Keen to take your dog on a road trip? Sometimes-van lifer and always-dog parent, Explorer Sarah Pendergrass has pulled together a bunch of advice on road tripping with Fido.

We’ve Been Everywhere Man

I’m a (self-proclaimed) loving and responsible dog owner who’s spent a continuous six months camping my way around Australia in a 1976 kombi, accompanied by my Border Collie at the time. I also now spend much of my time van camping with my Koolie, Ness, so I’d like to think I have a fair chunk of experience when it comes to road tripping with a doggo.

I’m child-free by choice and while I’m not big into the ‘fur child’ lingo, Ness is certainly at the heart of my family and I often find myself spending hours researching dog friendly adventures in Queensland and beyond. Travelling with a dog can be one of the most fun, wholesome experiences, and with a bunch of restrictions around dogs in Australia, also typically takes a little legwork before you head off.

Find Dog Friendly Adventures:

You’re keen, but does your dog really want to road trip?

It’s tricky when you pitch a question like this to try and decipher a series of woofs, but seriously, is your dog actually keen on road tripping? Are they comfortable on long drives? Do they mind a break in their routine? Will they be happy sleeping in a van or a tent or somewhere different to their usual?


How to Road Trip with a Dog, Sarah Pendergrass, kelpie, shade sail, van life, van, Camping, dog friendly, Australia

‘What is this new home mum?’


It can be super exciting to think of adventuring with your dog, but at the end of the day, not all dogs are going to be as excited as you.

The age of your dog can come into this too. I went from a 13 year old easygoing dog who shared an established understanding of van life, to a pupper who was understably not so in tune with adventure and I paid the price for some overenthusiasm early on. Stoked to show my new pup one of my favourite camping spots – a six hour drive away – we rolled into the sleepy village, only for her to absolutely lose her proverbial shit after being cooped up in the van for so long.

Trust me, there’s nothing less relaxing than trying to walk a pup on a beautiful new beach, while they attack the lead like a Tasmanian Devil crossed with a shark. Add to that trying to get her to sleep in a crate in the van, which led to mass shrieking… before letting her out and having her spew in my bed. Let’s just say my tail was between my legs as we bailed on the adventure and drove home early the next morning. You live and learn.

Side note! She’s now my best buddy on road trips, but I gave her some time to mature up!

If you’re unsure if your pooch is up to it, try a local overnighter first before you embark on a casual lap of Aus.

Transporting Your Dog

The likelihood is you already know how your dog best likes to travel in your car or van. Will this same approach work if you have a vehicle full of adventure gear? Maybe you have them secured with a harness, or they travel in a crate? If your dog is a nervous traveller, hold off feeding them a few hours before you hit the road.

Where will they sleep? A soft crate can be a great option to give them their own cosy space. That’s assuming they’re crate trained and you’re not going to stress the dog out trying this in a strange environment for the first time.


Van snoozles

Finding Places to Exercise

Sure, there may be dog parks where you’re headed, but they’re not necessarily a super exciting or scenic way to see a new place. If you’re on the coast, check out local council websites for off leash and on leash beaches.

Read more: Dog Friendly Beaches in Sydney

Inland, state forests typically offer dog friendly adventures and camping, but this does vary from area to area. National parks for the most part are going to be a hard no, so if national parks are high on the agenda for your holidays, you may want to rethink taking the pup.

Read more: Find Dog Friendly Walks From Sydney to Perth!


Sunrise runs – a perk of life on the road

The Silver Lining of Restrictions

If you decide to road trip with your pup, chances are you’re opting into a grand old drive of zero national parks. The flip side of this is that with a little research, you may find yourself in lesser-known, quieter spots. There are some surprisingly stunning spots that allow pups, they just take a little bit of wet-nose-to-the-ground research, like the beachside Inskip Point on the Sunshine Coast where dogs can camp in the national park area.


Just because it’s dog friendly doesn’t mean you’re sacrificing quality either

Finding Dog Friendly Campgrounds

Finding dog friendly accommodation typically requires a little upfront research. You can’t simply roll up to a campsite or caravan park and expect them to welcome your four-legged friend.

