Melbourne to Cairns Road Trip | 28 Remarkable East Coast Towns to See and with your dog

The East Coast of Australia is one of the most travelled road trips. Spectacular coastline, magnificent mountain ranges, unique bushland, the world’s largest ocean reef and a mind-boggling array of attractions and activities, a Melbourne to Cairns road trip with your dog is guaranteed to EPIC!

Our itinerary takes you from Melbourne to Cairns, travelling through the states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, sharing with you the most beautiful, unique and awe-inspiring places to see and things to do. For the adventurous, our guide has snorkelling, scuba diving, abseiling, canyoning, sailing, cruises, scenic flights, hikes, thrill rides, skydiving and way way more for you to experience and create memories of a lifetime.

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As travellers who have done the east coast, from Melbourne to Cairns with our dog Chika, we have included dog friendly attractions and activities. There is also information on dog boarding. Chika has had the best time of her life caravanning Australia with us and we have thoroughly enjoyed having her with us.

Related Read: Camping with Dogs – Best Dog Gear for a Road Trip

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you use these to make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Any commission is greatly appreciated as it helps to keep Our Wayfaring Life online.

How Much Time to Road Trip the East Coast of Australia?

The brief answer – allow at least six weeks. Three months is better. 

Three months still does not mean lingering too long in places but will be a good balance between driving and stopping to enjoy places and sights along the way. 

How far is it from Melbourne to Cairns?

The direct distance from Melbourne to Cairns is 2818 kilometres via the most direct inland route. The route for our itinerary is over 4300 kilometres, not including sightseeing or driving on islands. 

It would be reasonable to estimate you could do over 6000 kilometres seeing the east coast of Australia. 

Notes about our Melbourne to Cairns Itinerary

The itinerary is a suggestion only. Go where you desire – it is your road trip! 

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The Route – A Summary

The ultimate road trip from Melbourne to Cairns starts by heading out of Melbourne up the Hume Highway to the Murray River towns of Albury Wodonga. Next, to Canberra, then onto the Jindabyne and the Snowy Mountain region. From the mountains, the route heads for the coastline at Bermagui and continues to follow the coast to Cairns. Along the way, there are detours to mountains and out to islands. In total 28 remarkable town, cities and islands have been included in our suggested route.

Limited Distances Between Stops

Of course, a road trip means doing up the miles. Also does not have to mean more driving than stopping and enjoying the places and sights on the journey. The longest drive between two stops in the suggested itinerary in this post is from Rockhampton to Airlie Beach or 483 kilometres. 

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Dog Friendly Things To Do

As travellers with a dog, we understand and know how much effort and time goes into finding dog friendly things to do. So to help you we have added some to each place. 

Also, we do not subscribe to the – if my dog cannot go, I do not go – attitude to travelling. Therefore, there are plenty of proposed activities that are not dog friendly. We aim to show a choice of things to do, pick and choose what you like. 

Related Read: How to do National Parks and Travel with a Dog

If you are not travelling with a dog, our itinerary is suitable for you too. 

How Much to Budget?

That is a difficult question to answer. A good starting point is $1 per kilometre plus money for children, paid activities, eating out and alcohol. 

The cost for Daryl, Chika and I to travel is currently $1 per kilometre; in 2021, we travelled 38,000 kilometres and spent $38000. 

Some points to note before comparing your potential budget to ours:

  • we are two adults and a dog, no children
  • we paid for camping (caravan parks and paid campgrounds) only for 86 nights and free or donation camp all the other nights
  • we pretty much never eat out
  • when it came to expenses:
    • less than $300 was on alcohol
    • $3500 was on car and caravan repairs and maintenance (must do when travelling full time like we are)
    • $3400 is how much we forked out for touristy stuff like tours, scenic flights, etc
    • fuel was 25% of our total spend

What to Take on an East Coast Road Trip?

So much of the coast is about the water. Consider taking: 

  • Kayak or boat
  • Snorkelling gear
  • Surfboard (if you surf)
  • SUP

And your sense of adventure and willingness to do and try new things. There are countless activities, experiences and attractions to see and do on a road trip from Melbourne to Cairns. Everything from hikes, canyoning, skydiving, sailing, thrill rides, scenic flights and way more. Ultimately, make memories of a lifetime. 

Melbourne to Cairns | East Coast Australia Itinerary

VICTORIA

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1. Melbourne

Recommended time here | 3 – 5 days or 2 – 4 nights

Melbourne on the banks of the Yarra River is a dynamic happening city with an arts precinct, contemporary bars, cafes and restaurants, shopping and many parklands. It is a city with something for everyone.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
ABBA Boarding Kennels and Cattery | Dandenong South VIC | (03) 9768 2214
Homestead Boarding & Training Kennels & Cattery | Wonga Park VIC | (03) 9722 1202
Kepala Pet Resort & Canine Country Club | Diggers Rest VIC | (03) 9740 1272
Dogs HQ | Abbotsford VIC | (03) 9415 8885
Yuroke Boarding Kennels & Cattery | Yuroke VIC | (03) 9333 1527

Inner City Maze

Discover and explore as many of metropolitan Melbourne’s maze of 40 laneways. The narrow streets, accessible on foot only, are lined with intimate bars, boutique cafes, exclusive restaurants and specialty shops. Or walk through any to see fantastic street art or buskers. Each laneway has its distinct atmosphere so take the time to wander through a few. If walking with a dog, put them on a lead.

Discover the City
Melbourne Foodie Discovery Walking Tour
Melbourne Walking Tour: Uncover Hidden Laneway Bars
Melbourne Lanes and Arcades Walking Tour
Small Group The Best of Melbourne

Art-fuls of Fun

ArtVo is an art gallery like no other. Lifesize and large scale 3D artworks and murals adorn the gallery for an unique, immersive experience where you and your family or friends put yourselves into the art and take photos. Best done with a good imagination, playfulness and a willingness to ‘act’ or pose within the scenes. Have so much fun coming face to face with wild animals, scaling enormous cliffs, putting yourself in fantasy and dream scenes and more.

Immersive Art Experience
ArtVo Immersive Gallery Experience

Go Trendy Beachside

St Kilda is a trendy beachside suburb only six kilometres from the centre of Melbourne. Treat yourself to a mouthwatering coffee and cake from one of the patisseries on Acland Street, with many having outdoor tables where you can sit with your dog. Enjoy a stroll in the dog friendly Catani Gardens, along St Kilda Beach (dogs allowed only March to November) or the Esplanade. Visit Luna Park for nostalgic carnival rides.

The best thing to do in St Kilda is to see its Fairy Penguins return from the sea each day at sunset. For the protection of the penguins, dogs are not allowed.

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Unforgettable Rock Stacks

There are any number of day trips to do from Melbourne but if you only have time for one, make it the Great Ocean Road to the Twelve Apostles. The scenic coastal drive along the GOR is breathtaking and the dramatic limestone stacks that form the icon Apostles are unforgettable.

It is a long drive, 250 kilometres each way to the Apostles, meaning it is a long day, starting early and returning late. The alternative is to stay overnight and take more time exploring the GOR.

The Twelve Apostles and other limestone formations are within the Port Campbell National Park. Dogs must remain in your car at all times, including in the car parks, weather permitting. Much of the Great Ocean Road is not a national park and is dog friendly.

Great Ocean Road in a Day Tours
Great Ocean Road Reverse Itinerary Premium Tour
Great Ocean Road Small-Group Ecotour from Melbourne
Private Great Ocean Road Day Tour With Early Departure & Early Return (11 Hours)
Great Ocean Road Reverse Itinerary with 12 Apostles from Melbourne
Melbourne Super Saver: Great Ocean Road + Phillip Island + Attraction Pass

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Source: Explore Victoria Australia

2. Albury Wodonga

Melbourne to Wodonga | 310 kilometres or 3 hours 25 minutes
Recommended time here | 1 – 2 days or 1 night

By Bec Wyld from Explore Victoria Australia

Finding unique stops on your Melbourne to Cairns road trip can be difficult but look no further than Albury Wodonga, twin cities on the Murray River.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Family Vet Centre Boarding Kennels | (02) 6024 1723
Riverina Boarding Kennels and Cattery | (02) 6026 3830
FurMumma | 0419 263 158

Experience the Thrill of Watersports 

Not only is Lake Hume one of the largest dams and one of the best places to visit in Victoria, but it is also ideal for watersports. You can hire a small boat and cruise the waters or hire a kayak and paddle your way around.

