Dog-Friendly Wollongong: Visiting the Gong with a Dog

The Wollongong area is a great dog-friendly destination in NSW to visit near Sydney. It’s less than a 90 minute drive from the Sydney CBD to the centre of Wollongong, or just over an hour to the northern suburbs, making it perfect for a day trip.

There’s plenty of dog-friendly attractions in Wollongong, especially its many dog-friendly beaches. Interested in staying longer? I’ve also hunted down the best dog-friendly accommodation options in the region.

Dog-friendly Wollongong

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Wollongong

Compared to the rareness of dog-friendly beaches in Sydney, particularly ocean facing beaches, the Wollongong region has an abundance of dog-friendly beaches, both off- and on-leash.

The Wollongong City Council has put together a simple and clear system of signage for beaches. You’ll want to look out for green-zone beaches, which are off-leash beaches, with dogs allowed off-leash all day long, year round.

McCauley's Beach Dog Signage
Clear signage of the off-leash green zone beaches

Stay clear of red-zone beaches, where dogs are not permitted. This includes the busiest swimming beaches in the region. Red zones also apply to areas within 100m of a lifeguard patrolled area and all rock platforms. 

In between are orange-zone beaches, where dogs are allowed on-leash, but only before 9am plus after 4pm in winter or after 6pm in summer (from the start of the September/October school holidays to Anzac Day). 

McCauley's Beach Thirroul
The full rules for dogs at McCauley’s Beach

The following beaches are green-zone off-leash beaches in the Wollongong council area, from north to south:

  • The northern end of Stanwell Park Beach
  • Sharkey’s Beach, Coledale
  • Little Austinmer Beach
  • McCauley’s Beach, in between Thirroul and Bulli
  • Bellambi Boat Harbour Beach
  • East Corrimal Beach
  • Most of Puckey’s Beach, Fairy Meadow
  • Coniston Beach, Wollongong
  • MM Beach (or North Beach), Port Kembla
  • Perkins Beach, Port Kembla

For more details about all these beaches, including plenty of photos to help you choose one to visit, see my guide to the off-leash dog beaches in Wollongong.

dog-friendly beach wollongong
Dogs are allowed off-leash at McCauley’s Beach

What About Beaches in Shellharbour?

If you head south of Lake Illawarra, you’ll reach the Shellharbour council area. Unfortunately, all of its proper beaches currently prohibit dogs. The only beach that currently permits dogs is the reserve next to Bass Point Tourist Road between The Shallows coastal reserve and the gravel loader. However, the sand is gravelly and grey.

There are however proposals for two new off-leash dog beaches in the Shellharbour area, at Shellharbour North Beach and Kiyong Beach, on the southern side of Lake Illawarra. Perhaps dogs will be allowed at these beaches by the end of 2023?

Note that dogs are not allowed inside the nearby Bass Point Reserve. 

Dog-Friendly Sightseeing in Wollongong

Looking for more ideas of things to do in Wollongong with your pup, other than heading to the beach? Consider these dog-friendly sightseeing options in and around Wollongong.

1. Stop Off at the Sea Cliff Bridge

One of the landmark attractions in the Wollongong region is the Sea Cliff Bridge. Opened in 2005, the bridge was required due to the repeated landslides that regularly closed the coastal road that previously hugged the cliffs.

These days the bridge soars out over the water and rock platforms and has been featured in countless car commercials.

Dog-friendly Wollongong
The soaring bends of the Sea Cliff Bridge from the southern end

A must-do during any Wollongong trip is to drive along Lawrence Hargrave Drive through the northern suburbs, meandering through the small historic coal-mining villages. The Sea Cliff Bridge is located mid-way along the drive. But don’t just drive across the bridge, also stop and walk across it.

The best car parking spots are just south of the bridge. It’s easiest if you’re driving south, with a few parking spots available alongside the road immediately south of the bridge, although they fill up on busy days. If you’re driving north, pull into the small carpark near the Clifton School of Arts, then walk down the hill.

I recommend walking along the full length of the 665m-long bridge. Naturally dogs are allowed, as it’s just a regular footpath. There’s a poo bag dispenser at the southern end of the bridge.

