Dogs down south – a great road trip with Betty the Boxer on board

Helen Ganska and Betty the Boxer chat with a cockatoo in West Cape Howe at Mt Barker
Helen Ganska and Betty the Boxer chat with a cockatoo in West Cape Howe at Mt Barker

Betty the Boxer Dog had been chilling in the backseat of the Mazda for most of the five-hour drive to Albany for a working holiday.

She’s comfortable with the car and, other than requiring the rear window to be opened occasionally so she can smell the southern air, our trip from Perth to Albany was easy.

A lunch stop at West Cape Howe on the Muir Hwy just outside of town at Mt Barker was a comfortable stop with Betty checking out the carvings and sharing a platter and pizza with us.

We had a bunch of meetings scheduled and the plan was for Betty to join us as much as possible, and where not we would leave her at the Airbnbs my wife Helen had booked for us in Albany and Denmark.

Although Helen put quite a bit of effort into researching pet-friendly places, there were a few gaps in our expectations of what makes owners and dog-friendly.

We had timed the trip until the end of the school holidays to give us a wider range of options, but when you explore pet-friendly places there are plenty of do’s and don’ts, from dog room rules. allowed and not.

The houses we stayed in in Albany and Denmark met most expectations, but in Albany we received an email from the owner the day before we arrived saying that the dog could not be left alone in the House.

She had to be confined to the laundry room or the outside deck. Betty is very spoiled and at home, she runs the house, knows her place on her special blanket and is well behaved.

It turned out that contrary to what we had understood from the descriptions on Airbnb, neither house had secure yards and both seemed to ignore this in their property descriptions. We now know to look a little closer at the rules the next time we travel with Betty.

But our issues with the house rules were minor and we were made very welcome in both southern towns.

Middleton Dog Beach, right next to the dog-friendly Hybla Tavern, was a wide-open beach where Betty could splash and chase seaweed and play with other dogs.

Betty on the beach at Middleton Beach
Betty on the beach at Middleton Beach

All around Albany’s stunning coastline are dozens of secluded beaches, many of which were good for dogs, although we were a little disappointed with Misery Beach (non-dog friendly), which had just been voted best beach from Australia.

In his defense, we were there on a gloomy day which perhaps did not show it at best, but there were many other beaches, at least as spectacular in our eyes, including Mutton Bird Island with its Mutton Bird East beach, Cozy Corner between Albany and Denmark, with its long white sand beach – and a lovely campsite that was full of caravans and tents when we were there.

Denmark Lights Beach was the best beach we visited for dog exercise. Ample parking, restrooms and easy walks to beautiful beaches with rock pools and white sand, we liked.

Helen takes Betty for a run on Lights Beach.
Helen takes Betty for a run on Lights Beach

Betty played second fiddle a few times when we went to meetings and more fancy dining at restaurants like Pepper & Salt in Denmark, where the spicy flavors were fantastic, with scallops, prawns, beef and lamb on the menu.

It was a strange evening though with a bushfire raging across Denmark; smoke billowing over the hill and Betty waiting in the car in case we had to hastily retreat from Denmark in the face of the fire.

We had lunch the day before our visit to the Dam, where grilled tiger prawns with spicy nam jim sauce and tzatziki with flatbread overlooking the huge dam provided a restorative respite. This place is dog friendly, but we had a meeting after lunch and didn’t think it was very professional to have our fur baby there,

After lunch we were treated to an amazing tour of Raintree Farm with owner Steve Birkbeck who took us through fields of cannabis (not the variety you smoke) used in the distillery for gin, vodka and the base of the exquisite flavors that Raintree makes, through the groves of oak trees where truffles hide between the roots and the majestic karri trees and the lush fields with grazing cows that Steve says create the best beef in the district.

Visitors to the region’s major food and wine festival, Taste Great Southern, in May will have the opportunity to sample Raintree produce during a long dinner amidst the oak trees.

Due to the fire, Raintree and Pepper & Salt had to be evacuated shortly after their visit, but thankfully none suffered any damage.

In Albany, we also had another mind-blowing dog-free dinner at Majuba Bistro with my colleague Richard Campbell of Taste Great Southern, sharing a wonderful bouillabaisse, sizzling garlic prawns and crab spaghetti.

We opted for takeout a few times with fish and chips in Albany one night and a real highlight of the trip, the curries at the Albany Indian Tandoori restaurant – simply stunning.

The breakfasts and fabulous coffee were also a highlight, including a full breakfast at the beautiful Emu Point Café, just steps from a dog-friendly beach where Betty could roam freely on the wide stretches of sand.

Our best breakfasts were at Ravens in Denmark where Betty slipped under the table on the large veranda and we treated ourselves to fabulous chimichurri while the servers made us all very welcome, especially Betty.

Betty has also proved popular at Lake House Denmark where we shared a vineyard platter in the garden and chatted with owner Leanne Rogers about their upcoming cooking masterclass with cook Jordan Bruno as part of Taste Great Southern.

On the way to the Lake House, we stopped with Betty for a nice glass of Chardonnay and a bowl of water for the dog at quaint Single File Wines, followed by an intriguing conversation in Denmark Heritage’s rustic tasting room. Cider with owner Stuart Douglass.

The Boston Brewery in Denmark was also dog-friendly, where Betty could find a seat under the veranda table while we shared sticky Korean fried pork belly with fresh chili; cauliflower florets, pomegranate, crunchy shallots, vegan mayo, mixed herbs and cashew powder; and beef burger with all the trimmings.

We were supposed to spend another day in Denmark, but at this point the fire in Denmark was getting scary and the emergency services were asking residents to leave, so it was time to put Betty in the backseat and head home.

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