There are also some seasonal restrictions or loopholes. It’s not uncommon for caravan parks or campsites to say they aren’t dog friendly, but come the winter months or off-peak times, welcome dogs (and they’re paying owners). The reverse is true also, so if you’re travelling with pooch in a peak period, make sure you double-check the fine print.

Another point to check in the fine print is doggy size restrictions. Some ‘dog friendly’ places have a weight/size limit on the dogs they allow, and unless your pooch can fit into a handbag, it may be a hard no. Likewise, if you’re travelling with more than one dog, make sure you find out if there are rules around the number of dogs allowed. It’s best to give the campsite a call, as opposed to trusting often outdated websites, and you never know they may flex the rules for you too!

Private campground website, Hipcamp, has a handy dog friendly filter you can use when looking for appropriate campgrounds, which makes for some speedy searching.

Read more: Find Dog Friendly Camping Across Australia


Last minute campsite? Done.

Other Dog Friendly Accommodation

Maybe camping isn’t on your agenda – there are plenty of dog friendly accommodation providers out there too. Cabins, apartments, houses – just make sure you know the house rules and remember, bedding may be supplied for the hoomans, but the likelihood is you’ll want to take your dog’s own bed, bowls, and toys so they feel at home on their hols.


Road trip MOO-vies!

Storing Your Dog Food

If your dog has a special diet or you’re rolling through more remote places, you’re going to need to prep and take your dog’s food before you go. How are you going to store your food along the way? Dry food is easily placed in a plastic tub or zip lock bags if you’re just going overnight and want to maximise space. If you need to keep raw food cold, you’ll need a car fridge or esky.

As someone who’s inadvertently added a very hungry, very stubborn van mouse to the road trip family in previous years, I highly recommend packaging food up securely. The hole in my high tech waterproof rain jacket as it ate its way in for a muesli bar was the final straw. You’d think a Border Collie on board would deter a rodent, but not in this instance.


Go on, sick ’em!

Consider the Weather

We don’t leave children in hot cars; nor do we leave dogs in hot cars. This can make things more challenging during the hotter months. What are you going to do with the dog when you need to go into the supermarket? Or are eating dinner at a restaurant? It’s handy to research dog friendly places to eat and drink before you head off. Puppacinos all round.

Likewise, if it’s chilly, how are you going to keep your dog warm? Perhaps a little adventure jacket or a fleecy blanket of their own.

Pack Dog Towels

There’s nothing quite like muddy paws on your sheets; or a wet dog soaking your bed and covering it in dirt or sand. Pack towels to be able to clean the pooch off before they hop into your home on wheels.

Read more: The Best Gear Picks for Adventure Dogs 2023


Sandy dog seeking comfy digs for the night

Break Up Your Journey

On long trips, make sure you stop every now and then to let the dog stretch their legs and use the ‘facilitrees’ for a toilet stop. Making sure they’re hydrated is important too.

Be Aware of Wildlife

Camping with a dog often brings them that bit closer to nature than when they’re at home or in the backyard. If they have a tendency to chase moving things, like birds or roos, make sure you have a way to securely attach them to your vehicle or a nearby tree.

In some locations you may also need to be aware of wild dogs and dingos – speak to the locals and find out if that’s a consideration. Likewise, baiting of wild dogs happens in some locations so be sure to look out for signage and if possible, avoid the area or at least keep your dog under control so they can’t mistakenly eat a life-ending snack. Ticks are another danger to check in with locals about.

Be a Responsible Dog Owner – Leave Only Paw Prints

That includes taking poo bags; using a leash where required and trusting that your furry friend isn’t going to drive the campsite crazy by barking at every passing person or other dog.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace

All in all, road tripping with your dog can be a really perfect way to adventure and create new adventure memories with, let’s face it, your most impawtant family member…


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Go on, make their day, week, month…even their year


Table of Contents image by @spemble on Unsplash