Located on the eastern side of Port Phillip Bay, just over an hour from the centre of Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula is a popular destination for both day trippers and weekend getaways. Find out what to do when visiting the Mornington Peninsula with your dog, from a dog-only bakery to walks and beaches.
Dog-Friendly Sightseeing on the Mornington Peninsula
There’s a wide range of dog-friendly things to do on the Mornington Peninsula, whether you’re interested in tasting the local wine or heading out for a walk.
1. Taste the Wine at a Dog-Friendly Winery
The Mornington Peninsula is home to a premium cool-climate wine region, which is renown for its pinot noirs and chardonnays. Luckily then some of the region’s cellar doors welcome your pup to join you at a wine tasting.
Most of the wineries are centred around Red Hill, including Green Olive at Red Hill. This farm, cellar door and restaurant welcomes well-behaved, on-leash dogs to join you on the deck. Make a booking to enjoy their grazing plates and wine tasting paddles, or perhaps book a farm picnic including a bottle of wine, then take your pup for a walk afterwards around the farm. Keep an eye out for the resident Kelpies.
Alternatively, head to the small family-run Paradigm Hill Winery. Their cellar door is open Saturdays and Sundays, and leashed dogs are welcome to join you on the timber deck, partaking in the beautiful views. Make sure you make a booking for a tasting or picnic.
2. Visit the McClelland Sculpture Park
Fine wine is wonderfully complemented by fine art, so it’s no wonder that many of the vineyards on the Mornington Peninsula are home to impressive sculpture collections. While the Pt Leo Estate Sculpture Park unfortunately doesn’t allow dogs, instead stop off at the McClelland Sculpture Park near Frankston.
With a small admission charge, dogs are naturally not allowed inside the galleries, but they are welcome to join you on leash for a stroll around the sculpture park. Nearly 100 sculptures have been installed in the bushland setting, including some impressive kinetic sculptures. You never know what you’re going to discover as you follow the paths!
The sculpture park is also the perfect spot for a picnic. For a more in-depth visit download one of the free audio guided tours.
3. Enjoy a Treat at Miss Drew’s Bakery and Dog Cafe
While you won’t find any human treats on the menu at Miss Drew’s Bakery and Dog Cafe, your dog will be drooling over the menu of dog treats, including pugichinos, muffins and cookies – perhaps order a meal deal?
Located behind the Tyabb Packing House and surrounded by antique shops, the dog cafe is open every Saturday and Sunday (check the latest opening hours). As well as the dog cafe with plenty of tables for pooches, there’s also a shop selling treats and the option to order dog birthday cakes.
4. Go Walking in the Briars Community Forest
While I’ve visited plenty of excellent fenced dog parks with my pup, the Briars Community Forest takes off-leash dog walking in a fenced area to the next level, and is a must-visit for dogs on the Mornington Peninsula.
This huge tract of bushland on the edge of Mount Martha is entirely fenced and permits dogs off-leash, with multiple walking tracks available and even a creek swimming spot. Just be aware that it easily gets muddy!
It’s best to park along the Nepean Highway opposite the Balcombe Grammar School – look for the “Community Forest Fenced Dog Park” pin on Google Maps. There’s a rough car park plus rubbish bin outside of the double-fenced entrance to the park.
5. Walk Along the Balcombe Estuary Boardwalk
On wet days, a better option may be the Balcombe Estuary Boardwalk. This boardwalk is also located in Mount Martha, but closer to the beach, and is part of the Balcombe Estuary Nature Trail. Dogs need to be kept on leash.
The best spot to access the boardwalk is from the Balcombe Estuary Reserve, a picnic area with a carpark at the end of Mirang Avenue. The walking track starts on the eastern side of the reserve, with the boardwalk starting after a few hundred metres.
I’m not actually sure how long the boardwalk extends for. The entire Balcombe Estuary Nature Trail is 2.5km long, extending to the Nepean Highway and the Briars, and takes about an hour to walk one way. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to complete the entire walk. At the far end of the nature trail is the off-leash Uralla Reserve, on the corner of Uralla Road and the Nepean Highway.
6. Stroll Along Millionaire’s Walk
If you keep on driving around the Mornington Peninsula, you will eventually reach the posh enclaves of Sorrento and Portsea, home to many expensive cliff-top properties. A popular walk in the area is the appropriately dubbed Millionaire’s Walk.
