Things to Do with Your Dog on Florida's Emerald Coast
By Dalia Colón
With its sparkling green waters, sugary soft sand and world-renowned resorts, Destin is a vacation spot that belongs on your Florida bucket list.
And because everything’s more fun with your best friend, there’s no need to leave your pet behind when you visit.
Here are some Destin destinations that you and your dog can enjoy together.
With more than 6,000 feet of scenic shoreline, this stretch of Gulf of Mexico beach is your destination for R&R. While dogs are prohibited on the beach, they can enjoy the view from the nature trail, which offers the rare opportunity to experience coastal dune wildlife up close. In addition, although pets aren’t allowed in the beach’s cabins, they’re welcome on the tent camping sites. 17000 Emerald Coast Parkway, Destin, (850) 837-7550, floridastateparks.org.
If you’re looking for a place where your dog can let loose, make time to visit this dog park that’s popular with visitors and locals alike. The three-acre park is divided into off-leash play areas for small and large dogs, each offering lush Bermuda grass, shade trees and fresh water for dogs. Ample parking, seating and doggie bags keep owners happy, too. 4100 Indian Bayou Trail, (850) 837-4242, cityofdestin.com.
Experience for yourselves why this part of Florida is nicknamed the Emerald Coast when you and your pet embark on an adventure at sea. Rent a pontoon from this pet-friendly company, and you two can make waves together. 404 Harbor Blvd., Destin, (850) 218-5504, bluecrabwatersports.com.
From Destin, head across Choctawhatchee Bay to Niceville and this World War II training site-turned-pet-friendly state park. Nature trails lined with 300-year-old pine trees set the stage for a laid-back day of hiking, saltwater fishing or geocaching with your four-legged friend. There’s also a picnic pavilion, playground and boat ramp for a family-friendly outing. Be sure to add a stamp to your Special Edition Real Florida Passport, and stick around for a breathtaking sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. If you time your visit right, you can join the park’s festivities commemorating Pioneer Day in November and Estuary Day in May. 4281 East State Route 20, Niceville, (850) 833-9144, floridastateparks.org.
How does this this outdoor shopping mall love dogs? Let us count the ways. First, there are the half-dozen dog watering stations placed throughout the shopping center, so pets can recharge as you shop. Then there are the conveniently placed doggie pick-up bags to keep the space clean and enjoyable for everyone. In addition, nearly a dozen restaurants at Destin Commons feature dog-friendly patios. Finally, your dog can swing by Southern Living, Francesca’s, or Shark Shop to purchase the latest in re-tail pet products. 4100 Legendary Drive, Destin, (850) 337-8700, destincommons.com.
This hub for shopping, restaurants and nightlife is popular among families, with a playground, arcade, carousel and even a zipline. It’ll also be a hit with your fur babies, thanks to dog-friendly restaurant patios, outdoor concerts and pet waste stations. The shopping center is located on the property of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort and is open to the public. 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway, West Miramar Beach, (800) 622-1038, baytownewharf.com.
Browse the outdoor vendors, gaze at the boats in Destin Harbor and observe the weekly Fat Tuesday parades at this hub for shopping, pet-friendly restaurant patios and water sports. Bonus: After the nearly mile-long stroll along the boardwalk from Destin Yacht Club to Emerald Grande, your pet will be dog-tired. 10 Harbor Blvd., Destin, (850) 424-0600, emeraldgrande.com/harborwalk-village.
Pets are always welcome at this shop that sells specialty dog and cat food, toys, clothing and more. The store also includes a barkery, serving up dog treats, cookies and even made-to-order birthday cakes. All the baked goods are human-grade, with ingredients like peanut butter, yogurt and carob, so you and your pet can indulge together if you wish. 34904 Emerald Coast Parkway, Suite 126, Destin, (850) 837-9833, thedoggybag.com.
This weekly farmers’ market has not one but four locations in Northwest Florida, all of which are dog-friendly. You and your leashed pet can stroll past the stalls full of local produce, freshly baked breads, flowers and other goodies when and where it suits you. (850) 499-4697. For locations, see Facebook.com/30aFarmersMarket.
For more information, including details on pet-friendly accommodations, restaurants and events, check out emeraldcoastfl.com and use the search term “dogs.”