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Travelling with Dogs in Australia (or, “is there anywhere you CAN actually go?”): Part 1 – Hiking

I know, I know, I’ve whinged about Australia’s lack of dog-friendly anything before on this blog. You’re probably thinking, “Come on, Em. It can’t be that bad.”

And…

You’d be wrong.

If you are considering visiting Australia with your dog, here is (almost?) everything you need to know about rules, restrictions and regulations around travelling with dogs.

First, assume that your dog will not be allowed anywhere. I mean it. Anywhere. This will save you a lot of heartache later, and will mean you’re pleasantly surprised if somewhere does allow dogs. I’m talking parks, forests, tourist attractions, hotels, shops, public transport and car-hire companies will not allow dogs. I’m not trying to be a downer, it’s just a fact. While there is a bit of a movement now to try and make Australia more “dog friendly”, we still have a long way to go, and most of our ‘main attractions’ (especially natural ones) will not allow dogs.

Yes, I took my dogs to the square outside the Opera House but not without some weird looks. 

Hiking

Know that Australia’s parks and hiking areas are divided up (more or less) as such: National Parks, State Parks, State Forests & other (scenic parks and reserves, historical areas, etc).

In general, dogs won’t be allowed in any National Parks and most State Parks. State Forests are where logging occurs and il/legal motorbike riding, but this is also where dogs are allowed (even off-leash, assuming they’re “under control”). The other miscellaneous parks depend on a park-by-park basis. I would say that the further away from the capital cities you go, the more likely it is that dogs will be allowed in the park. Of course, each state in Australia has different rules and regulations with some National Parks being allowed on-lead only. Below are some ‘official’ websites for each state with the rules pertaining to National Parks and otherwise. But usually, if you put in the name of the park you want to visit into google, and add “dogs allowed” someone will know – the more official the source the better. There’s just too many parks for me to list them all here. Be conscious that some parks that seem to “allow” dogs, may only allow them in a small part of the park, or at a particular picnic area, or on one specific trail.

|  Victoria  |  Queensland  |  New South Wales  |  South Australia  |  Western Australia  |  Tasmania  | Northern Territory  | ACT

Doggo.com.au also lists many dog friendly parks, however many of them might just be an oval or small grassy area so not that great if you’re wanting to actually hike.

Australia is also known for its long stretches of sandy beaches, and while I wish I could tell you a definite “yes” or “no” to whether you can take your dogs there, I can’t. It depends. Some beaches are designated “off-lead, year-long”. Hurrah!! Others have confusing restrictions – my favourite being those where dogs are allowed on-lead during non-daylight savings, but during daylight savings, between the hours of 6-9am and 7-9pm. Or where one section of the beach is fine, and another section is not. Clear as mud, hey?

There’s definitely places for beach-romps!! Just make sure you check the signs and local council information before you do.

Other things to keep in mind about hiking in Australia are snakes during the warmer, sunnier season (from about September to April, I guess) which severely restrict off-lead hiking and require constant vigilance during on-lead hikes. Ticks are also common along the east coast, with a particular fun variety that can cause paralysis. Hurrah! Australia is great.

Also, due to foxes being an introduced pest in Australia, some parks and forests are baited with 1080 which is fatal for dogs if they eat it. There are supposed to be signs up warning you that the area has been baited and when, but certainly be careful to not allow your dogs to eat anything they find off the track.

Finding Forests – Victoria

While I’ve travelled a bit of Australia, Victoria is my home state and the place I’ve explored most. So, while I’ve found quite a few nice hiking trails and forests, when people ask me: “How do you find places to hike with your dog?” this is what I do:

      1. Open Google Maps.
      2. Find a pale green area (like… moss green, not green-green.)

        This is a GENERAL rule only – sometimes the pale green will be a nature reserve so dogs won’t be allowed, and sometimes the green-green will be some random regional park and dogs WILL be allowed, but in GENERAL, pale green = state forests, green-green = national parks. IN GENERAL!!!!

      3. Zoom in. If the green area disappears, it’s probably not really a forest but some farms or something. If it stays there, see if it has a name. Otherwise, jump over to the DSE forest explorer tool which is a fairly useful resource to find picnic areas, trails and campsites around Victoria. You’re usually pretty safe if it says “State Forest” that you can hike there, but if unsure…
      4. Google the name of the forest. See “Bunyip State Park” up there? Google it: “Bunyip State Park, Dogs?”. Horses? A-OK! Dogs? Nope.  Looking up the forest will also tell you if anybody else has hiked there, look at their pictures, and see if there’s anything worth looking at once you’re there. Yes, it’s totally fun to go and just explore, but if you end up walking along a boggy clay logging road with fairly stock-standard forest either side, you’ll wonder whether the 2 hour drive to get there was really worth it!

And that’s about it! That’s my magical method for finding places to walk my dogs. Tallarook, areas up around Mt Buller, Yarra State Forest, Avon-Mt Hedrick Natural reserve, Mt. Tassie, Mt. Cole and more as you go further out of the city (especially east and northeast) are all great places to visit. You can also check out some of my favourite hikes that I’ve posted on this blog.

It’s not all doom and gloom. There are some really lovely places you can take your dogs hiking in Australia, it just may require some more preparation and forward thought to make sure you’re both safe, and that you’re in places you’re allowed to be. Before you head out hiking, make sure you and your dog are prepared. Make sure you have enough water and that you gradually build up condition. There’s a blog post on this coming soon!

Quick tip: Every time I go to the snow I have at least 3 people ask me where I went. Follow the steps above, but turn on the “terrain” option of GoogleMaps. Check the height of the most recent snow-falls (make sure they’re quite recent!) and find elevation lines at least that high, or higher. And Bam! You have your snow walks. Many small roads will be seasonably closed too, so they make perfect walking tracks. Enjoy!

If you have any tips or advice, or favourite places to hike with your dog throughout Australia, get in touch!

A thirty-something dog trainer, outdoor lover, agility enthusiast and would-be writer from Australia – taking her dog and travelling around Europe.