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 June 7th 2013
Go under and up to get the insiders view of Caulfield
"And they're racing at Caulfield ....." is enough to get the blood racing in the early spring, when the racetrack becomes the centre of Melbourne's racing fashionistas and horse-followers. But for the rest of the year, the Racetrack remains a mysterious place full of early morning training rides and the occasional home or pet show. BUT, did you know that the Racetrack is actually on crown land, and as such, is open to the public for their recreational enjoyment on a daily basis? Well, part of it is anyway, for those keen enough to persevere.
Caulfield Racetrack Public Reserve (c) JP Mundy 2013
The Caulfield Racecourse Centre Reserve is exactly that - a lovely public park with all the usual facilities: BBQ and picnic area, small sports ground, walking track, fishing lake, boardwalk and even a fully fenced dogs off lead 'play park' - right smack in the middle of Caulfield Racecourse. Anyone can access it for free from 9:30am through to sundown (except on race days and major even days), though dogs are only allowed from 4:30pm to sundown and must be on lead until they reach the fenced off-lead area.
Caulfield Racetrack Centre Reserve (c) JP Mundy 2013
To get there, you have to put on your explorer's hat and get adventurous, as the way in is not obvious. My best recommendation is to use the trainer's tunnel - hold your nose, as this is the way the horses trot through for their morning training, and it can be a bit whiffy.
You find the tunnel by going through the small pedestrian gate next to the entrance on opposite the roundabout on the corner of Kambrook and Booran Roads in Caulfield East. You are also apparently allowed to drive in this way - good luck, as the gates are often shut, though there is a number you can call if you need them opened.
Once on the other side of the track, back in the fresh air, make your way carefully across the training track towards the picnic area and you will reach this surprisingly pretty public park. The area has recently had a $1.8million refurbishment and public access improved after a determined and often fraught campaign by groups of local residents, so a huge thank you is due to them. You can repay them by using and enjoying the reserve. Apart from the fresh air and open space, it gives you a fabulous perspective of this grand racecourse from the inside out.
None of the area is clearly marked as either on-lead or off-lead and I understand council have been recently policing the area and fining ppl. for dogs being off-lead. Don't mind following the rules if the rules are clearly marked.