Dubbo

animals, holidays, restaurants 4 Replies

A few weeks ago, we were feeling some wanderlust, invoked in no small part by the weeks of drenching rain that Sydney was experiencing. So, we decided to get out of Dodge on a couple of brief road trips designed to placate our need for feats of daring and adventure, or at least get out of our wet wellies for a day or two.

First up, we drove out of town a few hours west to the regional town of Dubbo, which not only has the cutest town name ever, but is also home to the Western Plains Zoo.

It was a solid day’s drive to Dubbo from Sydney, on a day that just so happened to be my birthday. I was full of sass and crank about the way my day was unfolding, even though Partner-in-Crime let me be the DJ all day and encouraged my purchase of Tim Tams, salt and vinegar chips, and giant cans of Solo lemonade. Even the “This American Life” where Starlee Kine gets Phil Collins’s advice on writing a breakup song could not cheer me out of my birthday funk.

This sunset, as we drove through regional New South Wales, helped lift my mood tremendously, though …

When we reached Dubbo, my ever-loving husband asked the hotel check in clerk for a restaurant recommendation. He suggested a steakhouse, which based on the above average prices, seemed to me like a good enough bet. I’m not in the habit of naming establishments that I don’t enjoy, but I will simply suggest the hard-earned logic that if you are in Dubbo, you may find far superior dining options than a chain steakhouse. It was the sort of place that would have charged $16.99 for a T-bone, baked potato, salad, and veg at home, and my sauce-drenched fillet did nothing to further elevate me out of my self-inflicted malaise. 
Thankfully, birthdays only last one day, and I was in far better spirits the next day. We raided a local bakery for croissant breakfasts and afternoon snacks to carry into the zoo with us. It was a beautiful morning, and we decided to see the zoo by renting (“hiring,” as they say here) bikes. It was a great choice because the zoo is a bit of an expanse, which is well designed for bike traffic (you can also drive, rent motorized carts, or walk). Because it was a weekday, there were very few other guests, so we usually had the road to ourselves.
It was such a lovely zoo experience. Most of the animals have a good swath on which to roam, but we also got the feeling that we could get quite close to them. It was easy to navigate and manageable in the four hours we spent there. We checked in on the public feedings of the elephant, tortoises, and lemurs, which were narrated by enthusiastic handlers. We were also blessed with a gloriously beautiful day on which to roam.
A few of our favorite friends …

It had started raining when we left the zoo, so we were hard-pressed to find something to do with the rest of the afternoon. Anything outdoors was out, so we headed over to a local winery – Red Earth Estate. P-i-C talked world affairs with the highly intelligent and wordly winemaker, while we spent a good hour with him tasting everything on offer. We’ve been to a lot of wineries, and this one was decidedly among the best I’ve been to. It was hard to decide what to buy, and we could easily have walked away with a lot more than the two bottles we did.
The rain had let up when we finally bid adieu to our new friend Mr. Winemaker, so we took a sunset walk at a local park, which had the prettiest pedestrian promenade along the river.

We finished the day with a perfectly acceptable Thai dinner and a lot of Master Chef.
We drove home, in no hurry, the next day; but not before stopping for breakfast at Short Street Cafe, which our winemaker compatriot had recommended. It was the sweetest restaurant in a sprawling house, with tables and funky local art in every room. I can still taste the amazing eggs benedict with lime-infused hollandaise. If you’re ever in Dubbo, eat there. What a great way to spend the morning. It reminded me of a lot of converted house restaurants I’ve eaten at in the South, and I wish we had a place like this in Sydney.
We meandered rather aimlessly on our way home, just wanting to see some more of the countryside. Our “destination,” if you will, was the Ophir Gold Mine, which was the first working gold mine in Australia. Purportedly, it is still in operation, but we’d arrived on a weekend, and after driving down dirt road after increasingly bumpy dirt road to get there, it hardly seemed like a bastion of commerce. Nor did we see anyone working, unless you count the industrious pack of wild kangaroos we frightened. We went through a bunch of gold mining towns, including one with the fortuitous name Lucknow. I got a bit snap-happy, so I’ll leave you with a few  photos of New South Wales’ gold country …

4 thoughts on “Dubbo

  1. Catherine

    Don’t know if you know but that part of NSW is known as ‘big sky country’. I love it out there. Check out Gulgong, Narrabri (Kaputar NP) and Coonabarabran (Warrumbungles and lots of astronomy stuff) next time.

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