Major Central West town famous for the outstanding Western Plains Zoo.
Dubbo is a major regional service centre. As roads have improved it has become a vital commercial, industrial and administrative hub for the New South Wales Central West. Dubbo is located on the Macquarie River at the intersection of the Mitchell and Newell Highways. It is characterised by a substantial shopping area, a large number of historic buildings, and a rapidly growing population.
The area is known for its wheat and wool production but the major attraction is the excellent Western Plains Zoo, a model zoo where animals roam freely in large open areas mostly protected from the public by deep moats.
Dubbo is located 388 km north-west of Sydney via the Blue Mountains and Mudgee at the intersection of the Mitchell and Newell Highways. It is 264 metres above sea-level.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The first European settler in the area was Robert Dulhunty who arrived after 1829 and and chose grazing land which he named 'Dubbo'. It is believed to be a Wiradjuri word meaning either "cap", "head covering" or "red earth".^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Dubbo Heritage Tour
There are a total of 37 places of interest in the downloadable Dubbo City Heritage Walk (go to http://dubbo.com.au/Visit/Tours, scroll down to Dubbo City Heritage Walk and you can download the two page guide). It is a simple walk from the Dubbo City Information Centre which goes down Macquarie Street, along Bultje Street and up Brisbane Street. Some of the places no longer exist. The most interesting and significant - which are worth inspecting - include:
5. The Pastoral Hotel
Located at 110 Talbragare Street and built in 1886, the Pastoral Hotel is a typical Heritage hotel. In the flood of 1955 the Macquarie River reached the hotel and a heavy glass panel from one of the doors was washed away.
7. Land Board Offices
Located at 142 Brisbane Street the distinctive Lands Office building (1897) is a two-storey iron and timber structure in the Queen Anne-style. Note the quality of the veranda posts and fencing. A plaque near the door records the height of Dubbo's worst flood (1955). It is believed that the wooden flaps at the base of the building helped to dry it out after flood.
9. The Court House
Located in Brisbane Street, the Court House (1885-1890) is the city's most imposing building. The style is Classical Revival with Corinthian columns, pleasant gardens and a Coat of Arms. The building, designed by James Barnet and retaining the original posts from the first Dubbo courthouse (1852-59), was commissioned in 1884 but, due to the builder's bankruptcy, wasn’t completed until 1887.
10. The Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Located in Brisbane Street, the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (1875-76), a cruciform stone structure, was designed by the hugely important colonial architect, Edmund Blacket, in an Early English rural style. The carved Normandy stone font, tie beam roof and the timber Gothic pulpit and reading desk were also designed by Blacket. The 18 metre high bellcote was added in the 1920s.
13. St. Andrews Uniting Church
Located on the corner of Wingewarra Street and Carrington Avenue, St Andrew's Uniting (formerly Presbyterian) Church is an unusual structure with sandstone at the front dating from the original 1876 church. It has a fine interior and a fish-scale pattern on the slate roof. The red-brick Sunday school hall dates from 1892 and the new church was built on the same site in 1926 by Wallace & McGee. Today it is called St Andrew's Chapel and is used for a variety of functions. It is popular for weddings, christenings and funerals.
16. St. Patrick’s Convent
Located on Bultje Street and built in 1884 for the Sisters of Mercy this simple sandstone building is part of the Catholic complex on the corner of Bultje Street and Brisbane Street.
17. St. Brigid’s Catholic Church
Located at 198 Brisbane Street, St Brigid's Catholic Church, a Gothic Revival design building was completed in 1874 with the sanctuary added in 1881 and the transepts in 1909. Of particular interest is the pyramid-shaped steeple. "The sandstone church was designed by Mr Edward Gell, a leading architect in the colony, who had been a pupil to the famous Pugin in Europe. The original plan had to be reduced in size because the Catholic community was unable to afford the original design. The building has a sense of perfect proportions about it. The sandstone walls, locally quarried on the west bank of the Macquarie River, were 12 feet above ground level in May 1870. The building then came to a stand-still because of lack of finance and remained thus for three years ... After 1876 the new stained glass windows were installed at a cost of £700. The 'rose window' above the choir gallery in the western wall was given by local landholder Duncan MacKillop, uncle of Saint Mary MacKillop. The church seated 280 people and cost £2,500. The original building consisted of only the central nave section. The sanctuary and sacristy (with open fire place) were added in 1880 at a cost of £395." There is a very detailed history of the church at http://www.bathurst.catholic.org.au/dat/content-4475-f.
