Big Boy, Big Fun on Dog-Friendly Beach at Florida's Fort De Soto

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:

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.

 Central Florida welcomes dogs to come stay, sit, play and explore. Lake Baldwin Park offers a 23-acre dog-friendly lakeside park offering a beach, pavilions, picnic areas & a boat ramp.
- Julie Fletcher for VISIT FLORIDA


Fort De Soto ParkPaw Playground, 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.

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.

Miccosukee Canopy Road Greenway, Tallahassee

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.

Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Hobe Sound

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, Tampa

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.

Barkham at Markham Park, Broward County

Located in far western Sunrise at the edge of the Everglades, this 3.5-acre county dog park offers areas for large and small dogs (under 25 pounds) to run leash free and frolic on various structures. Three pavilions with benches provide shade for owners. Admission is by daily pass ($5/dog) or annual membership ($25/household). Open year round. Park has weekend gate fee ($1.50/person).

Woofing Waters at Quiet Waters Park, Broward County

This roughly two-acre, county-owned dog park in Deerfield Beach emphasizes water features like shower nozzles and line jets in areas for large and small dogs. Each section has a dog-wash area and doggie fountains. Owners can enjoy picnic tables, a lakefront beach, and 20-foot umbrellas. Admission is by daily pass ($5/dog) or annual membership ($25/household). Open seasonally. Park has weekend gate fee ($1.50/person).

North Bay Trail, St. Petersburg

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, Fort Lauderdale

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