An escape to history steeped country and spectacular scenery
Only 5 hours from Sydney and not so many worlds away is Dubbo, a small country town full of life and surprises. Yes of course, it has a main road full of quaint shops, famous for its open range Taronga Western Plains Zoo as well as an intriguing past from bushrangers and underworld figures. I've always wanted to discover more of the countryside and as there's no time like the present, it was time to just drive with the kids in tow.
First pit stop at the Blue Mountains. Trip duration - 1hr 15mins (Dinner and 1 nights accommodation) Start your drive through the Blue Mountains and stop at the quaint village of Wentworth Falls and discover tasty bakery treats at Schwarzes. I'm not sure what it is but getting out of the city into the fresh mountain air also means an increased appetite to suit. Stop into Nineteen23 for a taste sensation of local produce and be swayed to stay the night at Silvermere Guesthouse. The perfect place to keep the kids occupied as they discover a pond with koi or wander around the expansive gardens and "go on a lizard hunt", maybe even squeeze in a game of lawn bowls or admire the surrounding sculptures.
Starting fresh after a good night's sleep, it's back on the road again past towns such as Cullen Bullen, Ben Bullen and bandit land. Whizzing past Bylong Valley sees rolling green hills onto Apple Tree Flat and then into wine country. Logan wines, Skimstone wines, Brombee organic, Optimiste and Robert Oatley just to name a few.
You must stop into Leaning Oak Dairy Farm, Mudgee. It's the perfect place for the kids to stretch their legs and get up close for cuddles with the lambs and be chased about by inquisitive goats. The goat and sheep cheeses here are phenomenal, it'll be hard to walk away without 3 cheeses under your belt.
Dragging the kids away from the dairy farm with the promise of stopping into Taronga Western Plains Zoo, we drive past fields of yellow as far as the eye can see. Canola fields in full bloom is a sight to behold, so much so we have to stop and take in the sight and take a few photos of course.
Final Destination of Dubbo. Trip duration - 1hr 40mins (Dinner hamper and 1 nights accommodation) We arrive at Dubbo Zoo just before closing at 4pm and rush off to sort out our prebooked accommodation at the front desk which included zoo tickets. The zoo admission allows 2 days entry, therefore we make the most of the first day by getting a feel of the zoo and drive our car along the one way circuit.
We stumble across the wild African dogs at feeding time, the kids are glued to the yelping frenzy and rather large carcasses being carried off. We had a personal encounter with a zookeeper and a pregnant white rhino who took a liking to the attention we were giving her. To end the day, we gawk at the huge Galapagos tortoises resting in their heated sandpit, my youngest couldn't contain his excitement without screaming "turtle" at the top of his lungs.
Our accommodation for the night were the brand new Savannah Cabins looking onto the zebras and giraffes nonchalantly grazing. The kids quickly make friends with the nearby neighbours and are off discovering rocks, sticks and things that boys do. Luckily I pre-ordered a family bbq hamper pack to take the stress out of sorting dinner out.
Savvanh Cabins, accommodation at Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Think this family crashed after a big day of driving to be pleasantly woken by squawking cockatoos and an amazing homemade breakfast of French toast. We spent a leisurely day discovering Western Plains Zoo with the options of walking, cycling, golf cart or driving around in the comfort of your own car.
I totally recommend getting behind the scenes and booking a Wild Africa Encounter or any encounter for that matter, as the tours have an emphasis on seeing the African animals close up and drive into the African Savannah enjoying a safari - like experience seeing the eland antelopes, zebras and giraffes up close.
Staying in town. Trip duration - 10min drive (Dinner takeout at local Chinese, 1 nights accommodation)
After a long day at the zoo, it's off to discover the fast food of Dubbo. Ordering Chinese takeaway and settling into our 2 bedroom Quest serviced apartment, the shoes are immediately kicked off whilst we tuck into our feast and relax.
A quick blink and it's morning. It's off to the Village Bakery Café judged for Australia's best meat pie for a dose of coffee and light as a feather lamingtons whilst the kids run wild at the enclosed playground.
Where the parents stop for coffee and kids play
Back on the road again to Mudgee. Trip duration - 1hr 40min (Lunch)
Driving back to Mudgee, we stop into Di Lusso for an outdoor lunch session looking onto the water views to experience the best ever pizza. Thin, crispy with minimal topping, I think we just inhaled these before a touch of wine tasting. Mudgee's population might be small but the population are passionate about all the good things in life – food, wine and the great outdoors.
Then onto the Butcher Shop Café, an old butcher shop dating back to 1875 but is now a modern, bustling café that does the best breakfast in town for another caffeine fix and Lawson Park for the kids to run around in a great playground.
The butcher shop cafe for a much needed coffee stop
Home stretch. Trip duration - 3hrs 30mins
Not before long we muster up the kids for the drive back to Sydney for a much deserved steak, cheese and 1997 vintage wine to finish off. Not a bad way to finish discovering country New South Wales and a surprisingly easy trip with the kidlets in tow.
Keep a look out for the next road trip.
My hot tips: Prebook accommodation for your trip especially the Savannah Cabins at Taronga Western Plains Zoo as they are quite popular.
Accommodation at Silvermere Guesthouse
Maids Quarters bed and breakfast from $290
Accommodation at Taronga Western Plains Zoo
Savannah Cabins from $279 per cabin not inclusive of Zoo entry. Or $398 for a family of 2 adults and 2 children.
Savannah View Lodges (peak period) $399 a person sharing, under fours $79, five to 15 $179.
Serengeti Lodge (peak period) $359 a person sharing, under fours $79, five to 15 $179.
Billabong Camp: (peak period) $189/adult, $105/child. Family (two adults, two children) $499.
Cot hire available
As there were only 1 night stays available a the zoo, I recommend staying in town for a second night especially after a long day at the zoo with the kids. The Quest accommodation fitted the bill perfectly being close to town and takeaway food. Accommodation at Quest
From $219 for studio
1 bedroom apartment from $248
2 bedroom apartment from $309
3 bedroom apartment from $390
(prices for accommodation are the latest as of Nov 2014)
Pack snacks of popcorn, sandwiches, water bottles for the kids
Have a kids playlist ready if need be. I recommend a variety of songs.
Toilet break at Lithgow McDonalds before the turnoff to head towards Mudgee but I did discover public toilet signs all along the drive
Stop and take in the scenery, photograph the fields, wave to the cows and sheep, that kept the kids amused for hours.