This year, as you plan for a safe and relaxing spring break, consider making it all about Fido. After all, he deserves a break, too! With its many dog beaches, pet-friendly tours and only-in-Florida attractions, there's no place quite like the Sunshine State for a pet-friendly spring break.
Posted by Lauren Barker
For family- and dog-friendly fun, look no further than St. Augustine. The oldest city in the U.S. offers an incredible variety of activities that welcome furry spring breakers. Begin your trip by taking a cruise with St. Augustine Eco Tours. As featured in the latest edition of our book, Ruff Guide to the United States, Fido can experience the popular Dolphin, Birding and Nature Tour, which takes you on a 90-minute journey around the rivers and creeks surrounding the historic city. Your boat captain will serve as your guide, educating you on marine ecology as you keep an eye out for turtles, bottlenose dolphins, and various bird species that call Florida home. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a manatee or two. Private beachcombing and photography tours can also be arranged. After returning to port, walk over to O.C. White’s Restaurant for delicious seafood and spirits on the dog-friendly garden patio.
Just because it’s spring break doesn’t mean you can’t brush up on history. While you’re in the Ancient City, schedule some time for you and your canine explorer to walk in the footsteps of Juan Ponce de León with an expedition to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park. Begin your visit by meandering through exhibits on the Native Americans and Spaniards who once inhabited this land. After learning about the historic settlements, take your pup on a stroll along the Founders Riverwalk, a 600-foot-long observation platform overlooking the Matanzas Bay. When it’s time to cool down, head inside to the park’s Discovery Globe, where you and your pooch can watch a show in the comfort of an air-conditioned theater. Before leaving, stop by the Spring House and let Fido have his drink from the Fountain of Youth.
Located in the heart of St. Augustine’s historic district, Bayfront Marin House is a great place to rest and relax on your visit to America’s oldest city. Each guest room has a private entrance, convenient for early morning and late-night walks with your pup. Humans will enjoy the daily hot breakfast and evening happy hours. Dogs of any size are welcome for an additional fee of $35 per pet, per night.
Take the opportunity to explore nature and give Fido a breath of fresh air this spring break. Bring him to Sanibel’s J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, part of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystem in the country. Follow the 4-mile Wildlife Drive in your car, get out and hike one of the six nature trails, or rent a pontoon boat, kayak, or canoe from Tarpon Bay Explorers and see the refuge from the water. Afterward, collect some spring break souvenirs by doing the famous ‘Sanibel Stoop’ at Gulfside City Park, which is covered with shells and sand dollars at low tide. Simply bend down to pluck the perfect shell from the sand and repeat. After you and Fido have worked up an appetite, head to the outdoor patio of The Island Cow for ‘udderly’ delicious seafood and frozen concoctions.
Just a short stroll from Gulfside City Park, you’ll find the Signal Inn, a collection of 19 fully furnished condos that cater to man’s best friend. Furry guests are welcomed with dog toys, and waste stations are located on the property. On-site amenities include a heated pool and spa, butterfly garden, charcoal grills, and a shell cleaning station. Two dogs of any size are permitted for an additional fee of $75 per three-night stay or $130 per week.
If relaxing on the beach is Fido’s idea of a spring break vacation, cruise down A1A and spend the week in Jensen Beach. Let your pup splash in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean at Walton Rocks Dog Beach, where he’s welcome off-leash on 24 acres of sand and surf. With public restrooms and rinse stations, it’s an ideal spot for families as well. If you’d prefer canines to be leashed, head further down the coast to Stuart Beach, where your pooch is allowed outside the lifeguard areas. When you’re ready for a break from the sand, travel across the inlet to Port St. Lucie and grab lunch at Hurricane Grill and Wings, or enjoy a picnic and stroll on over 15 miles of multi-use trails at Savannas Preserve State Park.
Since it’s Fido’s spring break too, treat him to the same level of luxury you receive at Hutchinson Shores Resort and Spa. The hotel’s Opal Paws program provides four-legged guests with a gift bag of waste bags and dental treats along with a pet mat and food and water bowls. You’ll also enjoy your own private patio or balcony with oceanfront, pool or sunset views. Dogs up to 30 lbs are permitted for an additional fee of $75 per pet, per night. If your pup is over 30 lbs, book a room at Pirate’s Cove Resort & Marina in Stuart. Two pets of any size are allowed for an additional fee of $20 per pet, per night.
