The New South Wales Central West city of Dubbo has rolled out the red carpet for royalty a number of times, but this is a destination that warmly welcomes everyone. Here are ten amazing things to see and do around town.
History lovers will certainly enjoy their visit to Dubbo, but there’s plenty on offer here to keep those with a broad range of interests entertained.
As a key agricultural centre, Dubbo offers paddock to plate pleasures, and is home to a number of family friendly attractions like the famous Western Plains Zoo. There’s also no shortage of opportunities to get out of town and immerse yourself in the rugged rural beauty of the surrounding landscape.
Here are ten of the best things to do in Dubbo.
1. Explore the Dubbo of yesteryear
Drop in to the Dubbo Visitor Information Centre and collect a map for the self-guided Dubbo City Heritage Walk. The walk takes in many ornate heritage-listed buildings around town. Keep an eye out for the very elaborate Court House building and the intricate architecture of St Brigid’s Catholic Church. They are absolutely beautiful. Each site you visit has its own story. You’ll also learn about some of the shady characters (from bushrangers to underworld figures) who have called Dubbo home over the decades.
2. Do time in the Old Dubbo Gaol
Set back from the main street in the heart of town is the famous Old Dubbo Gaol. The gaol operated from 1847 to 1966 and is now a wonderfully preserved heritage site. Enter through the heavy wooden doors and visit the main cell block where life-like mannequins in prison attire illustrate the daily life of prisoners. The cell blocks ring with voice recordings of prisoners hollering and shouting over the top of one another, which, although unsettling, makes for a fascinating experience.
The gaol doesn’t gloss over the darkest moments in Australian prison history. See the hangman’s kit and gallows, and experience what it was like to be in a super dark solitary confinement cell. For those with a thirst for history and adrenaline, the Beyond the Grave Tour offers access to the gaol after dark (adults only). There’s also a kid-friendly theatrical Twilight Tour offered during school holidays.
3. Meet the locals at Taronga Western Plains Zoo
There are three life-sized multi-coloured sculptures of the black rhino around Dubbo that highlight the rhino conservation programme at the Taronga Western Plains Zoo — one of the city’s most popular attractions. The sculptures provide selfie opportunities that can’t be missed! The zoo itself occupies about 300 hectares of plains country and gives you the feeling of being on an African safari. There’s a six kilometre fenced circuit that surrounds the open range area where lots of different species of the animals roam. You can make your way around the circuit on foot, by bicycle or in an electric cart. The new Lion Pride Lands enclosure is also a must-see.
You’ll want to take your time enjoying the zoo so it’s great that tickets are valid over two consecutive days. It’s even possible to stay overnight in one of the zoo’s immersive accommodation options.
Tucked in behind the zoo you’ll find Red Earth Estate — Dubbo’s only commercial vineyard and cellar door. The estate is known for its rieslings and cabernet sauvignons. Here you can enjoy a wine tasting and platter of delicious cheeses, fresh fruit and other produce from the surrounding region. If you’re not into wine, don’t worry. The vineyard also serves delicious morning and afternoon teas. Sit back and relax under the verandah festooned with hanging vines.
5. Get arty at the Western Plains Cultural Centre
The fabulous Western Plains Cultural Centre art gallery and museum is located on the site of the old Dubbo High School and is the cultural heart of the city. It exhibits some stunning Indigenous artworks and contemporary pieces. The Dubbo Regional Gallery makes up half of the cultural centre and displays the city’s story through artefacts and a photographic timeline titled Peoples Places Possessions. In the centre of the exhibition stands a carved white box tree of great significance to the local Aboriginal community. While this exhibition is permanent, others throughout the gallery change regularly.
6. Stop and smell the flowers in the Botanic Gardens
On a very hot day a stroll through the beautiful Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens is refreshing. Entry is free, and the gardens are divided into four parts. The stunning Shoyoen (or ‘strolling’) Japanese Garden has some wonderful waterfalls and benches where you can sit and enjoy the peacefulness. The Sensory Garden has been designed to engage visitors through all five senses (smell, sight, sound, touch and taste). Follow the labelling closely to find plants that are safe to taste. The Biodiversity Garden showcases plant species native to the Dubbo region, while the Oasis Valley Garden, the newest addition, exhibits dry rainforest plant species and tells the story of how these plants evolved. Be warned — it’s easy to lose track of time completely as you wander through each section.
7. Tour the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Education Centre
Located a short drive northwest of the city, the Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Education Centre provides a fascinating insight into the vital role the service plays in remote areas of Australia. Your visit will start with a very informative video about the RFDS, followed by a guided tour of the centre. Take a walk outside and you’ll discover a replica aircraft, which is kitted out exactly like the ones in use by the service. Stepping into the plane brings home just how cramped the space is that the medics work in. It makes you appreciate the wonderful job they do all the more.
8. Enjoy Dubbo’s diverse dining scene
Dubbo has a surprisingly diverse dining scene. There are plenty of options for lunch and dinner, but here are two recommendations. After a busy morning of sightseeing, drop into the Village Bakery Café for a mouth-watering, award-winning 100% Aussie beef pie. The bakery is owned and operated by a fourth-generation Dubbo family. Try the ‘pie of the day’. You won’t be disappointed!
In the evening, book a table at Two Doors Wine and Tapas Lounge. It serves Modern Australian cuisine with a Mediterranean twist. There’s an extensive wine list on offer or you may like to sample the zesty sangria. Try the delicious steak tacos, and if you have room for dessert, indulge in the churros in caramel sauce.
9. Relax by, on, or in the Macquarie River
There are so many ways to enjoy the Macquarie River, which flows through the centre of Dubbo. You can walk or ride the cycling tracks that follow the course of the river for several kilometres, or hire a kayak or stand-up paddle board from Adventure Craft Hire. Leave some time to explore Terramungamine Reserve, which is located by the river to the north of the city. It has more than 150 rock grooves created by generations of the Tubbagah First People for sharpening tools and weapons. Swimming is an option at popular Sandy Beach, while on the opposite side of the river, Sir Roden Cutler Park makes a great picnic spot.
10. Eat fresh at the Dubbo Farmers’ Market
The Dubbo Farmers Market is held on the first and third Saturday of the month come rain, hail or shine. Enjoy a fresh coffee while browsing the stalls for wonderful local produce. The goodies on offer include fruits, vegetables and herbs, along with freshly baked bread, preserves, marinades and much more. Pick up supplies for that riverside picnic.