Dubbo, a five-hour drive west of Sydney, and the surrounding Great Western Plains region offers up plenty of adventure to keep the whole family happy. Here you’ll find world-famous caves and outback star gazing, fascinating historical towns and thrilling wildlife encounters.
Uncover Dubbo’s fascinating history
In the heart of the Great Western Plains, the historic town of Dubbo has a rich colonial and criminal history. Tour the Old Dubbo Gaol to experience what life was like for the prisoners in the 19th century through its animatronic and holographic displays. The heritage buildings contain an intriguing collection of artifacts and offers a bird’s-eye view from the watchtower. Go on a Night Tour or brave Beyond the Grave, an adults-only tour (ages 16 plus) where you might commune with the spiritual world.
Delve deeper into Dubbo’s incredible history at the state-of-the-art Western Plains Cultural Centre, home to the city’s art gallery and museum. Admire a range of frequently changing exhibitions, or sign the kids up for a school holiday workshop such as sculpture or printmaking.
Get up close with wildlife
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is widely recognised as Australia’s greatest open-range zoo and is home to more than 1,500 animals from around the world. Lions, black rhinoceros, Sumatran tigers, elephants and giraffe roam 300 hectares of wide open space. The best way to explore the 6km circuit around the plains is by bike or cart, and every day there are keeper talks, animal shows and close encounters to choose from, including big cat, meerkat and giraffe experiences.
You can also get up close to Australia’s largest flightless bird at Emu Logic Farm, near Warrumbungle National Park, north of Dubbo. Take a tour and meet some of the 900 emus that live on the farm, then pick up some emu oil, soap, wax or emu eggs to take home. Visit from mid-July to see newly hatched chicks chasing after their parents.
Go on a cave tour
The Wellington Caves are about 8km south of the nearby town of Wellington. Here you can take fascinating cave tours where you’ll observe stalagmites, stalactites, columns, flowstones and coral. There are three main caves to see: Cathedral Cave, Gaden Cave and the Fossil and Phosphate Mine. On the grounds opposite the caves is the stunning Japanese Osawano Gardens, with its manicured gardens, stream and lake. You can stay overnight at Wellington Caves, with camp and caravan sites, park cabins and units available.
Dubbo is full of adventures for the whole family to enjoy.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo
CREDIT: Destination NSW
Family enjoying a giraffe encounter at Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo.
Hope on your bike
As the name suggests, the Great Western Plains are mostly flat, which makes the region perfect for exploring on two wheels. Cycling trails run through the centre of Dubbo, along the Tracker Riley Cycleway out to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, beside the Macquarie River or through rolling farmland on the 65km Rawsonville to Minore Loop.
For those who prefer transport of the motorised variety, Trike Adventures in Dubbo offer unique and fun motorcycling tours. You can choose from a range of tours including a 30-minute Dubbo highlights tour, a High Tea Experience or an Outback Pub Adventure.
Sample delicious local produce
Pick up some fresh local produce at the Dubbo Farmers Market, held on the first and third Saturday of every month. There’s great coffee and plenty of breakfast options to tide you over while browsing stalls of fruit, vegetables, bread, meat, olive oil, jam, honey, nuts, wine and more. While in Dubbo, be sure to enjoy an award-winning pie from the Village Bakehouse. Run by fourth-generation bakers, specialities include chunky Angus steak, chilli beef and chicken-and-mushroom pies.
Cool off in and on the water
The vast Lake Burrendong, near the town of Wellington, is the Great Western Plains’ aquatic playground. It’s a popular spot for fishing, boating, water skiing canoeing and swimming. There are camping areas close to the shore or two holiday parks offering cabins and other amenities.
In Dubbo, Adventure Craft Hire provides kayaks and paddle boards to get out on the Macquarie River. Choose from single-seat or double-seat kayaks with paddles, life jackets and dry bags included. The Macquarie River is fairly easy paddling and there are many reserves along the trail where you can stop for a well-earned lunch break.
See the skies
The southern hemisphere’s first and only Dark Sky Park is in the Warrumbungle region of country NSW. Dark Sky Parks are recognised internationally for their outstanding nocturnal environment and clear, dark skies. Camp under the stars in Warrumbungle National Park at various camping grounds and heritage huts to take in incredible views of the galaxy. Alternatively, the Warrumbungle Observatory and the Dubbo Observatory, both offer nightly viewing sessions.
For a different perspective of the skies, take an adventure flight in a historic, preserved ex-military aircraft. Warrior Warbird Adventure Flights, operating out of Dubbo, gives people the opportunity to experience the thrill of flight, taking in spectacular views and the excitement of G-forces of up to four times gravity at the bottom of a loop, to momentary weightlessness at the top of a stall turn.
Water Skiing, Lake Burrendong
CREDIT: Destination NSW
Children water skiing across Lake Burrendong, Mumbil.
Easter is a great time to explore New South Wales with the family. Whether you’re travelling up or down the coast, to the country or the outback, be sure to add these fun-filled activities and events to your itinerary.
