RoadTrip2021: Dubbo, Peak Hill, Narromine and Wellington

May 4, 2021 | 20 Comments

Today’s article is a big one covering a very interesting and varied 48 hours based around Dubbo – the most northern town I’m visiting on this trip. I went to an old gaol (jail), a zoo, a gold mine, a cave and a few nice country towns.


I arrived in Dubbo on Thursday afternoon at 3pm and then went directly to the main historic attraction – The Old Dubbo Gaol (Jail). I was super surprised that it’s located off the main street! Lovely gate, hey?


I did a number of quick sketches. It was small but lots of interesting information.


Dubbo Zoo – Taronga Western Plains Zoo

This zoo has been designed to give the animals more room to roam so it is a drive-around experience. In total it’s a 5km loop where you stop your car, get out and walk to the enclosures.

I was looking forward to re-visiting it (I have very dim memories of being here as a child) and to do some animal sketching. The zoo was great – but for a number of reasons it just didn’t click for me last week. The constant stopping my car, getting my gear out and walking to see if there was an animal that could be sketched was a lot of effort and didn’t feel particularly conducive to sketching! But I also don’t think my head was in the right space for animal sketching… it just didn’t flow well with everything else I have been doing on this trip. So I didn’t end up doing much sketching! I couldn’t help thinking about the days when I’ve been to the Sydney zoo – I gear up for it (often do some research in the days before), have my kit ready to go and love walking from one enclosure to the next.

I’m still really happy that I went and even happier that I used one of my $25 Dine and Discover vouchers (from the NSW Government) towards the admission cost. So I didn’t feel guilty about only spending a few hours there!

Also (one final comment about the zoo) next time I go I intend to really do some research on all the herds there – fallow deer, takhi, blackbuck, barbary sheep, addax, bongo, eland, oryx, persian onager etc.

Just a few pictures…


The baby black rhino was super cute but a little too far away for me to sketch.


Giraffes – I couldn’t help comparing them with the ones in Sydney which have a great backdrop!


The most exciting animal interaction was with the aggressive apostle birds at the cafe. This poor couple had to move!


This photo says it all… snooze time! My heart was not in it.


But in all seriousness, the best part of my visit to the zoo was the time I spent with a few zebras. I was only drawing the stripe patterns but it was very special to be so close and to feel as if they were chatting with me!


I did the sketches in a small sketchbook containing toned paper which was in the goodies bag from the USK Symposium in Paraty, Brazil. I keep it in my car just in case I forget my sketchbook.


I left the zoo before noon and as I drove out I saw the sign to Peak Hill. This is somewhere that I intended to include in this trip and had originally added it to the day I visit Parkes. I had thought of trying to squeeze it in on this day (from Dubbo) but assumed I would be at the zoo all day so it wouldn’t be possible. But hey! I now had time and it was only 60km on a flat straight road! Bonus!


Peak Hill Open-Cut Gold Mine

The thing I wanted to see at Peak Hill was the Open Cut Gold Mine and wow! it was impressive.


As I’m travelling solo at the moment, I don’t go on bush walks by myself, so I only visited the two closest viewing platforms. But one day I would like to walk around all the mines.


Here is the view from the second viewing spot.


A cool sign…


And my sketch. It was really easy to get very confused with all those steps!


Peak Hill (town)

While I was in the area I decided to try a local cafe. Another wide main street with some cute old buildings. The thing that struck me with Peak Hill was all the big trucks driving through!


I had a lovely cream tea at the cafe – can you see the truck driving past?


A few more pictures of the main street.


There was a lot of pink everywhere. I wonder why? 

(My sketches from Peak Hill coming up soon)



Rather than returning to Dubbo the same way, I went via another town – Narromine.

This is the first time this trip I’ve been behind a road train (see here for an explanation) and the first 60-degree parking!


Narromine is famous as it’s the birth place of Glenn McGrath (cricketer) but I was more interested in the baker of Narromine – need to do some research on him.


The distinctive feature of Narromine’s main street was that it had hedges in the middle (and sides too). This made a great resting spot for my sketchbook.


Finished spread including Peak Hill sketches – though I might add colour to that map!


I love silos so I sat on the kerb (completely safe on a super wide road) and sketched it.


Well, I definitely had more fun during my afternoon outing than I did driving around the zoo!


Final Morning in Dubbo

Continuing my documentation of main streets – here is Dubbo’s with front to kerb parking and lots of trees.


Actually, I saw 30, 45 and 60-degree parking in Dubbo. Got to have your wits about you!


After a lovely breakfast, I decided to sketch two grand buildings – both designed by James Barnet (sketched two of his buildings in Bathurst).  

First up was the Court House and thanks to the front to kerb parking I was able to use my car’s bonnet (hood) again for my sketching. I’m finding that it’s quite hard to judge the value of my washes in the full sunlight so often I have to add another layer later.


Here is the final spread including my lovely breakfast!


Next was the Post Office…

I got super excited when I saw the name of the little cafe which operates out of the Post Office porch. How many people would know who Jimmy Barnet is?