18. Catholic Presbytery
Next door to the church, and part of the Catholic complex, is the elegant Catholic Presbytery which was built in 1902 by Dubbo builder W. Sutton.
19. 201 & 203 Brisbane Street
Over the road from the Catholic complex are two Victorian Cottages built in the late 1800s. They are simple and charming with iron lacework on the verandas.
23. Milestone Hotel (Kemwah Building)
Built in 1881 as the Imperial Hotel and licensed to Rene Bertaux who married the widow of Jean Emile Serisier. At one time it was operated as a casino and brothel by a woman named Catherine Mary Josephine Leigh, better known as Kate. She had been born in Dubbo but became known because she battled with Tilly Devine for the title the ‘Queen’ of the Sydney underworld. The battles, known as the "Razor Gang Wars" lasted from 1927 to 1930. A court decision in Sydney sent Kate back to Dubbo for two years. At this time she opened ‘Flash Kate’s Casino and Brothel’, now the Milestone Hotel.
26. Old Shire Building
Located on the corner of Bultje Street and Macquarie Street is Dubbo’s first bank. It was built in 1867 for the Commercial Banking Co of Sydney; in 1907 it became the Talbragar Shire premises; and it is currently used by the Hog's Breath Cafe. The original servants' quarters survive in the basement, as do the internal cedar staircase, the bank vault, the ironbark ceiling and lathe-and-plaster walls.
28. 232 Macquarie Street
Now the home of the Old Bank Restaurant and Old Bank Music Shop, this handsome building was once the Bank of New South Wales with the manager’s residence upstairs. Built in the early 1870s this gracious two-storey sandstone building is characterised by a cedar staircase, marble fireplaces and decorative ceilings.
32. Colonial Mutual Building
Located on the corner of Macquarie Street and Church Street, and hidden behind a modern ground floor facade is the old Australian Joint Stock Bank (1884), a superb piece of 19th century urban architecture now almost hidden.
33. 110- 144 Macquarie Street
In 1906 the Commercial Banking Co of Sydney built new premises at this site. It features marble steps and arched portals. It has a charming simplicity and elegance.
36. Old Dubbo Post Office
Located at 98 Macquarie Street, this two-storey building was designed by colonial architect James Barnet and completed in 1887. It was allocated to Telecom Australia in 1975. Designed in Italianate style, the post office included a mail sorting room, counter and lobby, dining room, kitchen, scullery, wash house, fuel shed, upstairs sitting room, bedrooms and servant's room. The clock, housed in a tower, was originally a feature of the Dubbo court house. It was relocated when a new court house was built. The building was occupied on May 5, 1887. The finished post office was described as "very fine" with "beautiful polished cedar features, tessellated pavement, burnished vane and massive doors". The final cost was £8110, including furnishings.
37. Old Dubbo Gaol
Dubbo Gaol is a well-preserved old prison which was constructed on the site of an old stockyards. The first gaol was built in 1848 and the gaol that now stands on the site was built c.1871 (the gates and wall were added in 1887) and closed in 1966. Now a museum, it offers an opportunity to see the way the gaol and the judicial system once operated. Features include animatronic models which tell the life stories of inmates and staff, a gallows pole with hangman's equipment (eight men were hung at the gaol), the condemned man's cell (where Thomas Moore relates his story), solitary confinement cells, a graffiti cell, a padded cell, the watchtower, the exercise yard, a display room, the bathroom, hospital, kitchen, sanitary disposal block and wood-cutting area. The Gaol’s most notable escapee was bushranger Johnny Dunn who once rode with bushrangers Ben Hall and John Gilbert. Jacky Underwood, a companion of Jimmy and Joe Governor of The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith fame, was hanged at Dubbo Gaol in January 1901. The museum is located at 90 Macquarie Street and it is open from 9.00 am to 4.00 pm, tel: (02) 6801 4460. Check http://www.olddubbogaol.com.au for more details.
Western Plains Cultural Centre
Located at 76 Wingewarra Street, the Western Plains Cultural Centre is home to two major cultural spaces:
1. Dubbo Regional Gallery
Dubbo Regional Gallery is open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily. The website explains: "The Gallery specialises in the Animal in Art theme, collecting works in a broad range of media and styles by artists from all areas. The collection includes work by artists such as Arthur Boyd, John Olsen, David Noonan, Louise Weaver, Heather B Swann, Peggy Napangardi Jones and George W. Lambert." Admission is free, tel: (02) 6801 4444. Check out https://www.westernplainsculturalcentre.org/the-gallery-space for information about exhibitions.
