The Wollongong area is a great dog-friendly destination to visit near Sydney. At less than 90 minutes from the Sydney CBD to the centre of Wollongong, or just over an hour to the northern suburbs, it’s perfect for a day trip, especially to its many dog-friendly beaches. If you’re wanting a longer stay, I’ve also hunted down the best dog-friendly accommodation options in the region.
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.
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).
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, see my guide to the off-leash dog beaches in Wollongong.
South of Lake Illawarra is the Shellharbour council area and unfortunately all of its proper beaches prohibit dogs. However, the reserve next to Bass Point Tourist Road in Shell Cove, between The Shallows coastal reserve and the gravel loader, permits off-leash dogs. While dogs are technically not allowed below the high water mark, many owners let their dogs swim. Note that dogs are not allowed inside Bass Point Reserve.
Dog-Friendly Cafes in Wollongong
With its relaxed beach lifestyle, the Wollongong region has plenty of cafes with outdoor dining areas with dogs are welcome to join you. Just double check before taking a seat if you’re not sure.
My favourite dog-friendly dining spot in the Wollongong area is the Scarborough Hotel. This historic hotel is perched on the cliff top of Scarborough, with a large beer garden with large tables for dining at or just enjoying a cold drink.
It can get quite busy at the Scarborough Hotel, so it’s advisable to book. Double check the latest booking conditions, often only bookings for larger groups are possible on weekends. Alternatively, try to arrive before midday to get an outdoor table.
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. The lunch menu features typical Australian pub food, with mains around $25. Note that this pub is only open during the day, not for dinner.
Another great dog-friendly dining spot is Honest Dons cafe in Thirroul. Located across the road from a handy carpark, this 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.
My favourite selections on the menu are the breakfast options (it’s open from 7am on weekends, if you want to head here before the beach), although they also do burgers and similar fare at lunchtime. Most mains are between $15 and $20.
Dog-Friendly Walks in Wollongong
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. For dog-friendly walks, it’s best to instead turn to the many off-road cycle paths in the region.
One of the best options is the off-road cycle path running from Thirroul, about 15km north of Wollongong, to Wollongong Harbour. Along the way it closes follows the beaches of the northern suburbs, including many off-leash beaches.
For more details about the cycling paths in the Wollongong region, check out this page. 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.
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.
Heading further south, there are also six off-leash areas in the separate Shellharbour Council area. Check out this listing, with maps.
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.
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. If you’re driving north, pull into the small carpark near the Clifton School of Arts, then walk down the hill. 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.
I recommend walking along the full length of the 665m-long bridge. Naturally dogs are allowed, as it’s just a regular footpath. Just 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. There’s a poo bag dispenser at the southern end of the 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.
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 and hot-dog van operating next to the carpark, perfect for buying a soft-serve while holding onto your dog’s leash and admiring the view.
3. 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 $5 entry charge, as well as plants available for sale, and dogs are allowed on a leash.
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.
4. Head Out on Lake Illawarra
At the southern edge 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.
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.
5. 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.
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 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. There is an additional charge of $80 per stay.
Down south, stay near Lake Illawarra at the Windang Inns. Both their Lakeside and Golf Place properties have pet-friendly rooms available for a small premium (generally an extra $15-25 per night). Book directly or via Booking.com, looking for the pet-friendly room options.
Pet-Friendly Guesthouses and Airbnbs in Wollongong
Another pet-friendly option in the Wollongong region is Southview, a boutique guest house at Bulli. Their Garden Apartment with its own courtyard is pet-friendly, although make sure you contact the hosts in advance. It’s just a short walk from the off-leash McCauley’s Beach.
On Airbnb there are a number of properties in the Illawarra that are pet-friendly. I regularly hear recommendations for Sadies at Port Kembla, an affordable, self-contained cottage. It has a fenced yard and is close to the dog-friendly MM Beach.
Alternatively, the larger and more luxurious Beachouse Sharkies in Coledale is terrific for families or groups, sleeping up to six. It’s located opposite the dog-friendly Sharkies Beach.
Pet-Friendly Caravan Parks in Wollongong
Unfortunately, there are limited options for 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.
Alternatively, for a more pet-friendly experience, head further south to Shellharbour Beachside Holiday Park. Pets are welcome on their powered holiday sides, with no seasonal restrictions, although you still need to make prior arrangements. Once again, there are no pet-friendly cabins.
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