We’ve all seen those puppy dog eyes. You know… the ones we get when we head out the door on holiday, minus our four-legged friend…
Asking our best mate to sit and stay while we’re out having the time of our lives is a sure-fire way to earn the cold nose treatment on your return - because hey, our little fuzz ball deserves a paw-fect holiday too, right? Taking our pooch on the road can often mean a few logistical hurdles, but with a little forward planning you’ll find our neighbourhood is one of the most dog friendly regions in the nation. Here’s a few ideas to get those tails wagging…
Mutts in Mount Gambier
With its lakes, parks, gardens and a long list of natural wonders, our cosmopolitan capital of Mount Gambier is also home to a swathe of dog friendly finds, starting right in the heart of town.
While surrounding National Parks and native Forestry SA reserves remain off-limits to fur-buddies (right across the region), you’ll still find plenty to keep both you and your little mate happy on holiday - and there’s no better spot to start than the legendary Blue Lake. At its bluest from November to March, this local icon is prime for an on-leash stroll, with a 3.6 kilometre loop around the rim delivering incredible views, lookouts and dog tidy bag stations every step of the way. Allow around 1.5 hours to do the Grand Circuit.
The surrounding Crater Lakes are also a great spot to stretch both two legs and four, with a labyrinth of trails weaving their way through a stunning volcanic wonderland. Other on-leash favourites include the very steep but relatively short Mountain Trail to Centenary Tower walk (4.2km, 1.2 hours) which delivers stunning views of the city, surrounding landscape and beyond, making it a great little test for both of you.
Leg of Mutton Lake isn’t just a doggy dream by name, but also by nature… Clip on the lead, and an easy to moderate one-hour walk will take you (and doggo) through stunning wilderness, with emerald greens in summer, pastel palettes in autumn, moody woodlands in winter and spectacular blooms in spring. With loads of grassy space, nearby Valley Lake is also a great spot for park-lovers and their pups (on-leash), being a little less crowded and home to a large playground if you’ve brought the kids along for walkies.
Back in town, a peek into the sunken wonderland of Umpherston Sinkhole is always a highlight, but given the native possums at play downstairs, be mindful that pooches need to be tethered to their lead and can only view the action from above - the nearby green oasis of Cave Garden is however open to dogs on a leash.
Just out of town, the magnificent Mount Schank is a fantastic on-leash option for a leg stretch with your four-legged companion. With an undulating 2-kilometre trail around the crater, both you and your best mate will be rewarded with stunning views down into the crater and surrounding countryside. Just follow the signposts from the car park to the top of the cone via the limestone steps.
Naturally, all that time on-leash can be a bit of a drag (literally!) for both owners and their pets, so having some off-leash options to run free is always welcome. Mount Gambier is blessed with a number of great parks and open spaces where you can do exactly that, with some of the finest being Blue Lake Sports Park, Hastings Cunningham Reserve, Corriedale Park, Don MacDonnell Reserve and Frew Park.
Of course, we all need a place to stay that gives our little mates a space to relax in comfort while we’re out exploring the National Parks and Forests (all of which are off-limits to dogs). So it’s good to know there’s a number of pet friendly accommodation options around the city, with quite a few self-contained properties (apartments, houses and the like) and even hotels and motels that an easy Air BnB or Booking.com search will pull up for you.
For a plenty of space, Pine Country Caravan Park is a particularly good option with a range of dog-friendly cabins with enclosed front yards and kennels, plus the added bonus of doggy day care and an acre of open grass to frolic in off-lead, dawn to dusk. Other great options in that category are the nearby Blue Lake Holiday Park (powered sites and selected cabins), and Limestone Coast Tourist Park (one-bedroom holiday units and a handy off-leash area).
If you’re keen to take Fido to breakfast, lunch or dinner, you’ll also find a number of dog friendly restaurants and cafes that’ll save an outside spot for both of you. A few to consider when you’re in town include the highly renowned Metro Bakery and Café, Presto Eatery for brunch and coffee and Café Melzar, where a burger is never ‘just a burger’.
For a full run down on pet-friendly options for just about everything in the city, check out Discover Mount Gambier’s very handy blog right here, which also fill you in on the many doggy day care, grooming and veterinary services around town.