During the day, you will find plenty of boats out in the water with people skiing and fishing, hoping to catch some fresh dinner! Visit the weir wall and walk over it from the NSW side of the dam. At night watch the sunset over the water.

Visit Museums 

The Bonegilla Migrant Museum and the nearby Bandiana Military Museum are fascinating and will keep you enthralled for hours. Alternatively or additionally, visit one of the many art galleries in both cities. 

Venture Out of Town

If you can stay for a few days, venture out into the smaller regional areas. Gorgeous towns like Chiltern and Rutherglen have incredible foodie spots, wonderful historic buildings and well-known wineries like De Bortoli. 

AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL TERRITORY

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Source: Differentville

3. Canberra

Wodonga to Canberra | 347 kilometres or 3 hours 45 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 3 days or 2 nights

By Helen Foster from Differentville

The nation’s capital has a lot of attractions and you will want to plan your time in Canberra carefully, so you do not miss out. The city divided by Lake Burley Griffin has some distinct areas. To the north is the city centre and trendy Braddon, full of bars, restaurants and shops and to the south is Parliament House and some of the country’s best museums.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Mad Paws
Kiaora Park Pet Care | 0488 488 232
Pups4Fun | (02) 6287 3955
Canberra Pet Care | (02) 6298 1555
Inner South Veterinary Centre | (02) 6295 0770

Witness Democracy

A trip to Parliament House is top of most people’s list of things to do in Canberra. Book in advance for a guided tour to see the Government at work. On days the house is sitting, witness democracy as it happens and walk through one of the chambers. The gardens of Parliament House are dog friendly and lovely for a stroll. 

Do the Best of Canberra in a Day
Private Canberra Secrets Highlights Tour

Sample the Local Wineries and Breweries
Canberra Brewery Winery and Distillery Tour
Canberra Small Group Winery Tour
CanBEERa Explorer: Capital Brewery Full-Day Tour

Not To Be Missed Attractions 

If you love art, a visit to the National Gallery of Australia is essential. Highlights include Yayoi Kasuma’s quirky pumpkin room and James Turrell’s immense outdoor work, Skyspace. If you’re not a museum person, at least take a wander around the pretty outdoor sculpture garden.

Kids will love a morning at the interactive science museum, Questacon, and you might also want to take a few moments to pay tribute at the Australian War Memorial. 

Of course, a must visit attraction is the National Museum of Australia. With some of the best exhibitions and interactive displays, there is enough to keep anyone entertained at this museum. 

Dog Friendly Canberra Attractions

Why should your dog miss out on seeing some fabulous sights around Canberra? Enjoy time and walks together:

  • on Mount Ainslie for sensational views over Lake Burley Griffin and Parliament House
  • on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin
  • exploring the grounds and gardens of the National Arboretum
  • outside the Australia War Memorial
  • the outside area of Parliament House

Check Out Some Excellent Breweries

At night, spend some time working your way through the products of Canberra’s many breweries like Bentspoke or Capital (both dog friendly). If you’re looking for a bar with a bit of personality, sample a glass at Smith’s Alternative with its unpretentious vibe and wooden plank seating. It is one of the more unusual places to visit in Canberra.

NEW SOUTH WALES

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4. Jindabyne (Snowy Mountains)

Canberra to Jindabyne | 178 kilometres or 2 hours
Recommended time here | 1 – 2 days or 1 night

At the foothills of the Snowy Mountains and overlooking a picturesque lake, Jindabyne is surrounded by astonishing natural beauty. A summer haven and a winter wonderland, ‘Jindy’ is a small town that has something to entice visitors all year round.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Berridale Pets Holiday Lodge | (02) 6456 3522

Summer

A Manmade Stunner

Lake Jindabyne is a picturesque lake created in 1967 by the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electricity Authority. A hive of activity in the warmer months. The lake is a popular walking, swimming, fishing, watersport and picnic location. It is nothing to windle away many hours here and with your dog. You may even want to give disc golf a go with a course set up on the shores of the lake.

Summit Hike

Mt Kosciuszko Summit is Australia’s highest mountain at 2,228 metres above sea level. The nearly 19 kilometre return hike up the alpine mountain, covered in boulders and some snow cover all year, should be on every east coast travellers bucket list. To reach the summit and stand on it is momentous.

Mt Kosciuszko is in the Mt Kosciuszko National Park and dogs are strictly forbidden.

A Magical Drive

The Alpine Way through the Snowy Mountains is one of Australia’s most unique scenic drives and one you will not want to miss. The 110 kilometre narrow, steep road from Jindabyne to Khancoban winds its way through the Snowy Mountains past Mt Kosciuszko.

Towing a caravan is not recommended on this road. We suggest a day trip from Jindabyne to Mt Kosciuszko and walking to the summit or partway. If you drive through the national park without stopping, your dog is permitted to be in your car.

Winter

Soft Powder Buzz

In winter, Jindabyne is a buzz with endless activity, with snow lovers coming to stay in large numbers. Only 30 minutes drive from the popular ski fields of Perisher and Thredbo and offering an array of affordable snow holiday accommodation, Jindabyne’s population swells in the winter months.

If you find yourself in Jindy in the winter, go to the snowfields for some winter wonderland fun. Ski or snowboard, toboggan or build a snowman, make snow angels or sit by a fire enjoying hot chocolate, whatever is your thing, enjoy the snow.

Alternative: If you wish to give your dog a snow experience, travel to Dinner Plain near Mount Hotham in Victoria (before heading to Albury Wodonga). Dogs are welcome all year, winter when the snow falls, you and your dog can play in the now together.

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5. Bermagui

Jindabyne to Bermagui | 204 kilometres or 2 hours 30 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 3 days or 2 nights

A seaside village famous for deep sea fishing and an understated, laid back feel, Bermagui is the ideal first coastal stop on your trip along the east coast of Australia.

A Sealy Swim

The bright blue of the water gives no doubt as to where Blue Pool in Bermagui gets its name. A beautiful ocean pool at the bottom of a cliff, set against a breathtaking seascape, you are going to love swimming here. If that is not enough, seals regularly play and swim in the waters adjacent to the pool and sunbake on the rocks. Also, keep a lookout for dolphins and whales in the distance during the migration season.

Blue Pool is actually two pools. The bigger of the two with its calm conditions and many sea creatures is good for learning to snorkel, something you could do a lot of as you travel from Melbourne to Cairns.

Dogs are not allowed at Blue Pool.

An Animal Formation

470 million years old, Camel Rock is a large rock formation in Bermagui. Lying at the end of Camel Rock Beach, the obviously named rock can be seen from the dog off leash area.

Camel Rock Beach has a one kilometre dog off leash area your dog will love. The beach is lovely and does get busy, but there is plenty of room for everyone. Also, if you would like to do a longer walk, the adjoining Haywards Beach allows dogs on a lead.

Offleash Ocean Views

Bermagui Point is an elevated vantage point with tall pine trees and spectacular views over the ocean. Dickinson Park on the point is a large off leash dog area, probably the best one with views! Our suggestion is to drive or walk up and take a picnic.

Gold Rush

In 1880 gold was discovered in Bermagui and the Montreal Goldfield came to be. The goldfield has a fascinating history and each day at 2 pm guided tours inform you all about it. The informative attraction welcomes dogs on a lead and includes hands-on experience panning for gold.

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6. Kiama

Bermagui to Kiama | 259 kilometres or 2 hours 40 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 -3 days or 2 nights

Kiama is idyllic and picturesque. A seaside town with beautiful coastal landscapes, beaches and a village, Kiama has many surprising things to do.

Both of Kiama’s blowholes are dog friendly. So is the harbour and many other local sights. Read more in our post on Free Things to Do in Kiama.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
See list under ‘Wollongong’

Little Blowhole Kiama

See her Blow!

The Kiama Blowhole is a famous natural landmark in the right conditions, seawater bursts through a hole, spraying it high into the air. Part of the fun is to listen for the whooping noise before she blows.

