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.
Hop 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.
The New South Wales Coffs Coast isn’t just a great summer destination. While it’s often warm enough during the winter months to splash around at its beaches, there are plenty of other activities to keep you occupied in this easy going corner of the mid-North Coast. Here are five of them.
Swim with whales
There are only a handful of places around the world where you can swim with whales in their natural habitat, and the Coffs Coast is one of them. From June to October, Jetty Dive in Coffs Harbour takes you out in search of humpbacks and — when it’s safe — lets you slip into the water alongside these gentle giants (August and September only) for a snorkelling experience of a lifetime.
Sign up for a cultural SUP adventure
Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours is an Aboriginal-owned venture on the Coffs Coast that uses stand-up paddle boarding as a way to introduce people to local Gumbaynggirr culture. Not only do its tours offer a great day out, but they also help to support the community, with a percentage of profits invested in the not-for-profit Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation that runs programs to uplift Aboriginal youth.
Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours, Red Rock
CREDIT: Destination NSW
The Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours stand up paddleboarding experience on the Corindi River, Red Rock.
Soak up Sawtell
Just 15 minutes’ drive south of Coffs Harbour, the small coastal town of Sawtell is a charming seaside escape at any time of the year. The winter months are ideal for exploring Sawtell’s hip café scene — don’t miss the Hilltop Store, a licenced café set inside a 1924 general store with a menu championing local seasonal produce. With sweeping ocean views complementing its accessible café menu, The Kiosk Sawtell at the local surf club is another great place to soak up the winter sun over a good coffee.
Coffs Harbour’s Big Banana is more than just a selfie stop — it’s the state’s biggest theme park north of Sydney, with family-friendly rides, mini-golf, laser tag and more. You can even sign up for a workshop at the Cheesemaking Workshop and Deli located on the plantation, and learn how to make your very own halloumi, ricotta, and more.
Cosy up in Diggers Beach Cottage
Opened in 2017, Diggers Beach Cottage is one of the region’s most charming boutique accommodation options. Set in the beautiful Coffs Harbour beach suburb of Diggers Beach, which has a good beach break for surfers, the cottage has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a modern kitchen and a spacious landscaped courtyard. Just 50m from the sand, it’s perfectly located for wintertime beach walks.
Sawtell rock pool at sunset, Coffs Coast
CREDIT: Destination NSW
Sunset at Sawtell rock pool at sunset, Coffs Coast