There are many things you don’t expect to find in inland regional Australia. Lolloping giraffes with big blue tongues, for example. A Japanese strolling garden. A project to save the Great Barrier Reef. The world’s first driverless ute.
But Dubbo, in the NSW Central West, has never bothered with the expected. It doesn’t have just one of those things, but all of them. It’s also on the cutting edge of eco-conscious tourism. If you want to go green and holiday with a good conscience, there are few better places.
The Dubbo region is at the cutting edge of regeneration.
Dubbo’s Renewable Energy Zone
The big picture is that Dubbo is part of Australia’s first Renewable Energy Zone, which aims to replace coal-fired power stations with solar, wind and eco-storage facilities. The initiative was launched by the NSW government in late 2021, and visitors will be able to watch the progress from viewing platforms as the projects unfold. The construction of a gigantic wind turbine is always a spectacular sight.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo is home to animals from around the world.
Anyone holidaying in Dubbo, though, will find plenty of sustainable initiatives among its most famous sights and attractions. Leading the way is top drawcard Taronga Western Plains Zoo, which is ECO Certified in Advanced Ecotourism, as well as being Climate Active (certified carbon neutral). It’s also not for profit, so any money you spend goes directly to funding important conservation work.
Taronga Western Plains Zoo’s Sanctuary could save the Great Barrier Reef
The zoo is well-known for housing endangered species, such as black rhinos and Sumatran tigers, but the long-term survival of Australian species is important too. Even the Great Barrier Reef could be saved in Dubbo: its CryoDiversity Bank preserves the sperm and other cells of coral species, which have already been used successfully in coral breeding trials.
Taronga Sanctuary is home to breeding programs for endangered species such as the greater bilby, chuditch AKA the western quoll (picture above), regent honeyeater and more.
Taronga Sanctuary, the zoo’s 110-hectare conservation powerhouse and a facility unique in Australia, is home to breeding programs for endangered species such as the greater bilby, chuditch (western quoll), regent honeyeater and plains-wanderer. You might call it the Noah’s Ark of Australia, with programs that have been successful enough to see animals released into the wild.
This year, when a new Wildlife Hospital opens, visitors will be able to admire regent honeyeaters in aviaries, and learn about how these native birds are being saved from extinction. The Wildlife Hospital’s viewing platform will also allow you to watch vets and scientists at work; the kids will love learning how lions get their teeth cleaned, or how scientists study poo to monitor animal health.
A safe refuge for more than 65 breeding pairs, the Platypus Conservation Centre will open in 2023 (artist’s render above).
Meanwhile, construction has begun on a multi-purpose Platypus Conservation Centre. When it opens in mid-2023, it will play a vital role in sustaining platypus population numbers, particularly during severe environmental events, such as drought. The centre will support up to 65 platypuses, and it will also have a public viewing area to educate visitors.
You can get around Taronga Western Plains Zoo by bike or electric cart and, with so much to see and do, you should take your time; after all, tickets are valid for two consecutive days. Relax over lunch at The Waterhole, watched by curious meerkats. All the food outlets recycle waste, and even plates and cutlery are converted to compost.
Enjoy Dubbo without the impact
There are many ways to tread lightly on the environment as you enjoy Dubbo. You can use pedal power to get to the zoo, since the lovely 13-kilometre Tracker Riley Cycleway gets you there from central Dubbo along the Macquarie River, passing great spots for fishing and kayaking.
It’s not only the zoo that is best experienced on a bike, the entire Dubbo city has bike paths connecting the attractions and sights. (Image credit: Rick Stevens)
At one point, for those who prefer a more rugged ride, the cycleway intersects with the Dundullimal off-road track. Off-road biking trails are found in bushland all around the city, at Guerie, Beni Forest and Mugga Hill. Incidentally, if you want to swap pedalling for paddling, a six-kilometre kayaking trail between Wellington and Narromine takes you right through Dubbo.
So many unexpected things to see around the zoo but one of the favourites with everyone is the “lolloping giraffes” with big blue tongues. (Image credit: Rick Stevens)
With 16 national parks and 11 nature reserves across the Great Western Plains you won’t be short of green spaces. Even the city itself has a diversity of protected land that’s great for family-friendly walking, kayaking, cycling, bird watching, swimming and camping. Enjoy the sight of kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and koalas, as well as numerous rare bird and plant species. Macquarie Marshes Nature Reserve is one of the largest remaining inland semi-permanent wetlands in south-east Australia, whose water, reed beds and river red gum forest are alive with 20,000 birds.
The award-winning and sustainable Wellington Caves
The mighty 15m high limestone and crystal rock structure in the Cathedral Cave, Wellington Caves.
A visit to Wellington Caves outside Dubbo is a must. Take a tour to see the magnificent natural wonders: Cathedral Cave is a mighty 15-metre limestone and crystal rock structure, Gaden Cave glitters with crystals, and Phosphate Mine is abundant in 400-million-year-old fossils. Even better, the whole experience is carbon neutral.
Sustainable Dubbo Accommodation
You can further reduce your environmental impact while visiting Dubbo by using the 10 electric-car charging stations. When it comes to accommodation, you can choose one of six off-grid options, such as the Pillaga Pottery Creative Farmstay and Billy’O Bush Retreat. There’s also the luxury Dark Sky Eco Resort; set in bushland, it offers activities including an emu safari and an Aboriginal cave tour.
Australia’s first Dark Sky Park in the Warrumbungle National Park.
The eco resort sits at the foot of the Warrumbungle Mountains, which rise dramatically from the surrounding plains in jagged volcanic ridgelines, offering a variety of hikes both easy and challenging. Warrumbungle National Park has international recognition as a Dark Sky Park, where you can look in wonder at the night sky unobstructed by light interference. Gazing at the Milky Way is exhilarating, and might remind you of the small fragility of our planet, and why it needs protecting.