The soft sands, crystal-clear waters, gentle tides and epic sunsets of Gulf Coast beaches have long lured both human and canine visitors. If you and Fido can hear the surf calling your names, throw an extra towel in the bag, read up on our dog-friendly tips for the beach, and fill your cooler with pupsicles (and maybe some human treats, too). Then seek out one or more of these 10 dog beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. You might even like them more than our favorite dog beaches on the East Coast and West Coast!
1. Brohard Paw Park Venice, FL
If your ideal beach trip includes frisbee catching, seagull chasing and water romping, this is the spot for you. Although Sarasota County boasts a whopping 69 pet-friendly parks, Brohard Paw Park is its only beach that permits dogs. Not only can your pup join you at this Gulf Coast gem, he can splash, dig and retrieve off leash along the entire half-mile stretch of sand. Parking is adjacent to the fenced-in portion of the dog park, which includes picnic tables and benches, waste stations, and drinking fountains for both humans and their furry friends. The waterfront is a short stroll down a boardwalk from there, with Venice Fishing Pier and South Brohard Park marking its borders. After all that fun, you and Fido can both rinse the sand and salt off at the outdoor showers on your way out.
Brohard Paw Park is located at 1600 S. Harbor Drive in Venice, FL. It's open daily from 7 a.m. to dusk. Access to the dog beach and park is free.
2. Padre Island National Seashore Corpus Christi, TX
Dogs, horses, llamas, mules… all are welcome on the Gulf Coast beaches at Padre Island National Seashore. As the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, the park includes more than 60 miles of coastline along both the Gulf of Mexico and Laguna Madre. This protected island allows you to experience the Gulf Coast in its most unspoiled state. Nature-lovers can watch newly hatched sea turtles make their way across the sand or observe hundreds of bird species. Outdoor enthusiasts can kayak with their dogs on the lagoon and camp under the stars. Or, you and Fido can simply enjoy the surf and sand. No matter how you spend your time, a trip to the National Seashore will be unforgettable.
Dogs can explore most of the park, including all areas where you can drive onto the beach, but must be leashed at all times to protect the wildlife and its natural habitat. Sections where dogs are prohibited are designated with signs. Pups and their people have access to restrooms and rinse-off showers near the pet access trail at the northern end of the Malaquite Pavilion parking area. While you’re in the area, also check out the dog-friendly beach at Mustang Island State Park just north of Padre Island.
Padre Island National Seashore is on Padre Island in Corpus Christi, TX. The beach is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. There is an entrance fee of $10 per vehicle per day, or $20 per vehicle for a seven-day pass. Annual passes are also available.
3. Fort De Soto Beach Saint Petersburg, FL
Located off the coast of St. Petersburg, Fort de Soto Park 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.
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.
4. Dauphin Island Beach Dauphin Island, AL
Known as the sunset capital of Alabama, this pristine island welcomes two- and four-legged beachgoers who simply want to bask in the beauty of the Gulf Coast. At Dauphin Island Beach, you and your pooch can explore several miles of natural coastline and enjoy swimming in the gentle waves. Leashed dogs are welcome to play alongside you while you’re on the public beach, fishing off the pier or hiking the island. Need a break from the sand? Grab lunch or dinner at nearby Miguel’s Beach’n Baja for some “West Coast flavor with a Gulf Coast soul,” or walk the shaded trails in the maritime forest at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary on the island. If you want to extend your stay, book a spot at the on-site dog-friendly campground.
Dauphin Island Beach is located just off the coast of Alabama, about a 45-minute drive south of Mobile. The beach is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. During the spring and summer, the Dauphin Island Park & Beach Board collects an entrance fee of $6 per car (or $2 per person for walk-ins).
5a. and 5b. Pensacola Dog Beaches Pensacola Beach, FL
Yes, that’s right: dog beaches, plural! Canine beach bums will love relaxing on one or both of Pensacola’s dog beaches, where pups are permitted to sunbathe and splash alongside their humans and other furry pals. Pensacola is a popular destination town on the Florida panhandle featuring numerous restaurants, shops, events and activities for tourists of any age and species. But what really draws in the more than two million visitors annually are the soft, sugar-white beaches. Both Pensacola Beach East Dog Park and Pensacola Beach West Dog Park require dogs to be leashed at all times with rabies tags attached, and officers do patrol the beach to make sure everyone is obeying the rules and playing safely. Waste bags, trash bins and wipes for cleaning hands and paws are available at the parking lots of both beaches.
