The 2 Tiny Travellers and Dubbo's Great Big Adventure Pass
Almost a year ago we were on our way to Dubbo, one of our favourite towns in NSW, when Delta hit Sydney and we unfortunately had to go back home to lockdown.
We had a family Great Big Adventure Pass (GBAP), which gave us tickets to four awesome attractions in the Dubbo area, and we were devastated that we couldn’t go.
But 2022 has brought with it an easing of restrictions and we were finally able to hit the road, and so to Dubbo we went!
Dubbo is a 5-hour drive from Sydney. It’s definitely doable in a day and there are plenty of great places to stop along the way. (We love stopping at Lithgow and Mudgee!)
The GBAP is a perfect way to explore the region and save some money as well, as it gives you entry to:
· Taronga Western Plains Zoo
· The Old Dubbo Gaol
· The Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience
· A tour at the Wellington Caves
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
One of the main reasons that people visit Dubbo has to be to visit the Taronga Western Plains Zoo!
It is huge and the animals are housed in large enclosures which have been cleverly designed to make you feel like there are no fences between you. A 5km circuit makes its way through the different exhibits and you can either walk, drive, cycle or hire an electric buggy to get around.
Using your GBAP at the zoo is super easy - no need to park and go into the ticket office, just drive straight to the entry gates and they’ll scan your passes and you’re good to go.
You do need to register online for your preferred dates before you arrive though. Head to https://taronga.org.au/buy-tickets and select Dubbo, then put in all your details. At the bottom of the page, there is a box to add a promotional code, which you will receive in your GBAP ticket email.
The passes are valid for two consecutive days’ admission, so you have plenty of time to explore. We spent our first day making our way slowly through the zoo, stopping to look at every animal.
For our second day, we arrived after lunch and skipped through to our favourite animals (the elephants, giraffes and zebras!), spending a long time watching the animals at each.
The road is one-way, and we found it much quieter starting towards the end of the day, often we were the only people in sight!
At the entry gate you will be given a map, which is useful for planning your day (and finding toilets!). About halfway is The Waterhole, a great spot for lunch right next to the cutest meerkats (either bring your own food or you can buy it at the cafe). It has toilets and a water play area, which is great if you are visiting in the warmer months.
We always love visiting this zoo. We have been with our kids three times now and each time has been different, and it’s fun for adults and kids alike. It’s a great opportunity to see a wide range of animals in a large open plan environment, it’s almost like being on safari!
Old Dubbo Gaol
After two fantastic days at the zoo, our next stop was the Old Dubbo Gaol.
This is right in the centre of town, so it’s a great opportunity to have breakfast or lunch at one of Dubbo’s great restaurants or cafes before you go in the gaol. There is free all-day parking at the nearby visitor information centre.
The gaol was started back in the mid-1800s and it has been restored to give you an insight into how brutal prison life was back then. You can see where prisoners lived, where they were executed, and even buried in the gaol yard. It’s incredible to think that it was operational until 1966!
You don’t need to register before you go, just head into the ticket office where they will scan your GBAP and give you a map, so you can do a self-guided tour.
During school holidays and on weekends, there are four performances in the gaol (one on weekdays during school term), and we recommend checking them out as a fun way to learn more. Actors dress up in costumes, cracking lots of jokes and getting participants up from the audience.
Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience
On our last day in Dubbo, we went to the Royal Flying Doctor Visitor Experience. We all absolutely loved it!
It’s a museum where you can learn all about the history of the Flying Doctors and the amazing work that they do nowadays. But don’t for a second think that it’ll be boring! It is super modern and interactive - they have obviously thought a lot about how to make it fun for all ages.
To get there, drive out to Dubbo airport, less than 10 minutes from the centre of town. You’ll go down Judy Jakins Drive, past the Dubbo Base of the Royal Flying Doctors (keep your eyes peeled for their planes!), to the massive hangar where the Visitor Experience is located.
The ticket office will scan your GBAP (no need to register beforehand), and then you head in to the first room of the museum where you’ll find an interactive display where you can hear the stories of people from the outback and their experiences with the RFDS.
It’s amazing to hear about their lives living in these tough, remote areas, and learning about how important the RFDS is.
One of the people is Judy Jakins - the RFDS road is named in her honour. Hearing her stories of living remotely out of Bourke with her young family, and what they went through brought tears to our eyes.
From that first room, you head into a massive space, with so much to see and do, we were gobsmacked!
One of the huge walls is covered in screens and they regularly show movies with people telling stories of their experience with the RFDS and re-enactments (be warned that some of the stories were pretty gory).
When the movies finish, you can watch the live operations of the RFDS. The different screens show the locations of the planes, as they provide urgent medical care across the outback, as well as interviews with different people who work with the RFDS.
There is a real plane which you can look in, as well as a large section of a plane, where you can use an iPad to watch in augmented reality as a patient is treated. This was our kids’ favourite part - using the iPads, touch screens and controls, as if they were on board the plane taking a patient thousands of kilometres to the nearest hospital.
There are also interactive treatment rooms, where you can use the iPads’ augmented reality to see patients being treated by clinic nurses and dentists.
The amazing technology and lovely staff give you a great appreciation of the incredible work the RFDS does. It really is a must-visit when you come to Dubbo!
Wellington Caves is a 45-minute drive from Dubbo, through some beautiful countryside. We visited the caves a few years ago, and it has changed so much since then.
The limestone caves have been formed over millions of years, and they are constantly changing, but that’s not what I’m talking about – I mean the incredible Visitor Experience Centre, which opened in 2020!
The centre has a Megafauna exhibition, where you can learn all about the giant creatures that used to roam this area. Palaeontologists are working here (you can see them in the Discovery Lab!) unearthing fossils of animals, like the huge 2,800kg wombat-like Diprotodon. You can see a full-scale model of one outside the centre, as well as a skeleton of one inside.
The exhibition is very interactive, with projections on the walls showing the creatures who have lived in this area, from the time it was covered by sea, up to when the megafauna were here as recently as 13,000 years ago – and they move as you touch them, which is so much fun for kids!
Anyway, back to the real reason we came to Wellington – to explore the caves! With your GBAP, you can do a tour of either the Cathedral or Gaden caves, or the Phosphate mine. You should prebook your tickets online – there is a box for you to put the coupon code from your GBAP at checkout so you don’t need to pay.
Last time we did the Phosphate mine tour, which gives you an incredible opportunity to learn the history of mining here (you enter through the old mine shaft!) as well as to see fossils dating over a million years still imbedded in the rock.
This time we did the Cathedral Cave tour, and it was spectacular!
You head down 300 stairs through an opening into the cave, stopping to learn about how the caves were formed and the paleontological work that is being done here, before arriving at the “cathedral”. It is a huge cave with an incredible 15-metre-high crystal and limestone formation in the centre that sparkles as the water continues to drip over it.
Although it is fairly steep to get into and out of the cave, it wasn’t a physically challenging tour, but if you need wheelchair or stroller access, the Phosphate mine tour would be better.
While you are at the caves, cross over the carpark and visit the Toyama Osawano Japanese Garden. It is free to go in and explore, and the plants and water features are so beautiful. We camped at the campsite next door and came to the gardens right after breakfast, and we were the only ones there. It is peaceful and calm, a lovely place to relax and watch the ducks and fish swim around.
If you are planning a trip to Dubbo, you can buy your Great Big Adventure Passes at https://dubbo.com.au/visit/great-big-adventure-pass.
Although we were given our GBAPs, this blog is an honest account of our experience, and I have not been paid nor do I receive any commission if you purchase a pass from them.