Dog-Friendly Melbourne: Visiting Melbourne with a Dog

As a long-time Sydneysider, I’m usually compelled to say how much better Sydney is than Melbourne, as part of the long-standing rivalry between the two Australian cities. However, when it comes to dog-friendliness, Melbourne is way out in front and by far the most dog-friendly city in Australia.

Melbourne is a great destination to visit with your dog, whether on a short trip or as part of a longer lap around Australia. Read on for everything you need to know about visiting Melbourne with your dog.

Dog-friendly Melbourne

If you’re spending a whole week in Melbourne (lucky you!), I love this itinerary for 7 days in Melbourne. Just double-check which attractions do and don’t allow dogs. 

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Melbourne

While many popular attractions in Melbourne are off-limits if you’re sightseeing with a pup, there are equally many things to do in Melbourne that are dog-friendly. Here are my top five recommendations.

1. Visit the Bathing Boxes at Brighton Beach

After missing out on visiting these famous colourful bathing boxes on previous trips to Melbourne, when I visited with my dog I was determined to visit them. Luckily then it’s dog-friendly, so the perfect spot to head for Instagram snaps with your pooch!

The colourful bathing boxes on Brighton Beach

Dogs are allowed off-leash here all day long from April to October, then between sunrise and 10am between November and March (with no dogs permitted at all between 10am and 7:30pm from November to March, for full details, click here).

In any case, it’s best to head here early to avoid the crowds, and nab some great photos with your pup. It’s easiest reached from the city with a car, just remember to pay for parking.

If you’re looking for a great beach nearby that is off-leash all day long, not much further north is the Brighton Dog Beach at Sandown Street.

2. Explore the Botanic Gardens

The majority of botanic gardens around Australia and in fact the rest of the world don’t permit dogs in their grounds. However, the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria in Melbourne are more welcoming.

Dogs are still not allowed off leash inside the gardens, but they are allowed to join you for a stroll on a leash. Additionally, if you decide to take a punt tour on the lake, well-behaved dogs can join you for free.

The lake at the Royal Botanic Gardens

3. Check out the Street Art

A trip to Melbourne isn’t complete without exploring some of the city’s famous yet ever-changing street art. Many of the inner city suburbs have great examples, but the most well-known destination is Hosier Lane in the city, not far from Federation Square.

Schnitzel intrigued by the street art

Definitely stop by Hosier Lane, where you are likely to spot some new works being sprayed onto the walls. But as it can get quite crowded, which some dogs might not appreciate, I recommend heading a few blocks further east, to the less crowded ACDC Lane and Duckboard Place.

Hip dog!

4. Visit a World Heritage Listed Building

Melbourne is home to one of Australia’s most unexpected World Heritage sites: the Royal Exhibition Building in Carlton Gardens, on the northern fringe of the city. The building is one of the few remaining examples of the exhibition buildings erected across the world in the late 19th century.

Outside the Royal Exhibition Building

While dogs may not be able to head inside (and we weren’t either during our visit, due to university exams), it’s still a great spot to visit and view the imposing exterior (keeping your pup on a leash). The grassy lawns of Carlton Gardens are also perfect for a picnic.

5. Head to St Kilda

It’s just a short tramride or drive from the centre of Melbourne to the bayside suburb of St Kilda. A popular beach destination close to the city, it has plenty of options for entertainment.

Your dog won’t be allowed inside of the Luna Park amusement park (and wouldn’t appreciate the screams), but instead take a walk out along the pier (dogs allowed on a leash) or visit one of the surrounding beaches.

Exploring the beach on the west side of St Kilda Pier

St Kilda Beach to the east of the pier only permits dogs over the winter months, but instead head to the western side, near Pier Road, where dogs are allowed off-leash all day long, year round. For more details on surrounding beaches, see below.

If visiting on a Sunday, check out the market along the Esplanade. Otherwise stop off at one of the cafes along Acland Street for coffees and cake.

For more ideas on what to do in Melbourne with your pup, check out my list of 25 dog-friendly days out around Melbourne!

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Melbourne

While Melbourne doesn’t have any surf beaches like my home city of Sydney (instead head to the Great Ocean Road for the nearest surf beaches to Melbourne), it does still have some decent beaches along the shores of Port Phillip Bay, great for visiting with a dog thanks to their calm waters.

The rules for whether dogs can access beaches are up to the individual councils. Generally there are clear sign posts, but sometimes you may need to look online at the council websites.

Often, dogs are allowed off-leash on beaches over the winter period, but come the summer months are restricted to just early and late in the day, if at all. However, there are quite a few beaches that allow dogs off-leash all year round.

Even Brighton Beach is dog-friendly outside of summer and early in the morning

For instance, if you’re heading to St Kilda, dogs are allowed on the main stretch of St Kilda Bech only during the winter time, but are not allowed at all on the sand between the months of November and March.

