Whether your rescue dog is pony-sized or a purse pup, all of them likely enjoy a day at the beach. Fresh air, sunshine, and perhaps a refreshing dip are all the perks of taking your pup to a beach. While some states and municipalities ban dogs on beaches altogether (BOO!), we‘ve rounded up the best of the best dog-friendly beaches in America for fun in the sun with your four-legged companion — and some are even all-together off-leash.
Always remember to bring beach essentials for you and your pet — sunscreen, shade, water, a bowl, waste bags, and treats.
Arroyo Burro Beach, known to locals as Hendry’s Beach, has something for everyone, from birdwatching and barbecuing to surfing and whale watching. Leashed dogs are welcome at the park, but you and your pal can enjoy off-leash time in the adjacent Douglas Family Preserve or on the beach east of the creek. If Fido gets salty in the surf, fear not. You’ll find self-serve dog wash stations for easy cleanup.
One of the first official off-leash beaches in the nation, Dog Beach in sunny San Diego, which arguably has some of the consistently best weather in the U.S., is 100% dog-friendly. Created as a place for people and pets from all walks of life to meet and mix, Dog Beach is chock full of surfers, beach bums, and pups sharing the sand and surf at all hours of the day and night. There’s a picnic area perfect for drying off and snacking with your four-legged friend and a beach cam can show you the conditions in case you’re thinking of bringing your surfboard. As with other beaches, dogs should be fully vaccinated and have a license, collar, and tags.
Part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is the only one in the National Parks System to designate off-leash areas for Fido, Fort Funston is not only renowned for being dog-friendly, it is also a popular destination for hang-gliding aficionados. 200-foot high sandy bluffs tower over the ample beachfront, hiking and horseback riding trails. Dogs must be under sight and voice control at all times, naturally. Winds can be high so dress accordingly, and be mindful of the surf, which can be powerful. It was once a working military fort, which will delight human history buffs.
Marlon at Rosie’s Dog Beach (Photo courtesy of Lucia Masuko)
Despite its name, Rosie’s Dog Beach in California’s Long Beach is not just for dogs. The special dog zone is open from 6 AM to 8 PM and provides off-leash walking, running, and swimming for your furball. Note that all dogs must be under visual and voice command at all times so be sure you’ve trained your pup well enough to follow your lead. All canine visitors must be over four months of age, have all vaccinations, be registered, and wear a collar and tags at all times. Waste bags are available, but you’re encouraged to bring your own. Be sure to have a leash on hand as well to navigate the leashed-only areas. Note there’s also a one-dog to one-adult limit.
Situated on Florida’s Gulf Coast just south of St. Petersburg, Fort De Soto Park is another great pick for pet owners with an interest in history. Home to the Tocobaga Indians who lived here from 1,000 A.D. to approximately 1,500 A.D., it opened in 1900 as a sub-post for Fort Dad. The area is now a recreation (and dog) lovers’ paradise. Fort De Soto boasts the only dog park where dogs are allowed unleashed on the beach in a designated area. Two large fenced-in areas near the beach offer grassy options for fun for large and small dogs. Handlers must be 16 years or older and are limited to three dogs. Note: You must wear shoes in the dog park area so be sure your kicks are beach-friendly.
Jaxson at Bonita Dog Beach (Photo courtesy of Dawn Boone)
Roam and romp with your off-leash rescue dog at Dog Beach in Bonita Springs, a Gulf Coast city in southwest Florida. Visitors are asked to be good stewards of the beach, picking up after their pets and observing other rules, such as refraining from bringing in glass containers or alcohol. There are no restrooms for humans, but there are portable toilets. It is an unsupervised facility so exercise caution when swimming. Be sure to check the tidal charts as the area is on tidal flats and is impacted by the ebb and flow of the Gulf waters. Doggie shower stations are a great way to keep your vehicle clean after a dip. If you bring your rod and reel, don’t forget to get a saltwater fishing license.
Chewy at Flagler Beach (Photo courtesy of @LifewithCamille)
Nestled on the Atlantic coast of Florida, between Daytona Beach and St. Augustine, Flagler Beach was picked as a top pet-friendly vacation spot by USA Today. A sleepy slip of a town, Flagler Beach has dog-friendly accommodations for travelers and off-leash beach options for your pet. The pet-friendly areas are either north of N 10th St. or south of S 10th St., and at either location, your dog can take a long swim and frolic on the sand. Bring a leash to guide them in and out of the off-leash areas. Local officials advise “that you leave nothing behind but paw prints.”
Lyla at Jupiter Dog Beach (Photo courtesy of Monique Hermans Gurock)
You and your rescue dog can enjoy 2.5 miles of leash-free fun on Jupiter’s Dog-Friendly Beach. Established in 1989, the off-leash area stretches from beach marker #25 at Marcinski Road going north to beach marker #59 on the south end of Carlin Park. The area is open to beachgoers without pets, so be sure to be mindful of your dog’s behavior when fellow humans are nearby. Due to the strong sun, locals recommend bringing shade, water, and sunscreen (for shorthaired breeds). Check daily water conditions as dogs can be targets for sea lice and jellyfish. And keep your eyes on the water — you may spot a manatee.
