Dubbo, NSW travel guide and things to do: Nine highlights


If ever an excuse is required to visit Dubbo, the prosperous Central West NSW town of almost 36,000, it is the showpiece Taronga Western Plains Zoo. This fantastic attraction, with its collection of ostensibly African and Asian range animals, including various species of rhino, doesn't disappoint. There's also a choice of accommodation within the zoo's boundaries, including glamping-style tents and well-equipped cabins while a central Waterhole precinct with a cafe, fountains and integrated animal exhibits, opened earlier this year. See taronga.org.au


Not many towns have a jail wedged right between regular shopfronts on the main street. Now a museum, the 19th-century Old Dubbo Gaol, complete with a padded cell, is located on bustling Macquarie Street. The jail is undergoing a multi-million dollar restoration and will soon offer new interactive exhibits and even a spruced-up set of gallows from the capital punishment era. However, this grimly compelling attraction can still be visited ahead of its full reopening later this year. See olddubbogaol.com.au


Aside from the aforementioned zoo's tents and cabins,  motels - and many of them - lined up up along the highways leading in and out of town, remain the main form of accommodation in Dubbo. But there's dramatic and welcome change afoot in the form of The Repose, a superbly-renovated cottage with a hint of Provence in an otherwise undistinguished residential street near the heart of town. There are two dapper bedrooms accommodating up to four people as well as a fully-equipped kitchen opposite a small but elegant courtyard. See airbnb.com.au


If you thought the Royal Flying Doctor Service had enough on its surgical-gloved hands  looking after as many as eight million people across regional Australia, you'd be wrong. Along with its medical duties, tourism has become an important source of revenue for this remarkable charitable operation as well as a means of communicating its vital message. The Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Experience at Dubbo Airport tells the story of its extraordinary "7.69 million square kilometres waiting room" through interactive exhibits including a specially-commissioned film on the far-flung beneficiaries of its services. See dubbo.experience.flyingdoctor.org.au


Both diehard Dubbo-ites and in-the-know outsiders flock to Press at opening time each morning in the knowledge that is the best caff in town by far. Set in the beautifully-restored, erstwhile 1930s cottage premises of The Land newspaper, take your pick of coffee and food, including a mean bacon and egg roll, to go from the handy take-away window on the street or a table inside. Even a fleeting visit will confirm why Press, open for breakfast and lunch, is the great flat white hope of a cooler Dubbo. See pressdubbo.com.au


Dubbo has benefited greatly in recent years from its sons and daughters returning to their hometown after periods spent elsewhere in Australia or overseas. One such example is Tenelle Bond, who returned to Dubbo and opened her own speakeasy, the Establishment Bar, suitably concealed in a dark and discreet upstairs location near the entrance to Old Dubbo Gaol. Not only is there an inviting choice of cocktails, beers, wine and spirits at Establishment Bar there's also the chance to join cocktail-crafting classes. See establishmentbardubbo.com.au


For a completely different, though essential, take on Dubbo, book a spot with First Lesson Cultural Tours with its focus on local Wiradjuri culture of NSW's Central West region. You'll be amazed by what your guide uncovers in seemingly ordinary locations. There's the amazing scarred canoe tree, from which the material for an ancient dug-out was carved, as well as an axe-grinding site where local Indigenous peoples sharpened their tools on Macquarie River-side rocks with the ancient grooves still clearly visible. You'll also learn about bush medicine and bush tucker and the plants that provide them. See nativesecrets.com.au


Even though the regional food and wine capital of Orange is under two hours away to the south, Dubbo isn't quite knocking on the dust-cover of the Good Food Guide. And a little endearingly, in a town full of motels, the better restaurants tend to be located in the dining rooms of such accommodation. But, if we can break our own "one and only" rule, you really can't go wrong at all with two excellent diners in the form of Veldt at the Orana Motel and Reflections at the Quality Inn Dubbo International. See veldtrestaurant.com.au; reflectionsrestaurant.com.au


Crafty types are making a beer line to Devil's Hollow Brewery, a cavernous palace of pints in an industrial park on the edge of town. Aside from the craft brews themselves, it's the names of colourful local identities that they've been christened with that's half the fun. One of them is named after Nosey Bob, a former local hangman so named after he lost his proboscis to a nasty horse kick, and Kate Leigh, the notorious Sydney underworld figure who was born in Dubbo and was once reluctantly sent back there by a none-too-impressed "beak". See devilshollow.com.au



Dubbo, with its central NSW location and regular flights to and from Sydney, is the perfect launch pad for a round-trip tour of the remote outback of NSW. Bourke, for instance, is four hours or so to the north.

Anthony Dennis visited Dubbo as a guest of Destination NSW. See visitnsw.com