I love a good random road trip, so when I wanted to head to the Murray but see somewhere new, I picked Koondrook-Barham as it looked like it had lots of state parks around which can be great when travelling with dogs!
Koondrook is part of the Gannawarra tourism region and it turned out Koondrook is indeed a great dog friendly weekend away from Melbourne or Geelong.
This post collates my personal experience from my visit plus information from different sources (referenced) into one easy place.
About Koondrook Barham
Koondrook and Barham are actually two separate twin towns on opposite sides of the border (Like Echuca and Moama or Albury and Wodonga). Koondrook is on the Victorian side, while Barham, where the bulk of the shops and services are, is on the NSW side.
Given Koondrook is only small, there has clearly been a lot of investment in creating the nice river front precinct walking track, river viewing area, lush grassy parkland, and several playgrounds.
Dog friendly things to see & do in Koondrook – Barham
There are some great things to do with dogs outdoors in the area around Koondrook & Barham.
1. Koondrook Waterfront & Wharf
This is a nice area for a dog friendly on lead wander with river views. It has a viewing platform over the river, some information on the original port (which was removed but its previous location is marked out), the old tramway, bbq & picnic areas and a kids playground and toilet block across the road.
2. Barham-Koondrook Bridge
According to the NSW government, The Barham-Koondrook Bridge is apparently one of the oldest lift span bridges on the Murray River and is listed on the NSW heritage register. Restoration of the Bridge was undertaken from 2012-2018.
The Bridge is now open to traffic again, you can walk over on the footpath and it can also be easily viewed from the waterfront precinct in Barham.
3. Barham Boardwalk
Wander along the riverfront boardwalk In Barham with your dog on a lead and enjoy the views over the Murray River.
4. Goanna Walking Track – 3.2 km
I wanted to do the Goanna Walking Track walk but couldn’t figure out where it was as Condidorio’s Bridge does not exist on google maps. I actually emailed the council who sent me a map and also advised there will be new trail markings soon, they are just still cleaning up after all the flooding.
AND it turns out the loop walk we did below is actually the Goanna Walk! So you can start it from its official start at the footbridge near the retreats or you can also park and start just over the car bridge on Gunbower Island across the gravel road from the parking at the start of the Red Gum Walking Tracks.
5. Goanna Walking Track loop starting on Gunbower Island
Goanna Walking Track starting near Condidorios Bridge- 2.6km Approximately
Across the road from the parking area for the official Red Gum Forest Walks loops is a 4wd track. I walked along this through the bush, stopped for a paddle with my doggo where the road passes a little beach area on the Gunbower Creek (this would likely be water level dependent), then continued until I hit the formed walking path that headed back over the footbridge past the retreat in town.
From here I continued along the edge of the creek on the formed walking track (some of which is part of the red gum statue walk) until I crossed back over the creek on the single land car bridge and returned to my car at the start of the red gum trails.
6. Koondrook Barham Red Gum Statue River Walk
The Red Gum Statue Walk is a flat dog friendly walk that meanders through the town of Koondrook as well as several across the bridge in Barham. There are now at least 20 statues on the walk highlighting significant people and wildlife of the region. Visit the official page here to see a summary of each statue or get the pdf map of the Red Gum Statue Walk. Alternatively you can just scan the QR codes found at the statues for extra information.
7. Koondrook Red Gum Forest Walks (on Gunbower Island)
There are two different length options for the Gum Forest walks and both are dog friendly as this is State Forest. They start on Gunbower Island which coming from town is just over the Gunbower Creek bridge which is at the corner of Gunbower Parade and Island Rd in Koondrook. Even though it looks like a walking bridge it actually turned out to be a single laned car bridge you can drive over and has a ‘single lane’ yellow road sign.
Visit the Explore Outdoors Page for the official information (source for distances below) or get a map here and track notes here. Because there are now like 4 different current and former agencies writing about the same places.
