You Can’t Spell Florida Without “Fido:” A Dog-Friendly Guide to the Sunshine State

Posted by Scott Tunstall

Florida consistently ranks as one of the country’s most visited states every year. However, it’s especially popular during the winter months, due in large part to its warm climate, sandy beaches and fun-filled theme parks. Most importantly, it’s an ideal destination for visiting canines. Dog-friendly Florida features plenty of hotels, places and activities that welcome Fido. Here’s our guide to some of the best spots the Sunshine State has to offer.

Hotels that Spoil Pups

Working on a winter tan. Photo by @dobby_day

Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside - Located a short distance from the Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside showers pooches with an array of goodies in its Pluto’s Welcome Kit, which includes mats, bowls, ID tag, waste bags, door hanger and a special charm for Fido’s collar. There's a designated pet park and exercise area on the property, and a dog walking map is provided. Pups small enough to fit in carriers are also permitted to ride the Magical Express complimentary airport shuttle and the Minnie Van Service, used to transport guests to and from theme parks and attractions. Disney’s Port Orleans Resort Riverside welcomes two dogs of any size for an additional fee of $50 per night. Rates start at $177 per night.

The Standard Spa Miami Beach - When it comes to reasonably priced pet-friendly accommodations only steps from Miami Beach and South Beach, The Standard Spa Miami Beach fits the bill. This modern, stylish boutique hotel and spa provides Very Important Pets with a plush bed, tasty treats and designated grassy relief area. Leashed pups are also granted access to the dining deck, spa rooms and poolside to soak in stunning views of the Intercoastal Waterway. The Standard Miami Beach accepts two pets of any size for no additional fee. Nightly rates start at $159.

Residence Inn Sandestin at Grand Boulevard - Nestled between Miramar Beach and Santa Rosa Beach, the Residence Inn Sandestin at Grand Boulevard offers visitors and their pets all the necessary comfort and convenience needed for an extended stay in Destin. Pampered pooches will receive plenty of tasty treats, friendly pats and soothing belly rubs throughout their stay. The staff even hands out a guest Pet of the Month award with each winner gifted a $100 donation in their name to a local pet charity. Two pets of any size are allowed at Residence Inn Sandestin at Grand Boulevard for an additional fee of $100 per stay. Rates start at $84 per night.

Relaxing Rentals on the Water

Life’s a beach. Photo by flickr.com/anokarina

Blue Cove - Sitting on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico, this modern 3-bedroom, 2-bath beachfront cottage in beautiful Perdido Key accommodates up to eight guests. Cook your meals in the fully equipped kitchen with island bar, catch some rays on the spacious deck patio or launch a boat from the private dock. Perdido Key Dog Park is in close proximity as well as Gulf Shores Marina. Two dogs of any size are welcome at Blue Cove for an additional fee of $95 per pet, per stay. Rates start at $149 per night.

Beachfront Dunes - Stunning Gulf views and a private palm tree beach highlight this waterfront escape in Fort Myers Beach. Up to eight people can make themselves at home in 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom property. Enjoy first-rate amenities including a spacious kitchen, hardwood floors, free WiFi, flat-screen HDTV, sandy backyard with a barbecue, picnic tables and fire pit and private access to the beach. Dogs can frolic in the water at nearby Bonita Beach Dog Park. Pets of any size are welcome for no additional fee. Rates start at $459 per night, and a 7-night minimum stay is required.

Tiki Beach #11 - Nestled on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach, this cozy beachfront condo accommodates up to 4 people in 1 bedroom and 1 bath. Amenities include a kitchen equipped with modern appliances, tiled floors, free WiFi, washer/dryer and patio with table and chairs. The white sand beaches are steps away from the back patio, and 3 Dogs & a Chick in downtown Fort Walton Beach sell yummy homemade treats for Fido. Dogs up to 25 lbs are allowed at Tiki Beach #11 and nightly rates start at $70.

“Pawsome” Dog Parks

Fetching some waves. Photo by Facebook.com/jaxdogs

Halifax Humane Society Dog Park - Located only 5 miles from the heart of Daytona Beach, the Halifax Humane Society Dog Park offers furry friends of all sizes a spacious place to play and exercise. This fully fenced park with separate sections for small and large pups comes equipped with an agility course, shaded areas, walking trails and water fountains for both hounds and humans.

Dog Wood Park - One of the country’s most epic dog parks, Dog Wood Park in Jacksonville boasts 25 acres of land for Fido to romp across and explore. Pups can race through tunnels and over ramps at the on-site obstacle course before cooling off in the large swimming lake with private beach and rinse station. For an additional fee, you can also dip your dirty bud into a warm bath and shampoo his fur until it’s squeaky clean. An entrance fee of $11 for one dog and $1.25 for each additional dog is required.