Pensacola Beach East Dog Park is located along Via de Luna Drive at Parking Lot 28.5, the first lot past Portofino. Pensacola Beach West Dog Park is at Parking Lot 21.5, the first lot past the last set of condos on the Gulf. The parks are open from 7 a.m. until sunset from May 1 to Oct. 31, and from sunrise to sunset the remaining six months of the year. Both are free to visit.
6. Ocean Springs Beach Ocean Springs, MS
Lay down a towel and slather on the SPF, because once Fido gets to Ocean Springs Beach he’s never going to want to leave. This quiet, serene Gulf island retreat is a favorite for sun-seeking dogs and their humans. It’s a private beach that’s open to the public and leashed dogs and always receives rave reviews for being a clean, peaceful place to play with your puppy. Unlike other beaches in the area, there are outdoor showers where you can rinse the sand off yourself and your best friend after a day of play. You may need to lure him away from the fun with a promise of a fresh bowl of water and a relaxing nap on the patio at nearby Shaggy’s Biloxi Beach restaurant.
Ocean Springs Beach is located at 265 Front Beach Drive in Ocean Springs, MS. The beach is open 24/7, but there is no parking allowed between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Parking and entrance to the beach are free.
7. Rutherford Beach Creole, LA
Rutherford Beach was hit hard by Hurricane Rita in 2005. Only a few of the homes that once lined these shores now remain, leaving the shell-laden beachfront largely uninhabited. Driving here will take you across bayous and through wetland conservation areas and wildlife refuges unlike anywhere else in the world. Dogs are welcome to explore the area and dip their paws in the water, no leashes required. If you feel one day is just not enough time spent on the beach, you can park, camp or boondock right on the sand here for no charge.
Rutherford Beach is located at Parish Road 395 in central Cameron Parish, south of Creole and Oak Grove, LA. There are no nearby amenities, but parking on the beach is permitted. The area is maintained by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
8. Honeymoon Island State Park Dog Beach Dunedin, FL
If Honeymoon Island sounds like a romantic beach destination to you, that’s because it is! And who deserves to be shown a little extra love and tenderness more than your dog? Pooches at the southern tip of Honeymoon Island State Park Dog Beach can swim, wade, walk and sunbathe on the shores of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico or stroll along the nature trail at this island paradise. Dogs must be on a leash no longer than six feet at all times. Once you've built up an appetite, take Fido to local watering hole Rosie’s Tavern, where he’ll receive a warm welcome and likely even a treat.
Honeymoon Island State Park Dog Beach is located at 1 Causeway Blvd. in Dunedin, FL, near Clearwater. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. until sundown. There is a park entrance fee of $8 per vehicle.
9. Stewart Beach Park Galveston, TX
The family-friendly Stewart Beach Park has plenty of amenities to make your trip as fun, easy and accessible as possible. Plan to spend the whole day here. Facilities include restrooms, showers and a shaded pavilion. You can also rent umbrellas, chairs and beach wheelchairs if needed. There are even concessions at the park, or you can pack a cooler and fire up the on-site BBQ pits. Dogs are welcome to join in on all of the fun but must be leashed at all times.
Stewart Beach is located at 201 Seawall Blvd. in Galveston, TX where Broadway Avenue meets the Seawall. The park is open weekdays from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Admission is $12 per vehicle Monday to Thursday and $15 per vehicle Friday to Sunday.
10. Punta Antón Lizardo Veracruz, MX
For the last spot on our list of top 10 beaches on the Gulf Coast, vámonos a México! Known as the playa para perros or "dog beach," Punta Antón Lizardo is a favorite for four-legged locals and vacationers. The beach stretches for more than 10 miles and is a veritable paradise for pooches who want to run freely on the sand and splash in the warm waters of the gulf. Off the coast is a stretch of the Veracruz Coral Reef System, making this spot a must-visit destination for snorkel enthusiasts. Stay in a cabana at the adjacent pet-friendly CocoAventura for convenient access to the beach.
Punta Antón Lizardo is about 19 miles from Veracruz International Airport. Parking and beach access are free year round. Click here for more information on traveling to Mexico with your dog.