Do you ever hear the beach calling, only to have to hang up your towel when you see the look on Fido’s face at missing out again? It’s a sad fact of life that most beaches aren’t pet friendly, but we believe our four-legged friends have as much right to enjoy them as the rest of us. So, grab your flip flops, pack your canine sunscreen, and check out our list of the best dog beaches on the East Coast. (You can then compare them to our picks for the top dog beaches on the West Coast.) As an added bonus, all of the beaches on our list are free to explore with your pooch.
1. Dog BeachBonita Beach, FL
Where better to lay down our first beach towel than Dog Beach? Sun-seeking dogs make frequent pilgrimages to this spot, located on a barrier island adjacent to Fort Myers. Sometimes referred to as Bonita Beach Dog Park but more imaginatively known as Dog Beach, this stretch of sand is flat and gorgeous, providing visiting canines with lots of shallow waters to dive and doggy paddle in without the constraints of their leashes. Thanks to a generous donation, a dog wash station has been installed for Fido to clean up after a sandy day. One mile north of the beach is Lover’s Key State Park, where you can rent a pet-friendly kayak or paddleboard. It’s a serene and picturesque way to enjoy the pristine waters around the key with your dog.
Dog Beach is located at 8600 Estero Blvd, Bonita Beach. It's open from 7 a.m. to dusk, seven days a week.
2. Wildwood Dog Park and BeachWildwood, NJ
Wildwood Dog Park and Beach was built just for canines. You won’t find too many humans playing frisbee, listening to bad soft rock and taking up valuable fetch space here. Wildwood's siren call to pups is a giant red fire hydrant. The dog section of the beach is fenced in for pups to run free, although a leash is required when they’re outside the boundaries. There’s a sandy walkway that leads to the dog run area where you’ll find shaded spots, agility obstacles and open spaces for fetch. The separate areas for large and small dogs allows pets of all shapes and sizes to feel comfortable playing in the sand. After jumping through a huge tire or navigating a tunnel embedded in the sand, your pooch can cool down with a gulp of water from the water fountain.
Wildwood Dog Park and Beach is located at 3000 Boardwalk, Wildwood, NJ. The beach is open all day, every day.
3. Bald Head IslandBald Head Island, NC
For our next beach, Fido will need to pull on his captain’s hat for the voyage to Bald Head Island. Hop on the pet-friendly ferry in Southport and enjoy a tranquil 20-minute crossing that takes you to the island. The 14 miles of golden beach here are all pet friendly, although pups must be leashed. Most visitors don’t slum it on four legs; instead, they navigate the island in golf carts like this one from Cary Cart Company. You can also join a pet-friendly Island Nature Tour with Bald Head Island Conservancy. You and your pooch will tour pristine beaches, a maritime forest and salt marsh. As if you needed any more reason to visit Bald Head Island, there’s also a dog park here. Note that dogs are not permitted on some beaches and must be leashed on others during turtle nesting season, from May 1 to November 15.
Bald Head Island is accessible by boat or ferries which leave on the hour, every hour from Deep Point Marina at 1301 Ferry Rd SE, Southport, NC. The beaches are open from sunrise to sunset.
4. Fort De Soto BeachSaint Petersburg, FL
Located off the coast of St. Petersburg, Fort de Soto invites you and your furry friend on a historic beachfront adventure. Named after Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto, this park sprawls over 1,136 acres of five interconnected islands. You can still wander along the original road built in 1898 during the Spanish-American War; Fido would rather wander over to the 2.5-acre stretch of dog beach on the southern tip of Mullet Key, where he can play in the surf and sand without a leash. Just off the beach are two fenced-in areas, one for large dogs and one for small, where furry friends can run to their heart’s content before cleaning up at the wash station provided. You can also hike across miles of trails or rent a pet-friendly kayak from United Park Services. If you want to extend your stay, book a dog-friendly camping spot on the island.
Fort de Soto Beach is located at 3500 Pinellas Bayway in Saint Petersburg, FL. The beach can be accessed by road around the clock, but the boat ramp is only open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
5. Bay View BeachSaco, ME
One of the few pet-friendly beaches in Maine that allows dogs to hang out all day long, Bay View Beach in Saco is a real diamond in the sand. Known by many as a place that’s “friendly by nature”, the beaches alone are enough to keep two- and four-legged visitors coming to this charming corner of New England. The fine white sands and gently sloping shoreline make it the ideal place for a doggy dip. Pets must be on leash from July to August from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The rest of the year and at all other times, dogs can roam off leash as long as owners have their leash in hand. Waste bags are provided at a number of entrances to Bay View Beach.
