The most affectionate creature in the world is a wet dog (Ambrose Bierce)
Is your dog a panting mess, flopped down under a tree or spread out on the kitchen floor tiles getting under your feet? It’s not much fun going for ‘walkies’ on a sweltering hot Canberra summer day. Instead of letting those dog days get you down, why not take your dog for a swim instead? Even if your dog isn't into full immersion, most will enjoy a cooling paddle and splash on the water’s edge.
Here’s our seven favourite Canberra dog swimming areas. They're in very pretty spots, have good shade nearby and include convenient parking.
As well as a description of each dog swimming area, we’ve provided directions, information on parking and facilities, and a google map showing exact locations at the end of this blog.
Our map also marks (in yellow) alternative dog swimming areas available under ACT Government regulations but not included in our 'favourites' list because they are not as easy to access or as pleasant for dogs and their humans. If visiting these alternative dog swimming spots, check the ACT Government off leash map to make sure you understand the off leash area boundaries.
Of course, the usual dog owner etiquette applies: only well socialised, obedient dogs off leash and always pick up after your dog.
Important Make sure you check the current water quality advice which reports on blue-green algae and bacterial levels in Canberra waterways before sending your four-legged friend for a swim. Occasionally blue-green algae levels can get to toxic levels - mostly in the lakes - which is a risk to both humans and dogs. However, high bacteria levels are generally not a problem for dogs.
Lake Burley Griffin - Barrenjoey Drive, Barrenjoey Peninsula
Lake Burley Griffin - Brown Street, Yarralumla
Lake Ginninderra - Diddams Close, Belconnen
Murrumbidgee River - Uriarra Crossing, Uriarra Road
Murrumbidgee River - Point Hut Crossing, Point Hut Road
Molonglo River - River Road, Oaks Estate
Point Hut District Park Pond - McGilvray Close, Gordon
Canberra dog swimming areas location map
Lake Burley Griffin – Barrenjoey Drive, Barrenjoey Peninsula
This area is so beautiful that I’ve been told to keep it a secret! Unfortunately I’ve known about it for over 30 years and it’s too good not to share. Barrenjoey Peninsula on Lake Burley Griffin boasts mature stands of oaks, poplars and other exotic shady trees as well as vast expanses of grassland. The trees are so lovely that they’ve been incorporated into the National Arboretum. There are two good spots along the shore shallow enough for dogs to paddle if they aren’t keen on full immersion. The furthest spot provides the best access for less confident dogs and a perfect view of the Governor-General’s residence on the other side of the lake. It’s well worth exploring the dirt tracks that wander along the shore, under the shady trees and through the grassland. The peninsula is well-defined by wire fencing on each side so you can’t wander too far off track.
Off leash status – The ACT Government recently updated this peninsula to an entirely dog off-leash area.
Directions and parking – From the Tuggeranong Parkway, take the exit to the National Arboretum, but instead of turning to the main centre/complex uphill, turn the opposite direction towards the lake. Cross Lady Denman Drive at the traffic lights and continue on the bitumen road (Barrenjoey Drive) to a small car park. From the car park, walk along the wide gravel track to reach the water. Dirt tracks lead to the swimming spots.
Lake Burley Griffin – Brown Street, Yarralumla
It’s small but good! This little beach adjacent to Brown Street offers an inviting spot for dogs to cool off with a swim and paddle. It’s only a couple of minutes’ walk from the Yarralumla Dog Park and popular with locals in the know. There’s good, gradually sloping access into the water for less confident dogs to wet their paws and the surrounding beach and grassy area is spacious enough for wet-dog zoomies. Mature, exotic trees provide excellent shade nearby. It’s also on the route of a great Yarralumla dog friendly walk.
Off leash status – The grassy area immediately around the beach is off leash. However off leash dogs must not wander within 10 metres of the cycle path.
Directions and parking – From Brown Street in Yarralumla, walk across the grass crossing the cycle track to a little beach on the lake shore. Park on Brown Street, Banks Street next to the Yarralumla Dog Park, or in one of the small car parks off Alexandrina Drive.
Lake Ginninderra – Diddams Close, Belconnen
Belconnen dog walkers are well catered for with off leash access to most of this generous sized, grassy and well treed peninsula. There are several sandy, gently sloping areas into Lake Ginninderra providing easy access for dogs. A very pretty spot is only a stone’s throw from the car park at the end of Diddams Close furthest from the Belconnen Dog Park. There’s good shade, ample sandy access to the water, great facilities and nice views across the water. It's also on the route of our fully paved, pram friendly Lake Ginninderra walk around the peninsula. You may also like to try two other swimming spots located in off leash areas on the opposite side of Lake Ginninderra (see our map below for all locations.)
Off leash status – Most of this peninsula jutting into Lake Ginninderra and bordered by Ginninderra Drive is off leash. However dogs using this swimming beach must be on leash in the surrounding picnic area. Note that dogs are prohibited on the designated (human) swimming beaches at the other end of Diddams Close and children’s playgrounds if they are being used, and you must keep off leash dogs at least 10 metres away the cycle path.
Directions and parking – Turn off Ginninderra Drive into Diddams Close. At the t-junction turn right and drive a short distance to a car park. From the car park walk across the cycle path through a shady picnic area to reach the swimming beach visible through the trees.
