Venturing out in our trusty 1975 Volkswagen kombi Etta, we – that’s me, Mez, my husband Sean and our rescue pup, Bandit – drove across Australia on an epic road trip adventure. Our journey spanned four states, one territory and covered over 22,400 kilometres. From the white sandy beaches of South Australia to the Red Centre of the Northern Territory we, along with our four-legged friend, explored this wide and vast land with excitement in our hearts and a spring in our step.
Travelling with a dog around Australia isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible. If like us, you want to travel with your dog you should carefully consider the pros and cons before heading out on a big journey.
If you want to see all the most touristy places around the country and spend most of your time in national parks (where dogs are not allowed), then you may want to leave your pooch at home. This is for their benefit, not yours. They’re better off staying home with a friend, house-sitter or loved one.
If, however, you’re keen to see different parts of the country that are off the beaten track, prepared to skip some national parks and are ready to have a much more fulfilling and adventurous trip, then bring your dog! Here is some helpful dog friendly travel advice from our motley crew to yours!
Keeping Your Dog Safe
Just like us, our dogs must feel secure and comfortable when travelling. Here are the best things you can do to keep your dog safe on the road:
- Strap your dog in using a car harness. You wouldn’t travel without a seatbelt and neither should your dog.
- Ensure your dog always has access to fresh water and well-ventilated spaces.
- Set up a routine to make your dog feel more comfortable and certain of what will happen each day. Even though you’re moving from place to place, try to do daily activities at the same times.
- Always keep your dog in the shade, whether you’re driving along the highway or relaxing at camp. Australia is hot, and up north it’s hot all year round.
- Do not leave your dog alone in a hot and enclosed space.
- Do not leave your dog tied up outside your vehicle unattended in rural, bush or outback areas. Australia is full of snakes and wild dogs and you can’t guarantee the safety of your dog if you leave them tied up unattended.
- The poison ‘1080’ – which is used to cull wild dog, fox and feral cat populations – is everywhere on both public and private land, and is deadly to dogs. There should be signs stating if it’s present, but don’t rely solely on these; assume it’s everywhere. Keep your dog on a lead in these areas, and if you can’t guarantee they won’t eat things off the ground then get a muzzle for them.
- Consult with your vet before you leave so you know what to do if they swallow 1080 poison.
- Have an animal first-aid kit for your dog. Bandages, wound pads, tick and flea treatments, worming tablets, saline, antiseptic ointment and crystal Epsom salts are all essential. Again, consult with your local vet before leaving.
- Ensure your dog is fully vaccinated.
Tips for National Parks and Conservation Areas
Dog access rules must be followed wherever you are to ensure the safety of native wildlife and the environment. It might seem like a tiresome task to keep to these rules, but dogs are actually allowed in more places than you’d think.
There are certain conservation areas, state forests, national parks, protected beaches and wilderness parks around the country where dogs are allowed. In some places, dogs are only permitted in certain spots like car parks or designated walking trails.
In most states and territories, if the only way to get from A to B is via a road that leads through a national park, then you are allowed to drive through with your dog in the car – but you can’t stop and get out. Check what the rules are in each state before you leave.
Kennels and Dog-sitters
There are plenty of kennels, doggy day-care facilities and private dog-sitters across the country. Some local vets will even board your pet overnight or for a few hours. Not all kennels are created equal, so we highly recommend you go and see a few before choosing one. We saw some horrific kennel conditions, so it pays to investigate before booking. If your dog is going to stay in a kennel, you need to bring a printed record of their current vaccinations.
Most information centres will have a list of local dog sitters in the area where kennels are not available.
Our Top 3 Dog Friendly Highlights of South Australia
1. Rapid Bay, Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia
Nestled in a small cove near the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula and surrounded by large rolling hills is the oceanside hideaway of Rapid Bay. The water radiates a luminous turquoise and the pebbly beach stretches far north, leading to a huge towering granite hillside with a cave cut into the cliff face. The campground is right on the water’s edge and the sunsets in the evening are a sight to behold.
2. Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia
Pennington Bay on the southern side of Kangaroo Island is an epic long white beach, surrounded by beautiful bushland, rolling dunes and stunning cliff faces. Large rocky limestone boulders rise out from the shore and the views of the Southern Ocean are remarkable.
3. Greenly Beach and Rock Pool, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia
The stunning Greenly Beach situated on the western side of the Eyre Peninsula is a dog’s delight. With glistening turquoise waters, golden sand and free bush camping it is a magical spot to take your pooch. There is a rocky outcrop to the north and hidden around the headland is the beautiful Greenly Rock Pool.
Our Top 3 Dog Friendly Highlights of Western Australia
1. Wharton Beach, Esperance, Western Australia
On the eastern side of The Cape Le Grand National Park, just west of Duke of Orleans Bay, is the stunning Wharton Beach. With its curved bay, pure white sand and crystal-clear waters it makes the best spot for an afternoon swim and chill. The bay is surrounded by amazing native bushlands that are home to many species of unique and stunning flora.
2. Point Quobba, Coral Coast, Western Australia
Point Quobba with its towering lighthouse, epic blow holes and snorkeling delights is a must see destination on the Coral Coast. Just south of the famous Quobba Blowholes sits a lagoon known locally as ‘The Aquarium’ because of its amazing snorkelling. The protected waters are filled with sea life and the most stunning coral. Maybe the greatest thing about this place is that it’s dog friendly. Although Bandit can’t quite work a snorkel yet, he still enjoyed swimming and relaxing on the beach.
3. Cable Beach, Broome, Western Australia
Cable Beach is truly a magical spot, especially if you can navigate the 4×4 rocky track onto the beach. Head down the sandy highway and find our own quiet spot on the water’s edge and enjoy this epic stretch of The Kimberley coast. The sunsets here are particularly awe inspiring.
Our Top 3 Dog Friendly Highlights of the Northern Territory
1. Bitter Springs, Northern Territory
The jewel in the crown of all the thermal pools in the Katherine area is Bitter Springs. These spring-fed thermal pools are set among the most stunning palm-filled natural surrounds and are an absolute wonderland of epic proportions. The springs themselves are not dog-friendly but the campground across the road is. Camping amongst this tropical oasis was a rejuvenating experience on a long road trip.
2. Karlu Karlu, The Devils Marbles, Northern Territory
Surprisingly, Karlu Karlu in the Northern Territory is dog friendly, but please stick to the walking tracks and keep your dog on lead at all times. The gigantic granite boulders sit proud among the flattened outback. Walking among the boulders was an unbelievable experience. The wind has carved them into interesting shapes, with some having split in half over the millennia they have been on the sacred windswept land.
3. Henbury Meteorites Conservation Reserve, Northern Territory
Just south of Alice Springs, in the heart of the Red Centre is the site of the Henbury Craters. The isolated dirt road leading to the site is incredible; a visit to the area would be worth the drive alone. The site consists of over a dozen craters carved into the landscape and is only one of a few sites in Australia where meteorite fragments can still be found. The walk out to the craters takes you along flat, red rocky terrain until you reach the tree filled craters.
Follow more of this motley quartet’s adventures and misadventures in their new book ‘Around Australia at 80ks’ as they make their way around our great southern land.
Bursting with inspiration, insider tips, dog-friendly travel advice and stunning photography, this book is the holiday we all need.
Available now where all good books are sold.
Image source: Photographed by Meredith Schofield