Fort DeSoto on the central Gulf coast

By Saundra Amrhein

When reclining on Florida’s sandy beaches, there’s no need to feel that tug of guilt about your best friend back home, left in a kennel or the care of strangers.

Your dog could be right here with you, frolicking in the blue-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic, or fetching a ball or Frisbee on one of Florida’s dog-friendly beaches.

Read to to discover some of the best dog-friendly beaches in Florida.

Remember to alway have plenty of water on hand for your pets to avoid dehydration, which can sneak up on humans and dogs alike in Florida’s heat all year round. Seek out frequent breaks for your dogs in the shade while visiting dog-friendly beaches in Florida, and consult with your pet’s veterinarian before leaving about special sunscreen for dogs and heartworm medication as a buffer against Florida’s pesky mosquitoes.

Fort De Soto Park, Dog Beach and Paw Playground

A gorgeous and serene place for humans and dogs alike, this location on Florida’s west Central Coast in Pinellas County was voted America’s Top Beach in 2009 by Trip Advisor and also one of the top five dog parks/beaches in the South by Southern Living magazine in 2010. Owners can enjoy picnics and bring their dogs to swim and play off-leash in the smooth surf. Next to 300 yards of beach area are 3 acres of fenced-in grassy park space separated for both large and small dogs to run free. Afterward, there are water fountains to help quench your dog’s thirst, and hoses to help cool and rinse them off. The beach is free and parking is $5.

Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches

Tucked between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine, this destination is known for pristine beaches, fabulous weather and tasty seafood. But it’s also known for being one of the most pet-friendly beach destinations in the state and even the country. When you're ready to take Fido for some salt water fun in Flagler Beach, you can choose the pet-friendly areas either north of N 10th St. or south of S 10th St. for easy beach access. If you're headed north towards Beverly Beach, The Hammock and Marineland, all of the public beach access areas are pooch friendly. Just make sure to bring a leash and leave nothing behind but paw prints. Here’s more information about Flager Beach's Pet-Friendly Beach Zones. The area also promises Pet-Friendly Accommodations and more Pet Friendly Things to Do.

Davis Islands Dog Beach, Tampa

Just south of downtown Tampa, at the southernmost point of Davis Islands, this 1.5-acre dog beach is one of two fenced-in play areas for dogs to romp about unleashed. The dog beach has more than 200 feet of waterfront access. Next to it is a 1-acre fenced-in dry dog park. Water stations are available to rinse off and to help keep your pooch hydrated, and bag dispensers are there to help you pick up after your dogs.

Sanibel Island & Captiva

This piece of paradise with 15 miles of beaches on Florida’s Southwest Coast about 20 miles from Fort Myers has many of Florida's dog-friendly beaches. Gulfside Beach (known as Algiers Beach) is one of them. Dogs are allowed if on a leash, and owners must clean up after them. The beach includes picnic tables and access to a nature trail. Parking is $3 per hour.

Bonita Beach Dog Beach

This Dog Beach near the Fort Myers/Bonita Springs line is an off-leash beach just outside Lovers Key State Park on the west side of the foot of New Pass Bridge. Here dogs of all sizes romp free in the calm, low-lying waters of the Gulf of Mexico. A portable toilet is on site along with doggie shower stations. Parking is free.

Key West Dog Beach

Your dog will have a blast playing with other dogs in the soft sands of this small beach at the nation’s southernmost point. After visiting, you could grab a beer or other beverage next door on the patio at Louie’s Backyard, a popular pet-friendly, ocean-front Victorian home-turned-restaurant.

Rickenbacker Causeway Beach, Miami

Just off the causeway on the way to Key Biscayne is Miami’s popular dog-friendly beach at Hobie Beach.  Located between downtown Miami, Key Biscayne and Brickell, it offers beautiful skyline views while dogs play in the shallow waters. Parking is free.

Miami Beach’s Bark Beach

The only dog beach in the City of Miami Beach, this dog beach sits adjacent to North Shore Open Space Park, which is also pet-friendly and a great place for a stroll after a swim in the ocean. There are also plenty of outdoor pet-friendly restaurants nearby. At the beach, dogs must be on a leash except in the designated area. Proof of your dog’s vaccinations is required. Daily permit fees per dogs: $5 for city residents; $25 for non-residents.  

Jupiter Beach (off-leash dog beach)

Dogs are welcome on a 2.5 mile stretch of beach on this coastline at A1A and Marcinski Road in northern Palm Beach County. The cost is free and so is parking along the beach. Free dog bags are provided by Friends of Jupiter Beach.

Panama City Beach dog playground

This Northwest Florida beach offers more than 400 feet of beachfront space on powder-white sands in turquoise waters for leashed dogs to enjoy, located at the southern beach end of Pier Park, west of City Pier. A hose on the boardwalk is available to help rinse off dogs following playtime. Afterward, stroll through and stop at any number of outdoor pet-friendly restaurants throughout Pier Park. It's one of the best dog-friendly beaches in Florida.

Gulf County

This one's easy: All beaches, except those of St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, are dog-friendy. You, and the mutt, can enjoy emerald waters and sugar-sand shorelines

St. George Island

The 22 miles of St. George Island's beaches are serene and pet-friendly, consistently ranking as some of the best beaches in the United States, with miles of uncrowded expanses for sunning and shelling, clear Gulf waters for swimming and fishing, and beautiful marshes for wildlife viewing.

Pensacola Beach West Dog Park and Pensacola East Dog Park

Pensacola Beach delivers tail-wagging fun with not one, but two, designated dog parks along the sugar-white sands of the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll find the West Park at parking lot 21.5, sited on the west side of the island on Fort Pickens Road, in the first parking lot past the last set of condos on the Gulf. The East Park is at parking lot 28.5, located on the east side of the island on Via de Luna, in the first parking lot past Portofino Towers. Amenities at both locations include doggie bags, disposable bins and handy wipes. The Dog Beaches are open from sunrise to sunset, with the exception of during turtle season, May 1 – Oct. 31, when they’re open from 7 a.m. to sunset.

For more dog beaches and parks all around Florida, check out

Kayaking tour of St. Petersburg


Places to Stay

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