Bayview Beach is located at 107 Bayview Road in Saco, ME. Dogs are welcome all day, every day.
6. Myrtle BeachMyrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach is the closest thing to a Floridian beach outside of the Sunshine State. This popular destination has earned itself a spot on our list, despite Fido having to be leashed while they’re on the sand. This is a picturesque sandy beach with views of the Atlantic on one side and the huge SkyWheel on the other. Unfortunately, access to the beach is restricted during peak season (see below). Fortunately, dogs are never restricted from using the nearby Barc Parc South and Barc Parc North. They can also join you on a private charter tour of the canals around the beach by Living it Large Party Barge. Keep the party going on dry land at the Sneaky Beagle, where pups can sit at the outdoor deck and order frozen dog treats, chicken and rice, and other goodies.
Myrtle Beach can be accessed from the boardwalk at 1110 North Ocean Blvd in Myrtle Beach, SC. From May 1 through Labor Day, dogs are allowed on the beach only before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. Dogs are allowed on the boardwalk only between 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. from May 1 through Labor Day. From the day after Labor Day to April 30 each year, dogs are allowed on the beach at any time of day.
7. Morris IslandCharleston, SC
We’re staying in South Carolina for our next dog-friendly beach pick, which is nothing like the bustle of Myrtle Beach. Morris Island is a secluded, unspoiled gem off the coast of Charleston that's only accessible by boat. While you won’t find a fenced-in section of the beach, your pooch is welcome to join you off-leash if she is under voice command. The beaches stretch for miles around the shoreline, and when the tide is out the sands reach Morris Island Lighthouse, which dates to 1876. You might even spot dolphins swimming in the waters around the historic site. If you don’t have a boat, call Adventure Harbor Tours. Their Morris Island Tour includes a history of Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War rang out, and a guided walk around the island. You and your pooch can hunt for shark teeth while learning more about the local ecosystem.
Morris Island is in Charleston Harbor, SC. Free access to the island is only available for visitors with their own boats.
8. Jupiter BeachJupiter, FL
The dog-friendly section of Jupiter Beach allows mutts to romp off leash over more than two miles of pristine golden sand. Although it’s a great dog beach all year, the best time to visit Jupiter Beach is during the annual Hang 20 Surf Dog Classic. Activities at past events have included a Bark and Brunch, dog bikini contest, vendor village full of cool souvenirs for Fido, a blessing of the animals, and photo ops with a surfin’ Santa. And then there's the main event: a surfing competition for dogs. All pups are invited to try and stay upright on a surfboard, but if your pet can’t carve the water, you’ll find many surfers willing to take him for a quick ride on the water. There's even a special heat for veterans and first responders and their canine partners.
Jupiter Beach is located at 48 Ocean Blvd, Jupiter, FL. Dogs and their owners can access the beach from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day of the week.
9. East Hampton Main Beach, NYEast Hampton, NY
The famed Hamptons are a popular seaside getaway for New York’s elite. Located just a few of hours away from the Big Apple on Long Island, their grand mansions feel like they're from another world. Whether you and your best friend are in the market for a luxury second home or just visiting, you'll want to check out the pet-friendly beaches in the Town of East Hampton. The rules vary from beach to beach, depending on when you visit. The high season runs from May 15 to September 15 and includes many rules that are lifted during the off season. Dogs can even run off leash once they're on the sand. Since he's here, Fido is going to want to stay somewhere in style. Check in at Baron’s Cove at Sag Harbor, which is just a stone’s throw from pet-friendly beaches, and ask about the “Travels with Charley Package.”
East Hampton Main Beach is located on 101 Ocean Blvd, East Hampton, NY. From May 15 to September 15, dogs are not allowed on town beaches from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or village beaches from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, they are permitted on the beach between those hours if they are within 500 feet of a paved road on town beaches and 300 feet on village beaches. From September 16 to May 14, dogs are allowed at all times.
10. Jekyll IslandJekyll Island, GA
The Golden Isles off the coast of Georgia round out our favorite east coast dog beaches, and what a place to drop anchor. Jekyll Island, one of coastal Georgia’s gems, is home to a couple of beaches for Fido to explore, and each offers something different and unique. True to its name, Driftwood Beach is covered in countless driftwood trees that twist and curl out of the sand in a variety of shapes, giving it an eerie and wild aesthetic. On the other hand, Great Dunes Beach Park is full of fun activities, like volleyball, bocce ball and surfing, which four-legged visitors can enjoy, too. You can get from beach to beach on the 25 miles of pet-friendly trails that weave around the island.
Jekyll Island Information Center is located at 901 Downing Musgrove Causeway, Jekyll Island, GA. The beaches are open all day, every day.