The central New South Wales city of Dubbo recently hosted yet another royal visit. That’s six and counting since the 1920s! The truth is this friendly outback town has plenty to inspire repeat visits, and here are some tips for planning your next Dubbo short break…
Once upon a time, visitor experiences in Dubbo were limited to time in the stocks at the Old Dubbo Gaol and lazy days spent by the Macquarie River.
Like most things in life though, Dubbo has become far more sophisticated over the decades, and today this thriving Aussie outback destination offers a diverse range of attractions, cultural activities and culinary experiences that tick all the boxes for a superb short break. At five hours driving time from Sydney, the distance is just doable for a two or three-day self-drive getaway. If you’re on a tight schedule, do as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex did and jet in and out of town. Flying time from the New South Wales capital is one hour.
Here’s a selection of Dubbo short break ideas for every type of traveller. Mix and match depending on your interests and build your perfect stay.
Dubbo short break ideas for culture lovers
Culture vultures will find plenty to keep them on the go during a stay in Dubbo. Make your first stop the sophisticated Western Plains Cultural Centre which opened in 2007 and brought the collections of the Dubbo Museum and Dubbo Regional Gallery under one state-of-the-art roof. You’ll need at least half a day to do the centre any sort of justice. Also check out what’s happening at the Dubbo Regional Theatre. It hosts theatrical productions, musical events and stand-up comedy.
The Dubbo Arts and Crafts Society on Cobra Street showcases work by local artists, including patchwork, painting, weaving and woodwork. Call ahead to check they’re open on the day you want to visit. The Dubbo Rotunda Market is also a good way to connect with local creatives. It’s held on the 4th Sunday of the month. If you happen to be visiting Dubbo in October, the DREAM Festival celebrates Dubbo’s creative spirit in all its many guises.
Dubbo short break ideas for families
As the home of the fabulous Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Dubbo is the ideal short break destination for families. The zoo’s discounted family packages are great value. Given your ticket is valid for two days, you’re bound to spend extra time here traversing the 300 hectares of open plains country, which is home to creatures great and small.
Exploring the zoo by bicycle (extra cost applies) is an immersive experience the whole family will love. Also check out the award-winning Livvi’s Place playground at Victoria Park, which has been designed to cater to kids of all ages and abilities – including those with a learning or neurological disability. Holding the kids’ interest on a standard city tour can be challenging, but Trike Adventures offers a Dubbo city sightseeing experience with a very loud but thoroughly engaging difference.
Dubbo short break ideas for history lovers
Most families also have the Old Dubbo Gaol on their to-do list and this superb stalwart attraction is not to be missed. Experience the harsh realities of what life was like in a colonial prison (although the gaol actually operated right through until the late 1960s). There’s no sugar coating of the facts here. See the gallows, the hangman’s tool of trade, and check out the pitch-black confinement cells. History lovers will also appreciate the self-guided Dubbo City Heritage Walk.
Pick up a map from the Dubbo Visitor Information Centre and head off on a circuit of 37 heritage landmarks around town. About 7 kilometres south of Dubbo you’ll find Dundullimal Homestead — Dubbo’s oldest building with public access. It offers a fascinating insight into the region’s pioneering heritage. A guided tour is a great way to get the most from your visit. North of the city is the excellent Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Education Centre, where you can trace the history of this vital part of outback life.
Dubbo short break ideas for outdoor enthusiasts
Much of Dubbo’s recreational scene centres around the Macquarie River. Sandy Beach is a popular patch of sand where locals go to cool off, fish and canoe. For those who want to get to know the river a little better, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding are offered by Adventure Craft Hire, which operates from Ollie Robbins Oval.
Cycling is another way to enjoy the great outdoors around Dubbo. The city’s fairly flat terrain and eight+ kilometres of off-road cycle paths will suit cyclists of all ages and levels. The 13-kilometre Tracker Riley Cycleway will take you along the Macquarie River and out past the zoo, before looping back towards the CBD.
Dubbo short break ideas for foodies
Foodies can tuck into a tantalising array of tastes from the Macquarie Valley region during their stay in Dubbo. A paddock-to-plate ethos reigns supreme. Try celebrated Veldt Restaurant for Modern Aussie, and Two Doors Wine and Tapas Lounge for Mediterranean-inspired bites served in a rustic sandstone setting. Old Bank Restaurant and Bar is a good bet for a great steak. For brunch, head to quirky Short Street Store or Press.
Be warned — the later you leave it (especially on weekends), the longer the wait for a table will be. Wine lovers will want to pay a visit to Red Earth Estate — Dubbo’s only commercial vineyard — for a wine and cheese pairing served in the cellar door or under the shade of the wrap around verandah. The Dubbo Farmers Market on the first and third Saturdays of each month offers a chance to connect with local food producers and shop for a riverside picnic.
Dubbo short break ideas for nature lovers
Green thumbs should make a bee-line for the Dubbo Regional Botanic Gardens. There are four zones to explore, including the magnificent Japanese strolling garden with its waterfall, streams, footbridges and wide range of floral inhabitants. The Sensory Garden caters to all five senses (smell, sight, sound, touch and taste), while the Biodiversity Garden showcases native plant species that were prevalent in the region prior to European settlement.
Need a place to stay?
Comfort Inn Dubbo City offers a well-appointed stay within easy walking distance of the CBD and its many parks and attractions. An outdoor pool is the perfect way to cool off in the heat of summer, while all guest rooms are air-conditioned.
Just a short distance away is Comfort Inn Blue Lagoon. This hotel also offers an outdoor pool, along with comfortably furnished rooms. Sails Restaurant is located onsite, and serves breakfast Tuesday to Sunday, and dinner seven nights a week.
Quality Inn Dubbo International is situated just minutes from Taronga Western Plains Zoo and is the ideal spot to base yourself for a family visit to this world-class attraction. Hotel amenities include an outdoor spa, pool and poolside bar. The hotel also features two restaurants – the Royal Dubbo Golf Club and Reflections. Room service is available.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.