Bayview Dog Park and Beach - This fenced park and sandy beach on Bayou Texar in Pensacola offers visiting canines 1 acre of space to romp in the sun and cool off in the water. There’s a shaded pavilion with picnic tables on site, as well as waste stations, doggy showers and walking trails.

The Chillest Dog-Friendly Beaches

“Toss me a cold one, bro.” Photo by @mylunaeclipse

Dog Beach of Hollywood - Fido can work on his tan, frolic in the sand and play fetch in the surf at this off-leash dog beach in Hollywood. It’s open from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from November through May. Day passes can be purchased for $10 from the on-site park ranger during operating hours.

Fort De Soto Dog Beach Park - Furry beach bums can throw a “pawty” at the Fort De Soto Dog Beach Park in Saint Petersburg. Pups are welcome to play off leash in the Paw Playground section of the beach. There are also separate fenced sections for big and small dogs in the adjacent park, plus drinking fountains and doggy showers.

Dog Beach at Pier Park - Leashed pooches are welcome to build sandcastles and prance in the surf at this dog-friendly beach in Panama City Beach. Locals are known to let their pups play off leash, but it’s highly recommended that visitors stick to the rules, especially when the beach is crowded.

Doggy Dining

“Eating al fresco FTW!” Photo by @cornell.the.poodle

The Island Cow - The “moo-tastic” menu at The Island Cow in Sanibel is only topped by the “udderly” awesome hospitality shown to four-legged diners. Mutts can drink from a bowl of cold water on the covered front patio while you feast on fresh seafood and succulent Southern BBQ.

Deck 84 - Settle in on the dog-friendly patio at Deck 84 overlooking the placid intercoastal in Delray Beach. Fido can feast on savory dishes from the special doggy menu like Beggin’ for Beef and Chasin’ the Chicken while you sample delicious entrees ranging from BBQ baby back ribs to seared jumbo sea scallops.

Blue Heaven - Pups are welcome to join you in the tropical-themed outdoor seating area at Blue Heaven in the historic Bahama Village district of Key West. The Caribbean-inspired menu features eclectic fare befitting the city’s free-spirited nature, such as carrot and curry soup, blackened Key West shrimp and for dessert, passion fruit cashew cheesecake.

Pet-Friendly Sights to See

Welcome to Jurassic Bark. Photo by Rachel

Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park - To ensure Fido maintains his youthful exuberance, he can drink from the Fountain of Pooch inside the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in Saint Augustine. Leashed dogs are allowed everywhere in the park, including the planetarium, observation deck and Timucua Indian Village. There are occasional cannon fire demonstrations, so be prepared for loud noises. Tickets are $17 per person.

Key Largo Princess Glass Bottom Boat - Four-legged Gilligans are permitted on board this 75-foot boat for a two-hour tour around John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. You and your furry Jacques Cousteau can marvel at the wonders hidden beneath the turquoise waters of the Florida Keys from the comfort of the vessel’s air-conditioned cabin. Tickets are $32 per adult and $18.50 for children ages 2 to 11.

Dinosaur World - Located between Tampa and Orlando in Plant City, this dog-friendly outdoor museum features 150 life-sized dinosaurs in a tropical jungle setting. Leashed pups are permitted on the park’s pathways and can even pose for pics with the dinos. Water stations are provided to make sure Fido stays hydrated. Tickets are $16.95 per adult and $11.95 for children ages 3 to 12.

Excellent Winter Events

Give it up for the champ! Photo by Facebook.com/ColumbiaCountyDoxieDerby

Florida Food & Brews Festival - Sample tasty eats, cold brews and plenty of pet-friendly fun at the Florida Food & Brews Festival in Pinellas Park on February 1 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pick a winner at the exciting wiener dog races or have your four-legged foodie judge the Best Pet Treat competition. Taste an array of dishes and craft beer for $3 per sample. Admission starts at $5 per person and proceeds benefit local charities.

WuffStock Festival “A Celebration of Dogs” - Pups of all breeds and sizes are welcome to attend the WuffStock Festival “A Celebration of Dogs” in Lake City on February 22 from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fido can participate in a bevy of “puptacular” activities, including races, costume contests, Oldest Dog in the Crowd, Best Trick Competition and the K9 Team Challenge obstacle course featuring tunnels, weave poles and jumps. Pet vendors and adoptable pets from local animal rescues will also be on hand. Admission is free, although some contests may require a registration fee.

Pirates and Pups - Your canine swashbuckler will find a bounty of fun at Pirates and Pups in Tampa from February 29 to March 1. As part of the 2020 Bay Area Renaissance Festival, this weekend of pup-themed activities will be chock-full of frivolity. Marvel at high-diving dock dogs, grab a front-row seat for intense wiener dog races, and break out the eye patches and peg legs to slay the competition at the pirate costume contest. Local rescues will also be in attendance with adorable adoptable pets. Admission prices start at $21.95 per adult.

What’s your favorite pet-friendly spot in Florida? Leave a comment or tweet us @BringFido!

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