Susan Gough Henly finds there are many properties welcoming dogs and their owners.
I love to take weekend getaways around Victoria. I also love my dogs. These two indulgences generally don't mix well. I have been known to either (a) sneak my two golden retrievers into holiday properties by tying them up on leashes outside, or (b) leave them at home in a secure area and ask friends to feed them (no fun for the dogs).
Little did I realise there are more than 600 delightful dog-friendly accommodations across the state, ranging from holiday houses, self-contained cottages and bed-and-breakfast rooms to farms, caravan parks and motels.
All the properties listed here offer bowls, doggy treats, pooper-scoopers, fenced-in yards (unless otherwise noted) and sometimes special beds.
Holidaying with Dogs is a useful book and website that can help get you oriented. Reviews by clients (100, to be precise) garner accommodations of a five-paw rating status, or dog-lover's nirvana. As with TripAdvisor, the evaluations are subjective and it is important to remember that one person's perfect escape may be another's perfect nightmare.
Hound amusement parkBest Friend Holiday Retreat, in the Tarra Valley rainforest of South Gippsland, is Australia's only doggie residential amusement park and as such is the national five-paw award winner. It features six individually fenced caravan sites, six fenced campsites and seven fenced cabin sites, six fenced off-leash areas as well as low-to-the-ground agility equipment in a dog playground. There are dog drinking stations, a hydrobath and luxury kennels for when you cannot take your canine friend with you. Nearby attractions include waterfalls and rock pools as well as 90-mile beach a 30-minute drive away. The dog-obsessed can rent the Snoopy Snoozer and similarly themed cabins where everything from ice-cube trays and plates to calendars and clocks are festooned with pooch pictures. See www.bestfriend.net.au.
Tyntynder Lodge (and its sister properties, Abacus at Bright, Tessie's House and Tessie's Studio) in Bright is the Victorian state five-paw winner where the focus is on providing charming self-contained cottages perfect for humans who are invited to bring along their dogs. Full kitchens, airconditioning, wood stoves, entertainment systems, decks, quality linens, washer and dryers are de rigueur, however the real attraction is the cottages' location in mature gardens down a quiet country lane beside the Ovens River where there are trails into Bright and through the bush. Owner Catherine Falcke also provides tips on where to take dogs in the region. See holiday www.bright.com.au.
Here are a few more personal recommendations:
Johanna Seaside Cottages, directly behind Johanna Beach, offers a retreat for humans and their animal companions: 260 hectares of green farmland dotted with cows, walking trails, a huge vegetable garden that you are encouraged to use, a solar-heated indoor pool, a chookhouse where you can collect eggs and a wild ocean beach where dogs are allowed on leashes although it is part of the Great Otway National Park. There are seven cottages, all with world-class views. Rivernook and Johanna are the newest, with designer kitchens, king-size beds, reverse-cycle heating and airconditioning, wood stoves, spa baths, entertainment systems, decks, barbecues and fenced yards. You can even arrange for delivery of gourmet fare, from soups and quiches to lasagne and apple pie, made locally by Stephanie Alexander protege Sue Ladewig of the Ridge Cafe in Beech Forest. See www.johannaseaside.com.au.
Coast Cottages, Apollo Bay, are located on a 42-hectare farm, which is also an injured and orphaned wildlife centre, overlooking the Great Ocean Walk and Bass Strait. Of the four cottages, the most appealing are the split-level Seanook, with two bedrooms and bathrooms, full kitchen, large deck, wood stove, and wood floors; and the original stone cottage, with full kitchen, open fireplace and mezzanine sleeping loft. Each cottage is stacked with books and games. When they are not out exploring, humans and dogs love sitting on the deck gazing out to sea. Each cottage has its own private track through farmland down to all-year-round dog-friendly beaches and it is a marvellous three-kilometre walk along the coast into Apollo Bay. The cottages are not all individually fenced. See www.coastcottages.com.au.
Kangadoodle (and its sister house, Doodlebug) in Rye offers just about everything humans and animals could want in beautiful beach house accommodation.
Named after owner Lindy Morris's two labradoodles, there's an open-plan living area, gourmet kitchen, matching crockery, three bedrooms and two bathrooms, reverse cycle airconditioning and heating, entertainment centre, open fire, large private sunny deck with sails and barbecue and a big fenced backyard, not to mention a hot and cold outdoor dog shower, dog bedding, baskets, towels, ball-throwers and leads. And it is just 300 metres to your own private beach. See www.kangadoodle.com.
Gardens, hills and sea
Blue Johanna Cottages, above Johanna Beach, has a beautiful environment for dogs to run around and sniff on its five hectares of pretty gardens and rolling green hills. A cedar-panel cottage has two carpeted guest suites with kitchenettes, wood stoves, airconditioning, spa baths, decks and barbecues as well as separate fenced-in yards with kennels. There are also two dog-friendly motel-like suites in the main house. Owner Helen Crafter has dog baskets of all sizes plus leashes, dog treats and a can of dog food, not to mention the delightful complimentary continental breakfast hampers for humans. See www.johannabeach.com
Pennyroyal Farm, in Deans Marsh behind Lorne, offers nine wood-shingle cottages made from timber grown and milled on the property. With decks overlooking farmland, full kitchens, leather reclining chairs and couches, wood stoves, airconditioning, gas barbecues, televisions and DVD players, plus doggie towels and large fenced-in yards rimmed by extensive native gardens, there is plenty here that would appeal to dogs and humans looking for a getaway.
There are marvellous bushwalks nearby plus goats grazing in adjoining paddocks to offer hours of fascination for the canine set.
Freedom to roam
South Mokanger Farm Cottages, Grampians, offers city dogs and their human companions freedom to roam a 1820-hectare sheep and cattle property on the edge of the Grampians National Park. Accommodation ranges from an 1865 stone cottage framed by ancient river red gums to a four-bedroom country cottage and even shearers' quarters for larger groups. There are dog baskets and purpose-built dog yards. You can collect freshly laid eggs for hearty country breakfasts before heading off on long walks on the property. Humans enjoy cooling off in the large pool while dogs can swim in the dams.
Cape Otway Cottages are nestled in natural bushland alive with birds right on Cape Otway Peninsula. Three wood-panel studios offer king-size beds, wood stoves, spa baths and kitchens in one spacious room with wraparound decks, two of which can be made secure for dogs - the other has a fenced yard with kennel. There is also a two-bedroom stone house with a secure fenced area. Dog baskets and bedding, a can of dog food and dog treats are offered, plus a guide to some great walks. A hydrobath is also available.