2. Dubbo Regional Museum
Dubbo Regional Museum is open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm daily. The website explains: "it features two distinct spaces – a permanent space devoted to the story of Dubbo entitled People Places Possessions: Dubbo Stories and a temporary exhibition space for travelling and in-house curated exhibitions. Dubbo Stories presents showcases devoted to the people of Dubbo through time. A photographic streetscape features images of the changing face of the city, together with a White Box tree installed in the centre of the space. A large showcase containing possessions from the collection features at one end of the Museum offering a treasure trove of items from past eras. There are over 5000 objects in the Dubbo Regional Museum collection, People Places Possessions: Dubbo Stories presents a sample of these." Admission is free, tel: (02) 6801 4444. Check out https://www.westernplainsculturalcentre.org/the-museum-space for information about exhibitions.
Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden
Located on Coronation Drive, the Dubbo Regional Botanic Garden is regarded as one of the finest regional botanic gardens in Australia. It comprises four separate gardens: Shoyoen, the Sensory Gardens, the Biodiversity Garden and the Oasis Valley.
* Shoyoen is recognised as being one of the most authentic Japanese Gardens in Australia. It began in 2002 with the planting of cherry trees. It now comprises waterfalls, streams, a lake, Japanese koi fish, a tea hut and a dry garden raked into patterns. For more information check out http://www.drbg.com.au/Gardens/shoyoen.
* Sensory Garden was opened to the public in 2011. It has over 1,300 plants and its features include a Georgian style rose garden, water features, a sandstone sculpture of a Barking Gecko, stepping stones across a lake and a herb garden. For more information check out http://www.drbg.com.au/Gardens/sensory-garden.
* Biodiversity Garden was opened in 2006 with the aim of displaying local plants thus the trail through this section of the gardens passes through grassy white box woodlands, past wetlands and climbs up a rocky, volcanic slope via a boardwalk. There are over 48 species of local plants. Check out http://www.drbg.com.au/Gardens/biodiversity-garden.
* Oasis Valley was opened in 2013 and has over 40 different dry rainforest species. There is a 65 metre boardwalk along a creek and the plants include a range of pines (including the Wollemi Pine) as well as the Gymea Lily, a range of wattles and figs as well as grass trees. Check out http://www.drbg.com.au/Gardens/oasis-valley for a list of the plants.
The gardens are open from 9.00 am - 4.00 Monday to Friday and 9.30 am - 4.30 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Other Attractions in the Area
Taronga Western Plains Zoo
If it is necessary for humans to cage other animals, then this is surely the most civilised way of doing it. This open-range zoo specialises in large animals which are separated from the public by creating raised earthen viewing areas below which is typically a ditch or moat with a small unobtrusive electric fence. This provides a feeling of naturalness, although it should be pointed out that the elephants constantly rub their feet against the edge of the moat suggesting that they understand their habitat is very limited.
In spite of this, the zoo is a tour de force. There are a number of ways that visitors can see the animals, of which there are (combined with Taronga in Sydney) more than 4,000 native and exotic animals from over 350 species dispersed over 300 ha of landscaped parklands. The ideal way (although not in the heat of summer) is to hire a bicycle at the gate and slowly cycle around the largely flat 6 km circular track. It is possible to drive your car around. The park also provides open-sided mini-mokes which ensure a more leisurely (and hence more attentive) pace and speedier transition from vehicle to viewing area. There is also a guided walk in the morning with zoo volunteers. Alternatively, people can opt for a package deal involving an overnight stay at the Zoofari Lodge.
The park is divided into Africa, Asia, North America, Eurasia and Australia. Africa comes first for the obvious reason that it contains many of the most crowd-pleasing species - Cape hunting dogs, zebras, giraffes, hippos, elephants, camels, Barbary sheep, lions, cheetahs, eland, oryx etc. Rare and endangered species such as the southern white rhinoceros, Galapagos tortoise, the bison and the Przewalski horse are bred at the zoo.
One of the park's special treats is to stay overnight in African safari conditions at the Zoofari Lodge. This allows trips through the park at dusk (after the general public have departed) and dawn (before the general public has arrived). While it is not a real safari experience it certainly allows for close up contact with the animals and viewing uninterrupted by crowds.
