Australia’s most pet-friendly road trips, revealed

Hannah Norton

Sep 7, 2023

According to the RSPCA, Australia has one of the highest levels of pet ownership in the world, with 69% of households having a pet – totalling 28.7 million furry friends.1

It’s clear to see that as well as pets, Australians love to explore their country – over 100 million overnight domestic trips were taken in 2022, with Australian tourists spending a huge AUS$70 million.2

So, it makes sense that you might be wondering whether to combine the two, and enjoy a staycation with your pet, and we’re here to help with that! As pet insurance experts we wanted to find the best pet-friendly road trips in Australia.

By analysing pet-friendly restaurants and hotels, as well as the number of vets across some of the country’s biggest and best road trips, we’ve got a list of some of the best pet-friendly journeys for you to start planning the ‘pawfect’ adventure.

Plus, we also reveal the areas in the car where pets feel the most comfortable, based on heart rate monitor data from our very own pets.

Image showing ten of the most pet-friendly road trips in Australia,

1. Legendary Pacific Coast

This epic 999km drive up the Pacific Highway from Sydney to Brisbane is officially the pet-friendliest road trip you can find. Not only does it have the most dog-friendly hotels enroute, at 1,532, but it also has the largest number of pet-friendly restaurants (159), and the greatest number of vets (78), just in case your furry friend needs a check-up on the way.

There are so many beaches for you and your best friend to stop off at along the way, including Newcastle’s most famous beach, Merewether; as well as the paradise that’s Byron Bay.

2. Great Ocean Road

Windswept beaches and rugged coastlines are the order of the day on the Great Ocean Road – perfect if you love surfing, hiking, and exploring the great outdoors!

If you’re wondering why this road trip is so pet-friendly, it’s easy to see why. It has the second most pet-friendly restaurants, with 117 spots for you to choose from, as well as the second most number of dog-friendly hotels (776), and 58 vets, too.

98 of these restaurants are in Melbourne, so make sure you spend a few days in the city, before riding the waves at Bells Beach, sneaking a peek at the kangaroos at Anglesea Golf Club, and hiking to Erskine Falls- the most famous waterfall at the Great Otway National Park.

3. Grand Pacific Drive

At 140km, the Grand Pacific Drive is a great option if you’re looking for a mini road trip adventure. Starting just south of Sydney in the Royal National Park, and ending in picturesque Jervis Bay, you and your furry friend can make plenty of stops along the way.

Spend a few hours in Wollongong, where you can dine on delicious Indian food by the Sri Venkateswara Temple, and get up close and personal with the wildlife at Symbio Wildlife Park.

You should also make a beeline for the Kiama Blowhole, with the spray reaching up to 30m – perfect on a hot day!

While on this road trip, you’ll have 608 dog-friendly hotels to choose from, as well as a choice of between 109 pet-friendly restaurants to dine in.

4. South West Edge

In fourth place on our pet-friendly road trips list, is the 1,200km looped adventure that is the South West Edge. With so many stop-offs along the way, you’ll want to plan your trip in advance, so you don’t miss out.

Some places to visit include Esperance, where you’ll find kangaroos hopping about on the white-sand beaches, as well as Rottnest Island, home to a whole host of cute quokkas; and Busselton, where you can go fishing and snorkelling.

On the South West Edge, you’ll be able to dine in 50 different pet-friendly restaurants, and stay in a choice of 325 dog-friendly hotels, as well as visit one of 26 vets, if you need it.

5. Nullarbor Plain

Nullarbor Plain rounds off our top five list of pet-friendly road trips, and with good reason. Situated in the outback, whilst you’ll go through plenty of remote areas, you’ll have the opportunity to visit 46 pet-friendly restaurants, and 179 dog-friendly hotels. Just make sure you prep ahead with plenty of water and petrol for when you’re out in the centre of this vast plain.

There’s plenty of things for you and your furry friend to explore here, including the rugged cliffs of Nuytsland Nature Reserve, and the mesmerising Bilbunya sand dunes in Eucla.

Where do dogs feel most at ease in the car?

Using heart rate monitors, we ran an experiment where we monitored a group of pooches’ heart rates while they were travelling in the car, to see how happy they were.

Our research showed that dogs were at their happiest when they were riding on the back seat where they could see their owner, with their heart rates decreasing by 9.5% on average, and they felt the least comfortable when they were put behind the backseat in the luggage compartment, where their heart rates increased 20.4%.

NameBreedAvg. heart rateDifference in front seat (%)Difference in back seat with owner view (%)Difference in back seat without owner view (%)Difference in the boot (%)
MiloJack Russell57.0-11.9-10.112.922.1
RaffyCocker Spaniel74.0-0.5-5.414.016.2
MontyRed Fox Labrador68.0-6.7-
Avg. (%)All four dogs66.2-6.8-9.510.620.4

So, if you’re planning on taking your furry friend on your next road trip, we’d recommend having them sitting in the back seat where they can see you, or potentially even next to you in the front seat, if it’s just the two of you embarking on a road trip. Just make sure that regardless of where they are sitting, they are safely and legally restrained!

As General Manager of General Insurance, Adrian Taylor at Compare the Market states: “Going on an epic adventure with your furry friend is an exciting experience for both of you – especially if it’s your pet’s first time experiencing the sea, or going on long hikes.

“However, while you may already be covered for travel events, don’t forget you’ll need pet insurance too, so your beloved family member is covered for vet bills against accidental injuries or illness. Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but it’s there if your pet unexpectedly falls ill on your road trip and needs medical care.”

Before you commit, discover the different types of pet insurance you can get, including specific insurance for dogs and cats, so you can make sure you choose the best option for your pet. Be sure to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) too, so that you understand exactly what you’re covered for.



Road trips and start/finish points, route lengths, and key stops:


We collated data from various sources/articles to determine the most well-known road trips around Australia. Then, we selected the key stop off points/major cities for each road trip, and analysed the number of dog-friendly restaurants, number of vets, and dog-friendly hotels in each area.

The data was then normalised, to give each factor a score of between 0 and 1. The normalised data was summed to give a total score out of 3. The road trips were then ranked from highest to lowest, based on this total score, with a higher score producing a higher ranking.

All data is correct as of 23/08/2023.