Dog on Sea Cliff Bridge
Checking out the view off the Sea Cliff Bridge

Be aware it can get quite hot with virtually no shade in summer time, so it’s better to do during the cooler months of the year.

At the northern end of the bridge there is a gravel road way leading down underneath the bridge, which is a worthwhile diversion with your pup, to see the bridge from a different perspective. Note though that dogs are not permitted on the rock platform.

Dog underneath Sea Cliff Bridge
Underneath the Sea Cliff Bridge

It’s also possible to extend your walk either north or south of the bridge. There’s a footpath next to the road in both directions, part of the Grand Pacific Walk, with plenty of sea views along the way.

2. Check out the Hang Gliders at Bald Hill

For beautiful vistas along the Illawarra coastline head to Bald Hill at Stanwell Tops. The spot is most famous as the location where local Lawrence Hargrave made early experiments in flight.

These days, the spot is very popular with hang gliders. While I don’t recommend going hang gliding with your pup, it’s a fun spot to watch them gliding in the wind currents on breezy days.

Dog at Bald Hill Lookout on a misty day
The view at Bald Hill Lookout on a misty summer day

If driving from the south, turn right towards the Royal National Park after climbing up the hill after Stanwell Park. The main carpark for the lookout is accessed through the roundabout intersection.

Most days there’s an ice-cream van operating next to the carpark, perfect for buying a soft-serve while holding onto your dog’s leash and admiring the view. There’s also a kiosk at the far end of the carpark.

3. Walk Along the Grand Pacific Walk

One of the best options for a dog-friendly walk in Wollongong are the many off-road shared paths in the region, that often hug the region’s scenic coastline, passing by its off-leash dog beaches.

There are plans to construct an entire network of walking and bike tracks linking the Royal National Park and Lake Illawarra, dubbed the Grand Pacific Walk. Some parts have already been completed, along with colourful signage and drinking fountains for humans and pups.

Grand Pacific Walk sign, Austinmer
The Grand Pacific Walk passing through Austinmer

The shared pathway that runs from Thirroul, about 15km north of Wollongong, to Wollongong Harbour, was constructed years ago. I’ve picked out some of the best shorter options along its length, combined with walks along the off-leash beaches, in my guide to dog-friendly walks in Wollongong.

4. Go for a Stroll at Puckeys Estate

Most of the popular bush walks in the Wollongong region are located within the Illawarra Escarpment State Conservation Area, in which dogs are not permitted. However, one excellent stand of coastal bush where dogs are allowed is at Puckeys Estate, just north of Wollongong.

I’ve put together a recommendation for a 3.1km walk that passes through the reserve and then returns along the adjacent off-leash dog beach. Check out my full notes in my guide to dog-friendly walks near Wollongong.

Dog-friendly walks Wollongong
Go for a walk at Puckeys Estate with your dog

5. Take in the Views from Mt Keira

For more great views of the Wollongong region, head up to Mt Keira Lookout. It’s about a 15 minute drive to the top of the flat-topped mountain towering over the city, and despite being surrounded by a state conservation area where dogs are not allowed, dogs are allowed in the Mount Keira Summit Park.

There’s multiple lookouts and a short bush walk that you can complete, linking the lookouts. The lookout is also home to picnic facilities and a kiosk, open on selected days. Just keep your dog on a leash and don’t follow the walking tracks leaving the park.

6. Head Out on Lake Illawarra

At the other end of the Illawarra is Lake Illawarra. Approximately 9.5 kilometres long and 5.5 kilometres wide, the lake is a popular spot for boating, fishing and prawning.

If you have your own boat or kayak, head to Lake Illawarra for a fun day on the water with your pup. There are thirteen boat ramps located all around the lake. The lake is not within a national park or other type of reserve, so there are no restrictions on dogs. However, the surrounding reserves are all on-leash areas.

Lake Illawarra with Pelican
Lake Illawarra near the Reddall Reserve Boat Ramp

If you don’t have your own boat or kayak, there are some boat hire companies available. Check whether they allow dogs in their boats. Alternatively, take a stroll along the many walking paths that border the lake, such as at Reddall Reserve, home to the Lake Illawarra Art Trail.