1. Red Gum Forest Walk Turtle Loop – 13km
2. Red Gum Forest Walk Eagle Loop – 9km
8. Barham Lake Loop
This walk is on the AllTrails website/app and I have not completed it myself but is another walking track option in the area and also an easy walk option if you are staying at the Barham Holiday Park? It looks like its not really a destination walk but more an extra add on if you want to take the dog for a quick walk.
Dog friendly things to do near Koondrook Barham
1. Barham Vines Cellar Door – Saturdays Only
Barham Vines is only a short drive from Koondrook Barham on the NSW side of the border and opens its cellar door on saturday afternoon. Bookings are recommended.
Dogs are more than welcome at Barham Vines at all their outdoor tables (I emailed and confirmed this).
They describe their saturday cellar door experience as a lazy Saturday afternoon relaxing on the lawn soaking up the bushland environment and tasting wine and accompanying antipasti – basically the perfect dog friendly winery experience!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go this time as we needed to get to camp (plus I was slightly traumatised from managing my loud dog on the previous nights pub visit in a different town where a fox paraded back and forth in front of the beer garden taunting my dog lol).
2. Gunbower Island Canoe/Kayak Trail*
If you have kyacks or canoes you can head to the Gunbower Island Canoe launch site and go for a paddle with your dog through the creek and wetlands. This is located inside the Gunbower State Park so dogs are allowed.
Even if you don’t have a kayak or canoe this is quite a pretty area to drive to and it can be 2wd accessible depending on the recent weather. Its a nice spot to watch for birds or have a picnic lunch looking over the wetland.
There is also some campsites here with beautiful views over the creek (it is dispersed camping throughout the park, which basically means you can pretty much camp where you like along the rivers and creeks where there is a cleared area).
*There are people shooting guns around this area in duck hunting season so plan your visit outside of these times if you want to avoid this*
3. Gunbower Island 2wd and 4wd Tracks
You cannot take dogs on the official Gunbower Island Forest Drive, which is a loop from Cohuna, as it goes through the National Park sections of the Island. The map of the drive is still a handy overview of the different park boundaries.
However as an alternative drive, much of the Koondrook Track and River Track are 2wd accessible in the drier parts of the year and they take you for a beautiful drive through the River Red Gum Forest. Keep in mind that the tracks that link them together may not be 2wd accessible. We only just got an all-wheel drive through the roads that cross the island at the time we visited, however, I suspect it may still be because the main roads have been prioritised for repair after the flooding.
You enter this track from the Kerang-Koondrook Road and it will take you to the Gunbower Island Canoe Trail Head & Campsites as above. This is a pretty drive with plenty of places to stop for a picnic, birdwatching or photography along the creek or find a campsite for the night. There are toilets at the designated camping area or Keep in mind that this road may become innacessible to 2wds after inclement weather.
You access this track from the bridge at the corner of Island Road and Gunbower Parade, it starts off as ‘Swamp Track’ before you veer onto ‘River Track’. When i visited in May 2023 it was 2wd accessible for a very long way however it looked like the road had been graded and re-graveled recently, perhaps since the flooding. You can see these on google maps and also in the More to Explore App.
There are loads of other tracks through the Gunbower State Park and Gunbower National Park and the park is accessible from other towns such as near Cahuna. Many of these were definitely 4wd only when I visited with deep wash outs and side tracks.
4. Other things to do
I don’t fish but it is one of the most popular things to do in the Region. Make sure you get the appropriate licences for both Victoria and NSW depending on where you are fishing.
Apparently, you can get a miners license and go prospecting in the state forest according to FFM.
Dog friendly cafes, restaurants & pubs
1. Long Paddock Food Store
Well known in the region for fantastic food, the Long Paddock Food Store has a dog friendly courtyard.
2. Tatiar Cafe
Tatiar was able to accommodate my dirty soy chai and they have outdoor tables on the curbside.
I’m waiting to hear back from the other venues in town, as it was a camping trip this time round I didn’t get to visit everywhere 🙂
Dog friendly accommodation Kookdrook Barham
Barham Holiday Park – Big 4 (NSW)
Located over the border in NSW Barham has a range of well-equipped but affordable pet friendly cabin options as well as cheap budget cabin for a getaway near the Murray River on a budget.