Instead, during summer either head southeast (to the stretch between Brooks Jetty and the northern end of the St Kilda Marina car park) or northwest (to the section between St Kilda Pier and the draining channel as its northwestern end), plus further west to St Kilda West.

Some other dog-friendly beaches around Melbourne include:

  • Brighton Dog Beach: At the end of Sandown Street in Brighton. This beach is also conveniently fenced, great for excitable pups.
  • Sandringham Harbour Dog Beach: Located within Sandringham Harbour
  • Altona Dog Beach: Next to P.A. Burns Reserve in Seaholme
Altona Dog Beach
Off-leash runs and swims at the Altona Dog Beach

Dog-Friendly Parks in Melbourne

Many of the parks in Melbourne are dog-friendly, albeit with the caveat that they need to remain on a leash. As I mentioned above, dogs are welcome in the Royal Botanic Gardens and Carlton Gardens. Another on-leash option within the city is Flagstaff Gardens.

If you’re wanting to find an off-leash park, your options are more limited and you’ll have to head further afield. Two options close to the city are sections of Gosch’s Paddock, just north across the Yarra from the Royal Botanic Garden, and Yarra Park, on the east side of the famous MCG stadium. See the maps on this website.

Checking out the Yarra River near Gosch’s Paddock

In Richmond, head to Citizen Park when football isn’t being played.

For an excellent option further out of the city (a car is necessary), head to Aranga Reserve, just off the M3 motorway in Donvale. As well as large fenced grass expanse, there’s also a dog agility course.

Dog-Friendly Shopping in Melbourne

Just like most places in Australia, the majority of shops in Melbourne won’t be happy if you try and take your dog inside. However, the rules have been relaxed when it comes to Chapel Street in South Yarra and Prahran, which has recently become Melbourne’s first dog-friendly shopping precinct.

Chapel Street is a great destination for shopping with your pup

While walking along the street, keep an eye out for the Paw-on-the-Door stickers indicating pet-friendly businesses. Many fashion shops are pet-friendly (we dropped into Peter Alexander to check out their latest pyjama designs); even some of the local banks allow pets inside.

Look out for these stickers for pet-friendly businesses

The stickers also handily indicate which local restaurants and cafes allow dogs in their outdoor dining areas. (There’s a huge selection!) Check out the full listing of participating businesses here.

Dog-Friendly Transport in Melbourne

One area where Melbourne really shines as dog-friendly is their approach to public transport and pets. Unlike the majority of cities in Australia where pets on public transport are a no-no, pets are allowed on public transport in Melbourne with some caveats.

With these generous rules, it means that a quick getaway to the Melbourne CBD using public transport with your pet is possible from within the metropolitan area (for dogs of all sizes) or from across the state (for those with small pets). Plus it’s easy to get around the city with smaller pets.

Dogs on Trains in Melbourne

The most welcoming option are the metropolitan trains. Cats and dogs of all sizes are allowed on the metropolitan trains. Cats and small dogs need to travel in a container, while larger dogs are permitted if they are wearing a leash and muzzle.

On the regional V/Line trains, only small pets in a container are allowed onboard. The container is restricted to a maximum size of 56cm long x 30cm wide x 38cm high, with a maximum weight of 15kg. It needs to be stored in an assigned storage location and off-peak travel is recommended; for more information, see here.

Dogs on Trams & Buses in Melbourne

Small pets in a container are allowed on trams and buses across Victoria, including in Melbourne. This includes within the convenient free tram zone in the city.

Catching a tram with Schnitzel

The only public transport option that doesn’t allow pets are the V/Line coach services.

For more information on taking pets on all types of public transport within Victoria, see the full guidelines.

Live interstate and want to fly to Melbourne with your pet? Find out more about flying in Australia with a dog

Dog-Friendly Dining in Melbourne

Melbourne has no shortage of restaurants, cafes and pubs that welcome dogs all over the city, from laneway cafes to trendy pubs to brunch spots.

Dog-Friendly Pubs in Melbourne City

If you’re staying in the city centre, I recommend heading over to the wide open spaces of Southbank for dinner, where there’s plenty of dog-friendly outdoor dining spaces.

Exploring the Southbank precinct

When staying in the city with our dog, we choose to dine at The General Assembly, near the convention centre. There’s some great burgers options on the menu, and if you’re visiting during the week make sure you arrive before 6:30pm to nab the Happy Hour drink specials.

Dogs are allowed in the outdoor area of the General Assembly. But considering most of it is covered and fitted out with outdoor heaters, it’s still a welcoming spot come the coldest and rainiest Melbourne night.

The enclosed outdoor area at The General Assembly

Another dog-friendly option nearby on the northern bank of the Yarra is the The Wharf Hotel. Just check out their Instagram account for plenty of photos of contented pooches.

Close to Federation Square, Pilgrim Bar is another riverside spot that is dog-friendly, serving up tapas-style plates and gourmet toasties. Or head just downriver to Arbory Afloat, a floating cocktail bar that is especially popular on sunny afternoons in summer.

