Florida Parks with Some Bark, for You and Your Pooch

    By Saundra Amrhein

    Why should humans have all the fun at Florida’s parks?

    While you enjoy roller coasters and water slides, your dogs could have the time of their lives at parks set aside just for them in the Sunshine State.

    Between spa treatments at pet resorts, scenic walks or hikes on Florida’s trails, romps at dog beaches or relaxing evenings at outdoor eateries, let your two-legged companions cap off the vacation with their favorite activity of all: running free with their fellow canines.

    Florida offers numerous off-leash dog parks where dogs can burn off steam and make new friends. Be sure to follow posted park rules – which invariably insist that dogs are up-to-date on vaccinations and play well with others. In the event you can’t find water fountains or stations, bring some extra water to keep your hounds hydrated in Florida’s year-round heat.

    Here’s a list of some of Florida’s popular dog parks:

    Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville

    This 42-acre park – 25 acres of it fenced – is a pooch’s paradise. Entirely off leash, it’s like a private country club for both dogs and humans. Aside from huge fields for Frisbee and ball throwing, it includes a two-acre swimming lake called Lake Bow Wow; a 4-acre shady area; a small-dog swimming pond called Lake Fifi and sunny and shaded play areas for dogs under 25 pounds; nature trails; sand piles, tunnels, tires and other exercise equipment for dogs; a separate playground area for kids; picnic tables and hammocks. Park admission is $11 for the first dog and $1.25 for each additional dog. Male dogs over 8 months of age must be neutered to enter.

    Lake Baldwin Park, Winter Park

    Formerly known as Fleet Peeples Park, this 23-acre park on Lake Baldwin northeast of downtown Orlando gives pets plenty of room to play until they’re dog tired. It also holds two pavilions, more than two dozen picnic tables, benches, a dock, boat ramp and a restroom. Dogs can run off leash during posted hours.

    Fort De Soto ParkPaw Playground, near St. Petersburg:

    Named by Southern Living magazine as one of the top five dog parks in the south, Paw Playground at Fort De Soto includes two fenced-in grassy areas for small and large dogs to run free across a total of three acres, plus 300 yards of a dog beach where dogs can play off-leash in the surf. Other amenities include water fountains for dogs and humans; doggie bags to help clean up after your pets; and dog showers to rinse them off. Admission to the park is free; parking is $5.

    Cool off at one of several spectacular off-leash dog parks nestled with or around Central Florida. - Julie Fletcher for VISIT FLORIDA

    Naples Dog Park

    At this popular dog park on Riverside Circle near Third Avenue in downtown Naples, you’ll find 1.35 acres of fenced romping room for Rover to run free on grass and dog-friendly mulch. The park has separate spaces for large and small dogs; bag dispensers; washing stations; drinking fountains for human and beast; a picnic area and a shade structure. Admission and parking are free.  

    Amelia Earhart Bark Park, Miami area

    Just outside Miami in the city of Hialeah, this 515-acre park with a watersports complex includes a lush five-acre fenced-in dog park divided into sections for large and small dogs. There are dog water fountains, shaded areas, places for owners to sit, and tunnels and other obstacle-course objects for dogs to run through. Admission is free, as is parking on weekdays; parking on weekends is $7.

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    A young visitor spends time with her four-legged friend at Lake Baldwin Park.

    A young visitor spends time with her four-legged friend at Lake Baldwin Park.

    - Julie Fletcher for VISIT FLORIDA

    Stroll along the banks of Lake Virginia in Winter Park with your furry friend. Cypress trees provide shade and the wind off the lake cools the air.

    Stroll along the banks of Lake Virginia in Winter Park with your furry friend. Cypress trees provide shade and the wind off the lake cools the air.

    - Julie Fletcher for VISIT FLORIDA

    Lake Baldwin Park is a 23-acre dog-friendly lakeside property offering a beach, pavilions, picnic areas and a boat ramp.

    Lake Baldwin Park is a 23-acre dog-friendly lakeside property offering a beach, pavilions, picnic areas and a boat ramp.

    - Julie Fletcher for VISIT FLORIDA

    Cool off at one of several spectacular off-leash dog parks nestled with or around Central Florida.

    Cool off at one of several spectacular off-leash dog parks nestled with or around Central Florida.

    - Julie Fletcher for VISIT FLORIDA

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