3 reasons to have a pup-cation along SA’s Murray River

If you’re feeling like you need to get out, explore and stretch your legs again in SA – just imagine how your four-legged friends are feeling?

That’s right. It’s time to take your pet pooch for a quick getaway. Because if you think being trapped inside a house or small backyard has been tough for humans, just try being a dog!

A few months ago, during lockdown, our pet pooches were having the time of their lives. They had their owners and families home every day of the week – feeding them more home-cooked leftovers than ever, copping more cuddles and under-ear scratches in a week than in the previous year; and in many cases their owners were taking them out for 2-3 walks a day, just to escape the four walls of their home (and helping to stay within the rules of the COVID-19 measures that were set).


Now here in SA, their owners have gone back to their busy work and life routine, and our loyal K9s have been left at home alone… again.

BUT, the good news is that travelling with your pet has never been easier – and it’s made even better along the Murray River.


A quick 45 minute drive from the Adelaide toll gate and you’re in Murray Bridge – arguably one of SA’s most pet-friendly towns, with not one, but FOUR dog-parks and off-leash zones, a beautiful conservation park which is (uniquely) dog-friendly, a sensory overload of wonder along the edge of the Murray River and pet-loving café owners who are ready to refresh you and your pup.

So bring your favourite companion on a pup-cation to remember – here’s just a few reasons why we think you’ll both love it…


Above: This pooch is living the dream, chilling out on the river with his owner @kerryn_mundy

1. The Murray River’s smells, sights, water and walkways

I was listening to a radio interview this week, where Australia’s favourite celebrity vet Dr Chris Brown mentioned that a dog’s nose is key to its sense of survival and wellbeing. So just like many of us feel better mentally and physically when we can have a walk, run, breathe in fresh air, meditate, drink coffee or see our friends (whatever it takes); DOGS instead need to exercise their sense of smell.

So where better to get that sniffer overloaded, than along the banks of the Murray River.


The beauty of a visit to Murray Bridge’s stretch of the Murray, is that the levee banks which verge on the edge of the water have been opened up to the public in recent years (and this includes our much-loved mutts). Every day when I cross the historic Murray Bridge, I see people out in groups, or on their own walking (or running) their pups along the River’s edge. For those on a regular riverside roam, they can make good speed on the beautifully maintained stretches of walkways. For others who are bringing their furry friends out for the first time, the joy from the four-legged furballs is obvious – as owners are led on a continual zig-zag to explore new smells, lap up a quick drink or even get wet as the pups take a dip from the edge.

Our recommendation is to follow the Thiele Reserve to Long Flat stretch of levee bank, which is about a pristine 2.3km stretch one-way (or almost 5km return).


There’s always plenty of new friends for your pup to meet as well, with the locals using this much-loved trail for daily exercise – soaking up the magnificence of the Murray River and views of the historic dual bridges each morning and during twilight.

Pups will need to stay on a lead along the levee banks, but there’s plenty of space to give them some extra length to ensure space to explore… and SNIFF!


If you head along here for a walk, make sure you duck in to one of the nearby local coffee shops along Bridge Street like Steamers CaféMystical Flair or Acre and Ash (just around the corner on sixth street and recently voted as having one of SA’s best babycinos!). All have dog bowls outside, and places to sit if you want to have a cuppa with your pup.

Importantly, if you love paddling as much as walking (and your dog is a water-lover), then pack in the paddleboard and take them out on smooth water, just like our local paddling pup Kobi (pictured above) who gets his regular dose of river action thanks to his ever-active family.


Above: The Kinchina Conservation Park has multiple trails and loops to explore through varying terrain. You might even catch a nice sunrise or sunset like the one pictured above (via @jnnings)!

2. Pack your poop bags, and head out for a few hours in Kinchina Conservation Park

It’s a rare find to come across a conservation park that is dog friendly. But we have one, and it’s just on the edge of the Murray Bridge township (and even nearby Monarto Safari Park).

