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 17th 2012
Sick of the hustle and concrete of the city? Are you and your dog pining to get down and dirty and smell the sweet aroma of gum leaves as you pad through the Australia bush? Tempted by the many glorious State Forests and National Parks on the fringe of Melbourne? Many dog owners think that their dogs are not allowed into the state and national parks which are close to Melbourne. However, that is not always the case.
While dogs are not permitted to roam off leash in these parks in order to protect our native animals and flora, many do allow dogs on leash along the walking tracks and access roads. However, it's not always easy to find out which parks allow dogs before you get there. The best advice is to ring Parks Victoria on 131963 for the latest information, and to check their excellent parknotes series which you can find on their website. In the meantime, here's a couple of places to get you started:
The You Yangs State Park (yes, that's those lumpy hills on the way to Geelong) are just 55km from Melbourne and have extensive and very interesting walking tracks, ranging from the 3km Big Rock circuit, to the 8km Branding Yard trail. Keeping your dog on leash is important here, as it is in all parks, as on my last visit I was lucky enough to have a close encounter with an echidna and a number of wallabies.
Another great park in the west suitable for you and your furry friend is the Lerderderg State Parks, near Bacchus Marsh, just an hour's drive along the Western Highway. In the north, consider Plenty Gorge Park in South Morang, and if you are headed east, The Upper Yarra Reservoir Park, just 40km east of Warburton even allows you to bring your dog camping.
To ensure we can maintain future access for dog owners to these glorious natural environments - be considerate and responsible: 'Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos' should be your mantra! Do ensure you take adequate water for your pooch as well as yourself, as water is not always available at all parks. Be aware of the risks of ticks and snakebite (which will be minimised by keeping your dog on leash) and check your dog thoroughly after your day in the bush.
Have you taken your dogs out to walk in the bushlands near Melbourne? Where are your favourite spots?