A visit to Western Plains Zoo in Dubbo is virtually a rite of passage for children across the state. With over three square kilometres of bushland and 700 animals, the zoo is its own safari par, and avoids the ethical pitfalls of smaller zoos which demand limited enclosures. At Western Plains, the animals have enormous spaces that are lovingly maintained by a tireless staff of workers.
A good way to get up close and personal is the Morning Walk, starting at dawn. It may seem early, but you're on animal time now. The two hour tour gets you into all those off-limit areas you've always wondered about, and at the time when animals are most active.
If you don't do mornings, no matter: most enclosures are surrounded by water, meaning there's uninterrupted views of animals from pretty much every angle. Because most animals won’t cross the water barrier, fences are light and the animals can come right up to you.
Western Plains Zoo can be walked, but a good bet is to hire a bicycle or keep the car handy. The sun is fierce and the park is huge.
Where: Dubbo is five to six hours drive from Sydney, so an overnight stay is recommended. Alternatively, flights to Dubbo are only an hour.
When: Western Plains Zoo is open every day of the year, including Christmas.
Who: All ages.
Cost: Adults cost $45 a person, children (4-15 years) are $22 a person, and children under 4 go free. The entry fee includes two consecutive days’ admission. There is a 'mates rates' club for locals.