Grab your hat and binoculars, because we're heading on safari. Taronga Western Plains Zoo can be found about 5 hours from Sydney, a bit further than its local counterpart, despite the distance a weekend away is well worth the journey. The large zoo is the closest thing you'll get to a real safari in NSW, and there are some incredible animals to be seen.
One of the first things to plan at the zoo is how you will be getting around. If you've already made it to Dubbo, chances are you've got your own car. Private cars can be driven around the zoo, and it is one of the cheaper options. Of course you could also walk, but the zoo is quite large, so if you've got lots of young kids they might not appreciate the trek. The zoo offer electric carts, similar to a golf buggy, for hire, and these definitely have the best novelty factor. The zebra striped carts seat 6, and make getting around easy, they are $69 for three hours, so you'll have to weigh up the costs. Otherwise why not hire a bike, and get around the zoo with ease, there are even attachments so you can carry the kids along with you.
Once you've got your transport sorted it is time to head through the zoo and see all the animals. You'll find predominantly African animals, like the amazing elephants, rhinos, and hippos, and the elegant giraffe, but soon you'll discover favourites from Asia, Europe, America, and Australia. The zoo operates on a one-way circuit, but if you choose to travel by foot or bike, obviously you can explore it however you choose.
Most animals have their own enclosures, that are wide and spacious compared to some zoos. When you reach the African Savannah Viewing Platform you'll find a range of African animals living together. Some enclosures leave a little to be desired, looking more like an American ranch than a realistic African park, but the animals still seem to have plenty of room. A highlight would definitely be the giraffes, who are quite inquisitive creatures.
Throughout the day there are a range of activities to take part in, from talks, feedings, and of course the animal encounters. Animal encounters do cost a little more, but they'll give you the opportunity to get even closer with the animals, plus they made a great photo opportunity. The animal encounters range from $5 to $59, and are some of the cheapest in zoos across the country.
When you're not seeing the animals, you'll also find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, or to have your own picnic. There are various cafes, kiosks, or restaurants throughout the park, and you can dine in, or grab something and head to one of the picnic grounds. You are also welcome to bring in your own food from home. Some highlights are enjoying your food in the children's area while they play on the big bouncy castle, or eating near the visitors centre where you have a great view of the lemurs and monkeys.
It may be a long way away, but Western Plains Zoo is something you should do at least once in your life. If you're already taking the time out for a weekend away, why not look at some of the zoo's accommodation options, giving you the change to fall asleep to the sounds of the lions. The zoo is open every day of the year from 9am to 4pm.