(BTW I’m now referring to James Barnet as JimmyB and I’ll be actively searching out his buildings for the rest of this trip.)


It was good coffee too!


Another sketch in the bright sunlight!



I left Dubbo at 10am and made it to Wellington in time to have a little wander. I really liked this town and it was lovely to have the main street follow the curve of the Bell River. I did a sketch of the building opposite where I parked my car but would love to return and sketch some more. Here are a few photos…


Wellington Caves

The reason I didn’t have a lot of time in Wellington was that I had a cave tour booked at noon!

This is the main feature of the Cathedral Cave – called the altar. They used to conduct church services here.

I went into the cave prepared for some quick sketches. I had my fude pen, two watercolour pencils (brown ochre and indigo) and a water brush in my right hand. I just started sketching at each stop and was happy with my results…


While doing this one a man in the group asked what pen I was using. I then asked him if he was a sketcher… he was! And when I introduced myself to him he knew who I was. What fun!


On the way out of the cave I rushed ahead of the group and then waited for the guide who was coming up the rear wiping down the handrails. I was thankful that there were two photographers asking her a lot of questions (slowing her down a little) so I had time to do this extra sketch.


And here are the two spreads from this 1-hour tour.


I’ll mention Molong in the next article.

Wow! what a long article… what a great time I had around Dubbo!



  • E'Lynn Bradley says:

    I can’t believe how much I look forward to each of these posts! I’m travelling vicariously with you and so enjoying your sketches and notes. And thank you for blogging! While I see your Instagram posts, the blog provides a richer, more detailed experience. Very much appreciated.

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi E’Lynn – thanks so much for your message. It is a lot of work each evening – but definitely a labour of love!

  • Mary Eastwood says:

    Liz thanks for sharing your travels and wonderful sketching with all of us. We are still in lockdown here in Ontario Canada so I am enjoying reading about your travels & seeing all of the interesting buildings. It’s also nice to see parts of Australia that I have never seen or know about. Looking forward to your next article!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Mary – These places have just been names to me so mostly new to me too. hope your lockdown gets lifted soon!!!

  • Jamie C says:

    Capturing caves while on a tour! That’s A grade effort there! Loving your trip and your sketches! So grateful you are posting here!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Hi Jamie – I’ve done it in a salt mine in Poland… so knew what was involved and had a plan beforehand. It was a fairly leisurely paced tour so easier than I expected.

  • David Campbell says:

    Best episode yet!

  • Lucia Dulin says:

    Love love love your sketches. Thanks for sharing your beautiful work. An inspiration!

  • Karen Starr Wilson says:

    Hi Liz,
    I want to let you know how much your blogs are being enjoyed here! They arrive almost daily right at breakfast in eastern North America and I spend most of the morning studying your photos and sketches… learning SO much about Australian history, architecture, small town life, etc., that I’ve never encountered in the US before.

    But, I am also learning SO much about your sketching practice and strategies for travel sketching. Thank you for being so generous in sharing your trip! (Can you tell I am also envious of your being able to travel like you are?)

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Karen – glad you are enjoying my articles. I try to include a range of topics in each including some insights into my travel sketching!
      I hope that you will be able to travel again soon!

  • Marion Starr says:

    Hello Liz, really enjoying your sketches and images of the old NSW western towns as these places are very familiar as I grew up a little further north of Dubbo. Glad you managed to visit Gulgong (the original town on the $10 note) as it is a real gem. Happy sketching – best wishes, Marion (Sydney)

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Marion! Yes Gulgong is amazing! I really likes Canowindra too (even though it was raining!) So many places to visit and sketch!

  • Jane Varley says:

    Hi Liz, thoroughly enjoying your tour of NSW. Years since I’ve travelled to those places so how lovely to see them again through your eyes! Little changed in the last twenty or so years except perhaps for the coffee and meals it would appear. Love your juxtaposition of line drawing and watercolour sketches on many of the pages. Also so glad to read in your newsletter just now that you’re starting the Edges course again in June. Just what I’ve been waiting for!

    • Liz Steel says:

      Thanks Jane – yes coffee big change… but food only a little. I’m moving out of the trendy areas now for a bit so will be interesting.
      And I’m excited for Edges too! 🙂

  • Em Hughston says:

    My part of the world, I grew up in country NSW, you have captured to beauty of the district.

  • Laura Hill says:

    Love following your trip. Very inspiring!
    Thank you!

  • Marlies says:

    Still in lockdown, travelling with you is so wonderful. Thank you. As an Austrian (never visited Australia before) i have difficulties to understand the ongoing parking theme (kerb parking?, 60 degree….) Seams parking habits on the countryside differs a lot from those in Sidney? ?? So thank you again for sharing your trip and „have fun“!

  • deb mostert says:

    loving your travels Liz…was all excited to see how you would draw the Dubbo zoo…I am aching to get out there some day (went years ago)

    the zebra patterns were a lovely way to deal with them….

    sad for you that the sketching there didn’t gel…but understand that it is a different experience and the distance from the critters makes it harder.

    draw on girl!!

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