The walk runs for about 500m between Point King Road and Lentell Avenue. If you didn’t know the walk existed you wouldn’t discover it, with a number of gates passed through along the way – yes, there is a public right of way along the easement. Dogs need to be kept on leash on the walk.
Parking can be tricky. On quiet days you will likely find a parking spot on Point King Road. Otherwise, park by the boat ramp in Sorrento and access the walk via Point Nepean Road.
Along the way you’ll pass some stunning vantage points, the inspiration for some well-known paintings, plus get a glimpse of the adjoining mansions. Point King is also significant as the first place the Union Jack was raised to claim possession of Australia.
Dog-Friendly Beaches on the Mornington Peninsula
The standard rule for beaches on the Mornington Peninsula is that dogs are allowed on leash on the beaches, except for during daylight savings time, when they are prohibited between 9am and 7pm from the sand.
There are some off-leash beaches on the Mornington Peninsula, but your options are limited if you visit during the summertime. There are only six beaches that are off-leash year round. There are also another 12 beaches that are restricted leash-free beaches, meaning dogs are only allowed off-leash before 9am or after 7pm during daylight savings time, and are prohibited during the day.
We checked out Hawker Beach at Mount Martha, one of the year-round off-leash beaches. The beach is accessed via fire access track opposite Helena Street. Unfortunately, the beach was about to be “renourished” and there wasn’t much sand to play on.
For a full list of the off-leash beaches in the Mornington Peninsula Shire, check out their website. Note that some of the beaches in the region aren’t looked after by the shire, but instead by the state government, so check for signs at all beaches. In particular, many of the “back beaches” on the ocean side of the peninsula are located in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, where dogs are strictly prohibited.
Dog-Friendly Parks on the Mornington Peninsula
There’s a far greater number of off-leash dog parks on the Mornington Peninsula, including the excellent Community Forest Fenced Dog Park that I described above.
There’s forty parks and reserves that are off-leash all day long, year-round, plus a few other reserves that are off-leash during selected hours. About half of the off-leash areas are fenced.
For a listing and handy map off all off-leash reserves regulated by the Mornington Peninsula Shire, including the beaches, download this brochure.
Dog-Friendly Dining on the Mornington Peninsula
Whether you’re after a waterfront meal, a winery restaurant or a brewery serving up wood-fired pizza, there’s a variety of dog-friendly cafes and restaurants on the Mornington Peninsula.
Around Red Hill, either head to Green Olive at Red Hill (as mentioned above) or The Epicurean Red Hill. The Shed Restaurant is located in an historic cool-store and packing shed that dates back to 1921. Open from Friday to Sunday, make a booking for an outdoor table and choose from their menu of pizzas, pastas and their extensive wine list.
If you’d prefer a break from wine, instead head to Tar Barrel Brewery, the home of Mornington Peninsula Brewery. Choose from the eight beers on tap, or instead sample their range of gins. Both beer and gin tasting paddles are available, along with wood-fired pizzas. Dogs on a lead are welcome at the outdoor tables, although the umbrellas are better at keeping off shade than rain storms.
Two other dog-friendly options on the Mornington Peninsula are the waterfront Morgan’s Sorrento, open most days for lunch and dinner, and Georgie Bass Cafe in Flinders, which is also home to a cooking class.
Dog-Friendly Accommodation on the Mornington Peninsula
Unfortunately, there’s not many dog-friendly camping options on the Mornington Peninsula. I was disappointed to discover that the many foreshore camping reserves don’t allow dogs (at least according to my research), and many of the caravan parks don’t allow dogs, even during off-peak season.
We camped in our campervan at Stony Point Caravan Park, on the eastern side of the peninsula, next to the ferry to French Island and Phillip Island. This small, quiet caravan park permits pets at the discretion of the manager, although no pets are allowed in the cabins.
If you aren’t wishing to camp, one of the best pet-friendly options are Blue Moon Cottages. These two self-contained cottages are located in Rye, just 250m from the beach. Pets are allowed inside (just not on bedding or furniture), or ask for a kennel to be provided in the secure yard. Dog bowls and a towel are also provided.