In and around Sydney
Dating back to 1823, the Sydney Royal Easter Show, held in April, is Australia’s largest ticketed event and is usually attended by more than 800,000 people. It’s a unique celebration of the Australian way of life with agricultural experiences, fresh produce, animal displays, arts and crafts, baking, carnival rides, live entertainment and much more.
The Hawkesbury region, just north of Sydney, grows some of the best produce in the state, and many orchards are open for you to pick your own. April is right in the middle of apple season, so it’s the perfect time to grab a basket and stock up on the freshest fruit. Try Pine Crest, Bilpin Springs or Shields orchards, then stop in for a tasting at the Hillbilly Cider Shed.
Southern Highlands and South Coast
Burrawang Easter Market is one of the longest running markets in the Southern Highlands, a 90-minute drive from Sydney. The market takes over the streets of sleepy Burrawang with more than 150 stalls selling local produce, homewares, jewellery, art and crafts. There are also rides for the kids, face painting, animals and a huge barbecue. When you’ve finished shopping, drop into the Burrawang Pub for a refreshing drink.
The Southern Highlands is famous for its gardens and autumnal colours. Each year, five privately owned gardens open their gates to visitors during the Autumn Open Garden Weekend and Plant Fair (mid-April), showcasing spectacular autumn scenes. The Plant Fair is held at the Southern Highlands Botanic Garden in Bowral, the region’s largest town, with stalls from specialist nurseries along with garden tours, garden art and sculptures and refreshments.
The unspoilt waters off Montague Island is one of Australia’s best snorkelling and diving sites. The island is about 9km off the coast of Narooma, a 4.5-hour drive south of Sydney on the Sapphire Coast. In April, the waters are still warm (before the temperature drops sharply in winter), there are plenty of seals and their pups frolicking in the water, and it is prime time to spot the rare and endangered grey nurse shark. Join a tour of Montague Island with Underwater Safaris, Montague Island Discovery Tours or Narooma Charters from Narooma.
Sydney Royal Easter Show, Sydney.
CREDIT: Destination NSW
Family enjoying a day of apple picking at Shields Orchard, Bilpin.
The Riverina and Country NSW
Easter means chocolate, so where better to spend it than a factory dedicated to the stuff? The Junee Licorice and Chocolate Factory is housed within a restored 1935-built flour mill in the Riverina region of NSW. Enjoy lunch in its provincial-style gardens, then stock up on some high quality organic Belgian style coverture chocolate to see you through the rest of the holidays.
Spend the Easter Long Weekend in the heart of the Riverina wine region at the annual Griffith Easter Party (early April). Celebrating the end of the vintage, this multi-day celebration will feature a host of activities, entertainment, demonstrations, and of course, wine and food for the whole family to enjoy. While in Griffith, be sure to check out some of the Riverina’s world-class wineries and cellar doors, including De Bortoli Wines, Berton Vineyard, Lillypilly Estate Wines and Calabria Family Wines.
The historic Central West town of Bathurst, a three-hour drive from Sydney, celebrates 200 years of its rich history at the Bathurst Heritage Trades Trail (10–11 April, 2021). The festival pays homage to the trades and traditions that have shaped the region, such as blacksmithing, saddlery, lace making, tapestry and glass artistry, delving into the town’s rich heritage and local characters.
The Hunter, North Coast and Outback
The sprawling grounds of the Hunter Valley Gardens, a two-hour drive north of Sydney, will be transformed into an Easter playground (early April) with activities, entertainment, rides and a giant Easter egg hunt. The Easter Bunny is on hand to help with the search as thousands of brightly coloured eggs hidden among the plants. Kids will love having a ride on the garden’s classic Swing Chair, ascending 11 metres into the air.
April is the last month to bounce around at Splash Water Park in the coastal town Nelson Bay, a three-hour drive north of Sydney. The floating waterpark sits just offshore from Nelson Bay beach and is suitable for anyone over the age of six. The course includes a five-metre rock climbing tower that you can jump off, trampolines, monkey bars, balance beams, slides, rope swings and wobbling lily pads.
Byron Bay Bluesfest is also held over the Easter Long Weekend in Byron Bay, on the north coast of NSW. Headline acts usually include international artists as well as local performers, with revellers given the full festival experience from camping and tent hotels to market stalls, great food and busking competitions.
Experience Easter in the NSW Outback at the Lightning Ridge Easter Festival (early April). The weekend in the town of Lightning Ridge, in northwestern NSW, is packed full of events for the whole family, kicking off with a rodeo on Good Friday followed by opal digs, horse races, market stalls, live music, fireworks and more. The festival also showcases the region’s Aboriginal heritage with a Welcome to Country ceremony, cultural performances and local art.
Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin
CREDIT: Destination NSW
Carousel ride and entrance to the Storybook Garden located in the Hunter Valley Gardens, Pokolbin.