Port Phillip with a pooch: 3 great dog beaches in the Bay
Many Melburnians seem to get caught up in the idea of ‘superior’ beaches north of the state border and forget to make the most of the beautiful beaches we have right on our doorstep in Port Phillip Bay. One of the best ways to get out and enjoy a summer afternoon in the Bay is to take your dog for a day at the beach. There are fantastic dedicated off-leash dog beaches all along the coast, from east to west, which serve a variety of needs.
And although we might not feel like venturing out to the seaside until the sun and warm weather make an appearance, it’s good to remember that your dog is probably just as happy to kick up sand and seaweed and frolic in the shallows in the depths of winter. And a walk along the beach with your best friend is bound to be a great experience any time of the year – you might just have to adjust the number of layers you wear.
It is important to note that while the beaches listed are designated leash-free areas, rules still apply about maintaining ‘effective control’ over your dog. If you are thinking of testing out these new stomping grounds, make sure your dog has solid recall and is generally well-behaved around other dogs and humans.
Here are three of our favourite designated dog beaches, and some general rules for a good day out by the Bay with your dog.
Altona Dog Beach
This is certainly not the prettiest beach the Bay has to offer; grey sand and murky water make a bit of a bleak picture for human enjoyment. But this beach is a local gem known well and loved by the dog-owning population of the West. The dogs are not put off by the lacking aesthetics; they romp, socialise and splash without a care for the colour of the sand.
Artifically created as a result of dredging activity, this beach may be controversial from an ecological standpoint but it’s undeniable thathaving this dedicated area for pooches to roam and play off-leash has helped many thousands of Melburnians to develop a connection with this stunning area of the Bay. Just up the coast at the sparkling ‘human beach’, locals laze on sun-drenched (white) sand and meander across the road to snack on seafood, sandy chips and dripping ice cream cones.
Although dogs are banned from the main Altona beach during peak times in the summer season, if you venture yet further to the end of the Esplanade (this is a a few minutes’ drive from the off-leash beach), there is a sparsely populated stretch where you can take your dog for a more measured on-lead stroll after getting their playdate out of the way. This part of the beach affords a stunning view of the city over the water and is beautifully clean, with water more suited to human swimming than that of the dog beach. Sunset over the water here is a spectacular way to end an afternoon with your pooch.
Find out more about off-leash locations in Hobsons Bay council area here.
Brighton Dog Beach/Sandown St Beach
Brighton Beach has long been famous for its colourful ‘beach boxes’. There are not, as yet, accompanying beachside ‘pooch palaces’ gracing these sandy shores, but Brighton is still a great destination for a day out with your furry friend.
Perhaps the thing that sets the Brighton Dog Beach apart from others in the area is that it is fenced. This means you can let your dog roam and splash in freedom with extra peace of mind if you have any concerns about your dog going wandering or disturbing grumpy beachgoers who may have missed the ‘dog’ in the ‘dog beach’ sign.
This is a beautiful beach with smooth sand and pristine water, perfect for humans and canines alike – although as anyone knows who’s had experience with dog beaches, the idea of a joint swim becomes less appealing after watching a dozen dogs empty their bladders and bowels into the shallows.
This beach is just next to the yacht club, so perfect for boating enthusiasts or anyone who likes a few sails in their Bay vista. It’s also close to Brighton’s thriving centre, so a snack or a drink is never far off.
Find more great spots around Brighton to visit with your dog here.
Safety Beach/Tassels Cove
Located further down the Mornington Peninsula near Dromana, this is a small sandy beach tucked away from the main areas, separated by a marina so your pooch can run free with minimal risk of disturbing non-dog-loving human beachgoers. There is limited parking directly above the beach, or you can access it from other parts of the beach with a bit of a walk – just be aware the route to the dog beach from the adjoining coastline includes a short walk through a noisy underpass, which can be scary for some dogs.
The beach itself is compact but has everything your dog needs to have a great time (namely, sand, sea and playmates) and as every dog owner knows, it’s hard not to enjoy yourself while watching your pooch gallop around with its tongue hanging out the side of its mouth.
Once you’ve had your fill of the beach, you can take a walk up a vegetated area of cliff for spectacular views out over the Bay and see if you can spot any local birdlife or other wildlife hopping amongst the shrubs.
Don’t discount this beach if you don’t live nearby; consider it an excuse for a day out down the Peninsula, a worthwhile venture for any summer’s day. The drive through sandy shrubland from the city and suburbs is a beautiful reminder of the environmental diversity of our city and state.
Learn more about enjoying the beaches of the Mornington Peninsula with your dog here.
General tips for enjoying Port Phillip Bay with your dog
During the warm months especially, the designated ‘dog-friendly’ beaches are hugely popular, so if you are looking for somewhere more quiet to take a sandy stroll with your canine companion, or if your dog doesn’t get along well with others, you might be better off on a stretch of human beach where your dog is allowed on-lead. Check the council website for rules and maps, as restrictions are often different for the summer and winter months and according to the time of day.
A good rule of thumb is that any popular beach front area is generally reserved for people during the day in the warmer half of the year. During those months, your dog might be restricted to a sunrise or sunset visit. But you can often find a spot where your dog is allowed on-leash if you’re willing to go a bit further out of the way. The beach is signposted most of the way along, so just make sure you carefully check the signs before heading onto the sand.
Even if the beach is empty, please do obey the signs and restrictions for dogs on the beach. Often, these rules are in place to protect our wildlife and coastal environment, not just out of courtesy for other beachgoers. (‘But my dog wouldn’t hurt a fly!’ I hear you cry.) Maybe not, but threatened nesting shorebirds like the Hooded Plover can be very hard to spot among the dunes and their nests and eggs can easily be trampled by a happy-go-lucky pooch who’s all too focused on the Frisbee. In addition, even if a bird is not directly harmed by an encounter with a dog, these experiences can cause enough stress to threaten its survival or reproduction.
Finally, please take a bag (and a spare) with you and always clean up after your dog! Many people think that picking up your dog’s droppings is simply a matter of cleanliness and courtesy to other people who might step in it. This is a very good reason to pick up after your dog. But it doesn’t mean that if your dog does its business off in the dunes you can leave it or just kick some sand over it (eww). Chemicals and germs found in dog poo wash into our waterways (and swimming beaches), reducing water quality, endangering our marine food sources and posing risks to human and wildlife. So we all need to do our bit to be responsible pet owners and love our Bay areas while keeping them beautiful.
Banner image courtesy of Tim Brown.
Sarah is a writer and editor living in Kyneton, Victoria. She works as Publications Manager for Remember The Wild. When she’s not at a computer she can usually be found battling weeds in her garden, picking up lost animals or exploring the forests of the Macedon Ranges and Hepburn with her dog.