There is also a second more reliable and less known blowhole. The little blowhole is often just as impressive and because you can get onto the rocks where she blows, it can also be a lot more fun.

Photograph Wonderful Scenery

Kiama Harbour, where the main blowhole is, is wonderfully picturesque and fantastic for photos. Photograph the Historic Kiama Light, the coastal scenery and the Harbour.

Swim in an Ocean Pool

Kiama has two gorgeous ocean pools that you should absolutely check out. The Blowhole Point Rock Pool is stunning and the most natural-looking, with coastal views to the north and the south. The Continental Pool is a full-size 50m pool built on the sea’s edge with change rooms and toilets.

Book a Tour to South Coast (Kiama) from Sydney
Kiama South Coast Tour with Coastline, Farmlands, Aboriginal Engravings & Lunch
Private Tour: Sydney South Coast & Highlands
Sydney Wine Tour – Wine, Waves & Wildlife in South Coast
Erupting Blowholes and Ancient Rainforests with ‘Personalised Sydney Tours’

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7. Wollongong

Kiama to Wollongong | 42 kilometres or 35 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 3 days or 2 night

Wollongong aka “The Gong” is a stretch of coastal towns between a string of golden beaches and the Illawarra escarpment. Dynamic, with a strong focus on the outdoors and events, anytime is a good time to visit Wollongong.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Horsley Boarding Kennels & Cattery | (02) 4262 2241
Petcharm Lodge | 0498 020 535
Woof Wonderland | 0459 501 439
Pet Care by Sarah | 0423 906 030

Romance on a Hill

High on a hill, Flagstaff Point Lighthouse is an active lighthouse with incredible ocean views and an air of romance, ideal for a romantic sunset picnic on a warm day. Stroll the point with your pup on a lead and buy a creamy delight from the ice cream truck. Be aware of the seagulls that will steal food given any chance.

Ride the Waves

Do you want to learn how to surf? Then why not do lessons in Wollongong with individual, group and surf camps readily available together with plenty of surf beaches to practice.

Learn to Surf
Learn to Surf One Hour Private Lesson
7-Day Surf Camp on the NSW South Coast

Wollongong also has several fabulous dog friendly beaches. Enjoy as many as you can and abide by the rules of each:

  • Wollongong Beach
  • Puckeys Off Leash Beach
  • Corrimal Beach
  • Woonona Beach
  • McCauleys Off Leash Beach
  • Little Austinmer Beach

For the Lovers of Music

Music lovers, Anita’s Theatre is a fabulous live music venue. The grand old theatre circa 1925, elegantly restored, has an atmosphere superb for listening to music played live. There is not a bad seat in the house and many well known Australian acts tour here.

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Source: Best of the Blue Mountains

8. Blue Mountains

Wollongong to Blue Mountains (Katoomba) | 148 kilometres or 2 hours
Recommended time here | 2 – 4 days or 2 – 3 nights

By Holly Kent from Best of the Blue Mountains

The National Park paradise, the Blue Mountains is approximately an hour west of the CBD of Sydney and is named for its blue hue. The blue hue is the effect of the vapor emitted by the Eucalyptus prolific throughout the area. 

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Blue Mountains Pet Resort | 0409 985 015
Montana Lodge | 0429 404 610
All Breeds Boarding Kennels & Cattery | (02) 4578 4686
Sydney Dog and Cat Boarding | 1300 651 794

A Walk in the Blue Mountains is a Must

Covering an area over 11,000 kilometres square, this traditional land of the Dharug and Gundungurra is filled with epic landscapes, beautiful bushland and wildflowers, tumbling waterfalls and breathtaking views you’ll only reach on foot that will delight visiting hikers. For some of the best walks check out Blackheaths Grand Canyon and the waterfalls on the Valley of the Waters track in Wentworth Falls. Alternatively, there are genuine dog friendly walks in the Blue Mountains you can enjoy with your dog.

Go Back to Ancient Times

Take the drive along the Great Western Highway over the mountains, through scenic bushland and past small mountain towns to Jenolan Caves on the other side. Jenolan Caves is the oldest open cave system in the world. It also holds a special significance to the Aboriginal people. The limestone caves with breathtaking beautiful structures and features are astonishing.

See the Iconic Landmark 

Visitors cannot leave the mountains without stopping in on the iconic Three Sisters at Katoomba. While most will go to Echo Point to catch their glimpse, instead go to Eagle Hawk lookout for a quieter spot and one that is dog friendly. If you visit at sunrise, you might even see the first rays of the sun hitting the valley. 

Book a Blue Mountains Day Tour from Sydney
Blue Mountains Ultimate One-Day Tour
Blue Mountains Tour from Sydney with an Aboriginal Experience
Blue Mountains Private Tour From Sydney, & Featherdale Aussie Animal Park Option
Private Blue Mountains and Wildlife Park Tour from Sydney with Barbecue Lunch

The Oldest Culture on Earth

Aboriginal sites are found throughout the mountains, including rock paintings, shelters, carvings and grinding grooves. The oldest site is Kings Tableland at Wentworth Falls, dated over 20,000 years old. Here you can see an indigenous shelter, carvings, grinding grooves and the spot where the Gundungurra watched the approach of the European explorers who first crossed the mountains. 

Be Daring!

The Blue Mountains has hundreds of deep, narrow canyons, formed over millions of years of rivers and water carving out caverns through the sandstone. Canyoning is a thrilling adventure guarantee to get your adrenalin racing with the possibility of doing things like abseiling down waterfalls and jumping into pools. Most of all you will have the best fun ever!

Test Your Limits in the Blue Mountains
Small-Group Full-Day Canyoning and Abseiling Adventure from Katoomba
Blue Mountains Empress Canyon Adventure from Wentworth Falls
Canyoning at Twister and Rocky Creek: Two Canyons In One Day
Half-Day Abseiling Adventure in Blue Mountains National Park
Small-Group Weekend Rock Climbing Adventure from Katoomba

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9. Sydney

Katoomba to Sydney | 102 kilometres or 1 hour 45 minutes
Recommended time here | 3 – 7 days or 3 – 6 nights

Sydney is a city unlike any other. Its location on the beautiful harbour, sensational sunny days and unique landmarks and attractions mean coming here is a must. Australia’s busiest city and maybe overwhelming, but go with the flow and it is possible to fall in love with Sydney.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Pawshake Sydney Pet Sitting | See website
Spoilt Rotten Dogs | (02) 8964 6856
Dog Royalty | (02) 9584 0961
Mad Paws Sydney | (02) 8046 6536
Sydney Animal Hospitals | See website

The Famous Landmarks

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House are the city’s most famous and recognisable landmarks. It is a pleasant two kilometre walk from the Pylon Lookout at the Rocks through Circular Quay and the Opera House. Take your time, walk your dog on a lead and stop to admire views, historical buildings and the city sights.

Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb is one of Australia’s most sort after experiences. The climb is exhilarating and the panoramic vistas at the top are impressive.

The Opera House is regularly the backdrop for Sydney festivals and events and stages performances and concerts. Tours are available or wander outside for free.

Experience the Best of Sydney’s Famous Landmarks and Attractions
Sydney Opera House Official Guided Walking Tour
The Ultimate Sydney Attractions Pass
The Rocks Pub Walking Tour

Headland or Coastal Walk

Sydney has a magnificent coastline and a great way to see it is by walking. The Rose Bay to Watson Bay, Bondi to Coogee and the Cronulla Headland Loop are three fantastic walks to choose from and to do with your dog. Find out more about these walks in our post – Fun Free Things to do in Sydney.

Cruise the Harbour

Sydney Harbour from the shore is pretty special, but it does not compare to being on it. A cruise on the harbour at sunrise, sunset or in the evening will provide an opportunity for wonderful memories and sightseeing.

Book a Harbour Cruise
Sydney Harbour Discovery Cruise Including Lunch
Sydney Harbour Gold Penfolds Dinner Cruise
Sydney Harbour Hop-on Hop-off Cruise
Sydney Harbour Dinner Cruise
Sydney Harbour Luxury Sailing Trip including Lunch

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10. Newcastle and Hunter Valley

Sydney to Newcastle | 163 kilometres or 2 hours 10 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 3 days or 2 nights

Newcastle, NSW’s second largest city, is a flourishing bustling hive of activity with a working harbour, fabulous beaches, attractions, places to eat and drink, shops and more. The Hunter Valley, in contrast, has an unsurpassed natural beauty of forests, lush pastures and vineyards. It is hard to believe the two are in the same district. 

