What do you get when you combine your love of dogs with your quest for powdery snow? The best vacation you could imagine, writes Shonagh Walker.
My favourite things in the world are snow, my three rescue huskies Pepi, Simba and Sky, and my smallest rescue mutt Mookie, who despite being a Maltese, is absolutely an honorary Arctic. OK, go ahead and add a good Pinot Noir and cleansing ale to that list, too.
When the kind folk at Dinner Plain alpine village in Victoria invited my pack and me to check out their dog-friendly village and accommodation, I leapt at the offer.
As we were coming from Sydney, a mandatory stop was of course The Dog on The Tuckerbox, which as the song says is ‘Five Miles from Gundagai’. Its café has outdoor seating and plenty of open space for dogs to stretch their legs. If you fancy breaking up the drive, there’s a pet-friendly farm-stay nearby called Kimo Estate, which hosts you and your pet in a fully fenced worker’s cottage.
After a quick ‘family portrait’, we carried on and within four hours arrived in Dinner Plain. While in almost all areas of the village and its surrounds, dogs must always be on leash, the enormous tennis courts adjacent to the village car park act as an off-leash dog park in the winter.
We had pre-booked an hour of fun for the dogs with Dinner Plain Council and headed there immediately. It was such a joy to see the pack playing in the fresh powder, knowing that the gates were securely locked so they couldn’t bolt off after a bunny or even just the scent of one, as these arctic breeds are wont to do.
With both humans and hounds exhausted, it was time to check in to our alpine digs. We’d booked a three-bedroom, two bathroom rental home, Peak-a-Boo.
Wrap around bay windows with cushioned seats, meant we could take in the village views as we bathed in the afternoon sun, enjoying a beautiful bottle of local Gapsted Wines Tobacco Road Pinot Noir. We built a fire and lazed around all afternoon, sipping on the perfect Pinot.
After a while, it started to snow, which made our arrival day even more picture-perfect. We grabbed the hounds and went out to play in the powder some more, quickly building up an appetite.
We had a dinner booking at Ramada Resort’s Element Restaurant. Unfortunately, it isn’t a dog-friendly dining spot, but lucky for us, Dinner Plain offers a dog-sitting service. Elizabeth from Alpine Baby Sitting arrived and the dogs fell in love with her instantly. I probably should note, they look after human kids, too.
This is a great service for when you’re skiing at either or both Dinner Plain and Hotham (15 minutes up the road).
Paws for brew
Thank Ullr for Blizzard Brewery, which opened in 2016. At 1550 metres; it’s the highest brewery in Australia and it’s super dog friendly. Each of its eight lagers is brewed using Dinner Plain’s own snowmelt … and each is thirst-quenchingly delicious.
I’m not normally a drinker of darker ales, but the Summit Stout was amazing. The BBQ food trucks parked outside were perfect; as we stayed there late into the evening and both we people and our pooches needed a good feed. Blizzard Brewery proved an ideal place to just relax into a holiday vibe, knowing the dogs were as welcome as we were.
But wait there’s more
On Sunday, I chose to stay in the village and chill out with the hounds. The vibe was just so serene and magical – just my beautiful snow dogs and me strolling through a winter wonderland.
After a while, I left them with Elizabeth the fabulous dog sitter again while I enjoyed a massage and Onsen at the Village’s iconic Onsen spa. Then, after a bit more prancing in the snow, we headed back to Blizzard Brewery where we whiled away the afternoon with some great brews and even better conversation with its owners, Mark and Caroline Hubbard.
All too soon, Monday rolled around, and it was time to leave, but not before a hearty breakfast at Mountain Kitchen Café, and a challenging but fun snowshoe around the village trails.
Dog Friendly Holiday Tips
- Have health checks and vaccines up to date.
- Ensure pets are registered, microchipped and wearing ID collars and tags.
- Pack food and water bowls and enough food and treats to last the trip. Include their bed or blankets, so they will have something familiar to sleep with.
- Dog not used to the car? A few short trips to the dog park will teach him that the car is fun.
- Try the Rogue Royalty weighted vest to keep dog drive anxiety down
- Ensure your dog is safely restrained in the car at all times
Need to know
Dinner Plain is located in Victoria’s alpine regions and can be accessed from the Hume Highway at Wangaratta if you’re driving from Melbourne, or Wodonga if you’re coming from Sydney.
In winter and spring, enjoy skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing or take a sled dog ride through the snow. In summer and autumn, there’s fly-fishing, hiking, mountain biking, camping and yes, sled dog touring on dry-land sleighs. Year round, there’s fantastic food, great local wines and a friendly, festive atmosphere.
Your dog is welcome, as long as it’s registered with the Dinner Plain Alpine Shire Council.