Most of the city’s parks are dog-friendly, but you’ll still need to keep your pal on a leash. For a more freewheeling adventure, try one of these parks or beaches where dogs can run around, sniff along eucalypt-lined walking trails, or splash in the shallows – no leash required.
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 the 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 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 nighttime and early-morning frolics (7.30 pm to 10 am). 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 makes 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, a 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, 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.
Read more about this topic at https://www.broadsheet.com.au/
Dog Off-Leash areas for each Council area in Melbourne and Victoria
If you plan to visit an off-leash park or beach, it is important that you can maintain control of your dog. You must be able to recall your dog promptly and place it back on a leash if the need arises.
The following behaviors are typically enforced by all councils:
- Always walk your dog on a leash, unless in a designated off-leash area.
- Always observe the on-leash, off-leash and dog-free areas and times
- Always carry a leash, even in an off-leash park or beach.
- Bring a plastic bag with you and pick it up after your dog.
- Keep your dog close and within sight at off-leash areas and have control of your dog at all times.
- Dogs must not be allowed to chase or jump on people or other animals
- Make sure your dog does not damage public assets spaces, such as digging holes or chewing
You are permitted to exercise your dog off lead in all parks except where restrictions have been imposed for environmental reasons such as near a wetland or to protect birds and native species. Signs have been erected in those areas where special controls have been imposed.
Dogs off lead in these areas must be under the effective control of their owners. What this means is that the dog must be within clear and unobstructed view of its owner and it must return to its owner upon command.
Dogs must be on leash in the following areas:
- All streets, roads and car parks
- Within 5 metres of a designated shared footway (bike and pedestrian path)
Dogs are prohibited from within 5 metres of children’s playgrounds or public BBQs (for health and safety reasons).
These parks have fully fenced off-lead exercise areas with park benches, dog waste bins and drinking fountains with attached dog bowls:
- Price Park, Viewbank
- Ford Park, Bellfield
- Malang Reserve, Heidelberg West
- Malcolm Blair Reserve, Eltham North
Dogs must be on a leash at all times throughout Bayside unless you are located in a designated off-leash area during the appropriate times. Dogs are prohibited entry to some parks and reserves, check signage before entry.
Dogs must be on leash in the following areas:
- Within 20 metres of a children’s play equipment area, an area where a public meeting is being held, a permanently designated barbeque and picnic area or an area where an organised sporting event is taking place.
- In all car parks.
- There are 18 off-leash parks, no fenced dog parks, three beaches with all year round off-leash access and 11 beaches where dogs are allowed off-leash at certain times of the day or parts of the year.
Beach access as per this map is:
Off-leash all year: Sandown Street beach, Sandringham Harbour and Beaumaris Yacht Club Beach
Off-leash during specific parts of the year/times of the day: Middle Brighton beach, Dendy Street beach, Holloway Bend beach, Brighton beach, Hampton beach, Sandringham Life Saving beach, Sandringham beach, Edward Street beach, Half Moon Bay, Black Rock beach and part of Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary.
Note: Dogs are prohibited at all times from all inter-tidal rock platforms within the Ricketts Point Marine Sanctuary.
A dog may be exercised off a chain, cord or leash (lead) in a designated reserve, if the owner:
- Carries a lead to bring the dog under their control if the dog behaves in a manner that threatens any person or animal
- Can promptly bring the dog under control by voice or hand command and then place the dog on a lead if necessary
- Does not allow the dog to worry or threaten any person or animal.
- If your dog is off-leash in a designated reserve, you must bring your dog under control using a lead if the dog is within 30 metres of an organised sporting event, an organised public meeting or a permanent barbecue or picnic area if it is being used by others.
Dogs are prohibited within the immediate perimeter of any playground at all times, and must be on a lead if within 10 metres of the perimeter of a playground in a designated reserve at all times.
All dogs are to be kept on a leash in all public open space areas unless clearly signed as a designated off-leash area.
Keep your dog on a lead:
- In conservation areas
- Within 30 metres of children’s play areas
- Near barbecue and outdoor eating areas
- Near informal sports or social events
- During formal sports events
- Within 5 metres of a walking/ bike path
- In heavy pedestrian traffic, on a school route.
These parks have fully fenced off-lead exercise areas:
- Davitt Drive Reserve, Deer Park
- Green Gully Reserve, Keilor Downs
- International Gardens Reserve, St Albans
- Wahgunyah Reserve, St Albans
- Duke Street Reserve, Sunshine North
- Roussac Reserve, Sunshine North
- Collenso Street Electricity Easement, Sunshine West
Dogs can be walked off-leash in most parks and reserves. No dogs are allowed on any Parks Victoria land. Dogs must remain under effective control at all times whilst off-leash.
You need to keep your dog on a leash:
- In all public places (including footpaths, schools, shopping centres, car parks, tracks and conservation bushland)
- In any location where a sign says that dogs must be on their leash
- In an active reserve where an organised sporting event is happening
- Within 20 metres of children’s playgrounds and play equipment
- At any organised public meeting
- At any permanent BBQ or picnic area
These parks have fully fenced off-lead exercise areas:
- Pasadena Park, Clyde
- Selandra Boulevard Reserve, Clyde North
- Trueman Reserve, Cranbourne West
- Kalora Park Oval, Narre Warren North
Dogs must be on-leash within 10 metres of:
- An organised sporting event
- Children’s playground
- Barbecue/picnic area
There are 33 designated reserves called Free Roam Areas where dogs can be exercised off-leash, provided that they are under the effective control of the owner. There are no fenced dog parks.
Dogs are prohibited from the Central Activities Area (CAA) of Frankston.
Due to the sensitive nature of the City’s natural reserves, dogs are prohibited from the following reserves:
- Bunarong Park
- Casuarina Reserve
- George Pentland Botanic Gardens
- Langwarrin Flora and Fauna Reserve
- Studio Park
- Dogs are allowed to enter the following reserves but they must be under the effective control of a leash and must remain on the constructed footways:
- Kananook Creek Reserve
- Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve
- Seaford Foreshore Reserve
- Seaford Wetlands Reserve
- Sweetwater Creek Reserve
Dogs are not permitted on any beach between the hours of 9.30 am and 7.30 pm during December, January, February or March. Dogs are permitted at other times provided they are under the effective control of a chain, cord or leash. There are no dog free roam areas on Frankston or Seaford beaches.
Dogs should be on a leash at all times in public places, except in certain parks and reserves that are designated off-leash areas.
Dogs are not permitted within 20 metres of:
- Playgrounds, barbecues or picnic areas
- Duncan Mackinnon Athletics Track and netball facilities
- Packer Park Velodrome
- Sportsgrounds during sporting events or event preparation
- Organised public meetings
Dogs must be on a leash within five metres of shared footpaths and bicycle paths.
This park has fully fenced off-lead exercise areas:
Pawfield Park Fenced Dog Park (Caulfield East)
There are 24 shared-use parks that have a designated area that is off-leash and another area that is on-leash. Three of these parks (Harleston Park, Greenmeadows Gardens and Hopetoun Gardens) only allow dogs to be off-leash between 6 am and 9 am.
Read more about this topic at https://www.melbourneplaygrounds.com.au/