Whether you’re after a quirky lunch with alpacas, a challenging hike or bike ride, or a campfire experience under a canopy of stars, there’s little the Great Western Plains can’t deliver.
Home to Taronga Western Plains Zoo, Old Dubbo Gaol, Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitor Experience and Dubbo Observatory, there’s no denying Dubbo is one of the country’s tourism heavy hitters. Happily, day trips from Dubbo also get you into the heartland of NSW, the Great Western Plains.
When you’re done exploring Dubbo (Taronga Western Plains Zoo is always a must), it’s time for day-tripping.
Incorporating Wellington, Coonamble, Gilgandra, Narromine, Warren, the Warrumbungles and, yes, Dubbo, the Great Western Plains strikes the perfect balance between blissful relaxation (hello fireside camping under the stars), heart-pumping adrenaline activities and everything in between.
Thinking about visiting? Embrace Dubbo’s extensive (and efficient) network of transport links that make it the perfect hub for central NSW exploration, and take a day trip to some of the most unique destinations Australia has to offer.
1. Explore epic hikes and starry nights
Right near Coonabarabran is Warrumbungle National Park, Australia’s first Dark Sky Park (zero light pollution makes those stars all the brighter). A magnet for stargazers from across the globe, this is the perfect spot for camping under the night sky.
Star gaze in Australia’s first Dark Sky Park. (Image: DNSW)
Make a beeline for Camp Blackman, a camping ground nested in nature that has designated fire pits (don’t forget the marshmallows), then be dazzled by the ultimate lightshow.
Of course, Warrumbungle National Park isn’t only for after-dark enjoyment; its mountainous landscape also makes it a perfect hiking destination. Tackle the 14-kilometre Breadknife and Grand High Tops Walk, considered one of the best trails in NSW; if you’re not much of a hiker, take on the Burbie Canyon walking trail, only two kilometres long.
Tackle the 14-kilometre Breadknife and Grand High Tops Walk. (Image: DNSW)
2. Picnic with the alpacas
When the folks at Quentin Park Alpacas & Studio Gallery say they offer something for everyone, they really mean it. Featuring a gallery filled with all manner of products made from home-grown alpaca fibre, as well as a cafe complete with serene vistas and a menu teeming with produce from nearby farms, its visitors are encouraged to mingle with the woolly residents.
This is no straight meet and greet situation (although that can certainly be booked), as guests can lock in a dining experience or event with the alpacas, including high tea, grazing board parties, kids’ birthdays and movie nights.
Picnic with the alpacas at Quentin Park Alpacas & Studio Gallery.
3. Take in the street art
Makeover shows don’t have a patch on Gulargambone, a small town on the Castlereagh River. ‘Gular’, as it’s also known, underwent an epic glow-up in 2018 when a team of renowned artists transformed 12 buildings, one water tower and two footpaths with their artwork.
Additions to shopfronts and billboards have since been made, and you can take in the vibrant murals, installations and sculptures by taking a leisurely stroll around town.
Wander around Gulargambone’s street art. (Image: John Murray)
4. See a window to the wetlands
Immerse yourself in the wetlands of the region, including Tiger Bay Wetlands and the Macquarie Marshes, with a day trip to Window on the Wetlands Centre at Warren.
A community-run educational, recreational and cultural centre committed to showcasing the natural environment, this is a space to relax with a coffee before grabbing a list of local birds, then tackling any number of the available trails. Don’t forget to download the app to discover interesting facts about regional native plants before you set off.
It isn’t all about hiking, of course. Speak to the team at Warren’s Visitor Information Centre to discover a range of guided tours, including canoeing and four-wheel-driving, then take some time to view the onsite art gallery and bird hide.
Explore the beautiful Tiger Bay Wetlands. (Image: Warren Shire Council)
5. Enjoy the action at Coolah Tops National Park
Its official title may be Coolah Tops National Park, but for adventurers who make the trek to this spectacular landscape of giant grass trees, towering snow gums and eucalypt forests, it’s simply known as a playground for those keen to revel in nature’s gifts.
Some bring their mountain bikes – perfect for tackling the Bundella and Mullian Tracks – but trails such as the Norfolk Falls walk and Grass Tree walking track are also excellent for hikers who wish to check out the park’s magnificent waterfalls, birdlife and wildlife (it isn’t unusual to see eagles and wallabies around these parts).
Fancy turning your day trip into a weekend of camping? Campgrounds can be found around the park, with a stay at rustic Brackens Hut a particular highlight.
Walk among the grass trees at Coolah Tops. (Image: David Kirkland)
6. Harness the power of green spaces
Why walk in your local park when you can meander through one of the largest collections of Australian plants in cultivation? The 164-hectare Burrendong Botanic Garden & Arboretum houses over 50,000 flowering plants, shrubs and trees from more than 2000 species on grounds which overlook Lake Burrendong.
Free guided tours of the garden are available by prior arrangement – and don’t miss a stroll through Fern Gully, a man-made rainforest with a swooping thatched canopy, complete with a trickling creek. Arrive with a heaving picnic basket, bird-watching binoculars and comfy walking shoes to make this an experience to remember.
Wander through Burrendong Botanic Garden & Arboretum. (Image: Dubbo Regional Council)
7. Go to Mexico (in the Great Western Plains)
It’s the sort of place you’d expect to see heavily featured on your Instagram feed: 1000 species of cacti of all shapes and sizes stretching up into the outback sky, just begging for someone to stand around in a floaty dress looking like they’re caught in a daydream.
You don’t have to become that person, but visit Orana Cactus World in Gilgandra anyway, and see what has grown to be one of the country’s largest private collections of cacti.
Featuring species collected from around the globe, the property’s history is as fascinating as its numbers, as owner Lester Meyers first began collecting the plants in 1948.
See 1000 species of cacti at Orana Cactus World. (Image: Gilgandra Region)
Find more amazing Great Western Plains day trips and experiences at dubbo.com.au.