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Hunter Dog Centre | (02) 4942 3370
Newcastle Pet Resort | (02) 4920 1972
Hamilton Veterinary Clinic | 02 4969 6852

Leisurely Stroll the Foreshore

For a morning or afternoon leisurely walk, follow the path along the foreshore to the Breakwall and Nobby’s Lighthouse on Nobby Head at the mouth of the Hunter River. As you walk the 3 kilometre pathway with your dog, look out over the water for tug boats working, dolphins and sometimes whales. 

Horseshoe Beach at the Breakwall is Newcastle’s only dog friendly, off leash beach. It is also great for swimming. 

Swim in a Pool of Sea Water

Do you love to swim in salt water and to be gazing over the ocean but are not so much a fan of sand or rough surf waves? Swimming at one of Newcastle’s four ocean pools will be perfect for you. If you love nostalgia, Bogey Hole is the oldest ocean bath, built by convicts in 1820. 

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Dunes and Beach Driving

Stockton Bight Sand Dunes are the biggest shifting dunes in the southern hemisphere. The longest beach in NSW is Stockton Beach. Here, create standout experiences on your road trip: 

  • feel the freedom of 4WD driving the dunes or along the beach 
  • walk up a dune, and feel the thrill of sliding back down on a sandboard, wind blowing through your hair 
  • climb to the top of a dune and watch the sunset

Shift Gears on the Dunes with a Tour
Worimi Sand Dunes Quad Bike Tour
1.5-Hour Aboriginal Culture, Sand Board and Quad Bike Tour

Hunter Valley Wine Region

The Hunter Valley is about vineyards and wine. Sure there are other things to do, really the main reason to venture out to the Hunter Valley is to for the wine. 

There are a staggering number of wineries open to visitors in the Hunter. If you are travelling with your dog, why not go to one that welcomes dogs.  A handful of suggestions are:

  • Briar Ridge Vineyard
  • Hanging Tree Wines
  • Iron Gate Estate
  • Oakvale Wines
  • Tintilla Wine Estate

Book a Hunter Valley Tour
A Full Day Hunter Valley Wine Tasting Tour with Lunch and Tasting Fee’s Included
Hunter Valley Wine Tour ex Newcastle incl Lunch, Cheese, Chocolate & Distillery

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11. Coffs Harbour

Newcastle to Coffs Harbour | 385 kilometres or 4 hours
Recommended time here | 2 – 3 days or 2 nights

Coffs Harbour between Sydney and Brisbane is a place of striking beauty with its sub-tropical climate, mountains and the sea. It is also a regional city with loads of attractions and free things to do.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
TLC Pet Care | (02) 5642 4030
Rose Avenue Veterinary Hospital | (02) 6652 1566

An Iconic ‘Big Thing’

The Big Banana would have to be one of Australia’s most iconic “big things.” It is also a fantastic photo opportunity with your pup.

Why not have a lot of fun at The Big Banana Funpark. Get your thrills riding the toboggan, make a big splash at the water park, get a hole-in-one at mini golf or enjoy any of the many other attractions.

Sky Forest Pier

A short drive out of the city into the mountains, the Sky Forest Pier in the Bruxner Park Flora Reserve has breathtaking views out to the coastline. The reserve also has several walking tracks through the sub-tropical rainforest, which you can do with your dog.

Visit the Harbour Precinct

The Harbour Precinct in Coffs Harbour is great for wandering with your dog on a lead. Walk the Historical Pier built in 1892 and perhaps spot a dolphin, walk through the parklands and the marina to see hundreds of moored boats.

Whale Watch from the Shore

Bonville Headland at the southern end of Sawtell Beach is excellent for watching whales from the shore (July to November). Dog friendly, set up on the grass banks with your binoculars for the best viewings and watch the whales put on a show of tail slapping and breaching.

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12. Byron Bay

Coffs Harbour to Byron Bay | 234 kilometres or 2 hours 30 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 7 days or 2 – 6 nights

Bryon Bay is well known and world-famous for its undeniably beautiful coastal, rural and hinterland landscapes. Spend time here exploring forests, beaches, waterfalls and iconic landmarks and see some of Australia’s most beautiful natural attractions.

It is easy to spend a fortune in Byron Bay with more and more people visiting each year. Our guide Must Do Byron Bay on a Budget will help you to keep costs down and see the best Byron has to offer.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Woof and Whiskers Pet Sitting | 0413 515 562
Paradise for Pooches | 0407 347 538
Avonlee Lodge Pet Resort | (02) 6628 7277

Experience Byron Bay’s Natural Beauty
Kayaking with Dolphins in Byron Bay Guided Tour
Behind The Bay – Explore Like a Local
3-Hour Sea Turtle Snorkeling Experience in Byron Bay
Byron Bay Hinterland Tour Including Rainforest Walk to Minyon Falls

Beautiful Landscape

The Cape Byron Walking Track is something you absolutely must do when visiting Bryon Bay. The track is a 4 kilometre loop that takes in many of Byron’s most awe-inspiring beaches, lookouts, the forest landscape and the iconic Cape Byron Lighthouse. The track is in a national park, so it is not dog friendly.

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Highland Coos!

O.M.G how unbelievably adorable are highland cows? At The Farm at Byron Bay, you can get close to these friendly coos and see a working farm. Dogs are welcome on a lead and together walk the one kilometre track through the farm to the macadamia orchard where you can collect and eat them, see a variety of farm animals, vegetable crops and shop at the cafe and garden store.

Sensational Dog Friendly Beaches

Tallow Beach and Belongil Beach are fabulous dog beaches you and your dog will love. Tallow Beach at the southern end of the Arakwal National Park (read the signs), is a wide, white sandy beach with plenty of room to run and play.

Belongil Beach in town has a great vibe, especially at sunset when locals and tourists gather to enjoy the cool of the early evening. The white sand and usually calm waters are also perfect for a quick dip and a stroll.

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Source: Curious Campers

QUEENSLAND

13. Gold Coast and Hinterland

Byron Bay to Gold Coast | 94 kilometres or 1 hour 20 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 7 days or 2 – 6 nights

By Natalie Klein from Curious Campers

The Gold Coast and the Gold Coast Hinterland is roughly the halfway point on your Melbourne to Cairns road trip and you could not get a more fun place to mark the milestone. There’s an enormous amount to do. 

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Abbeyards Boarding Kennels & Cattery | (07) 5530 5689
Noah’s Ark Pet Resort | (07) 5549 1792
Alida’s Pet Resort | (07) 55462275
Gold Coast Boarding Kennels & Cattery | (07) 5594 0009
AAA Pet Resort | (07) 55252098

World Famous Beaches

Of course, the Gold Coast has some of the best known beaches in Australia. Surfers Paradise, Coolangatta, Burleigh Heads, Currumbin and Main Beach are all great places to get some sand between your toes. 

Alternatively for dog friendly beaches, head to Biggera Waters Beach, Lillson Beach, Palm Dog Beach, South Cabarita Beach, The Spit or Tallebudgera Dog Beach.

Get Your Thrills at a Theme Park

The city is also synonymous with theme parks. The young and young at heart will love visiting ‘the worlds’ – Dreamworld, Sea World, Wet & Wild and Movie World. 

Get Even MORE Thrills!
Jet-Boat Ride and Helicopter Flight from the Gold Coast
Gold Coast Tandem Skydive
Gold Coast Jetboat and Parasail Combo – For 2 people
3-Day Open Water Certification Course on the Gold Coast

A Plethora of Things to Do

Some other things to put on your to do list are a kayaking and snorkelling tour around Wave Break Island. You can check out the views from the top of the SkyPoint Tower. The Gold Coast Botanic Gardens are also a beautiful spot to walk around and explore. 