Kinchina Conservation Park has become a hot-spot for walkers, runners, hikers, mountain-bikers, families, photographers, nature-lovers and NOW dog-owners since COVID-19 hit back in late March 2020. Because even while the number of users has quadrupled, the park is big enough (and trails long enough) that you can often walk through without seeing another soul.

Once again, your pup will be excited to have their smelling senses overloaded by the native flora and fauna, with kangaroos often seen bounding through the trail spurs and small tepee-style cubby houses (half-built by a bunch of kids who have recently walked through).


There’s also plenty of space and different undulating surfaces to test the fitness and endurance of you and your dog – so make sure you wear good shoes, pack some scroggin for you and the mut, and add an extra waterbottle (because if you’re like most other people, you’ll end up exploring a little further along the trails than you first thought).

The old wreck house just over the top of the first hill is always fun to explore with friends, kids, or dogs; plus there’s a few other icons to see, including a railway underpass, old in-ground tank and more.

It’s also becoming a mecca for photographers like our pal @jnnings to snap a sunset moment, with the brilliant colours reflecting off the Murray Plains from various vantage points within the park. So if you love taking a good snap, then pack your favourite lens as well.


Above: Your fur baby will love running around off-leash at this fully fenced section at Johnstone Park.

3. Pamper your pooch with a café and dog park visit

Now if your legs need a rest, but the pup is still keen to go, there are also FOUR off-leash parks in Murray Bridge where your dog can run, play, stretch, sniff and socialise.

One of the favourites though is at Johnstone Park, which is easily accessible just off Adelaide Road in Murray Bridge. It’s also (quite conveniently) a short walk to the GCS Café, which also serves up great coffee and meals, and has a seating area and dog-bowl outside for pupcation breaks, just like yours.

GCS cafe dogs

Above: Need a break from all the action? The GCS Cafe on Adelaide Road is a great spot to grab a coffee while your fur friends can rest with you outside.

And it’s not just Murray Bridge that has embraced the dog-park movement along the Murray River. There’s also a favourite over in Mannum, alongside the local football oval and skate park (so the whole family can have a workout). If you cross the river via the ferry at Mannum, you’ll also land yourself along one of our favourite sections of the Murray Coorong Trail. Here you can use the shared path to walk (or ride) with you pup between Mannum and Kia Marina – and take in the magical Murray River right alongside of you’re the whole time. This picturesque stretch used to be a public road, but is now closed off for walkers, cyclists and local traffic only.


Driving along 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!

Coonalpyn Silos

(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)!

Where to stay with your pup:

Now if your beloved pup is spending the day exploring, they’ll want somewhere nice to rest their heads too (and you definitely will!). Our region is filled with pet-friendly caravan parks, hotels and luxury private residences right on the Murray River (and not to mention, it will save you a bundle on expensive boarding fees).

The Murray Bridge Marina 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.


Above: River Shack Rentals has various pet-friendly properties like this one near Mannum.

Those seeking a little extra luxury along the Murray can check out River Shack Rentals, which has around 13 self-contained residences on the books that allow pets. Or for something a bit different, check out ‘Eleven from the Left’ (pictured above) a pet-friendly funky little riverfront shack in Mannum owned by dog-lovers themselves. If you’re further down river, why not test out Wayfarers Cottage in Goolwa, unwind at Muse on the Murray in Wellington, get wild with Samphire Coorong in Meningie, or holiday away from the crowds on the edge of the Coorong lagoons at Noonameena here.


Above: These two pups (@rebelandtex) enjoying their stretch along Goolwa Beach’s off-leash zone.

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) mutts are welcome … take a look at the Magic at Mannum houseboat to see if this suits you!?

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: Jump onboard the River Wren for a weekend of relaxtion on the river. Image: @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. Or if you want to check out something brand new, why not spend a night or two at The Bend’s Big 4 Caravan Park, which is pet friendly too.

Really, it’s a dog’s life in the Murray River, Lakes and Coorong region … so come for a drive and find out why!