Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog: walksmelbourne.com
Published March 27th 2012
Sometimes your city dog just needs to roam free like the inner-wolf s/he really is. Melbourne's dog owners are spoilt for choice with generous off-leash areas in almost all parks, and councils understanding the importance of exercise equalling happy dog and healthy owner.
The best and most current source of information about where your dogs can roam off-leash is your local council. A quick search on their website will usually take you to detailed maps and information.
For those who have an i-phone, there is (of course) an app you can get which allows you to search for off-leash parks in Melbourne. Access it here for just 0.99c.
Lots of off-leash parks have a definite doggy 'culture' to them, and I am sure your dog won't mind you trying them all out until you find the owners and dogs that work for you.
One of my dog's favourites is the eastern end of Caulfield Park - there are huge expanses of well kept grounds and ovals for your dog to socialise with the always friendly crowd of pooches there. There is also an on-lead circular running track around the perimeter of the park. In the same area, Elsternwick Park remains very popular for good reason.
If you need to have a fenced area for your roaming friend, Clayton Reserve in North Melbourne, opposite the Lost Dogs Home, gets favourable reviews for the friendly and welcoming crowd. The Gardiner Creek Reserve, in West Burwood, while not fenced, is extensive and popular for those whose dogs enjoy a paddle in the creek.
While roaming wild, do remember that dogs cannot be off-lead within 20-50 metres (depending on local by-laws) of a children's playground, and ensure you don't allow your enthusiastically roaming dog to rush at or jump on anyone. They must remain under effective voice control at all times. You also need to keep an eagle eye out so you can still clean up after your dog, and help ensure off-lead areas remain so for years to come.
Where are your (and your dog's) favourite off-leash parks in Melbourne? What do you like most about them? What features are most important for you and your dog? Where would you recommend for people who need fenced areas for their dogs?
I find that the Martin's Reserve on Essex St in West Footscray isn't the best looking dog park but my little man always has a blast there! Great mix of dogs and laid back owners :) there's also a nice cafe down the road. My dog also loves Halifax St dog park in Brighton...lots of posh poodles and such so be a bit wary if you have a rough and tumble dog haha. Half Moon Bay beach is also an amazing off lead beach for pooches :) lovely scenery too and barely anyone there in the winter months!
I recently downloaded the app "DogParks-Vic Australia" from Google PlayStore onto my Android Phone. It's a free map, and it shows offleash parks on google map. I kind of like this app. But it's only for Android phone at present.
I can endorse both Gardiners Creek Reserve and Ruffey Lake Park as being fantastic. Less well known is that there is an off-lead trail that follows Ruffey Creek, starting at the north-western corner of Ruffey Lake Park. With the exception of a couple of short on-road sections, it is off-lead all the way up to the Yarra River. It finishes at Wombat Bend Park (also off-lead). From the Victoria Street car park at Ruffey Lake to the far end of Wombat Bend Park, it is 11 km return. Just walked it on Sunday: 4 people + 5 German Shorthaired Pointers + 1 Whippet = barrels of fun.
Thanks missb - will check out Kooyung Creek Reserve as haven't found our way there as yet. I'm with you -all dogs are naturally very social 'pack animals' and lots of socialising is the way to go for a happy dog. J.
Kooyung creek reserve is great for dogs to roam free and the designated kiddies section is like a huge enclosed net mesh. Conversely city of boorondara has put signage of the footpaths warning cyclists that the area/s is a designated off lead dog section and to slow down. Such a rarity to see the council thinking of dogs first as opposed to the way around. The only dilemma is that some owners of dogs that appear to frequent often are too precious of their own dog insofar as they do not allow other dogs to play with their dog because 'they don't like it' (they referring to the owners) Aside from that, if you just ignore the majority of dog owners that wrap their dogs in a very antisocial manner, which is what I do, because dogs do what dogs do best and that is play with other dogs, the place gets 5 ticks from me!