Murrumbidgee River – Uriarra Crossing, Uriarra Road
This is a quintessential Canberra river swimming spot. It’s a little bit out of Canberra, but the destination is worth it and the drive very pleasant through rolling hills and pastures down to the Murrumbidgee River. You can choose from a huge park environment on the east bank, or a more modest spot on the far, west bank. The bend in the river here provides a large, safe area of slow moving water and big sandy beaches for dogs to play zoomies after they’ve cooled down. The banks slope very gradually and the river bottom is mainly sand so it’s easy for more cautious dogs to just wade in the shallows. You can also take the dogs exploring along the river bank upstream - they'll enjoy the new smells. Make sure you bring your swimmers so you can join in the fun. Keep a watch out for submerged rocks if the river is a bit high and take care after heavy rain which might make the current stronger than usual.
Off leash status – All the beaches and picnic areas at Uriarra Crossing are off leash.
Directions and parking – Follow Uriarra Road for approximately 10 minutes after leaving the new suburb of Wright. Turn left at the Uriarra East Reserve sign (before you reach the bridge crossing over the Murrumbidgee River), then turn right at the car park and drive to the very end to access the best east bank swimming spot. Or, after crossing the bridge, turn right and park in the small car park immediately to the right to access the best west bank swimming spot.
Facilities – Both the east and west bank swimming spots have ample parking, picnic tables and toilet blocks. The east bank area is especially generous with a very expansive grassed area under large, shady trees. There are no bins so be prepared to take all rubbish with you.
Murrumbidgee River – Point Hut Crossing, Point Hut Road
This is another lovely spot on the Murrumbidgee River immediately behind the southern Tuggeranong suburb of Gordon. There's a long sandy beach and the river isn't usually very wide or deep at this point. As for Uriarra above, make sure you bring your swimmers for a dip yourself. Also take care after heavy rain which might make the current stronger than usual. The only downside here is a scarcity of good shade.
Off leash status – The beach area on the north side of the road bridge is off-leash; the grassy picnic area and beach on the south side of the road bridge is on-leash.
Directions and parking – Follow Jim Pike Avenue out of Gordon to the well sign-posted Point Hut Road turn-off to the right. Drive on Point Hut Road only a short distance before the road crosses the Murrumbidgee River. After the bridge, park in the small car park on the right. Follow the track away from the car park past the sign post with the dog off leash image to reach the river only just out of sight ahead.
Facilities – It's pretty basic this side of the river with no picnic tables or toilets, but both are available on the other side of the river where dogs are allowed on leash. No bins so take your rubbish with you.
Molonglo River – River Street, Oaks Estate
This little piece of doggie-heaven is in a little known and underutilised dog off leash area tucked away on the ACT/NSW border. There's a shallow entry into the Molonglo River perfect for dogs to paddle, accessed from the end of River Street in Oaks Estate. Here you'll find an inviting grassy clearing by the river and a convenient picnic table under mature, shady trees. There are several more swimming spots to be discovered if you continue walking east (right if you're facing the river) and follow the river upstream towards the NSW border. The walk along the river bank (first the Molonglo, then the Queanbeyan River) is well maintained and regularly mown, and an absolute pleasure to explore. You'll reach the NSW border after 10-20 minutes, depending how fast you walk, clearly identified by the railway bridge crossing over the river. With your dog on leash, you can continue along the river past the bridge on a paved path right into the centre of Queanbeyan. For more info, check out our detailed directions to a super walk through Queanbeyan and Oaks Estate incorporating the river swim.
Off leash status – The entire area along the Molonglo and Queanbeyan rivers between River Street and the railway bridge crossing is off leash.
Directions and parking – Oaks Estate is just behind the Queanbeyan railway station. From Station Street, turn into River Street and continue to the very end. Park on the street, and walk a short distance from the end of the road along a path to reach the river.
Facilities – There's a picnic table but no toilets or bins. Toilets, bins, more picnic tables and a children's playground are available only a few minutes walk up River Street in Gillespie Park on the corner of Hazel Street. A great dog friendly cafe the Mill House Cafe can be found at the corner of Collett and Morisset Streets in the centre of Queanbeyan only a 15 minute walk or three minute drive away.
Point Hut District Park Pond - McGilvray Close, Gordon
Super convenient for families and local dog walkers, this dog swimming spot is in an off leash area adjacent to pretty Point Hut District Park. While there's no beach, there is easy, shallow access for paddling in the Pond at various points along the shoreline - even for wimpy whippets. The surrounding off leash area is open and flat allowing ample space for wet-dog zoomies. Eucalyptus trees provide shade adjacent to the car park, or you can access deeper shade around picnic tables and benches on the south side of the car park, within Point Hut District Park itself, with your dog on leash. This swimming spot is also on the route of our popular Conder-Gordon walk.
Off leash status – The flat, grassy peninsula is off leash, extending from opposite the car park and north to where a stormwater drain enters the Pond; otherwise Point Hut District Park is on leash. Remember dogs are prohibited from children's playgrounds while being used.
Directions and parking – Drive approximately half way along McGilvray Close, Gordon, to a roundabout and turn in here towards the park to access a car park. The dog off leash and swimming area is directly opposite and to the right of the car park if you are facing the Pond.
Canberra dog swimming areas location map
Click on the 'view larger map' icon at the top right hand corner of the map banner to see all locations in detail.