To get to the zoo, follow the Newell Highway south-west of town for a little over 2 km and take the turnoff to Obley Road. It is open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm daily (no admission after 3.30 pm), tel: (02) 6881 1400. Check out https://taronga.org.au/taronga-western-plains-zoo for details.
Located 2 km beyond the Western Plains Zoo, at 23L Obley Road, is the historic timber-slab homestead known as 'Dundullimal' which was built c.1840 by wealthy early settler, John Maughan, as the head station of his 26,000 acre (6,500 ha) sheep station. At that time it housed 20 people, including six convicts. It is one of the oldest homesteads left standing in western New South Wales and is located on the banks of the Macquarie River.
The National Trust has noted of the house: "Its interior is remarkably sophisticated for its genre, with louvres and multiple-pane glazed openings onto the veranda. The imposing sitting room is noted for its ‘tent’ shaped plaster ceiling and wallpaper, reproduced from an 1850 patent. The master bedroom is complete with an iron bed and a campaign chest.
"The house is an interesting contrast to the traditional sandstone stables complex. The ‘working’ areas include the blacksmith’s forge, coach room, sunken cool room, stores and stables. This building reflects the practical yet essential elements of rural life on a large, isolated property during the nineteenth century.
"The 1870’s timber church replaces a church originally on the site and was consecrated in 1872 in the nearby township of Timbrebongie and moved around the district to end up at Dundullimal in 2013."
The house is open from 11.00 am to 3.00 pm Tuesday to Saturday, tel: (02) 6884 9984. For more details check out https://www.nationaltrust.org.au/places/dundullimal-homestead.
The first turnoff on the right after Dundullimal is Camp Road. Located at 17L Camp Road is the Dubbo Observatory. The night show, which varies according to the month (8.45 pm in December, 6.15 in June and July - see http://www.tenbyobservatory.com/dubbo_observatory for specific times), lasts for 75 minutes and is guided by Peter Starr who was the manager of the Siding Spring Observatory at Coonabarabran. The 75 minutes are taken up with "A Powerpoint presentation in our theatrette; a talk about what we will see and some basic astronomy; the opportunity to view the planets, stars, and galaxies through our new 17" telescope in our new observatory; pointing out constellations, stars and planets with a laser pointer; and answering your questions on the night sky and universe." Attendance is by advance booking only, tel: 0488 425 940 or check out http://www.tenbyobservatory.com/dubbo_observatory.
Tracker Riley Cycleway and Walking Trail
The Tracker Riley Cycleway and walking trail forms two loops beside the Macquarie River. In total it is a 13 km urban loop from Serisier Bridge to the Tamworth Street footbridge and return with a second, longer loop from the Tamworth Street footbridge past the Taronga Western Plains Zoo to Dundullimal Reserve, crossing the river again there to return to Tamworth Street via Macquarie Street. It is a flat and easy walk. For more information check out http://rivertrails.com.au/wordpress/rivertrails/cycle-trail/tracker-riley-cycleway-and-walking-trail.
Located north of Dubbo along Burraway Road is Terramungamine Reserve. It includes a rocky outcrop beside Macquarie River which includes about 150 grooves created by Aborigines who once used the hard stone to sharpen their stone axes. There are carvings, rubbing grooves or groove grinding for spear making, sharpening and finishing axes, and even grinding seeds. The Aborigines - the Tubbagah people of the Wiradjuri nation - transported water to the groove site in coolamons. There is an excellent article on the groove site at https://www.weekendnotes.com/terramungamine-reserve.
Cobb & Co Heritage Trail
In 2004 the legendary coaching company, Cobb & Co, celebrated the 150th anniversary of its first journey and the 80th anniversary of its last. The company's profound contribution to Australia's development was celebrated with the establishment of a heritage trail.
Cobb & Co's origins lay in the goldrushes of the early 1850s. At its peak Cobb & Co coaches were travelling 28,000 miles (44,800 km) a week. They had a total of 30,000 horses and were harnessing 6,000 horses every day. There was a total of 7,000 miles (11, 265 km) of regular routes throughout Australia and the web of routes from Bathurst to Bourke were part of 2,000 miles (3,218km) of coach routes which stretched from southern Victoria to the Gulf of Carpentaria and criss-crossed eastern Australia.
