A PERFECT DAY AT THE BEACH includes a blanket, umbrella, picnic and a good book. Yet, seaside excursions are made even better by having the whole family there. That means bringing along our four legged, much loved and devoted dogs. And after being cooped up on a long passage, who doesn’t need to run, sniff and swim? Florida has lots of wonderful beaches, and many welcome our furry companions. Quite a few more allow dogs on-leash, but this list presents Florida’s surfside places that permit pooches to romp around untethered. Sometimes, you just gotta let them run.
ATLANTIC COAST DOG-FRIENDLY BEACHES
NEW SMYRNA BEACH DOG PARK
Located at 2641 Paige Avenue, the 1.2 acre fenced-in area separates the big dogs from the petite pups, while grassy areas keep their paws cool on sunny days. A shelter offers shade, as well as water fountains for both dogs and humans. (cityofnsb.com/767/Mainland-Parks)
WALTON ROCKS DOG BEACH, JENSEN BEACH
This beach stretches for miles along South Ocean Drive and covers 24 acres of pristine waterfront property. Be sure to B.Y.O. food and water, but you will find a washing station and poop bags on site. If you plan to hang out, an umbrella and blanket are recommended, as the beach is not shaded. Free parking is a plus, along with picnic tables, restrooms and pavilions. (stlucieco.gov/things-to-do/recreation/beaches/walton-rocks-beach-dog-park)
JUPITER BEACH DOG BEACH
When you park, the city prefers that your dog is leashed as you walk from the car to the 2.5 miles of beach in Palm Beach County from Marker #25 at Marcinski Road to Marker #57 at Carlin Park. Jupiter loves their canines so much that they provide free poop bags. The rest is up to you for enjoyment at this gorgeous beach. (jupiter.fl.us/437/Dogs-on-the-Beach)
HAULOVER BEACH DOG PARK, MIAMI BEACH
These sprawling 177 acres include two separate fenced in and shady areas for dogs under 35 lbs. and dogs over 35 lbs. The Bark Park is open from 8:00 a.m. to sunset. Between Lifeguard Towers 2 and 3, the beach is open to dogs and humans from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. You need to pay a small parking fee, but water fountains and poop bags are available. (miamidade.gov/parks/haulover.asp)
KEY WEST DOG BEACH
Enjoy a tropical paradise of turquoise water for dogs to meet, run and play at 1500 Vernon Avenue. The sand is a bit rocky and slippery, so be mindful of your pet’s paws. When you and your canine buddy need refreshment, head next door to the Afterdeck Bar at Louie’s, where dogs are welcome until 5:00 p.m. (keywest.com/beaches)
GULF COAST CANINE-COOL BEACHES
BONITA BEACH DOG PARK, FORT MYERS
Discover this beautiful beach where dogs can run free on the south end of Lovers Key State Park at 14436 Bonita Beach. Secluded from the main road, it offers clear shallow water for romping around. Doggy showers and porta potties are available, but you need to bring poop bags, water, an umbrella and snacks. (leegov.com/parks/beaches/dogbeach)
BROHARD BEACH & PAW PARK, VENICE
Located at 1850 Harbor Drive South, this beach is open from 7:00 a.m. to dusk. The Paw Park features a fenced sandy play area that leads to the only dog-friendly beach around. They offer waste bags, benches, showers and drinking fountains for dogs and humans. (visitsarasota.com/beaches/brohard-beach-and-paw-park)
DAVIS ISLAND DOG BEACH, TAMPA
Two fenced in areas await your canine companion at 1002 Severn Avenue, where you have two options for play: a 1.5 acre fenced area that includes 200 feet of beautiful waterfront and a one-acre dry land park. Open daily from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., several amenities are available: trash cans, poop bags and freshwater hoses for washing and cooling down your hound. (tampa.gov/parks-and-recreation/parks-and-facilities/dog-parks)
FORT DE SOTO PARK PAW PLAYGROUND, ST. PETERSBURG
Throughout the park, dogs must be on a leash, but they can cut loose in the paw park and on the dog beach. Surrounded by palm trees, separate grassy fenced spaces are etched out for small and large dogs. Shower hoses and water fountains help cool down canines on hot days. The beach is free, but parking at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South costs $5. (fortdesoto.com/pawplayground.php)
BAYVIEW DOG PARK & BEACH, PENSACOLA
Spot will bark with joy when he explores the grassy and fenced in one-acre dog park at 2001 East Lloyd Street. Humans and pups alike love jumping in the surf at the Bayou Texar Inlet. You can relax under the shade of a covered picnic area, and you’ll find water bowls, poop bags, trash cans and showers for four- and two-legged visitors. (cityofpensacola.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Bayview-Park-21)
Safety Tips for Traveling with your Pet
Before heading out to enjoy a day at the beach with your first canine mate, it’s wise to plan ahead and ensure everyone’s safety and fun:
- Make sure your dog’s vaccinations are up-to-date and have the vaccine information with you, because it’s required for entry to some dog parks. And bring along all of Fido’s medications for illness or injury.
- Paw pads can burn quickly on hot sand or pavement. If your hand can’t handle the heat for 30 seconds, it’s too hot for a dog to walk on. Don’t forget that dogs sunburn, especially ones with short hair, white fur and pink skin. Limit a dog’s exposure and apply sunblock to the ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.
- To ensure that dogs don’t overheat in hot conditions, have cold water available almost constantly. Provide shade where your dog can rest and cool down your pup with a hose or shower while at the beach. Never leave dogs alone in the car or closed boat, as they heat up rapidly and could suffer from heat stroke.
- Use a properly fitting personal flotation device for your dog. Even though most dogs are competent swimmers, they will lack endurance to stay afloat for longer than 20 minutes, even if uninjured. Rescue could take much longer than that.
- Don’t let your dog drink sea water. Salt and other minerals in ocean water can damage a dog’s coat, so rinse him off at the end of the day. At the ocean, be careful of strong tides and keep track of rip currents. Never leave your dog unattended in water.
- In case somebody strays away, be sure your dog’s tag includes her name, and your name and mobile number. Also consider microchipping to help get your dog back. You can arrange this through your veterinarian, but insist they include your mobile phone number if your pup gets lost while you’re away from home.
Lisa Carruthers and her husband Mark have lived on their trawler TAPESTRY full time for almost seven years. For the first three years, their wonderful beagle Harvey shared their adventure. This article is dedicated to his memory.