Pooches in Port MacDonnell
Just south of Mount Gambier, the silky sands of Port MacDonnell are a haven for holiday makers year-round, and being the closet beach to the city, it’s a genuine go-to when your pup is craving a little Sun and sand. Woolwash Beach is a great pick for a little shore-excursion, extending east of the breakwater right out the front of Port MacDonnell Foreshore Tourist Park - which conveniently offers pet-friendly camp sites year-round. With the lure of all that wide open sand, just be mindful that your little mate will need to stay leashed and avoid the exclusion zone, within 800 metres of the jetty.
Just a little further on, the wild, windswept panoramas of Cape Northumberland are untouched, untamed and unbelievable, and if you’re keen to take in the view from the southernmost point of South Australia, it’s good to know your little mate can stay by your side (on leash, of course)!
For the full lowdown on where to go (and where to not!), check out the District Council of Grant’s page here.
Canines in Kingston
While the adjoining Coorong National Park may be off-limits to dogs, the cool coastal hamlet of Kingston SE is home to a number of beaches where your fur friend can run free, minus the leash – you just need to get your timing right. Generally speaking, when Daylight Saving is in full swing (early October to early April), you’ll need to cart young Rufus down to the sand before 9am or after 8pm at most spots - except for the beach and foreshore south of Pinks Beach and north of the jetty, which are both good-to go all year round.
Just a little further south, the low-key gem of Wrights Bay is another magic spot for ‘Spot’ to frolic around on the grass and have a good leash-free run on the beach, as well as being home to some pretty great swimming and snorkelling for humans.
Accommodation-wise, it’s worth checking out the Kingston Foreshore Caravan Park, while Bliss Kingston SE is known for its pet-friendly dining, with a nice little alfresco area that’ll happily accommodate your fur child, complete with mock lawn and a water bowl.
Visit the Kingston District Council’s page for the full lowdown on everything.
Robe with Rufus
In the cute and classy little township of Robe, you’ll find endless on-leash walking options, kicking off with the awesome 12-kilometre all-access Loop Trail from Long Beach which takes in awe-inspiring vistas, rugged coves and bays and plenty of maritime history, including the iconic Cape Dombey Obelisk.
Of course, the iconic Long Beach is always a magnet for coast lovers and their canines and depending on the exact stretch of sand - and the season you’re travelling - you’ll find dogs are welcome both on and off leash at various times of the year. Generally speaking, the period outside 1st December to Easter Long Weekend is the easiest time to let your little fur baby run free, while between those dates you’ll usually need to clip their leash back on. Oh, and just be mindful of cars around here - the drive-on stretch can admittedly get busy in peak times!
Other year-round on-leash favourites around town include Fox Beach, Karatta Beach, the spectacular Nora Creina Bay and Boatswain Point Beach, with the super easy to access Town Beach and Foreshore easily do-able from the Post Office right through to Sea Vu Caravan Park. Campers with dogs can also set up along the non-National Park section between Nora Creina and Beachport.
If you’re keen to put some more paw prints down without a leash, West Beach is a perfect year-round option that’s nice and close to town, but be mindful that if you’ve got a sea-loving spaniel on your hands you’ll also want to keep your eye out for rips. The lush open space at Lipson Park is another great option to take your tag-along for a run in any season.
Away from surf and sand, you’ll be glad to know that all of Robe’s ovals are generally good to go on-leash (outside organised sport and events), as are its streets, footpaths, jetties and walking/bicycle tracks.
Keeping fed and watered in between adventures is all too easy around here with Drift being a much-loved hotspot for doggos and their humans, featuring a sizeable outdoor area and plenty of grass, plus attentive staff that’ll top up Fido’s water bowl in between courses. Both the Union Café and Adventurous Spoon are also great go-to’s for cappuccinos and a bite with heated outdoor spaces and garden areas where dogs are always welcome.
When it’s time to hit the hay, the local caravan parks are as great option, with Sea Vu Caravan Park, Lakeside Tourist Park, Discovery Parks and Robe Holiday Park all offering varying levels of pet-friendly stays, from campsites through to cabins (each with its own policy). If you’re after something more self-contained, Robe Lifestyle Properties are one of the more popular spots around town, with a selection of pet-friendly holiday houses that range from total beachfront luxury to quirky little retreats.