Sooo Much to Do! Do not Miss Out.
Whale Watching by Sea World Cruises
Half Day Dolphin Kayaking and Snorkeling Tour
Wave Break Island Scuba Diving on the Gold Coast
Gold Coast Boat Hire Self-Drive with No License Required

Spend time in Nature 

Both Springbrook National Park and Tamborine Mountain are less the one hour from the Gold Coast and offer wonderful experiences. If rainforest walks and waterfall are your things, plan a day at Springbrook. Twin Falls, Purling Brook Falls and Natural Bridge and the walks through the ancient rainforests are stunning. The area is dotted with picnic grounds too. 

Book a Hinterland Tour
Evening Rainforest & Glow Worm Experience
Natural Bridge & Springbrook Waterfalls Tour
Deluxe Winery Tour to Tamborine Mountain, includes gourmet two course lunch

Tamborine Mountain is a great day trip from the Gold Coast and there are several attractions all close together. The Tamborine Mountain Skywalk is a family-friendly rainforest experience, as is the Tamborine Mountain Glow Worm Cave. Shoppers will love walking up and down Gallery Walk’s eclectic range of shops. The small Tamborine Mountain Botanic Gardens is a pretty spot for lunch and a fun place to walk around.

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14. Brisbane

Gold Coast to Brisbane | 78 kilometres or 1 hour
Recommended time here | 3 – 5 days or 2 – 4 nights

Brisbane on the Brisbane River is known as the River City. It is also known as Brisvegas for its vibrant, remarkable and contemporary vibe, day and night.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Houndog Doggy Day Care | (07) 3823 5781
Northshore Pet Resort | (07) 3203 3332
“Don’t Fret Pet!” Brisbane | 1300 307 021
Five Star Kennels | (07) 3808 3225
Brisbane Pet Motel | (07) 3265 2492

Amazing Parklands and Gardens

Brisbane has several parklands that are perfect for exploring with your dog, especially on a warm, sunny day. Meander the wonder Brisbane City Botanical Gardens, swim at man-made Street Beach at South Bank Parklands or visit the Roma Street Parklands for a picnic. Note dogs cannot swim at Street Beach however can be in the surrounding area.

Get an Art, Culture, Science and History Fix

The South Bank cultural precinct is where you will find the Queensland Museum and Sciencentre, Art Gallery and Modern Art Gallery, Performing Art Centre and State Library. There is so much to see and do here to fill in many hours. If you are comfortable doing so, there are several spots to tether your dog.

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Walk the River Bank

Brisbane’s beauty as a city comes from its river and it would be a shame to miss enjoying it. The walk along the formed pathway to the cliffs of Kangaroo Point is excellent for you and your dog. You can also challenge yourself by going up the 107 cliffside steps at Kangaroo Point for amazing views.

Be Fearless
Abseiling the Kangaroo Point Cliffs in Brisbane
Rock Climbing at the Kangaroo Point Cliffs in Brisbane

Cruise the River for Free

If you can manage it, take a free trip on the City Hopper Ferry for a great way to experience the river. The ferry follows the same route (loop) as many paid river cruises and has an upper view decking, perfect for sightseeing. Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed on the ferries.

There are many more free things to do in Brisbane and well worth stopping here on your trip from Melbourne to Cairns.

Experience the Brisbane River
Brisbane Kayak Tour
90min Brisbane River Cruise/Tour

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15. Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island)

Travel via vehicle or passenger ferry from Cleveland
Recommended time here | 3 – 5 days or 2 – 4 nights

Minjerribah is also known as North Stradbroke Island or Straddie and is the world’s second largest sand island. Unlike K’Gari the largest sand island where dogs are banned, dogs are welcome. 

Minijerriah is the ideal place to visit to slow down your road trip from Melbourne to Cairns. Enjoy a relaxed, easygoing pace, pristine beaches, tidal flats, freshwater lakes and unique Australian bushland home to many koalas!

Dog Sitting and Boarding
See list under ‘Brisbane’

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Gorge-ous Walk

The North Gorge Walk is a leisurely 1.2 kilometre boardwalk on the Point Lookout Headland. Dog friendly, the walk meanders through bushland and has spectacular sea views. During the whale migrating season, whales are often spotted and sometimes even sea turtles. 

Island Beaches 

Think island, think beaches. Straddie has its share of immaculate white sandy beaches with crystal clear water. The dog friendly beaches are Main Beach, Flinders Beach, Deadman’s Beach and Frenchman’s Beach.

Meet Flipper 

The waters at Amity Point Jetty are perfect for snorkelling, kayaking and swimming. Here you can see sea turtles and dolphins for free. The dolphins visit the jetty most days at dawn and dusk and it is truly one of the best experiences on this east coast road trip. It is as good as or better than that on Tangalooma (these are the same dolphins) or Monkey Mia where you have to pay. 

Much of Amity Point is dog friendly. Keep your dog away from wildlife and read the signs. 

Cuddly Wildlife 

Minjerribah has koalas! and is the optimal place for seeing them in the wild. Living throughout the island always keep a keen eye open to spy one up in a tree, especially at Amity Point and Dunwich Historical Cemetery. 

Island for Day
North Stradbroke Island Day Trip from Brisbane
Stradbroke Island 4WD Day Trip from Brisbane
Full-Day Small Group Tour to North Stradbroke Island

Exit45 Travels Sunshine Coast Hinterland 2
Source: Exit45 Travels

16. Sunshine Coast and Hinterland

Brisbane to Sunshine Coast (Maroochydore) | 113 kilometres or 1 hour 25 minutes
Recommended time here | 3 – 5 days or 2 – 4 nights

By Peta and Jonas from Exit45 Travels

Just a short 35 minute drive from the beautiful beaches of the Sunshine Coast is the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Many small townships dotted among the mountains, lakes, waterfalls and forests, offering something a little different for visitors to the area.

There are so many things to see and do in this region, spoiling for choice! Unique art galleries, markets, hiking trails and waterfalls to quirky cafes, heritage pubs, wineries and craft breweries, there is something to suit every traveller.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Eumundi Pet Resort | (07) 5442 8275
b’ARK Pet Retreat Amamoor | (07) 5371 7627
Aunty Dy’s Poochie Paradise | 0423 194 384
The Pet Care Centre | (07) 5494 5761
Yandina Hound Hotel | (07) 5446 8223

Charming Country Towns

Along the top of the Blackall Range are the charming towns of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton and the most popular area for day visitors and holidaymakers. It is easy to spend a weekend exploring these cute towns.

In Maleny, walk through the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve and take in the scenic views of the Glasshouse Mountains. Dogs are not allowed due to the native animals like the Pademelons making the reserve their home. 

Wander along the main street of Montville and see why it is said to be the creative heart of the Sunshine Coast. If you enjoy art, visit the Montville Art Gallery, which showcases an extensive range of art by local artisans. You will also find spectacular views over the beaches of the Sunshine Coast. The highlight in Mapleton is viewing the stunning Mapleton Falls in Mapleton Falls National Park.

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Noosa

Noosa the Sunshine Coast gem location. If you can, you really should visit Noosa National Park and the Noosa everglades.

The top things to do with your dog in Noosa is walk the famous Hasting Street and grab yourself a gelato, check out the stunning dog friendly Sunshine Beach and hang out on the foreshore of the Noosa River. A Noosa Ferry is also a great way to enjoy the river with dogs permitted if they can sit on your lap.

Cruise on the Everglades
Self Guided Noosa Everglades Kayak Tour
Cruise ‘n’ Canoe to Australia’s Everglades
Noosa Everglades Serenity Cruise & Highlights Tour Inc. Lunch & Cruise

Famous Markets

Eumundi is famous for its market held every Wednesday and Saturday. With over 500 stalls, you are sure to find something to buy such as artwork, fashion and jewellery, or eat your way around the markets sampling tasty handmade goodies. Dogs are welcome to stroll with you on a lead. 

Australia’s Best Zoo

Beerwah is the home of Australia Zoo made famous by Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. Interact and learn about Australian and other animals through displays and exhibitions. Australia Zoo is a must see on the Sunshine Coast. 

