Exploring NSW: Dubbo

(A minor celebration today – yesterday was my one hundredth post.)

In this series of posts, I draw on diary records to recount some of the road trips we have taken in recent years.

November 2010

Dubbo is such a major regional country town that it now has city status.  This is important agricultural country: beef, wool, and wheat.  The population is around 40,000. 

There is much to see, and good shopping also, but its most famous claim for the tourist is that it has an outdoor, safari style zoo – Taronga Western Plains Zoo. This zoo breeds many endangered species such as the white rhinoceros. (I have picked a sample of photographs from the day – not necessarily matching the animals in the text!)


Bill and I got there as soon as the gates opened at 9am, because it was going to be a hot day and we expected that many of the animals would be quite lazy as the day went on.  There is a pre-dawn tour, which we would have loved to do, but it only runs on weekends.  To get around the zoo, you can drive, bicycle or walk, or hire a golf cart painted in zebra colours.


We chose to drive, and there are many spots along the way to park and take a close look at the animals.  There was so much to see, lots of African and South American animals, and animals with names I had never heard before. There were Rhinos, black and white, (with their babies) hippopotami, cheetahs and lions, many types of hoofed animals, and zebras of course. 


One of the best for me was the ancient wild horse, Przewalski, that was found in the Mongolia area.  The horse is stocky, a beautiful light golden colour like a Palomino, with a mane that stands up thick and straight. There is quite a large herd at this zoo. 


We fed carrots to giraffes and had a photo with them.  Let me tell you, that is a sloppy business.  Their tongues are long and raspy, and you get covered in spittle, but what an experience!


We watched enthralled as two Simean apes put on a territorial show of hooting and howling and swinging wildly amongst the trees. It was the noise that first attracted us to them.  It was following all this noise that took us off course.  After we had wound our way amongst the trees and paths we lost the direction of where we had parked the car.  So in the end we did view about a kilometre of the zoo on foot, as we walked around the road to find the spot where we had left the car.


We had meant to break this day into two morning visits, but in the end stayed until mid-afternoon, and then took in the Dubbo museum on the way back to our motel, before taking our friend out to dinner that evening.  I am so glad to have had the chance to have caught up with her after all these years.


The next morning, we toured the Old Dubbo Gaol, which is no longer operating.  It was set up as a courthouse lockup in 1847, and then proclaimed an official Gaol in 1859.  It operated as a penal institution until 1966. It is in the middle of the main street in town, which must have seemed normal when it was first set up, but certainly wouldn’t be suitable now.  The amenities are basic and barbaric.  Although it only held around forty prisoners at any one time, many of them were convicted of serious crimes.

In 1877, a prisoner was hanged.  That was followed by another seven executions.  One of those unfortunates, the aboriginal, Jacky Underwood, was a character in Thomas Keneally’s “The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith.” 

Visitors can explore the grounds and buildings of the Dubbo gaol.  Animated wax figures tell the stories of the “old days”.  It was well worth the couple of hours we spent there.


Next Destination: Moonan Flat

14 thoughts on “Exploring NSW: Dubbo

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    • Isn’t that amazing! And to think, I knew nothing of the Dürer woodblock. I wonder who described the rhino to him, that he could draw it with such similarity. Glad to think one of my random posts was the inspiration for yours.


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  6. Great photos of the animals, specially the rhino pic that’s a dead ringer for the Dürer woodblock. At first I thought that Dubbo was the name of the rhino ’til I read the post properly – now I know better! Agnes


    • I looked up the Duhrer reference, and I see exactly what you mean. How remarkable. There were so many good photos of the animals that I had a hard time selecting which ones for blog. I thought the sleepy koalas were cute. By the way, “Dubbo” is also Australian slang for a stupid person or idiot. I can only imagine it may have started out as a reference to being a country bumpkin.


  7. Hi, This reminds me of our day at Western Plains Zoo on our mini tour of NSW just before we left Oz, after we sold the house and came back to UK. Chris was 4 months old and we had rented a camper van. I was feeding him in the van and James, aged 3, wandered off without either of us noticing. Cue mass panic looking for him as everywhere is very spread out. I was terrified he was near the lions enclosure…………………..immense relief when we found him, although I can’t remember now where he was. xx


  8. Now you’re close to where I grew up – about 90+ minutes west of Dubbo (driving), on a farm which I generally tell Americans was outside the “middle of no-where town” (between Narromine & Tottenham). I remember when the zoo opened – I was at Macquarie Uni and brought my new boyfriend home via the zoo. We rode bicycles around it.


    • Oh wow! What an experience. Where did you high school? I was way off the mark with my Wellington guess. What a pity we turned east from Dubbo. Feel free to introduce your American friends to my blog if it helps explain the lay of the land.


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