7. Visit the Grevillea Park

Tucked in behind the suburb of Bulli is the Illawarra Grevillea Park, a 2.4 hectare park with a rich collection of Australian grevilleas and other native species, maintained by volunteers.

While the park isn’t open daily or even weekly, they do hold regular open days during the year, opening about six weekends per year in Autumn, Winter and Spring. There is a small $7 entry charge, as well as plants available for sale, and dogs are allowed on a leash.

Dog at Illawarra Grevillea Park
Exploring the Illawarra Grevillea Park with Schnitzel

To find out when the park is next open, head to their website or Facebook page. Allow at least an hour to explore the gardens. Make sure you pick up or download the pamphlet with directions for a self-guide tour, pointing out the many diverse species of grevilleas. There’s also a small rainforest area.

Check out more great dog-friendly gardens in NSW

8. Visit an Aviation Museum

The HARS Aviation Museum is located at the Shellharbour Regional Airport in Albion Park, just south of Wollongong. I’ve heard great things about the museum, and have been meaning to visit, and I’ve now found out that it’s even dog-friendly.

Open daily, you’ll be taken on a guided tour through their hangar, checking out the variety of aircraft at the museum, including limited access to their Boeing 747. (Pay extra for special access.) Allow at least 90 minutes for the guided tour, with no bookings required.

I’ve heard multiple reports that dogs have been able to join their owners on tours. Make sure your dog is well-behaved, and of course keep it on a short leash at all times.

9. Explore the Local Street Art

The CBD area of Wollongong is home to a variety of street art murals. Many of them date from the Wonderwalls Festival which ran over multiple years in the city.

For a fun on-leash walk with your dog, wander through the city’s streets and laneways and try and spot as many works as you can. While murals come and go, a good starting point is this guide.

Wollongong Street Art
The Wollongong CBD is home to plenty of street art

During recent years, the Wonderwalls Festival has moved to the industrial suburb of Port Kembla. After events in 2019 and 2022, it will be held once again in 2023. Visit Port Kembla in the south of Wollongong to check out the latest murals.

Dog-Friendly Parks in Wollongong

In addition to off-leash beaches, there’s also a handful of off-leash dog parks in the Wollongong region, mainly located away from the beachside suburbs.

For some off-leash frolics with your pup, head to one of these parks:

  • Proud Park, Helensburgh
  • Figtree Oval, Figtree
  • Riley Park, Unanderra
  • King George V Oval, Port Kembla
  • Reed Park, Dapto
  • Eleebana Reserve, Koonawarra

For the latest details, see this page. Out of the six parks, the off-leash dog park at Reed Park has been fenced.

Woonona Petfood & Produce on Bellambi Lane is also home to a fantastic fenced dog park at the rear of their store. Completely enclosed and with agility equipment, it’s a great option for if you’ve just visited the store, perhaps before or after a dog wash, plus free to the general public. It’s open seven days a week, but presumably only during business hours (currently until 2pm on Saturday and Sunday).

Woonona Petfood Fenced Dog Park
The fantastic fenced dog park at Woonona Petfood & Produce
Woonona Petfood Dog Park with Dog
Testing out the agility equipment at the dog park

Heading further south, there are also six off-leash areas in the separate Shellharbour Council area, including fenced dog parks at Oak Flats and Flinders. Check out this listing, with maps.

Are Dogs Allowed on Public Transport in Wollongong?

The same rules apply for dogs on public transport in Wollongong as in Sydney: small dogs and other pets are permitted in a carrier on buses, with permission from the driver. However, I haven’t tested whether bus drivers in Wollongong allow this.

On the other hand, there’s a definite no to dogs being allowed at train stations and on trains, both within the Wollongong region and on trains to Sydney.

Dog-Friendly Pubs in Wollongong

With its relaxed beach lifestyle, the Wollongong region has plenty of pubs with outdoor beer gardens where dogs are welcome to join you. Just double check before taking a seat if you’re not sure.

My favourite dog-friendly pub in the Wollongong area is the Scarborough Hotel. This historic hotel is perched on the cliff top of Scarborough, with a extensive beer garden with large tables for enjoy lunch or just a cold drink.