At Port Fourchon (Courtesy of Petra Gaubert)
This off-the-beaten-path spot (with fewer Google mentions than someone in a witness protection program), known as one of only two surfing destinations in Louisiana, bounced back big time after Hurricane Katrina and is a popular spot with dog-owners. There is no official website for the beach, so the rules aren’t crystal clear as to whether dogs must be leashed (although we have spotted plenty of pics of off-leash pups). Either way, bring your leash and the usual supplies you’d need for an outing and let your dog splash in the waves of this white-sand beach on the southern tip of Lafourche Parish on the Gulf Coast. It is open from sunrise to sunset, but you’ll want to be prepared to swat off mosquitoes and horse flies toward the end of the day.
Sir Cooper Watson at Rexhame Beach (Photo courtesy of Brooke Blackstock)
This barrier beach welcomes leashed dogs year-round. Located north of Cape Cod, Rexhame Beach is kept pristine thanks to rules around glass containers, smoking, and alcohol consumption (all prohibited, obvs). Home to wildlife, such as red and grey foxes, the beach is flanked by the South River and the Atlantic Ocean. Canoers, kayakers, and paddleboarders can be found at the South River at the Rexhame Dunes, and anglers fish for striped bass. There are trails you can explore with your rescue dog as well. Non-resident day passes are available for $15 on weekdays and $20 for weekends and holidays. After 5 PM, a pass costs $5 any day of the week.
The good news? Dogs can be off-leash (under verbal and sight control, of course)! The annoying news? Dogs are welcomed only from October 15-April 14th. It’s free to get in and there is non-resident parking available so you can enjoy the picturesque half-mile wide beach during this time, but note that the bathhouse facilities are closed, so this pick is probably best for a shorter visit. Guests are limited to two dogs per adult. Bundle up and enjoy the sounds of the singing sand (no, really!).
Pepper at Longport Dog Beach (Photo courtesy of Ky Elizabeth)
Unleashed dogs can swim to their furry hearts’ desires at Longport Dog Beach in Egg Harbor Township on the famous (or infamous if you’re a fan of a certain MTV show) Jersey Shore. Dogs have the lay of the land here and can be off-leash at all times. Designed with your dog’s comfort (and not necessarily yours) in mind, note that there are no waste receptacles or water, so come prepared with your pet’s necessities (and your own) and bring extra garbage bags. Parking can be limited so arrive early, or be patient. And because the beach is 100% off-leash, be prepared to have other dogs visiting your blanket — and sniffing out your cooler.
Townes at Prospect Park Dog Beach (Photo courtesy of Dylan Goldberger)
You may not know it, but New York City is home to some pretty awesome beaches. Sadly, dogs probably don’t know about them as they’re not allowed on most. So, we’re stretching a bit here, but Brooklynites should check out Prospect Park Dog Beach. More of a lake than an actual beach, you can bring your rescue dog here to swim off-leash with her fellow hipster pups. It is located at the Upper Pool, where the Long Meadow meets the Ravine, and its hours are the same as those for other off-leash areas — 5 AM-9 PM and 9 PM-1 AM.
Zooey at Southwick Beach (Photo courtesy of Janice Todd)
Looking to steal away with your rescue dog for more than a few hours? Pack up your camping gear or motorhome and head to Southwick Beach State Park. Dogs must be on a leash up to six feet long at all times, but you can still take them on the unguarded areas of the beaches and then unwind with them at your campsite. You’ll find hiking trails to explore, and in the winter you can even go snowshoeing. The limit is two dogs per campsite, and it’s recommended you bring proof that your dog is up to date on vaccinations. You can also visit Southwick Beach for the day.
Gunner at Duck Beach (Photo courtesy of Cynthia Groff)
Located in the Outer Banks, Duck Beach is an all off-leash-all-the-time beach. This quaint town has bucked the overdevelopment trend and retains its charm and intimacy. As well as being a haven for dogs, the beach itself is known as a treasure trove for seashell collectors. So what’s the rub, you wonder? Only residents and Duck renters and their guests can access this sandy haven. Before visiting or booking a rental property, inquire about beach rights and access to be sure you and your pup won’t miss out on what might be the best beach days of your life.
Topsail (pro tip: pronounced tops’l) Beach is on cozy Topsail Island, which is situated off of North Carolina’s southeast coast. You’ll find miles of unblemished beaches in the area, including Topsail Beach, which is dog-friendly year-round. Between May 15 and September 30, dogs must be leashed, BUT the leash can be up to 20 feet long — plenty of length to let your companion splash and swim. In addition to swimming and sunbathing, the area offers world-class surfing, fishing, and boating so you can make the most of the coast.
