Over the last few years we have seen a huge increase in the number of furry companions travelling with their people. It didn't occur to us when we opened the Orchard Cottage guesthouse over 6 years ago now, that this would be a thing, but our own four-legged family member Ben has made us understand exactly how important dog-friendly holiday options are. I was just reading a post from 2015, less than a year after we adopted Ben, reflecting on the shock of puppyhood and my initial reluctance as a dog owner. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs and my childhood memories would be less colourful without our family pets in the mix. But as any dog lover will know, they're not self-sufficient cat-like creatures, they need their people, their family pack is everything and this comes with responsibility.
What I didn't foresee was just how deep my love for Ben would become, he's now almost 6 1/2 years old and our cute fluffy pup has grown into a handsome hound who is thoroughly devoted to his family. He's never more than a few metres away from us and through the ebb and flow of life, there have been times when the going has got tough where he has embodied the meaning of unconditional love. He senses pain or sadness and is the first one to be by your side with his big brown eyes and a soft nudge ready for hugs and quiet understanding. Life without him is simply not as good.
So when it comes to going on holiday he becomes a major consideration, he's not a small dog but he is pretty well behaved. In the early days when we wanted to get away and there were flights involved there was no other option but to book him into a local dog kennel. We did this a few times, with varying degrees of success, we certainly found that these places are not all created equal! If we had to again, there would be one place that we would have him return to, the owner is a true dog lover with a boutique set-up on a big sprawling property, and guest dogs are treated like family. But because of this you really need to be organised, booking well in advance to secure a spot.
So when we received a request from potential guests at the cottage asking if we would also be open to hosting their four legged friend, we thought we could give it a go. We let them know that the property is rural, with other livestock relatively nearby and any fencing is easily penetrable for an avid escape artist, they stayed and were so grateful to share their time away with their favourite furry friend. Since then, the environment here has proven to be a winner for many traveling doggos.
What we've realised is that dogs who travel are usually a lot like Ben. They come in every shape and size but they're happiest when they're with their family, no matter where that is. We've hosted the tiniest of puppies on their very first adventure, experienced explorers, the timid, the curious, the lethargic, and also those with not many years of life left. Every time it's wonderful to hear from our guests how brilliant it has been to be able to have their pooch along for the ride.
Inevitably we are often asked for dog-friendly recommendations close by so guests can plan their adventures to include their pooch, so I thought I'd put together a list of our top ten spots that we would suggest...
Dog Friendly Exercise Spots (off leash) in Whangarei
1. The Dog Park, William Fraser Memorial Park on Pohe Island
Purpose built and located in central Whangarei. This fenced dog park is a great place to let your pooch run and play off leash with other friendly dogs. There's plenty of space to get some exercise, balls to kick around, agility obstacles and water for drinking and cooling off.
This beautiful native park is family friendly and has lots of space for your furry friend to frolic. They can enjoy some off leash time and you can enjoy the beautiful surrounds. Wander the well maintained tracks down to the riverside where water loving dogs can enjoy a dip with the ducks.
Just out of town heading west are the Barge Showgrounds, a sprawling public green space that is often host to different events throughout the year. There is enough room for excitable canines to stretch their legs and explore. Dogs are permitted here off leash except for the wetland areas.
Dog Friendly Adventures (on leash)
Enjoy a picturesque walk around Whangarei's waterfront area and international marina. The 4.2km loop walk is a shared pathway taking in the town Basin, sculpture trail and provides interesting snippets of Whangarei's history along the way. Thoughtfully placed dog litter bins and water stations are also available enroute.
A brilliant walk through to the majestic Whangarei Falls. We like to start at the entrance to A.H. Reed Memorial Park and head towards the falls. It's about a 30 minute easy one way walk arriving at the 26 metre waterfall with lovely loads of spots to stop for a picnic and relax.
This is an extension of the Hatea River walk that connects the Town Basin Canopy Bridge with Mair Park. An established boardwalk leads you through a mangrove forest and on to lovely native bush. It's an easy 40 minutes one way.
7. The Down the Road Bush Walk
No car ride required if you're staying at the Orchard Cottage. Just head straight out the door and follow the bush track signs. A wide track leads you down into the regenerating native bush valley. It's steep in some areas but you're rewarded at the bottom with a picnic spot and rocky bottom stream with seating and a hammock. Take time to relax, it's exclusively available for our guests to enjoy.
Beach Fun for Furry Friends
We are surrounded by incredible beaches here, some have a year-round dog ban to protect precious wildlife but there are a few favourite spots where local and visiting pooches can join you for a day in the sun.
A firm favourite for us, the North and South parts of this beach are connected via a footbridge over the inlet. There's calm waters for swimming and paddle boarding as well as the wild Pacific Coast where there's almost always a good swell and vast stretches of sparkling white sand.
Past the turn off to Whangarei Heads and before you reach Pataua, take the road out to Taiharuru through rolling farmlands and you'll come across this beautiful bay, often only frequented by locals. It offers clear blue waters and stretches on to rocky coastline perfect for exploring.
I'm including McLeods Bay here because it's a good coastal option if you're also looking to grab a bite to eat with your pooch. McLeods Bay Fish & Chips is open Monday to Sunday from 11am so you can get some takeaways, roll down the hill and park up at one of the picnic tables to enjoy the view with some classic kiwi kai.
During the high Summer season, dogs are usually not allowed on any beaches between 9am and 5pm from 20 December to 31 January.
For more detailed information about dog friendly spots around Whangarei, head to the Whangarei District Council website here.