By Kevin McGeever
In Florida, every dog can have its day. Or days . . .
Beaches and dog parks to run free.
Restaurants with individual bowls for canines and their human company.
Shopping, scenic cruises and pet-friendly historic tours. (Dogs were early settlers, too. Or was it setters?)
And then there’s something called a Yappy Hour followed, presumably, by howling at the moon.
Here are a few city-by-city itineraries – from the obvious to the unusual – of things to do with a dog:
Leashed pets are always welcome at the Fountain of Youth attraction, the birthplace of St. Augustine and colonial European America. There’s a planetarium, a native Timucuan village, and a Spanish musket drill and cannon firing (get ready to bark). The reward is a drink from the Fountain of Pooch.
On the second Saturday of the month, dogs are welcome on tours of the historic district.
Wanna go for a ride? How about a 1-hour, 15-minute cruise along the St. Augustine waterfront and Matanzas Bay?
The beaches here are wide and welcoming to dogs on a leash. Or how about the Amelia Island Dog Park, named one of the top 12 of its kind in the United States? On summer days, dogs can be cool in a pool. Plus, there’s a splash zone and large grassy field for playing catch.
After a workout, dogs are welcome at many eateries. At Jack and Diane’s, dogs get a healthy snack while their parents eat. Café Karibo, one of many friendly places downtown, has a gorgeous courtyard for a dog nap.
Here’s fun for a good cause: dogs who need good homes. The Brevard Yappy Hour promotes Brevard rescue groups with a monthly get-together and fund-raiser for dogs and their human companions. The restaurant location rotates each month.
Okay, this is a little exclusive, but nearly 350 Corgis gather annually every November in Palm Bay for a Florida Corgi Picnic.
How about a great place to walk and two places to eat?
Lighthouse Point Park, at the southern tip of Ponce Inlet, is a piece of undisturbed natural beauty. Blue Grotto has waterfront dining on the Intracoastal. Dine on the outdoor deck with your dog. Rhokkoh’s Frozen Yogurt & Gourmet Hot Dog Hut caters to canines with water dishes, treats and doggie magazines.
Friends of Jupiter Beach, a volunteer, not-for-profit group, keeps a special section of Jupiter Beach clean and dog-friendly in northern Palm Beach County. See the photo with this story.
Plus, there are sweet dog parks – Dreher in West Palm Beach and Lake Ida in Delray Beach.
Were I a dog, here’s how I’d do Fort Lauderdale: Get pampered and groomed, then go get filthy.
At Java Cat & Dog Spa (shouldn’t Dog come first in that name?), I can get a bath, a blow-dry, a little trim and then play. I’m a big dog, but my little buddies have a place of their own at TeaCups Puppies & Boutique.
Now that I’m looking fine, head to Hollywood Beach for the exclusive weekend hours.
Now’s here’s a personal playground. Take the public Keewaydin Express shuttle boat from Marco Island to Keewaydin and spend the better part of a day sniffing out this 8-mile deserted barrier island.
Back on the mainland in Naples, shop for treats and toys at Planet Tails at the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt. There are regular “yappy hours” and Paw-casso paint parties. Or stroll the courtyards at Mercato for pet-friendly dining and shopping at 30 stores and restaurants. Check the calendar for events such as the annual Woofstock benefit.
BEACHES OF FORT MYERS & SANIBEL
At Coconut Point Mall in Estero, leashed dogs are allowed in the common areas, plus there are watering fountains and clean-up stations.
Then, after a full day of shopping for the perfect collar, the Mucky Duck restaurant in Captiva welcomes humans and pets to its Gulf of Mexico views.
Speaking of classy shopping, the 150 shops and restaurants at St. Armand’s Circle typically provide fresh-water bowls for dogs.
Paw Park and South Brohard Beach has a fenced dog play yard as well as an open beach.
Back in Sarasota, a shaded stroll along the Sarasota Bayfront can end at OLeary’s Tiki Bar & Grill.
The Pinellas County coastline is one long beach.
At the southern end, there is Fort DeSoto, renowned for its dog park and dog-friendly beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Dogs are allowed anywhere in the park on a six-foot leash, just not on the main beaches. That’s because they have their own beach – in a fenced-in Paw Playground that’s divided into separate sections for small and large dogs. There also are amenities such as cooling stations with showers and dog-level water fountains.
In north Pinellas, there is Honeymoon Island State Park. Leashed dogs are welcome to walk the beach and nature trail and wade in the shallow waters.
Under the Palms Park includes a walking path and restroom facilities for both owner and pet.
PANAMA CITY BEACH
Lots of places to socialize here: Doggie Beach, Conservation Park, plus an off-leash play area near the aquatic center.
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