The afternoon sun shone lazily through the bus window. Lyra was curled up into a tight ball by our feet, thoroughly exhausted from her adventures. I wanted to stay awake to keep taking in the lush Mornington landscape as we drove through the hills. My eyelids were heavier than a great dane, my belly full of good food and even better wine. With a sigh of content, I rested my head on Johnny's shoulder. "Happy Birthday," I whispered. He kissed me on my forehead and I nodded off, dreaming about our wonderful day . . .
It had begun 8 hours earlier, when we had met bright and early at Sandridge Beach, an off-leash beach in Port Melbourne. It was Johnny's birthday and I had organised a Gourmet Pawprints Tour to celebrate.
I originally met the business owner Kerry and her furry boy Diesel through Dogs for Kids with Disabilities, an organisation that we both support. Kerry created her business to combine everything that she loved ~ food + wine + travel + dogs. It sounded like a winning formula to me, and I couldn't wait to try out one of her day trips!
I booked the Mornington Peninsula daytrip, an all-inclusive bus tour stopping by three gorgeous wineries with two different dog walks. I have to admit that I'd had my own reservations about piling 10 dogs into one minibus, but it all worked out perfectly. There was enough space for each dog to settle in and find a comfortable spot (some even snagged their own seats!)
Our first stop was Yabby Lake Vineyard. Warm raspberry and white choc muffins and a steaming cuppa for morning tea, then onto the wine tasting (is 10AM too early for wine? Naaaaaahhhh!)
Next stop was Flinders off leash dog beach, our favourite part of the day! The grey clouds parted to reveal a bright blue Spring sky and the dogs had an absolute blast racing through sand and surf as their people strolled along seaside.
By the time we got back to the bus our puppies were tired and our stomachs were hungry. Perfect timing for lunch!
A lovely dog carer named Marie looked after the babies while we all spoilt ourselves with a delicious tapas lunch at Green Olive in Red Hill. I was a bit nervous about leaving my girl, but a status update halfway through our meal revealed that all the furries were totally zonked out! Clearly the long beach walk had done just the trick!
Lunch was a great opportunity to chat with all the other doggy people who were on the tour - obviously we were all crazy dog lovers, so everyone had plenty in common. I even met a lady who had been the foster carer for a dog that I had photographed just a few weeks ago - small world huh?! After lunch and more wine, we headed off for a beautiful 1.5km walk through the gum-tree lined roads of Red Hill. At the end, Denny the bus driver met us to take us to our final stop - the Willow Creek Estate.
After more wine tasting, we sat on the sunny lawn outside the cellar doors whilst the dogs had another happy romp. Kerry had even kindly organised a birthday dessert!
I can honestly say that I was thoroughly impressed by the whole day. I wasn't sure what to expect when I first booked, but Kerry's enthusiasm and 110% dedication to the experience (right down to the fact that she baked her own cookies for each of the dogs - personalised with their names!) guaranteed a wonderful day.
Thank you so much Kerry and Diesel - we had so much fun and I will definitely be recommending Gourmet Pawprints to all my dog loving friends!
p.s. if anyone is interested in booking a Gourmet Pawprints tour, Kerry's website is here: http://gourmetpawprints.com.au and her facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/gourmetpawprints. These aren't affiliate links, I just genuinely enjoyed the whole experience :)