As we drove through the giant grass gates at the entrance to Taronga Western Plains Zoo we immediately felt like we were on safari – a feeling that stayed with us for the whole day.
Located in Dubbo, central West New South Wales, it is just one of the incredible things to do in the region with kids and when you visit, make sure you don’t rush. Your zoo pass alone is valid for 2 whole days – so stay a while and really enjoy all the attractions on offer.
The zoo is enormous and is viewed via a 6km meandering circuit around the different wildlife areas. You will get a map when you arrive (or you can plan your trip in advance by having a look at the zoo map here) and a schedule of the days’ events so you can take a self-guided adventure around the zoo.
There are hundreds of animals to meet and admire, as well as a full day of keeper talks and feeding times that you can watch. My absolute favourite thing about the experience (apart from the Galapagos Tortoises who are just too amazing for words!) is how close you feel to all the wildlife. There are no cages in sight or giant fences to look through – the zoo is designed incredibly well with natural habitats for the wildlife which blends in naturally to the surrounds. As you walk, drive or cycle around you can actually believe you are amongst the animals on a safari, and that an elephant might cross your path any minute!
Getting Around the Zoo
You can choose your means of transport for the day –
- Drive your own car around (make sure you get out lots to walk around and get up close to the wildlife)
- Walk around (long distances involved though so not a great option with little kids – it can also get hot in Summer!)
- Hire an electric cart – this was hubby’s favourite option – it’s so much fun driving one of these around, parking it up and leaping out when we saw something exciting! Just note – if your kids are small like ours and need to use a car seat the same rules apply to the electric cars so you’ll need to bring your own. We moved ours from the bus into the car no problem.
- Ride bikes – my favourite way to get around! They have adult and kids’ bikes for hire – as well as toddler seats and cabooses to pull behind. Our 2 year old fell asleep in the electric car so me and Mr 3 year old went and hired bikes (he hadn’t stopped talking about them since he saw the kids’ bikes lined up when we arrived!) The roads are easy to navigate and despite a few uphills where we got off and pushed, he managed to cycle the whole way around all by himself (and wanted to go again!) The thing I loved about the bikes was that you could cycle much further into the different areas and go onto trails and paths that you could only access if you were walking – not by car or electric car. You can hire bikes from the zoo, they provide helmets too – or you can bring your own.
Lunch with a Lion
Around the zoo are loads of beautiful picnic spots – we chose to bring our own lunch and ate it next to the amazing safari-themed play park so the boys could play while we sat in peace! I really liked the look of the picnic area in the African Savannah and there were loads of other secret spots hidden away. We also had a cold drink and an ice cream at Bakhita’s Café overlooking the spider monkeys and Lemurs on the Savannah Lake island – they had some delicious looking things available for breakfast and lunch too.
Tourism for a Future
Taronga is invested in conserving wildlife and the environment, so every dollar that you spend at the zoo helps to protect, preserve and rehabilitate over 350 different species – many of which are threatened. Taronga are heavily involved in animal welfare – they have breeding programs, a wildlife hospital and many active conservation programs in a bid to ensure a shared future for wildlife and people.
At Taronga Western Plains Zoo we loved meeting and learning about the endangered rhino species there and finding out what we could to do help protect them.
At the entrance to the zoo is the Savannah Visitor Plaza including the ticket office, gift shop and cafe, and the Safari Playground – all free entry. The playground is brilliant – with lots of model zoo animals to climb on, a giant flying fox and a big enclosed tower to climb.
365 Days of Fun!
The zoo is open 365 days a year from 9am – 4pm – with extended hours during school holidays. Kids under 4 get free entry and you can save 20% on zoo tickets when you book online. In March 2018 Taronga Western Plains Zoo will unveil it’s brand new exhibit – the Pridelands African Adventure – where you can experience a journey through Africa and immerse yourself in village life. If you are located not too far from the zoo then an annual pass is definitely the way to go – an adult pass currently costs $99 and up to 2 kids are included for free on this ticket – giving you unlimited access for a full year.
Where to stay!
We have a dog – who we got amazing doggy day care in Dubbo with Pinecrest Kennels while we visited the zoo (no animals are allowed past the entry gates due to quarantine). For this reason we couldn’t stay overnight at one of the amazing sounding options at the zoo (although Pinecrest do offer overnight stays at the kennels too if required and are only 5 minutes drive away).
The zoo offers camping at the Billabong Camp, the Savannah Cabins or the ultimate in overnight zoo experiences – the Zoofari Lodge where you can overlook the wildlife on the Savannah. For all of their zoo accommodation options have a look at their website.
Watch our video below for all our highlights and head to the Taronga Western Plains Zoo website for more info and to buy your safari tickets today!