Book a Day Trip to Australia Zoo from Brisbane
Croc Express to Australia Zoo from Brisbane

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Source: Canva

17. Hervey Bay

Sunshine Coast to Hervey Bay | 194 kilometres or 2 hours 20 minutes
Recommended time here | 1 – 2 days or 1 night or 3 – 6 nights if also visiting K’Gari

Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast in Queensland is the gateway to K’Gari (Fraser Island). It is also known for its calm, protected waters between the Hervey Bay coastline and K’Gari.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Burrum Boarding Kennels | 0437 939 660

Witness Majesty

The calm waters off Hervey Bay are a nursery for migrating humpback whales (July to November), making it ideal for seeing them in all their majesty from a whale-watching cruise. Imagine the joy of seeing a mother with her baby. The bay is also home to dolphins.

Book an Up-Close Encounter with the Giants of the Sea
Hervey Bay Whale Watching Cruise
Three-Quarter Day Hervey Bay Premium Whale Watching Cruise

Stroll a Pier or Esplanade

Urangan Pier is nearly one kilometre, perfect for an afternoon stroll or fishing. Sadly, the pier is not dog friendly. The Urangan foreshore, the beaches on either side of the pier and the beachside esplanade from Urangan to Point Vernon allow dogs.

No Waves No Worries

The incredibly calm waters in Hervey Bay are perfect for water activities like swimming, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and SUP. Make the most of it with Dundowran, Serenia Beach at Burrum Heads, Toogoom, Urangan, Vernon, Woodgate (North) beaches all being dog friendly.

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Source: Canva

18. K’Gari (Fraser Island)

Travel via vehicle ferry from River Heads
Recommended time here | 3 – 5 days or 2 – 4 nights

K’Gari (previously known as Fraser Island) is the world’s largest sand island at 123 kilometres long. On the Fraser Coast of Queensland, the world heritage-listed island is a magical place of the clearest freshwater lakes you will ever visit, rainforest and so much more. Of course, the dingo lives here.

Dogs are not permitted on K’Gari and a 4WD is a must.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
See list under ‘Hervey Bay’

Clearest Water Ever

Lake McKenzie is K’Gari’s number one tourist spot and no wonder. Crystal clear water with the clarity of glass and white sand, the lake stunningly beautiful. The unbelievable water remains at about 25 degrees all year round, perfect for swimming. Any trip to Fraser Island must include Lake McKenzie.

Bubbles of Fun

Experience the fun of swimming in amongst thousands of bubbles at the Champagne Pools. The ocean pools get their name from the bubbles that form when the waves break over the rock walls. A K’Gari highlight is well worth the long drive and 10 minute walk. A magical place best visited a couple of hours before high tide.

Beached Boat

The SS. Maheno was washed ashore on K’Gari by a cyclone in 1935. The ocean liner shipwrecked is now one of the island’s most iconic and intriguing sights to see. The sheer size of the shipwreck is something to behold. To know more about the ship’s history and story, visit the Happy Valley Hotel or Happy Valley Cafe.

Peaceful Swim

Smaller but no less beautiful with its unreal blue water and stunning white sand, Lake Birrabeen is a great alternative to Lake McKenzie. Attracting fewer people, Lake Birrabeen is a peaceful, relaxing place to swim and hang out.

Book a Day Tour to K’Gari (Fraser Island)
All-Inclusive Fraser Island Day Tour
Remote Fraser Island Experience

Book a Multiple Day Tour
Fraser Explorer K’gari 2-Day Tour
3 Day Tour in Fraser Island
3-Day Fraser 4WD Tagalong Tour

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Source: Let’s Make More Adventures

19. Bundaberg

Hervey Bay to Bundaberg | 110 kilometres or 1 hour 20 minutes
Recommended time here | 1 – 2 days or 1 night

By Lanie van der Horst from Lets Make More Adventures

Surrounded by sugar cane fields, Bundaberg is best known for its rum. Less known about the town is the Great Barrier Reef lies off its shores and it is a nesting area for sea turtles.  

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Four Way Kennels | (07) 4159 7973
Isis Pet Resort | (07) 4126 9009

Bundaberg Rum Distillery

The Bundaberg Rum Distillery, established in the late 1800s, is worth visiting and joining a guided tour. It is best to arrive early to do a self-guided tour through the Distillery Museum before the guided tour.

Guided tours include a tasting at the end for the adults. The tasting for adults can choose one rum and one liqueur, served neat, on the rocks, or with a mixer. Kids get to have a Bundaberg soft drink, such as ginger beer or lemonade. 

Alternatively, for rum lovers and the adventurous, consider doing the Blend Your Own Rum class and make a rum with your signature flavour. Everyone who joins the rum blending class takes home two bottles of their creation. Additional bottles can be purchased at any time in the future if required. 

Bundaberg Barrel

Bundaberg Barrel is all about the soft drinks made by the Bundaberg co. Guided tastings and self-guided tours are available. Sample as many or as few of Bundaberg’s soda flavours as you like while the bartender talks about each flavour.

After the tasting, groups continue with the self-guided tour. Guess soda flavours from the smell, watch an assembly line, and learn about the soda making and bottling process.

Mons Repo Turtle Centre

Located in nearby Bagara is the Mons Repo Turtle Centre, home to many Loggerhead Turtles. Did you know that the female turtles born near Mons Repo return 30 years later to nest, after swimming to South America and back?

Learn about these gentle sea turtles by doing a tour. Tours at the centre are available and include a hands-on research centre, a video, and a presentation. And from November-March, night-time turtle experience tours are available. Highly recommended, tour participants can catch a glimpse of the turtle egg-laying or hatching process on this fascinating tour. 

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Source: Guide Your Travel

20. 1770 and Agnes Waters

Bundaberg to 1770 | 129 kilometres or 1 hour 30 minutes

By Victoria Heinz from Guide Your Travel

Agnes Water is a small beach town located in Queensland, around 500 kilometres north of Brisbane. The settlement of Seventeen Seventy lies at the tip of the peninsula and is supposedly where Captain Cook arrived in Australia in the year 1770. Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy are must-see places on your road trip from Melbourne to Cairns for several reasons. 

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Rosie & Dick’s Pet Retreat | 0450 612 860
Agnes Coast Vet Clinic | (07) 4974 9045

Postcard Beaches

Anges Waters has some of the east coast best beaches. The beaches here are beautiful with stunning crystal-clear water and great opportunities for water sports. One side of the peninsula is perfect for surfing and the other faces a shallow lagoon with lots of sandbanks, fantastic for kayaking and paddleboarding or just relaxing in the sand. 

Dog friendly beaches in Anges Water:

  • Chinamans Beach
  • Main Beach
  • Springs Beach
  • Workman’s Beach
  • 1770 foreshore

Doorstep to Island Paradise

One of the best things to do in Agnes Water is to explore the nearby islands and the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Several tours will help you explore the best of Anges Waters, including one that will fly you out to camp on a deserted island. A more affordable option is a trip on the Amphibious Lark boat for some land and water fun. Save even more money by renting a kayak and paddling around the beautiful sandbanks.

Be Adventurous on an Amphibious Vehicle
Full-Day 1770 Tour by LARC Amphibious Vehicle Including Sandboarding and Bustard Head Lightstation
Town of 1770 Afternoon Cruise
1770 Coastline Tour by LARC Amphibious Vehicle Including Picnic Lunch

Hike a Paperbark Forest 

Another great activity in Agnes Water is a trip to the Paperbark Forest. A short hiking trail through an incredible forest unique to this area. It is the perfect afternoon activity and a great place to take photos. 

Alternatively, Anges Waters has a couple of dog friendly walks: 

  • The Discovery Trail | A stunning bushwalk to a lookout, past beaches
  • Chinaman’s Beach Trail | Picnic, fish and walk on this trail with your pup. 

21. Rockhampton

1770 to Rockhampton | 233 kilometres or 2 hours 35 minutes
Recommended time here | 1 – 2 days or 1 night

Rockhampton aka “Rocky” on the banks of the Fitzroy River is an important regional hub of shops and services in Queensland. It is also a place of surprises with more to see and do than you will expect – Top 11 Things to do in Rockhampton.

Rockhampton is also the eastern end of the Capricorn Highway which travels west. If you seek something truly different to do and can afford the additional time, take the 3 hours to drive each way to Emerald and try fossicking in the Gemfields in Queensland.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Foster Care Boarding Kennels | (07) 4934 8214
Cawarral Boarding Kennels & Cattery | (07) 4934 4377

Relax in Magnificent Gardens

Kershaw Gardens is outstanding and for everyone, including your four legged friend. Superb gardens and parklands with walking tracks, sheltered picnic tables, electric BBQs, playgrounds and a dog off leash area. For somewhere chill, take a relaxing stroll and enjoy a BBQ or picnic lunch, visit Kershaw Gardens in Rockhampton.

