Altona Dog Beach, Altona
Ankle-deep water won’t do much for swimmers, but dogs love to romp around on the tidal flats. At low tide, this off-leash beach next to Burns Reserve has a shipwreck to explore and long stretches of sand for sprinting. There are bins and dog bags at the entrance, as well as a shower and water bowl for your sandy, thirsty pooch. Check the tide times before you visit.
Footscray Park, Footscray
Spread across 37 acres, this Edwardian-period park boasts manicured lawns, botanical collections, barbeques, picnic shelters and views of the city skyline. There’s a generous off-leash area at the Victoria University end of the park. From there, it’s a 15-minute stroll to dog-friendly cafe Rudimentary, or you can extend your walk along the cycling trail by the Maribyrnong River.
Ruffey Lake Park, Templestowe
Around two-thirds of this sprawling 168-acre park is off-leash space dotted with native trees. There are tracks too, but take note: you’ll need a leash near playgrounds and barbeques, and you can’t take your dog into the revegetation zones. For a longer trek, follow the off-leash trail along Ruffey Creek to Wombat Bend on the Yarra River. It’s eight kilometres, or a two-hour round trip.
Fritsch Holzer Park, Hawthorn East
Sunsets can be pretty spectacular at this spacious off-leash park. But if morning strolls are more your thing, it’s only an eight-minute saunter to nearby cafe Light Years. The trails, which wind around the wetlands, are also popular with runners, and there are barbeques too.
Victoria Park, Abbotsford
If there are no grassroots footy matches or training sessions on at the former Collingwood home ground, dogs are welcome to run laps (or squiggly figure eights) on the oval instead. It’s fenced, and there are picnic tables, bins and water bowls around the perimeter. It’s a five-minute walk to Admiral Cheng-Ho for coffee, or Dr Morse for beer in the courtyard. There’s another oval-turned-dog-park, Richmond’s Citizens Park, nearby if Victoria Park is occupied.
Brighton Dog Beach, Brighton
Otherwise known as Sandown Street Beach, this stretch of sand permits dogs off-leash at any time from April to October. In warmer months (November to March) it’s open to dogs for night-time and early-morning frolics (7.30pm to 10am). Extend your walk along the scenic Bay Trail, or head to nearby Brighton Schoolhouse for a coffee, smoothie, or decent plate of post-dog-chasing carbs.
Princes Park, Caulfield South
Not to be confused with its north-side namesake, this popular 25-acre park is circuited by an on-leash track. There are plenty of spaces to ditch the lead, though, including multiple sports ovals (except when games are in session). The park is well-equipped, with bins and bowls placed under drinking fountains throughout.
Green Gully Reserve, Keilor Downs
If your dog needs some focused training, head to Green Gully Reserve and make use of its open-air agility equipment. This fenced dog park features ramps, platforms, tunnels and poles arranged in a course. The area outside the fenced zone is off-leash too, and there are walking paths alongside the creek. You’ll also find water taps for dogs and humans, and bins and bags on-site.
Gardiners Reserve, Burwood
This leafy bushland area behind the Deakin University Burwood campus has open grassy spaces, walking paths, and a creek to splash about in. It’s not fenced, but it does have wide lawns, shady gum trees, and a trail option to extend your outing along Gardiners Creek. Dog-friendly cafe Dosage is close by.
Egan Reserve, Thornbury
There are no water fountains at this relaxed off-lead park, but Merri Creek is nearby for dogs to paddle in. Follow the trail up to the Harding Street Bridge, or explore the tracts of stringybark eucalypts and native grasses. There’s a bin at the Rennie Street entrance, and usually a few friendly dogs around.
Mentone Dog Beach, Mentone
Rimmed by coastal scrub on one side and the beach on the other, the Bay Trail makes for a long, pleasant on-leash walk. But as soon as you hit the sandy stretch that is Mentone Dog Beach, dog can have free rein. The off-leash beach between Charman and Plummer roads is accessible 24 hours. There are bins on the beach and taps outside the Mentone Life Saving Club.
Community Forest, Mount Martha
If your dog doesn’t mind an hour in the car, then head down to Mount Martha (when restrictions lift), where this fenced parcel of bushland offers respite from the city with farmland views and resident kookaburras. There’s a dirt trail that takes about 30 minutes to walk in a loop, but you can pause to throw sticks, swim in the creek, explore the bush, or picnic at the rotunda. There are no bins or taps, and you’ll need to watch for snakes in summer.
As part of Melbourne’s current lockdown rules, up to 10 people (from a maximum of two households) may meet outdoors. All people must remain within 25 kilometres of their home. If you’re concerned about visiting businesses or public spaces, or have questions about self-isolation and coronavirus testing, check out the latest from the Department of Health and Human Services.