Dog friendly cabin options
Make sure you select the pet friendly version of the cabin in availability.
Dog friendly caravan parks Koondrook Barham
Barham Holiday Park – Big 4 (NSW)
Located over the border in NSW Big 4 Barham has powered and unpowered dog friendly camping.
If you have no-one with you or nowhere to leave your dog (or your dog announces very loudly ‘mum where are you’ when left for more than 10 seconds like mine does) powered ensuite site with a toilet and shower is a great option as it’s right next to your campsite.
Dog-friendly campsite options
Koondrook Caravan Park
Dogs are allowed at Koondrook Caravan Park by application only and only on campsites.
Free dog friendly camping near Koondrook
There is plenty of amazing free dog friendly camping near Koondrook along the Murray River and Gunbower Creek plus other places in the reserves and park.
When choosing where to camp from a safety perspective you want to consider the stability of cliffs and the risk of risking rising water depending on the recent weather when selecting your campsite and do not camp under large trees, river red gums in particular are notorious for dropping branches. From an environmental perspective, you are strongly encouraged to camp in existing cleared areas/campsites in the reserve and state park.
River Murray Reserve
There is free dog-friendly camping in the River Murray Reserve which is a linear reserve that runs along the Murray River on the Victorian side in many areas the river is not part of places like National Park. Here at Koondrook, it runs between the river and the Gunbower State Forest until you hit the Gunbower National Park and then again on the other side of it (it’s a confusing maze of different protected areas).
While I can’t find anything to say ‘you can camp anywhere’ in the River Murray Reserve, in practice you can camp for free with dogs in most places along the River in the River Murray Reserve as there are camping sites as most bends.
These are accessed directly or from little side tracks of the ‘River Track’. Parks Victoria has many of these sites listed on their River Murray Page as dog allowed on lead.
You can access many of these campsites with 2wd when the roads are dry and graded however many roads become 4wd only or closed when there is seasonal or intermittent flooding.
Gunbower State Forest on Gunbower Island
There is also heaps of free dog-friendly camping in the Gunbower State Forest, particularly on Gunbower Creek. The camping on the creek is busiest around the designated campsites with toilets which are closer to town such as the Twin Bridges campsite however school holidays and long weekends are busy everywhere.
I stayed at the campground at the Gunbower Canoe Site. It was one of the prettiest wetlands I’ve ever camped. Both the sunset and sunrise were stunning, and the campsites are located right next to the creek with beautiful views.
***Important Information for planning your visit to Gunbower Creek if you are NOT a hunter***
Hunters frequent the wetlands in this area for Victorian ducking hunting season which runs for up to several months between March and June depending on the year. This is not something in the glossy tourism brochures for the region and I literally got the shock of my life sitting drinking my morning coffee by the most beautiful wetland I’ve seen when suddenly there was a bang bang of a gun and two people floated round the bend in a boat in camo. They were very respectful of our space and headed back in the opposite direction which was probably an inconvenience for them, but if guns and hunting are something you would prefer to avoid, you can check the duck hunting dates for the season on the Game Management Authority Website. It is mentioned in this handy guide to visiting the area but not really on many of the other tourism sites.
References, Useful Tools & Resources
These tools are handy for planning your trip and I used them to research information before my visit.
This Guide to Gunbower Island Canoe Trail has information about what you can spot and to help plan your visit.
Parks Victoria list of River Murray Reserve camping.
The Visit the Murray guide to visiting the Gannawarra region
This pdf map that shows you the boundaries of the different parks
Download the More to Explore app on android or IOS
I found some of the things to do in the local region on this Barham Koondrook website.
Curated national and Local Reads
Knowing more about the area you are exploring can enrich your experience, give context to things you see, and give you a better more authentic understanding of what it’s like to live where you are visiting (of course nothing tops a chat with a local)!
For more information on First Nations Culture in the region you can visit Barapa.org
This is a shire guide to the European History of the region.