The Cobb & Co Heritage Trail booklet explains that "known as 'whips', or Jehus, the drivers were Australia's heroes of the 19th century. They had to contend with heat, dust, bush fires, flies, mosquitoes, rain, fog, bog, snow, snakes, kangaroos, bushrangers, difficult passengers and post office schedules which demanded the mail be on time or a heavy fine would ensue ... Horses were changed every 16 miles (25.6 km) or so at changing stations, sometimes combined with bush shanties or inns where the passengers could get a meal, drink, or a few hours sleep."
Cobb & Co sites in Dubbo include the old booking office, the cemetery, which contains the graves of several Cobb & Co figures, the post office (Cobb & Co took over the Wellington to Bourke run in 1872), an old company shed (now in the grounds of the Western Plains Zoo), changing stations, track routes and crossings.
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Wiradjuri people.
* The first Europeans in the area were the party of John Oxley who passed the future site of Dubbo in 1818.
* In 1824 two squatters were given permission to set up large sheep and cattle properties adjacent the Macquarie River, although they appear to have withdrawn at some subsequent date.
* The first permanent settler was Robert Dulhunty some time between 1829 and 1833. He chose grazing land which he named 'Dubbo' just to the south of the present townsite.
* In 1839 records indicate that there were 28 persons over 12 years of age at Dubbo Station and 18 male convicts (no females).
* Dulhunty may have established some kind of roadside inn in 1839 and he certainly built a homestead at Dubbo in 1840.
* Dulhunty remained an absentee landlord until 1847 when his family finally moved from Emu Plains to Dubbo.
* The first school in the district was a slab hut built on the Dubbo property in the 1840s.
* In 1846 the government decided to establish law enforcement institutions at Dubbo.
* A crude slab police residence and lock-up became the first buildings on the future townsite in 1847.
* A rough courthouse was completed in early 1848 and a post office opened within the courthouse that same year.
* Jean Serisier, a Frenchman in the employ of a Sydney-based firm, opened a general store near the new lock-up in 1847.
* Nicholas Hyeronimus established an inn adjacent the store in 1848.
* The village of Dubbo was planned and proclaimed in 1849
* The first land sales took place in 1850.
* The population was recorded as 47 in 1851, at which time there were seven completed houses.
* A crude makeshift bridge was built in the late 1850s and Dubbo became a major trading post on the Great North Road.
* The first Catholic Church was in existence by 1856.
* A national school was built in 1858 to replace an earlier private school.
* An Anglican church and parsonage were erected in 1859.
* As late as 1864, there were only two stores and two hotels in town.
* The first proper bridge over the Macquarie was built at Dubbo in 1866. Around that time a journalist reported that the village had 'magnificent and commodious' stores, five hotels with a sixth nearing completion, a mill under construction, and a 'well designed court house and lock-up'.
* The most notable inmate of the local lock-up was bushranger Johnny Dunn who escaped from its confines in 1865.
* Dubbo's first newspaper went into print in 1866.
* Dubbo's first bank opened in 1867.
* The first hospital was built in the late 1860s.
* Jean Serisier established a vineyard in 1868 which became one of the largest in the colony in the 1870s.
* Gold, coal, chalk, copper, diamonds and other precious stones were mined in commercial quantities in the district.
* Dubbo became a municipality in 1872 it had a population of some 850 people and it had become the major manufacturing and service centre for much of western NSW.
* A tannery and a wool-scouring works were opened in 1873.
* The arrival of the railway (and a railway bridge) in 1881 contributed to Dubbo's importance. By that time it had 29 hotels, three breweries and a population of 3199.
* Thomas Alexander Browne served as police magistrate at Dubbo from 1881 to 1884. As 'Rolf Boldrewood', he wrote Robbery Under Arms, which was published in serial form while he was still at Dubbo.
* A visitor in 1885 described Dubbo as a 'pretty little town, built on an extensive plateau of squatting land'.
* A flour mill opened in 1893.
* In 1936 the veranda at the Macquarie View Hotel collapsed leading to 28 people being hospitalised and one being killed.
* Dubbo's population almost doubled between 1947 and 1971.
* Dubbo was declared a city in 1966.^ TOP
Dubbo Visitors Information Centre, cnr Newell Highway and Macquarie Street, tel: (02) 6801 4450.^ TOP
The official local website can be found at http://dubbo.com.au.^ TOP