Willunga beach. Photo by Greg Barila.

AS I am constantly telling friends and family who have taken to tapping their watches at me while pulling concerned faces, there are many advantages to not having children.

Being able to swear indiscriminately around the house, for one. Not having to lock the kitchen cupboards. Fearlessly displaying breakables on the bottom shelf.

And one of the most glorious things about being child-free is the fact that you can spontaneously set off on a weekend away at a moment’s notice. No need to pack a pram or cot or every toy in the cupboard in case little Timmy chucks a strop over not having the right teddy bear at night.

No, childless couples can instantly book a beach shack on the internet, bung some clothes in an overnight bag and jump in the car, which is totally fabulous.

Sadly it’s also totally moot when you have a dog, like I do. Because unless you’re keen on boarding kennels (and I’m not) or have a willing dog-sitter (a big ask at the last minute), a spontaneous weekend away for a dog owner usually involves bringing Fido along – and finding appropriate accommodation can be a tricky business.

Often pet-friendly properties are booked out months in advance (you know, by more organised dog owners, not silly, fly-by-nighters like me), and the coastal ones are usually of the large, modern variety: huge concrete mansions sleeping eight or more.

Anything smaller and they can sometimes be, without wishing to sound too posh, overly “quaint”. Lumpy beds with nanna’s linen, threadbare rugs and furniture on the shaggy side – the sort of decor that won’t be too damaged by clawed feet and fur.

So it was a delight to discover Saltaire Blue in Port Willunga – a lovely little cottage just 45 minutes south of Adelaide, perfect for a weekend beach getaway with our four-legged family member.

Painted a pretty periwinkle to match its name, the charming weatherboard cottage features two bright, tastefully decorated bedrooms – one double, one queen – and a fold-out sofa bed to sleep up to six people. That seems a tad ambitious, however; more than two couples and Saltaire Blue’s cosiness would likely become stifling.

Fortunately, larger groups can also book the neighbouring property, Saltaire Yellow, which sleeps a further six in a similar layout.

The small kitchen with oven, microwave and fridge is more than adequate for cooking up breakfast or fixing snacks (let’s be honest, that’s all you’re going to be doing) and comes with supplies of bread, condiments, juice, milk, tea and plunger coffee, which is a nice touch. The dining table seats six.

The light-filled living room has two comfortable sofas, a well-stocked bookshelf and, as is the usual style in beachfront shacks like this, a TV and stereo circa 1993.

Note this is not a criticism; my partner and I had a brilliant time listening to the Hot Hits 1984 cassette we found in the tape deck. Remember when you actually had to rewind a song to hear it again? Nostalgia writ large.

 There’s also a CD and DVD player, should you prefer to enjoy some entertainment from the current century.

The bathroom, which also acts as an ensuite to the main bedroom, has both a bath and shower and comes already furnished with towels and toiletry products – a nice extra. There is also a fully equipped laundry.

Outside, there is a covered veranda with a barbecue and outdoor dining setting, and a small lawn area surrounded by a lush garden of natives, fully-fenced so your dog can run around. Ours didn’t mind a bit when we left him there to explore while we went to lunch at the wonderful Star of Greece restaurant, just five minutes’ walk down the hill.

Later, we walked just past the restaurant to the beach proper, where we spent a few hours relaxing on the pure white sand flanked on one side by crystal-blue waters, and the other by giant cliffs. Why on earth so many of us travel to Asia to lie on their beaches when we have such stunning examples right on our doorstep is something I’ll never really understand.

From the cottage it’s just a short drive to McLaren Vale wineries, Maslin and Aldinga beaches, the fabulous Victory Hotel at Sellicks Beach and the restaurant and cafe-filled main street of Willunga.

It’s also just a four-minute drive away from what should rightly be canonised as one of the great wonders of our state – the scallop pie from Aldinga Bay Fresh Fish and Seafood on Old Coach Rd. A crisp, flaky pastry shell filled with plump, juicy scallop meat, it’s best enjoyed straight from the bag with a side of chips and a view of the spectacular Willunga clifftop sunset. Next to one’s dog.

First published in SA Weekend magazine, August 16, 2014. Read article online here.