Dog-friendly Wollongong
Outdoor dining tables at the Scarborough Hotel

It can get quite busy at the Scarborough Hotel, so it’s advisable to book or arrive before midday. If visiting with a dog, walk past the main entrance and use the gate to the right hand side, to directly access the garden. Feel free to ask for a water bowl for your pooch, but remember they need to stay on a leash. Note that this pub is only open at lunchtime.

Dog in garden at Scarborough Hotel
Schnitzel taking in the sea views on a misty summer day

Another great dog-friendly pub nearby is Headlands in Austinmer. There’s plenty of outdoor tables, with most of them left for walk-in guests. The brasserie is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner (virtually all day long!), plus the onsite Airstream serves up more casual options, including a pizza bar. It’s just a short stroll to the nearby off-leash Little Austinmer Beach afterwards.

Further south, check out the Towradgi Beach Hotel. Pets are welcome to join you in their spacious outdoor dining area. Serving up burgers, grills and cocktails, they’re even open for breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.

Dog-Friendly Cafes in Wollongong

If it’s a delicious brunch you’re after, consider heading to Honest Don’s Cafe in Thirroul. Located across the road from a handy carpark, this Northern Suburbs cafe may lack the views, but still has a chilled ambience.

Snap up one of the outdoor tables (which might be tricky on summer weekends) and order a puppychino for your pup, with part of the profits going to a local rescue group.

Puppychino sign at Honest Don's
I think Schnitzel wants a puppychino!

Further south at North Beach in Wollongong, a popular dog-friendly cafe is the beachfront Diggies. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, the cafe offers an all-day breakfast, plus a lunch menu and is fully licensed. Dogs are welcome at a handful of their outdoor tables. Be prepared for a wait on busy weekends.

Diggies North Wollongong
The beachfront Diggies Wollongong

There’s plenty more cafes right throughout the Wollongong region with outdoor dining tables, most that welcome dogs to join you. Just ask before taking a seat.

Dog-Friendly Accommodation in Wollongong

Wollongong is close enough to Sydney to make for a good day trip, but if you’re looking at staying longer there are a handful of pet-friendly accommodation options  in Wollongong. 

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive commission if you make a purchase using the links. See my full disclaimer.

Pet-Friendly Guesthouses and Holiday Homes in Wollongong

The majority of pet-friendly accommodation options in Wollongong tend to be guesthouses and holiday homes, including rentals on Airbnb and Stayz.

A highly rated pet-friendly option in the Wollongong region is Southview, a boutique guesthouse at Bulli. Their Garden Suite with its own courtyard is pet-friendly, with up to one dog under 25kg permitted. Make sure you request approval in advance. It’s just a short walk from the off-leash McCauley’s Beach. 

I regularly hear recommendations for Sadies at Port Kembla, an affordable, self-contained cottage. It has a fenced yard and is close to the off-leash MM Beach.

For a larger and more luxurious option, terrific for families or groups, consider Beachouse Sharkies, which sleeps up to six. It’s located opposite the dog-friendly Sharkies Beach. 

Pet-Friendly Hotels in Wollongong

If it’s a hotel for the night you’re after, Mantra Wollongong in the heart of the city recently started offering some pet-friendly rooms. It’s a must to call and request one of these rooms, plus check the relevant rules. An additional charge applies for pets.

Mantra Wollongong
Mantra Wollongong has pet-friendly rooms

Also on the edge of the city centre are Argo Apartments. A limited number of pet-friendly apartments are available, with a bed, bowls and portable outdoor potty provided. Only a single dog is permitted, up to 10kg, with reports of only non-shedding dogs being accepted. Note that you need to book directly, plus a nightly pet fee of $50 and a $120 deep cleaning fee at the end of your stay apply.

Down south, you can stay near Lake Illawarra with your dog at the Windang Inns. Both their Lakeside Inn and Golf Place Inn properties have pet-friendly rooms available for a small premium, including apartments and Lakeside Cabins. It’s a short drive to the off-leash Perkins Beach.

However, be warned that it’s rather budget-style, and many recent reviews for both properties haven’t been flattering. I wish there were some better pet-friendly alternatives!