Escape to picturesque Perdido Key on an eco-friendly adventure with Littleheads Kayak Rentals. Dogs are welcome to ride along as you explore uninhabited islands and pristine white-sand beaches on your own. If you’d rather have a guide, bring Fido on a two-hour eco-tour of the area. Fishing and snorkeling gear are also available. After enjoying the water, take a walk on the wild side at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, which is home to almost 100 species of rare flora and fauna. Leashed dogs are allowed on the park’s hiking trails and nature walks. The half-mile Tarkiln Bayou Trail is an easy stroll over an elevated boardwalk, while the more challenging 6.5-mile Perdido Bay Trail offers access to bayshore beaches. Keep an eye out for deer, bobcats, and gopher tortoises along the way.
Just across the border in Alabama, Staybridge Suites Gulf Shores offers a relaxing home away from home. The spacious accommodations feature living rooms and fully equipped kitchens. Rates include complimentary breakfast and frequent evening socials. Two dogs of any size are allowed for an additional fee of $75 for stays up to six nights. After checking in, head over to The Flying Harpoon, a po'boy pub on the bayou, for cajun eats and live music on the outdoor patio.
If Fido is all about “pawtying” on spring break, take him to St. Pete. Listed as one of the best dog beaches on the Gulf Coast, Fort DeSoto Dog Beach Park is where all the cool pups come to play off leash. There are also separate fenced sections for big and small dogs in the adjacent park, plus drinking fountains and doggy showers. Grab a weekly pass for The Dog Bar, where your pooch will make new friends while you sip on craft brews. Then relax in the evening by sightseeing through barrier islands on a pet-friendly “Howl at the Moon” Shell Key Shuttle Sunset Cruise. Of course, your pet-friendly spring break wouldn’t be complete without a day trip to Dunedin, one of the most pet-friendly beach towns in the U.S. Take a walk on the boardwalk of Hammock Park or stroll the white-sand beaches at Honeymoon Island State Park. Before you leave, stop by Skip’s Bar & Grill for a drink and snap your pup’s pic for his ‘gram in front of the “Dogedin” mural, featuring Dunedin’s finest on four legs.
Book a room at BayWaters Inn in St. Pete Beach, where pet bowls, waste bags and a basket of toys await Fido’s arrival. He can swim in Boca Ciega Bay from the property’s dock and clean up at the outdoor bathing stations with pet towels provided. Dogs are also welcome to play off leash in the hotel’s enclosed grassy area. Two dogs of any size are welcome for no additional fee.
Enjoy a picturesque drive and feel the coastal breeze on a trip to the Florida Keys. Your destination is Islamorada, which is far less crowded and more laid back than Key West during spring break. Make your first stop at Theater of the Sea, where your dog will quickly learn that he’s not the only one who can do tricks. This open-air marine park has been delighting audiences since 1946 with its array of marine life shows and exhibits. Visiting pups can watch dolphin and sea lion performances and get up close and personal with sea turtles, fish, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and birds. They can even join you for a swim at the park’s private lagoon-side beach. The only area that is off limits to dogs is the Parrot Theater. If Fido wants more time with Flipper, head south to the Dolphin Research Center in Grassy Key. This nonprofit facility welcomes furry friends to watch the resident dolphins and sea lions in action.
Treat your pup to a slice of paradise at the Islander Resort. Spread across 24 acres of lush tropical landscape, this waterfront property invites leashed pups to join you on its private beach. Canine guests also have access to an on-site dog park for off-leash fun. Up to two dogs of any size are allowed for an additional fee of $75 per stay. When it’s dinnertime, walk over to the resort’s restaurant, Tides Beachside Bar & Grill, where you can dine al fresco with your pooch.
The gulf coast of Florida is a spring break hot spot, and even Fido would agree that Destin is the place to be. Set sail with your furry friend on a pontoon with Crab Island Cruises. Spend the afternoon relaxing on Crab Island, a popular sandbar at the mouth of Choctawhatchee Bay, or cruise through Destin Harbor worry-free as your driver handles all the details. Towels, floats, water toys, a case of your favorite beverages and a photo book of your day on the water are all included. Back on land, take a stroll down Harborwalk Village and stop at dog-friendly waterfront shops like Kitty Hawk Kites. Before you leave, grab a tasty bite with waterfront views at Jackakuda’s Seafood and Sushi.
Stay in the heart of Destin at Inn on Destin Harbor and book a room with beautiful harbor views. Take Fido on an evening walk on the inn’s private beach, or relax with a glass of wine from your room’s private balcony. Treats and dog bowls are available for four-legged guests, and humanes will enjoy a complimentary breakfast. Two dogs of any size are permitted for an additional fee of $35 per pet, per night.
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