There’s nothing like seeing your dog’s big soulful eyes and miserable expression when you’re packing a suitcase for a trip – they just know when they’re getting left behind!
There’s an easy way to avoid the dog dramas. Pack that mutt in the car and take a road trip to the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region – the place where dogs are not only welcome, but invited guests.
Whether it’s a lovable family Labrador or a discerning French bulldog belonging to DINKs (double income, no kids), I’m told a whopping 40 per cent of Australian households own at least one dog. And guess what? That canine guest is quietly influencing where their owners choose to head on holidays.
Considering the rise and rise in pet-friendly accommodation, taking the furry family member along also makes sense in other ways. Not only do you save on expensive boarding fees, but once the kids get sick of you posting endless Instagram holiday spam of them, your canine kid will be right there hamming it up (and unable to take you to court over said photos in a few decades’ time).
[Just like this gorgeous looking guy, spending time on his peronsal/private jetty during a recent stay at Mannum's dog-friendly holiday house 11 From the Left.]
Most pet-friendly holidays begin with a long (and sometimes tedious) road trip. So a route with regular pit-stops is a must.
Driving in on the Dukes Highway, you’ll find great dog parks right alongside the highway in the towns of Coonalpyn, Tintinara, Tailem Bend and a quick detour to neighbouring Meningie. All are fully fenced and a safe place for dogs to bound away their energy, while YOU seek out caffeine and pleasant public loos. Plus, if you’re on the hunt for snacks to take on the road (for you and your pup) drop in to the Tailem Bend Info Station – these guys have the super-popular (locally made) healthy dog biscuits!
(Hint: Alongside the famous Coonalpyn Silos, you’ll even see there’s a new drinking water fountain with a foot operated in-ground dog bowl incorporated in to the design… oh, and waffles across the road just in case the fur-parents need refreshments too! Above pic courtesy of the Coorong District Council.)
A short detour off the highway will also lead you to a large, fenced dog park at Murray Bridge, where your mutt can run free while you can take a squiz at the footy being played on Johnstone Park oval next door.
Now, there are dog parks and there are DOG PARKS.
With a pocket full of Schmackos, you may even be able to convince your canine athlete to attempt the many pieces of agility equipment there… well, maybe.
[For Kobe the spoilt spoodle, there's no need to holiday when your backyard looks like this! This adorable Murray River-loving guy heads out on the River, near Murray Bridge's White Sands ski resort regularly, with his owner @kerryn_mundy What a life!]
My dog-loving friends who drive up this way from Adelaide, always mention to me that they like to grab a lead and take pups for a stroll around the many beautiful walking trails in (one of the few dog-friendly conservation parks) Kinchina Conservation Park, the largest area of native vegetation in the Monarto region. Just a quick detour off the highway on the way to Murray Bridge, the park is a great place to stretch your legs, admire some wildflowers and, if you’re lucky, spot some rare birds with entertaining names, such as the Diamond Firetail and the Restless Flycatcher.
Keep that dog on a leash though! No one wants to lose Fido. Or a Restless Flycatcher.
If a stroll around town is more your style - then just pop that leash on and away you go. We're a region of dog-lovers down here, and there's plenty of beautiful river and lakeside strolls you can take, including the ever-beautiful Sturt Reserve at Murray Bridge and Pelican Path in Meningie. Or if your dog is up for something new, why not take them for a ride across one of our ferries (try Mannum, Swan Reach, Tailem Bend or Wellington).
One thing to remember is to stock up on disposable poo-bags. Although most of our councils supply these for free, there is the odd occasion where you’ll find an empty roll and just like those pesky kids, dogs seem to know exactly when to drop a bomb!
Once that road trip comes to an end – you can easily find yourself and your dog (or dogs) somewhere to stay. Here’s the good news, our region is filled with pet-friendly caravan parks, hotels and luxury private residences right on the Murray River.
[Pic courtesy of one of our Aussie Olympic divers and dachshund-lover Rachel Bugg taking her little guy for a wakesurf in Mannum - who knew you could get a lifejacket that size! Follow her pooch pics via @littlemissbugg.]
The Murray Bridge Marina Camping and Caravan Park allows pets in selected residences, plus the Central Olympic Motel have one pet-friendly motel unit and three cottages to offer you and your furry-friend. Those seeking a little extra luxury along the Murray can check out River Shack Rentals, which has around 13 residences on the books that allow pets. Or for something a bit different, check out ‘Eleven from the Left’ a pet-friendly funky little riverfront shack in Mannum owned by dog-lovers themselves.
If you’ve got a hankering for a different kind of on-river accommodation, there’s even a few houseboats where well-behaved (and small) pups are welcome … take a look at the Magic at Mannum (pictured, below) houseboat to see if this suits you!?
[Image courtesy of Magic Houseboat Hire]
Or for something a bit smaller (and a bit cute too), check out the much-loved River Wren fleet of houseboats, which allow up to two pets on each craft.
[Above image of Murray Bridge's River Wren houseboat courtesy of @holidayingwithdogs.]
A little more budget conscious? A little paw icon on the Mannum Riverside Caravan Park website lets dog-owners know their canine family members are welcome on all caravan and camping sites, with some exclusions on busy holiday periods and long weekends.
The Lake Albert Caravan Park at Meningie also allows dogs for camp and caravan sites, while the Goolwa Tourist Park not only allows pets on camp sites, but also keeps aside special pet-friendly cabins.
After a day trip to entertain your mutt?
Packed full of salty smells and sandy digging fun, beaches are a great place for a bout of dog-accompanied exercise and Goolwa’s ocean beach welcomes dogs on leash (some early morning, late evening off-leash times apply), as does the Coorong National Park ocean beach. The latter, famous for its pristine stretches of saltwater lagoons, spectacular sunsets and wild sandy beaches, is a bit of a treat for both canine and owners as most national parks are firmly off-limits to dogs.
[Aussie Shepherds Rebel and Tex take a run along Goolwa Beach during the off-leash period. Pic courtesy of their owners' Insta page @rebelandtex.]
After all that running around, a dog-friendly café is a welcome sight. Keeping a welcome bowl of water out the front permanently full are Goolwa's Mother Duck and Bombora and Murray Bridge's The Davery.
So when you’re busy demolishing a big Sunday breakfast and your pup is busy drooling at your feet, you can let a bit of bacon casually slip under the table before all becomes quiet.
Really, it’s a dog’s life in the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region … so come for a drive and find out why!
About the author
Originally hailing from the city, Julie Bates now resides with her family in the heart of the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region, with property only metres from the world-famous Monarto Zoo. Julie has fallen in love with the region, and has been lucky enough to combine her experience in tourism, with her passion for bringing more people to the region she now calls home. Julie knows every stretch of the region, and the characters who live and work along it. If you ever meet her, she’ll tell you about the great places to eat, play and explore; the magical scenery she gets to see every day at work; AND with her tribe of three kids, she can fill you in on the most family-friendly itineraries for a weekend (or week) away.