Tuesday 22 April 2014

Stanwell Park Beach and the Scarborough Hotel

The Sutherland Shire is full of great places to take dogs, but it's also right by the northern Illawarra, which is also full of great places to take dogs. On Good Friday, we took our two dogs for a little sojourn down the coast. First a play at the beach, and then lunch in the dog friendly beer garden at the Scarborough Hotel.

Stanwell Park Beach. Image - Hadi Zaher

Stanwell Park Beach

Stanwell Park is a really gorgeous place just south of the Royal National Park. To get there from the Shire, you can either come down the freeway and exit at the Helensburg exit, then travel down Lawrence Hargrave Drive, which does a strange, tight turn to the right at Stanwell Tops just before Bald Hill Reserve where there are often hang-gliders when the wind is good. It then winds down the hill and goes through Stanwell Park. Exit off Lawrence Hargrave Drive just as you come into Stanwell Park. There is an access road where there are a few shops. Then take the second left onto Station St, which takes you down to a car park. You need to cross the creek to get to the unrestricted dog area, which runs along the north side of the grassy reserve. There is a cute footbridge. 

The other option coming from the Shire is to go through the Royal National Park. It is a nice drive, but if you have dogs you cannot stop in the park or you could be fined. You can come through from the Loftus end and simply drive all the way through on Lady Wakehurst Drive. Or you can enter the park just by Waterfall Station and travel down McKell Rd until you reach the T-intersection with Lady Wakehurst and turn right. Lady Wakehurst Drive eventually butts into Lawrence Hargrave Drive at the intersection just past Bald Hill.

There is one main beach in Stanwell Park, and the part of it that is north of the lagoon is open to dogs at any time and the other part south of the lagoon is open to dogs on a timed arrangement. In the summer (September school holidays to ANZAC day), dogs are allowed on this part of the beach before 9am and after 6pm. The rest of the year, dogs are allowed here before 9am and after 4pm. There is a very large grassy area where dogs must be on leash adjacent to the beach. There is also a children's playground, BBQ facilities, and a cafe where dogs are not allowed. 

South of the lagoon (outlined in orange) is a timed zone for dogs. North (outlined in green) is unrestricted.


The unrestricted part of the beach north of the lagoon is relatively small compared to other dog beaches in the area. It is about 200m long, so long enough for a game of fetch and a swim, but not a long walk. At low tide it is larger and you can go onto the rock platform. South of the lagoon is another roughly 500m of beach dogs can go on as well if you visit early or late in the day.


Stanwell Park is a small community and people are very friendly in our experience. The beach carries the same dangers of potential fish hooks and pufferfish that any other beach carries. It is back from the road, but there are no dunes between the beach and the road. There are tall cliffs of sandstone at the northern end. They are beautiful, but don't get too close. There are signs warning of falling rocks.

Other dogs and owners

We don't visit Stanwell Park Beach often. In our limited experience, it has been no different to any other dog beach in the Illawarra. There are other dogs, they are off leash, owners vary in how they manage their dogs. However, we were there on a public holiday with spectacular weather and we only saw a few other dogs. 

Further notes

There are some bird species on beaches and rock platforms in the Illawarra that are threatened. As such, if you see them, please be responsible and keep your dogs from bothering these birds. The most common one we see is the Sooty Oystercatcher. It is unmistakable. It is a large, black bird with a long, bright, orange/red beak.

Keep dogs away from Sooty Oystercatchers. Image Duade Paton.

The Scarborough Hotel

The Scarborough Hotel is a short drive south from Stanwell Park Beach. Back on Lawrence Hargrave Drive, over the spectacular Sea Cliff Bridge (which you can stop and walk the length of with the dogs if you wish - it's about 1km and the views are lovely), and about another 2-3 km south. The Scarborough is on Lawrence Hargrave Dr. There is a car park, but at busy times it is likely to be full. There is street parking around, though, and another couple of car parks just north of the hotel.

This place gets very busy in nice weather on weekends and public holidays, but the dog friendly beer garden out the back is quite large, and has great views of the ocean. To access the beer garden without going through the hotel, walk down past the main entrance to a disabled access next to a second car park. There is a pool fence and gate. 

Beer garden at the Scarborough Hotel.

The beer garden is pretty big, so even if there are other dogs there, you can be comfortably away from them if your dog is likely to get upset about other dogs nearby. Be sensible and keep your dog on leash and make sure it doesn't bother other patrons. We had several people come up to us to meet our dogs, but you know, our dogs are stunningly attractive and perfectly behaved and all that. ;)

The food at the Scarborough is pretty decent. There is only one vegetarian meal on the menu (a pumpkin salad), and otherwise it is standard pub fair. The quality of the food is quite good, and the hot chips are excellent. They are well equipped to handle the holiday crowds. I recommend the Mars bar cheesecake. It is surprisingly understated!

Keep your eyes out for whales in the right season (April-August and September-November). I think there are a few rocky reefs around the hotel that would keep them farther out, but you never know. We often see whales from several headlands in the northern Illawarra.