Lady at Hilton Head Island (Photo courtesy of @nattttalia96)
Burke’s Beach on tony Hilton Head Island welcomes dogs MOST of the time, but they do need to be on a leash. During the high season, dogs are not permitted between 10 AM and 5 PM. Leashed pups are allowed between 10 AM and 5 PM from April 1 to the Thursday before Memorial Day, and between 10 AM and 5 PM from the Tuesday after Labor Day until September 30th. All other times and days, dogs on a leash can play on the beach and in the surf. The laws happily do not restrict leash length. And, bonus, there is a fenced dog park on Burke’s Beach where your pup can roam free and socialize with other mutts.
Bonnie the Mini Corgi at Edisto Beach (photo courtesy of Sarah Smith)
Fifty miles south of Savannah, Edisto Island is home to nearly five miles of sublime beach and 37 separate public access points. There is also the beautiful beach at Edisto Beach State Park, which has four miles of ADA trails, making it ideal for adventure and exploring for all — including your rescue pup. Dogs are allowed on the city beaches all year long; however, they must be leashed between May 1 and October 31. Pets must be leashed when in Edisto Beach State Park. Throughout the island, you’ll find pet-friendly accommodations on the beach or just steps away. Keep your camera or phone out and try to catch a snap of local wildlife, including dolphins, pelicans, buntings, egrets, and more.
Sully at Isle Palms (Photo courtesy of Tracy McFarland Ciali)
Take advantage of on- and off-leash beach time in Isle of Palms, which is on a barrier island just 12 miles away from the foodie destination of Charleston. There are watersports galore here, including kayaking, paddleboarding, fishing, sailing, and surfing. And there are miles of beautiful beaches that are ready to welcome you and your pet. Dogs are allowed to be off-leash from April 1 through September 14 between 5 AM-9 AM and from September 15 through March 31 between 4 PM -10 AM. After a long day of romping in the surf, you’ll discover dog-friendly dining options aplenty nearby. As with most destinations, come prepared with vaccination records and a collar with tags.
Remi on Kiawah Island (Photo courtesy of Lori Tisdale)
Known largely as a private beach and golf resort, Kiawah Island is a tourist hotspot, and canine guests are welcome, too. A designated dog-use area where off-leash dogs are allowed between 7 AM and 7 PM is located between the eastern boundary of the Beach Club and the Ocean Course Clubhouse. As for the rest of the beach, pets must be leashed between March 16 and October 31; they are allowed off-leash everywhere between 7 AM and 7 PM, save for the critical habitat area. Be sure when you visit this gem of an island to keep your pet from being a nuisance as other beachgoers can request they be removed for unruly behavior.
Karo on Sullivan’s Beach (Photo courtesy of Cullen Gilcrist Falvey)
A suburb of Charleston, Sullivan’s Island is one of those “know before you go” beaches. All dogs, including out-of-towners, must have a dog license. It can be purchased by mail or in person during town hall business hours. If you’re going for a long weekend, plan in advance. During summer season (May 1-September 30), your dog can be unleashed on the beach from 5 AM-10 AM and on-leash between 6 PM-5 AM. In winter, off-leash hours are 5 AM-12 PM and on-leash hours are 12 PM-5 AM. The community dates back to the 17th century with plenty of landmarks to admire and explore as you make your way around town (the whole island is just two and a half miles long).
Nash at Padre Island (Photo courtesy of Lyndi McIntyre)
Padre Island National Seashore features the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, and the park allows pets virtually everywhere, save the actual buildings (officials also ask that dogs refrain from swimming in the kid-friendly area in front of the park’s pavilion). You can camp with your buddy and take advantage of swimming and sunbathing on 60 miles of exquisite beaches. Take a dip in the Gulf of Mexico’s welcoming waters, beach comb, fish, or take a drive on the beach to the park’s more remote areas — all with your precious pup.
Gryffin at Chic’s Beach (Photo courtesy of Laura St. Clair)
Virginia is for…dog lovers. Throughout fall, winter, and spring leashed dogs are permitted on Virginia Beach’s renowned boardwalk and can play and swim leash-free on any of the beaches. In the popular summer season, at Chic’s Beach on the Chesapeake Bay, canines can enjoy the day with some restrictions. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, dogs are only allowed on the beach (sans leash) before 10 AM and after 6 PM. Splash around in the calm bay waters in the morning or evening and leave your companion to cool off during the peak-heat of summer days. Chic’s is known for dolphin watching and volleyball as well as magnificent sunsets over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
Stirling the Frenchie at Double Bluff Beach (photo courtesy of Casey Shepard)
Located on Whidbey Island on Puget Sound just north of Seattle, Double Bluff Dog Beach is a hiker’s paradise. While dogs must be leashed to hang out with you while you picnic near the park’s entrance, once you hit the beach, you can lose the leash and take advantage of two miles of coastline sure to tucker out your rescue pup. Keep your eyes peeled for impressive vistas of Admiralty Inlet and the Olympia Mountains. Back by the parking lot, there is a barbecue as well as a doggie shower to make your trip complete.
If you have another pawsome dog beach to share with us or a fun pic of your pup frolicking in the sand, please send it to us here!
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The Ulti-Mutt Guide for Rescue Pets and their Pawsome Pet Parents.