Meander the Riverfront

Quay Street in Rockhampton follows the Fitzroy River and has an intriguing historical walk. See the heritage-listed wrought iron and sandstone buildings enrich the town’s streetscape. Between January and March, 5 minutes drive along Quay Street are fields of sunflowers in bloom. Have you ever walked among flowers that stand taller than you and are sometimes larger than your head? The sunflowers at the farm in Alton Downs are grown and sold by a local farmer to raise money for cancer and are a sight to see.

Capricorn Caves

Capricorn Caves are 400 million years in the making. The above-ground limestone caves are open, with various tours running most days of the year. Explore the incredible passageways and chambers of the caves. Knowledgeable guides will tell you a lot of interesting facts and history about the caves.

Great Keppel Island

Great Keppel Island welcomes dogs and is brilliant for a day trip. Catch one of the two passenger ferries over (no cars allowed) and plan a day in paradise bushwalking, swimming and fun.

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Source: Canva

22. Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays

Rockhampton to Airlie Beach | 483 kilometres or 5 hours 30 minutes

East coast beaches of Australia are known worldwide for their stunning beauty. Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays raise the bar to a whole new level. This region is paradise.

Unfortunately, the Whitsundays region is not dog friendly. There are no island resorts that welcome dogs. Unless you are willing to use a pet sitter, you will be limited in what you can do.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Whitsunday Pet Resort | (07) 4946 1077
Nurse Jodie’s Pet Services | 0401 233 236

Walk Your Dog in Paradise

Something you can do with your dog is the scenic Bicentennicial Walkway in Airlie Beach. The pathways and boardwalks track along the breathtaking waterfront and has several shops to browse and cafes. The walkway is a lovely way to see the township of Airlie beach with your dog.

Go Where the Wind Takes You

The Whitsundays is a sailing paradise with sensational blue clear waters and tropical islands. Whether it is a day trip or multiple nights, sailing in the Whitsundays is one of those Big Ticket Items in Australia that will stay with you forever and create memories for a lifetime.

Sail Away Sail Away Sail Away
Whitsunday Islands Sailing Adventure
Whitsundays Sunset Sailing Cruise
2-Day Great Barrier Reef “Reefsleep” Experience
2-Night Whitsunday Islands Sailing Adventure on Trimaran Avatar

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Source: Canva

See the Reef

The Great Barrier Reef is a natural wonderland like no other place on earth. Colourful corals and fish, amazing sealife of reef sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and rays adorn the waters in abundance. The best way to see the reef and the life that lives there is snorkelling, scuba diving or a glass bottom boat with a tour company.

Book a Reef Tour
Whitehaven Beach Day Tour with Snorkel in Whitsundays Island
Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet Lookout Full-Day Snorkeling Cruise by High-Speed Catamaran
Great Barrier Reef Day Cruise to Reefworld
Airlie Beach Glass Bottom Boat Tour
Ocean Rafting Tour to Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet Lookout & Top Snorkel Spots

Take to the Air

To take in the beauty and spectacular seascape of the Whitsundays, treat yourself to a scenic flight. Fly over the aquamarine ocean, tropical islands and stunning white beaches and be awestruck by the natural beauty. The Whitsundays is a picture postcard location and yet the photos are nothing to seeing it for yourself.

Witness Paradise from the Sky
Reef and Island Scenic Flight from Airlie Beach
Whitsunday Islands and Heart Reef Scenic Flight – 70 minutes
Great Barrier Reef Scenic Flight and Ocean Rafting Whitehaven Beach Day Trip
Scenic Flight – Great Barrier Reef, Heart Reef, Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet!

23. Townsville

Airlie Beach to Townsville | 274 kilometres or 3 hours 20 minutes

Townsville is Queensland’s largest regional city and a vital hub for many the remote northern areas. A vibrant, coastal city, Townsville is a must stop as you continue your journey towards Cairns.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Dogtopia Retreat | (07) 4426 7656
House of Pawz | (07) 4740 4558
Fur Mum Pet Care | 0404 627 406
Beaches Pet Resort | (07) 4778 6633
Black River Boarding Kennels | (07) 4778 6715

A Foreshore Beauty

The Strand is a hugely popular seaside foreshore walkway lined with tropical palms. Wander the pathway for views to Magnetic Island and the bay or stop for ice cream, grab a coffee or eat at one of the many cafes. The vibrant, attractive foreshore also has art installations, grass areas and tables suitable for picnics. The walkway is dog friendly, however, the rockpool and beach are not.

A Summit

A dominant feature of Townsville is the rockface known as Castle Rock. Either walk or drive to the summit for 360-degree views of the city and sea. The hike up the hill is steep, with many steps and partly along the roadway.

There are many times to visit Castle Rock. Go at sunrise, sunset or a night for unbelievable views of the city lights. Several vantage points are on the summit so allow about an hour to have a good look. Dogs are permitted and there is plenty of parking.

Memorial with Sea Views

The fortification and boardwalk at Jezzine Barracks, Kissing Point is a memorial and monument to the sacrifice and bravery of WW2 and the battle of the Coral Sea. A beautiful landscape with grassed areas suitable for picnics and lazing about in the sunshine as well as uninterrupted views out to Magnetic Island, Kissing Point is a Townsville treasure.

Kissing Point is easy to find, as it continues from the Strand and is dog friendly.

Riverside Garden

A botanical garden on the banks of the river, the Palmetum is a stunning place to explore and walk with your dog, especially along the river. Enjoy the serenity and the manicured gardens before finishing at the cafe for a coffee or lunch.

Enjoy the Serenity

Little Crystal Creek is at the entrance of the Paluma National Park, near Innisfail is a 57 kilometre drive from Townsville. With a historic arch stone bridge surrounded by lush rainforest, a crystal clear creek and swimming holes the beauty is truly breathtaking. There is a 100m walk downstairs and boulder hopping to the falls and swimming holes. The water is also freezing and refreshing for those brave enough to get in.

As it is a national park, dogs are not allowed.

Related read: Free Camping Townsville

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Source: The Aquarius Traveller

25. Magnetic Island

Travel via vehicle ferry from
Recommended time here | 3 – 5 days or 2 – 4 nights

By Chris Fry from The Aquarius Traveller

A brilliant addition to any Australia East Coast road trip is an overnight or day trip to Magnetic Island. Magnetic Island covers an area of 52 kilometres squared and has plenty to see and do. 

Just off the coast of Townsville, it is best to pop over with your car on the ferry. Dogs can travel on the ferry, either muzzled out on the deck, in a pet carrier or in your vehicle. 

Dog Sitting and Boarding
See list under ‘Townsville’

Enjoy the Magnificant Beaches and Water

If the attraction of visiting an island is making the most of the water, then you are in luck: 

  • Swim, relax or stroll the dog friendly beaches (on a leash) – West Point, Picnic Bay, Geoffrey Bay, Nelly Bay and Horseshoe Bay 
  • Snorkel the trails at Geoffrey Bay and Nelly Bay 
  • Kayak with your dog at Horseshoe Bay
  • Get your adrenaline rush and hire a Jetski, also at Horseshoe Bay 

Unique WWII Attractions and Koalas

There are some unique attractions at Magnetic Island including the World War II, Forts Walk in the Magnetic Island National Park. It is only a short hike of 4 kilometres, but mostly uphill. The buildings were constructed in 1943 during World War II to protect the coastline from a Japanese invasion. Townsville was a supply depot for Allied troops in the southeast Pacific and a staging post for troops moving north into the war zone. 

Do not forget to watch out for koalas which are extremely common on this hike. And note, being National Park, dogs are not welcome. 

Allied Rock Wallabies

Magnetic Island has oodles of large boulders and is home to lots of wildlife. Bremner Point at Geoffrey Bay has a large congregation of Allied Rock Wallabies. At sunset every day, you can watch them jumping around on the rocks, searching for food. 

There are places to tether your dog nearby while you meet these very curious and adorable animals. 

