Dog-Friendly Parks in Florida
Why should humans have all the fun at Florida’s parks? It's a dog's favorite activity: running free with their fellow canines.
By Saundra Amrhein
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. And, bring some extra water to keep your hounds hydrated in Florida’s year-round heat, in case the park you visit has no water fountains or stations.
Here’s a list of some of Florida’s popular canine playgrounds:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, the six-mile trail covered by a canopy of majestic trees, is a magical, tucked-away place in the state’s capital, popular among the locals – shared by dog-walkers, mountain bikers, joggers and equestrians. Off of Fleischmann Road, additional entrances are at Thornton, Edenfield and Crump Roads.
Just south of Stuart on Florida’s Central East Coast, Jonathan Dickinson State Park offers paved and off-road scenic trails through Old Florida and acres of sand pine scrub, pine flatwoods, mangroves and river swamps. Other highlights include camping, fishing, kayaking and river tours. Admission is $6 per vehicle.
Alderman's Ford Nature Preserve is a hidden gem about 22 miles east of Tampa in West Central Florida on 970 acres of preserved land includes grass and dirt trails through rolling hills, lush oak forests and longleaf pines. The biggest surprise awaits as you and your dog approach the mesmerizing sound of rapids – the Alafia River flowing over limestone boulders through an eroded channel. There are plenty of sunflowers and wildlife to accompany your walk – including deer, rabbits, snakes, wild hogs and alligators. Bring protection from mosquitoes in the shaded area and from sun exposure in the open areas. Admission is free.
North Bay trail, the paved, scenic 6.5-mile trail along the waters of Tampa Bay in St. Petersburg is a popular one with local dog owners. As you stroll along with your dog, you’ll take in beautiful views of the bay, boats, downtown St. Petersburg’s waterfront parks, marinas, wildlife and gorgeous old homes in the Old Northeast section of the city. On walks you may spot herons, egrets and men out fishing in thigh-high water. Before heading home, enjoy a freshly baked pastry or chocolate coconut curry gelato at the dog-friendly Paciugo Gelato & Caffe on the outdoor patio across the street from stately banyan trees.
Riverwalk, the one-mile linear park in Fort Lauderale has been called “Florida’s Most Beautiful Mile,” and is dog friendly, welcoming leashed dogs for a gorgeous stroll along the city’s New River. The winding walkways with lush landscaping link restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. Bring along some extra water for your dog.
For more dog beaches and parks all around Florida, check out bringfido.com/attraction/state/florida/.