you will be attending both days as they are limiting numbers due to COVID-19.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo features lots of different African animals. You’ll find black and white rhinoceros, zebras, giraffes and cheetahs. These are located in the Gateway to Africa section at the beginning of the park.
Being spring time, we noticed a few babies like a baby rhino, baby hippo, baby giraffe and baby elephant.
Although Keeper Talks have been suspended due to COVID-19, you can check out Virtual Keeper Talks via your own device. Simply scan the QR code signage located at various animal exhibits and learn more about a specific creature.
Because the zoo is an open-range zoo, the animal enclosures are larger. Sometimes it might be necessary to search for an animal over a large area. You might need to walk or bike around the enclosure to spot them.
Some of our favourite animals included the Asian elephants. Hang out here to watch them bathe, roll in the dirt and eat carrots.
Climb up the Observation Tower for a better view of the elephants.
Don’t forget to pack the kids’ swimmers! At Kilometre 2, you’ll find the Waterhole. 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.
If you’ve packed your own lunch, venture to the Bushland Picnic Grounds or Wild Asia Wetlands Picnic Grounds located near Kilometre 3. These picnic areas also have barbecue facilities if you feel like cooking up some lunch.
One interesting exhibition in this area which gets overlooked is Wild Herds. You enter this enclosed area via a traditional yurt to see the Takhi horses from Mongolia.
Inside the various yurts are information about the successful program to save the Takhi, Mongolian horses from extinction. You can also spot the horses from inside the yurt.
Inside the Wild Herds area, you’ll also find Fallow Deer which don’t seem to mind you getting up close.
Next up at the Kilometre 4 mark is the Australian exhibit. Here you’ll find dingoes, kangaroos, wallabies, emus, echidnas and koalas. You’ll need to walk up to the boardwalk circuit for a better view of koalas and the wallabies below. We also spotted a possum curled up in the toilet block – not part of the exhibit!
Also in this area is the impressive Lion Pride Lands. This area is built to resemble a Masai Masia village complete with Pygmy goats that you can pat.
As you enter the exhibit, stop for a selfie with the lion but be prepared for the roar that the sculpture makes. It scared a few kids.
Wander through the lion exhibit and see if you can spot any lions. On the day we visited we saw three lionesses in the enclosure.
Occasionally they would roar, trying to communicate with the male lion next door.
You can either get up close for a look near their enclosure or walk up the hill for a distant view. At the bottom of the hill, you’ll find some kids play activities like crawling underneath like a lioness or balancing on a beam.
As you approach Kilometre 5, you’ll see an additional enclosure containing cheetahs. This is a great spot to see cheetahs especially if you didn’t see them earlier at Kilometre 1.
Next door is the Galapagos Tortoises.
At first, these enormous silent creatures appear to be statues but stand there long enough and you’ll see them moving their heads.
Last but not least is the Safari Park Playground at the end of the route. If your kids still have energy, let them run around and explore the play equipment. There is a flying fox and numerous things they can climb and crawl on.
While you watch your kids play, you can look across and watch the Spider Monkeys and Lemurs climb and play on the exhibits located in nearby Savannah Lake.
Good to know
- Taronga Western Plains Zoo is located just outside Dubbo, about a 5 kilometre drive. There’s free parking for cars and campervans.
- It’s open from 9am to 4pm every day.
- Note that the gates to the carpark do not open until very close to 9am. So be prepared for a big line up of cars if you get there before opening time.
- Your admission ticket is good for two consecutive days. (You’ll need to check the box on the ticketing purchase form to confirm you will be attending both days as they are limiting numbers due to COVID-19). We arrived on the first day at 9am and the zoo was busy. However, on the next day, we arrived at 1pm and the zoo was much quieter.
- If you plan to visit Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo and Taronga Zoo Sydney in the same year, consider a Zoo Friends Membership. This gives you 365 days unlimited access to Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo It costs $99 per year and includes 2 kids free (4 – 15 years) per adult pass. One-off $20 joining fee applies to new memberships only.
- Due to COVID-19, Taronga Western Plains Zoo is cashless so bring a credit or debit card. However, you’ll need to bring cash for the drinks vending machine.
- Due to COVID-19, you’ll need to purchase tickets online (with up to 20% savings online for family tickets) and attend the Zoo on their selected date only. Tickets will NOT be available for purchase at the gate. We noticed a few people trying to buy tickets in person at Taronga Western Plains Zoo and they were advised to purchase tickets via their smartphone. Please note that daily visitation numbers are capped for guest and staff safety so book your tickets early to avoid disappointment.
- You’ll find many hand sanitiser stations all over Taronga Western Plains Zoo. There are also frequent signage for social distancing. Please keep your physical distance from other groups.
- You can hire ungeared orange bikes at the Hire Centre for $17 per day. There are also white BMX bikes for kids to ride. Bike helmets are provided but bring your own to save time trying to fit helmets. We also saw a few bikes with kids seats attached as well as some with kids trailers for hire. If you have bike racks on your car, you can also bring your own bikes. We bumped into friends from Newcastle and they mentioned they had brought their kids bikes from home but rented adult bikes at the zoo. We recommend that you can fully inspect and test ride the hire bike at the Hire Centre as some bikes can be a bit dodgy. You’ll want to make sure the bike is fully operational before setting off on a 5-kilometre circuit.
- Electric carts can fit up to six people, have seat belts and can be hired for $70 for three hours. Note that children under three years old must be restrained in a car seat. Taronga Western Plains Zoo does not supply or install car seats. Guests must supply their own car seat. If you want a cart, you’ll need to line up early when the zoo first opens as they go quick on busy days. If you miss out, you’ll have to put your name down on an afternoon waitlist when the carts get returned and sanitised.
- You can also drive around the zoo. It’s a great option if you’re don’t want to bike, are short on time or have little ones. We did this on the second day and enjoyed driving to specific animal enclosures on the circuit. You’ll just need to walk up to the enclosures and abide by the speed limit.
- Bring lots of water especially on a hot day. Due to COVID-19, water bubblers are non-operational. Either bring water from home or buy bottled water from the vending machines.
- Bring snacks or lunch with you. On the five kilometre circuit, there is only two places to buy food. This is at the Waterhole at Kilometre 2 or Savannah Plaza at Zoo entrance. We noticed that some families who had hired carts had brought large eskies with them on the cart. There are barbecue facilities at the African Savannah Picnic Grounds, Bushland Picnic Grounds or Wild Asia Wetlands Picnic Grounds.
- If you want to stay at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, you have a few options. You can stay at self-contained Zoofari Lodge (with views of animals), Savannah Cabins or in one of the erected tents of Billabong Camp. However, these accommodation options are booked especially during the busy school holidays. There are tons of acommodation options in Dubbo if you don’t want to stay at Taronga Western Plains Zoo.
- For more information, visit the Taronga Western Plains Zoo Dubbo website.
Disclosure: Newy with Kids was provided with complimentary admission for review purposes. However, all opinions are our own.
Want more tips for a great family holiday in Dubbo? Check out our article Family Fun: 10 Things to Do In Dubbo With Kids.
Started in late 2012 by a local mum, Newy with Kids has grown into a thriving go-to family guide for the Newcastle, Lake Macquarie & Hunter region. Parents visit the Newy with Kids website to find things to do with babies, kids and teens. Whether it’s local attractions, upcoming events, kids eat free, school holiday activities or birthday party ideas, Newy with Kids is the best website for local parents to find local kid-friendly activities and information 24/7.