Read our writer's views on this property below
Doggy treats, canine reading, comfy beds ... Katrina Lobley and her companion find a B&B that takes pet friendliness to a new level.
THERE is whimpering from the back seat as we approach our destination. It's the doggy equivalent of "Are we there yet?" and yes, Stella, we almost are.
Leaving the Gold Coast at 9am, we stopped at Ballina for a cuppa with friends, stretched our legs near the elevated McDonald's on a flood-prone patch of land at South Grafton, paused at Woolgoolga (Woopi to the locals) to text our B&B that we're on approach as per instructions and, finally, at 4pm, we're veering off the Pacific Highway at Bonville, south of Coffs Harbour.
Five kilometres from the highway is the dog-friendly Wagtail Cottage – and, indeed, Stella's tail is making like a metronome as she bounds from the car to investigate her overnight home.
Jennifer McLeod greets us, saying it's the first time a Belgian barge dog has come to stay. Stella has enjoyed other dog-friendly digs before – namely the more basic but cheerful Tropic Oasis Villas at Korora on the northern side of Coffs – but this is her first time checking into a stylish B&B. She sniffs the entire joint, which not only comes with its own fenced courtyard garden shaded by avocado trees but also has a large wicker basket under the human bed especially for her. Meanwhile, I'm trying to process the surreal sight of my dog wandering about the neat-as-a-pin cottage at her leisure.
Travelling long distances with a pooch is problematic. Accommodation choices are limited, so we're always grateful when someone is open-minded enough to welcome four-legged family members. But hey, Wagtail, how about easing up on the schoolmarmish notes sprinkled about the cottage?
The first I encounter is on the bed. It tells me that if I need an extra pillow to use one from the cupboard rather than sleeping on the decorator pillows. And if I need a light on at night, use the nightlight rather than leaving the bathroom fluorescent on. Uh-huh. A pile of towels on the bed is tied with a pretty pink ribbon. A note tells me to leave the ribbon in the bedside drawer.
I head to the bathroom guessing that further instructions await. Sure enough, a note on the mirror says dogs shouldn't be washed in the shower and not to waste Wagtail's tank-water by, for example, shaving in the shower with the water running. Outside, there's a note about not picking fruit from the avocado trees and not bumping my head on the branches while cleaning up dog poop.
The multitude of instructions comes on top of other Wagtail rules that seem a little over-the-top to Stella and me. I must show Stella's vaccination paperwork on checking in, which is from 3pm to 8pm – arrive any later and you face being charged $20 extra. Check-out is before 10am. We must also avoid setting off the owners' two dogs.
On the upside, all this attention to detail results in an impeccably spotless place. With the owners' high standards, you know you're never going to find a stray dog hair lurking in your coffee cup.
They've also cleverly skipped putting rugs on the tiled floor. The whole place, including the shower, is wheelchair accessible. Big thumbs up, too, to the 20 DVDs (including Roman Holiday, my favourite) stacked near the television. The last thing a weary driver wants to do is head out to find entertainment for the evening.
We love the cute doggy touches, which range from dog-themed cups and tea towels to the doggy treats on the kitchen bench, canine-themed reading, full water bowls, leash hooks and indoor and outdoor dog beds.
From the look of the visitors' books (the entire series, dating from 2007, is on a shelf in the kitchenette), most travellers use Wagtail – just like us - as a convenient and luxurious one-night stopover when driving between Sydney and Brisbane or the Gold Coast. Those who stay longer often take their furry children to the region's beaches (a longer-term visitor helpfully describes the dog-friendliness or otherwise of the nearest beaches).
Visitor entries are uniformly glowing, especially about the food (the owners used to run a cafe in Sawtell and can provide dinner on request). The good-looking breakfast basket included in the tariff is in the fridge when I arrive – it's stacked with individually wrapped bread slices (fruit, multigrain, wholemeal), homemade jams (persimmon, mandarin, marmalade), a canister of homemade honey-roasted almond muesli and a jug of full-cream milk.
In the morning I put the toaster to work and head outside to toast myself in the Mid North Coast sunshine. Next thing, the ear-splitting smoke alarm goes off – didn't check the toaster dial, which was cranked to the max. I manage to hush the alarm but it only slows to a squeal every minute, making it impossible to stay inside. I buzz Jennifer, who tells me the smoke alarm isn't her area of expertise and they'll look at it after I've gone.
It's not exactly the help I hoped for – and after 15 minutes, the alarm thankfully quits beeping. As I turn out of Wagtail's driveway to start our 522-kilometre drive home to Sydney, I can't help but think the toaster will soon be wearing a note.
Where Wagtail Cottage, five kilometres off the Pacific Highway at Bonville, 11 kilometres south of Coffs Harbour, wagtailcottage.com.au.
How much $120 a night (February-November), $140 a night (December-January) includes breakfast (DIY barbecue breakfast ingredients available for $15 a person).
Top marks When overnighting along the Pacific Highway, it's all about location, location, location — you want to be far enough away from traffic to enjoy a good night's sleep but without a lengthy detour. Wagtail's deliciously quiet neighbourhood is blissful.
Black mark The instructions found at every turn can put you on tenterhooks when all you want to do is relax.
Don't miss Find a dog sitter, then stroll among hundreds of colourful butterflies at Coffs Harbour Butterfly House in Bonville. Or take the dog for a romp along an off-leash beach, such as Boambee between Coffs Harbour and Sawtell.
More information see lovemelovemydog.com.au and holidayingwithdogs.com.au for other dog-friendly accommodation.