With a smorgasbord of small, independent accommodation operators in the area, Air BnB is another great resource to find a spot for weary paws, and if there’s any doubt about where (and where not) to go around this town, check out the Robe District Council’s page right here.
Your best mate in Beachport
The sun, sand and surf certainly doesn’t stop in Robe, with more sweeping sands to run your four-legged friends ragged, outside the obvious no-go zones (eg. Beachport Conservation Park).
Packing your pup into the car for a cruise along the Bowman Scenic Drive is an excellent option for doggos and their humans, with 8-kilometres of road snaking its way through spectacular dunes, beaches and dramatic limestone cliffs. Salmon Hole is about the best spot along here to take your little mate for a stroll and watch local fishermen ply their trade, with a handy 300-metre-long beach at Post Office Rock just a little further on.
Back in town, the gentle shelving sands of Surf Beach dissolve into a backdrop of South Australia’s second longest jetty (another good on-leash wander for doggos) along with neighbouring headlands and islands, making it a pretty enticing option for a stroll along the sand, and while dogs can also take full advantage of the leash-free beach at Southend, this is also where Canunda National Park (and a camper’s odyssey) begins, so Southend Tourist Park’s Bush Campground is about the last spot to stay with your pooch before their coastal journey ends (but only outside peak season). If you’re heading in this direction, you can still set up camp along the beach (with your mate) between Beachport and Southend to get a pristine patch all to yourselves.
For pet-friendly stays around town, check out Beachport Caravan Park right opposite the beach for blissful ball throwing and camping, while the more luxurious digs at Bonnies of Beachport offer furry apartment guests on request.
Wine dogs of Coonawarra
And here it is… wine country. You know you need it, right? While Fido can happily go for weeks on water, YOU my two-legged friend, cannot! So, it’s handy to know that while you’re getting your fill of nature’s nectar your little travel companion will be equally well looked after.
Without dragging this out any longer, here’s a very comprehensive list of local Coonawarra cellar doors that will happily look after both you and your h20 loving hound… Generally speaking dogs are usually welcome outside on-leash, but a few spots will go out of their way to make sure your canine companion isn’t caught short when you’re topping up that glass (or three).
At Penley Estate (by appointment only) your little mate will relish socialising with the resident wine dog, Morrie, and being a good distance from the road they’ll also find plenty of space and shade while their parents are off tasting tipple.
At Bellwether Wines ‘Mabel’ the Maremma serves as the official welcoming committee, and while her official duties may be to guard the livestock and chickens, she’ll quite happily lead you and your own little wine dog to the tasting room and barrel shed. It’s also good to know her awesome campground is pet friendly, with a range of options to suit all taste and budgets, while at Wynns Coonawarra Estate you’ll find a grassy outdoor area with picnic tables to help you and you fur kid work through the range.
At Raidis Estate you’ll find another handy space for doggos to get their drink on (minus the booze) with loads of room to roam, while Whistle Post Wines delivers a doggy dream with resident wine dog ‘Alfie’ on hand to guide you (and your mate) to a partially shaded deck area and plush grounds ripe for exploration.
Of course, we all need to stay and run somewhere, so if you’re taking your own wine dog to Coonawarra, it’s worth checking out some of the best spots to wind down while you’re trekking the terra rossa! For ‘walkies’ in Penola, grab a map from the John Riddoch Centre and Walk With History through a colourful selection of 19th century properties (on-leash) via Petticoat Lane, with its awesome Herb Garden providing a great little gallop in between greens.
There are plenty of pet-friendly accommodation options in the area, including the spacious setting of the Penola Coonawarra Caravan Park. Or for a little dose of luxury, you’ll also want to check out the lush digs at Must at Coonawarra, with a Luxury Spa Suite and Studio set aside for travel-loving pooches - plus ‘Skippy’ the canine concierge on-hand for extra company. Other spots to stay include Ruby’s Cottage in Penola and Camawald Studio, both with large enclosed gardens (pets by arrangement) and Coonawarra Bush Holiday Park, who welcome pets of most shapes and sizes, with a great little off-leash walk around the perimeter.
Looking for advice on travelling with pets? The Limestone Coast has friendly Visitor Servicing experts across the Region's Visitor Centres so give them a call or visit in person for the latest in the moment fishing advice!