Dog-Friendly Cafes & Pubs in the Inner Suburbs

If you head further afield in Melbourne, there’s plenty more great dog-friendly dining options. For starters, both Welcome to Brunswick and Welcome to Thornbury, over-size beer gardens with a roster of food trucks, are also welcoming to dogs.

The Commons Collective in Melbourne’s south, often declared to be Melbourne’s most beautiful garden cafe and wine bar, is dog-friendly in its outdoor areas. The beer garden is open year round, while the rosé garden closes over the winter. Treat your pup to a doggy day bed and a puppa-cino from their menu.

During our visit to Melbourne in 2019, we visited the Newmarket Hotel in St Kilda. At the time of our visit, they offered a Puppy Parma for dogs on Tuesday nights, along with their discounted parmas. For just $5, our dog was served up some chicken schnitzel topped with ham and cheese, along with some dog treats and dog biscuits.

A Puppy Parma at the Newmarket Hotel

Ask whether this is still available (I believe it’s currently off the menu). However, they are still dog-friendly in their outdoor beer garden and still offer $15 params on Tuesday nights.

In the mood for a rooftop bar? Check out Harlow Bar in Richmond, which welcomes dogs both in their beer garden and on the rooftop, accessible from the stairs in the beer garden.

Extra Dog-Friendly Cafes in Melbourne

For something a bit more extravagant for your pooch, head to one of the many dog-friendly cafes round Melbourne that serve up a whole menu for pups, not just humans.

One of the most dog-friendly cafes in Melbourne is the French creperie Chez Misty in St Kilda. As well as sweet crepes and savoury galettes for humans, they have a dog menu with a variety of doggy crepes and puppyccinos, sure to tempt even the fussiest pup. They also offer dog birthday and gotcha day parties, plus check their website for details of their regular Paddle and Brunch events.

The Doghouse Dog Cafe in Collingwood is Melbourne’s first cafe for dogs (with humans welcome). At the back of their large retail store, where you can purchase the raw food and dog drinks they produce onsite, are ten large cafe booths. Make a booking for a booth, where you can enjoy a coffee and your dog a fancy dogachino, or make a birthday party booking. There are also regular special events.

On the outer eastern edge of Melbourne in Boronia is The Dog Cafe. With an off-leash area including a sandpit and ballpit, on the menu are puppacinos and dog treats, as well as coffees and simple bites for humans. You can also book doggie birthday parties and weddings.

Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Melbourne

Best Western Melbourne City

Note: The author received media rates at Best Western Melbourne City. However, all opinions are entirely her own.

During our stay in Melbourne, we stayed at the Best Western Melbourne City Hotel, the first hotel in Melbourne city to be pet-friendly. It’s also a great value accommodation option for humans.

The pet-friendly Best Western Melbourne City Hotel

The hotel is conveniently located within walking distance of both Flinders Street and Southern Cross Stations (handy for if you’re arriving with your pup by train). It’s also within the free tram zone, meaning you can easily get around the city with a small pet in a carrier bag for free.

If you’re driving, the hotel can reserve you a discounted 24-hour parking space in the parking garage around the corner, with the option of starting the 24-hour period whenever you want. (We selected for it to start at 11am, so we could spend our arrival day exploring the city.)

Inside the hotel, pets are allowed to stay in the courtyard rooms on the ground floor, for an additional fee (currently $30 per night). The rooms are spacious and have been recently redecorated, with modern lines and colourful accents. All the modcons you desire are included, including cable TV, tea and coffee facilities, and a rainwater showerhead.

Our stylish and spacious courtyard room

While it was a little chilly during our visit, the courtyard would also be great to relax in on warmer evenings, enjoying a takeaway meal or a few beverages.

The actual courtyard – very leafy and complete with an outdoor table and bench

Onsite is Olivier’s Cafe, open for breakfast daily or for an early lunch. We considered paying extra for room service and having breakfast delivered to our room, but instead opted to take-away the tasty Egg and Bacon Muffins.

There’s also a continental buffet on offer, if you can trust your dog to remain behind in your room. (On the dog sign-in form, dogs are permitted to be left in the room as long as you put the do-not-disturb sign on the door.)

Up on the rooftop of the Best Western Melbourne City

Other Dog-Friendly Accommodation Options

While the Best Western Melbourne City was the first hotel in Melbourne City to allow pets to stay in some of its rooms, an increasing number of hotels in Melbourne are becoming pet-friendly, from luxury hotels through to many apartment hotels, both in the city centre and in the suburbs. For a list of over 30-dog-friendly hotels, check out my Melbourne dog-friendly hotel guide.

Another alternative for a Melbourne stay with your pup is to book a pet-friendly Airbnb. There are both whole home and private room options available on Airbnb that allow pets. Follow these steps for find pet-friendly Airbnbs.

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