Built according to an open range principle, Western Plains Zoo keeps its 1100-plus animals from all over the world apart using concealed moats rather than walls and fences. The effect is spellbinding: you drive down a road or walk along a track and can easily imagine you’re on an African plain, surrounded by wildlife in its natural habitat.
Located in Dubbo in western NSW, the Zoo offers accommodation in a lodge, so you can wake up hearing the calls and screams of the assembled wildlife. The apes in particular are famed for putting golfers off their putts at nearby Dubbo Golf Course.
“Can’t afford Tanzania? This is the next best thing. And the kids love it as they get up close. Stay in the tents and go to sleep with the lions roaring.”
– David Koch
The zoo is also a renowned centre for the care of wildlife, breeding programs, conservation programs and education facilities. It’s acknowledged as Australia’s great open plains zoo.
Did you know?
Before it became a zoo, the site was used as a military training camp for soldiers who went to fight in New Guinea, and also as a city council rubbish dump.
How to get there
Qantas has regular flights to Dubbo from Sydney, while Rex and AirLink fly to Dubbo from Sydney, Broken Hill, Bourke (via Cobar) and Lightning Ridge (via Walgett and Coonamble).
By car, Dubbo is a 5-hour drive from Sydney, around ten hours from Brisbane or Melbourne and 4 hours from Canberra.
There are also fast XPT rail services and an express coach transport service.
Best time to go
Anytime, but it can be very hot in summer.
Official website of the Taronga and Western Plains Zoos
Official website of the Zoofari Lodge at Western Plains Zoo
Comprehensive site by the Dubbo City Council Tourism Services
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.