Pet-Friendly Caravan Parks in Wollongong

Similarly, there are only a few pet-friendly caravan parks in Wollongong. Most of the caravan parks are run by the local council and pets are allowed at only one of their parks, Corrimal Beach Tourist Park.

Pets are allowed on a limited number of caravan and camping sites at Corrimal Beach Tourist Park, and only during the off season. It’s a must to call in advance to get permission for your pet and book. At least the park is close to the off-leash East Corrimal Beach.

Corrimal Beach Tourist Park
Pets are allowed on selected sites at Corrimal Beach Tourist Park during the off season

Another pet-friendly option is further south at the NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park in the heart of Shellharbour. Pets are welcome on their powered and waterfront holiday sites, with up to one small dog per site and no listed seasonal restrictions. Direct advance bookings though are essential.

NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park Entrance
The entrance to the dog-friendly NRMA Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park

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About the Author

Photo of Shandos & Schnitzel

Shandos Cleaver is the founder of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel. She has travelled extensively with her Miniature Dachshund, Schnitzel, including to 33 countries across Europe, every state and territory of Australia except Tasmania, and 10 of the United States. She’s passionate about providing inspiration and information to others wanting to travel with their dogs, whether close to home or internationally.

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11 thoughts on “Dog-Friendly Wollongong: Visiting the Gong with a Dog”

  1. Hi, This post is fun and really informative. I never tried a trip on a beach with my pet dog (Simba), I thought it will be scary for him. But I after reading this post I’m really positive about it and will go out soon. Thanks for this post. Keep up the good work.

  2. Hi, Your article is amazing. Thanks for the information you shared. I have a few questions on which I need your help. I have St.bernard(My pet dog- name- Bruno) and I and my family were planning to go to the Maldives. Planning to visit a lot of beaches and islands. We were planning to take our dog as well. Should we take our dog along with us? Will the temperature out there will suit him? If not what we should do to keep him happy and safe?

    Please let me know what all should we do. We really want to take him along with us.

    • Mike – I wouldn’t take a dog to the Maldives on a holiday, as I don’t believe most resorts allow dogs. Additionally, with the hot and humid climate, a St Bernard would struggle. I would leave him at home with a trusted family member or pet sitter.

  3. Thank you so much for your lovely blog!
    Concise, reader friendly and love the beautiful pix of your cute pup ?
    I have a GSD, he’s a very energetic fun loving boy, perfect for road trips 🙂 will be following your blogs. Looking forward to more postings from you!

  4. Wow, Shandos and Schnitzel, what a great team you make!
    I really appreciate your blog, as we are planning a trip down to Woolongong next month, with our medium Labradoodle, Radford.
    We explored several options but decided to go with the Mantra for our two-day stay. The receptionist suggested the coast road, the Sea Cliff Bridge and the Scarborough Hotel for lunch on the way down – which ties in with your information.
    It looks and sounds amazing, so looking forward to it – having been absolutely nowhere for so long. Hope COVID will settle down by then.
    PS Still trying to reconcile the idea of travelling internationally with a large dog, re previous comments!

    • That’s great to hear Tracy, it’s wonderful that the Mantra now allows dogs. Fingers crossed for a smooth trip! And yes, it’s a big step to travel internationally, but there’s lots of fabulous options here in Australia.

  5. Hello🥰
    Love the information! I live here and wasn’t aware of all of it so it was great. Regarding Windang Inns…it changed owners awhile back and they are contending with a run down facility by trying to repair and renovate on the really cheap despite advice not to, The new owner lives in Melbourne and this is an offset which doesn’t help. It’s such a shame because if he really put in proper local people to renovate and revamp, put in pet centred facilities, not just catering to the golf club next door, and turned it into a great boutique pet-friendly place with focus on pet care as well as people care, he would do a roaring trade in a market desperate for it. The current staff are fantastic, especially Maria, at the desk, but they are having to try and work miracles with a management that just isn’t listening and services are suffering badly. If you stay there, leave an honest and detailed review. Only that will get his attention.

    • Thanks for the info! There’s a real shortage of pet-friendly accommodation in the area so it would be wonderful if Windang Inns was a great spot.


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