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24. Mission Beach

Townsville to Mission Beach | 235 kilometres or 2 hours 50 minutes

If paradise is coconut palms, long golden sand beaches and blue ocean then Mission Beach is paradise. Adding to its striking beauty is the surrounding lush rainforest.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Puppy Tales Farmstay | 0448 138 113


A Coastal Rainforest Walk

The Kennedy Walking Track has got to be the closest to a national park walk that you can do with your dog. A coastal walk to fall in love with, through the rainforest, along Lovers Beaches and if you go the whole way (8 kilometres return) to Morgan Lookout. As you walk be on the lookout for cassowaries as well as birdlife, butterflies and crabs. At the lookout, look down where you are likely to see sea turtles feeding on seagrass below the water.

The track starts at the southern end of South Mission Beach at the boat ramp. There is parking and toilets at the boat ramp.

Sandy Walks

Not to be missed is a stroll along the beaches of Missions Beach with your dog. Palm trees line the beaches and the almost endless long beaches are perfect for you and your dog to relish in a morning or afternoon together.

Prehistoric Birds

Mission Beach has cassowaries but they tend to keep to themselves. The place to go to pretty much guarantees seeing one of the astonishing birds in Etty Bay. Etty Bay is a small idyllic inlet 48 kilometres from Mission Beach.

Where the rainforest really does meet the sea, Etty Bay is where cassowaries have admittedly become used to humans. Regularly seen walking along the beach or in the undergrowth of the forest, if you wait for just a little while you are likely to get to see one for yourself.

Etty Bay is not national park and dogs are not allowed on the beach. There is plenty of parking in the shade if you go, leave your dog in the car.

Exit45 Travels Atherton Tablelands 1
Source: Exit45 Travels

26. Atherton Tablelands

Mission Beach to  Atherton Tablelands (Millaa Millaa) | 101 kilometres or 1 hour 15 minutes

By Peta and Jonas from Exit45 Travels

Located around 90 kilometres southwest of Cairns, the Atherton Tablelands are one of the best areas to visit in North Queensland. There are many things to see and do in Atherton Tablelands, making for the perfect stop on a self-drive holiday. We recommend allowing at least five days to learn about the history of the towns in the area and see the sights.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
Tropical Pet Services | 0413 102 603
Also see list under ‘Cairns’

Put Yourself in the Centre

Yungaburra is a beautiful little town and centrally located within the region. In Yungaburra, visit the impressive Curtain Fig Tree and stride along the Peterson Creek Walking Track with your dog on a lead and with a bit of patience, spot an adorable platypus. 

Lake Barrine and Lake Eacham are also very close by and are the perfect spot for a hike, picnic or swim.

Get Among the Fascinating History of the Region

One of North Queensland’s premier tourist attractions is Paronella Park, a heritage-listed attraction located at Mena Creek. Marvel at the Spanish-style castle and tranquil waterfalls, bridges and tunnels all built the vision of the unconventional José Paronella. Paronella Park is a must visit when in this region! The park is off limits to dogs. A complimentary pet sitting service is available and pets can stay in the caravan park. 

Discover the Best of the Atherton Tablelands on a Tour
The Original Day Tour to Paronella Park, Lake Barrine and Millaa Millaa Falls
Atherton Tablelands Waterfalls Tour from Cairns
Atherton Tablelands Rain Forest by Night from Cairns

Atherton town was the first town settled in the Atherton Tablelands. You cannot leave Atherton without visiting Chinatown and the Hou Wang Miau Chinese Temple. Discover the rich and colourful history of the area and how the Chinese settlers contributed to this. 

The historic mining town of Heberton provides a glimpse into our pioneering history at the Historic Village. Allow a day to visit this open air museum which resembles a traditional tin mining town with over 60 fully restored period buildings dating back to the 1870s. Dogs are welcome at the village, on a lead. 

Wonder at Stunning Waterfalls

Time in the Atherton Tablelands has to include seeing some of its waterfalls. It is easy to see five fantastic waterfalls on the 17 kilometre Millaa Millaa Waterfall Circuit. Waterfalls on the circuit are the Millaa Millaa and Ellinjaa Falls (not dog friendly), the Zillie, Pepina and Soutia, Falls which are dog friendly.

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27. Cairns

Atherton Tablelands to Cairns | 98 kilometres or 1 hour 30 minutes

By Eloise from My Favourite Escapes

Cairns is Far North Queensland’s largest city. It is a vibrant, world-famous tourist hub known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.

Dog Sitting and Boarding
K9 River Retreat | 0437 504 519
Jenna’s Petsitting | 0429 924 021
Kuranda Pet Resort | (07) 4093 8239
RSPCA Cairns | (07) 40551487

Explore the Great Barrier Reef

It is unique to have so many different ways to experience the Reef to please all types of visitors, in and out of the water: snorkelling, scuba diving, sailing, helicopter flights, semi-submarine, underwater observatory. Tours leave daily for day trips or longer to take visitors to beautiful tropical islands or outer reefs. 

But a visit to Cairns is not only about the Great Barrier Reef. 

Ride the Skyrail 

You can experience the rainforest and Barron Falls – one of the best waterfalls near Cairns – from above at Skyrail. The cableway trip offers a unique view of the canopy, a perspective you may never find elsewhere. It’s great to come back by train to visit Kuranda and the Rainforestation Park to view local wildlife and learn more about the local Aboriginal culture. Those looking for an adrenaline rush may prefer to try bungee jumping at Cairns Skypark or whitewater rafting on the Barron River.

Ride the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway and Kuranda Scenic Railway
Kuranda Scenic Railway Day Trip
Skip the Line Kuranda Scenic Railway Gold Class and Skyrail Rainforest Cableway
Skyrail Rainforest Cableway Day Trip
Best of Kuranda Including Skyrail, Kuranda Scenic Railway and Rainforestation

Swim in a Saltwater Lagoon

Back in town, the saltwater lagoon is perfect for a refreshing swim, and the Esplanade is a lovely place for a stroll. You can take your furry friend with you on the Esplanade, but remember your dog must be a lead at all times unless you’re in the dedicated off-leash area in Coconut Grove at the northern end of the Esplanade.

Related read: Kayaking Cairns | Double Island

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28. Port Douglas 

Cairns to Port Douglas | 67 kilometres or 1 hour 5 minutes
Recommended time here | 2 – 3 days or 2 nights

By Kylie Loy from Fearless and Free Range

When road tripping the east coast of Australia, stopping in Port Douglas is an absolute must. The streets with palm trees, the blue, inviting water and the relaxed vibe mean you feel welcomed with open arms. 

The best time to visit Port Douglas is between the months of May-September. The festivals are starting, the stingers are leaving, and the weather is perfect. 

Dog Sitting and Boarding
See list under ‘Cairns’

Explore an Inlet

Dickinson Inlet, calm and enclosed by mangroves, is excellent to explore by boat. Either use your own and take your pup with you or hire a small pontoon without needing a boating license. Enjoy a picnic on board while throwing a line out to catch some fish. 

While cruising down the inlet keep your eyes peeled for the local crocs sunbaking on the muddy shores and have your cameras ready to snap those shots.  

Flagstaff Hill Lookout  

Port Douglas is a beautiful coastal town. The best opportunity to admire its beauty is to walk the 2 kilometre return trail to Flagstaff Hill lookout. The track has breathtaking views at several lookouts and is a pleasant walk for you and your dog. 

Wander the Markets 

Top up on fresh produce or find a unique gift for someone special at the Port Douglas Sunday or Wednesday markets. The Sunday markets held at Market Park has live entertainment, locally produced or made wares and tantalising foods to savour. The Wednesday markets are at the Superyacht Marina. The markets are dog friendly, on a lead. 

Go to the Races (of a different kind)  

Have you heard of cane toad racing? Well, it is a thing in Port Douglas at Chilly’s Pizza where you can get a great feed and watch the iconic cane toad racing. Shows run daily from Tuesday through to Saturday, starting at 6.00 pm. Chilly’s Pizza is dog friendly, so head along for fun for everyone (bookings essential).

Where to Next?

  • Continue north to Cape York
  • Head west from Townsville to Mount Isa
  • Return south via an inland route

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