It’s summer vacation time and what’s a vacation without man’s best friend? As travelers and proud parents of two rowdy beagles, my wife and I are always on the watch for great places to enjoy the outdoors with our pups. With the dogs by our side, we’ve crisscrossed the country and found what we consider America’s top dog beaches.
#1 Huntington Dog Beach, California
Huntington Beach is arguably the most dog-friendly town in America, at least according to Dog Fancy magazine, which named it Dog Town USA in 2009. Couple that with one of the most beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast and you’ve got our number one pick. There’s over a mile of wide, sandy beach where dogs can run leash-free. The people are amazingly nice, so both you and your pups are likely to meet new friends.
BONUS: While you’re in town, take the dogs over to Huntington Central Park. There’s tons of space for them to run and play and a restaurant called the Park Bench Cafe that serves tasty food for people as well as a menu just for dogs.
#2 Fort DeSoto Beach, Florida
I actually grew up just a few miles from Fort DeSoto, so you could accuse me of bias, but even the legendary Dr. Beach attests to how wonderful this gem is. He named it the Best Beach in America in 2005. The sand is soft and the waves are mild. Even during peak season, there’s plenty of room to spread out a blanket, pop up an umbrella and soak in the Gulf breezes. There’s a quarter-mile area where pups can run free and two fenced areas for small and large dogs. There’s even a watering station to keep your dog hydrated.
#3 Nags Head Beach, North Carolina
Nags Head offers 11 miles of windswept beach for you and your dog to enjoy. You’ll need to keep him on a leash (10-feet is the requirement in most areas), but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. Thousands of dog owners make their way to Nags Head throughout the summer to splash around in the warm Atlantic waves. Numerous hotels, rental homes and restaurants cater to dog lovers so you’ll find no shortage of places to stay or have a meal with Fido by your side.
#4 Key West Dog Beach, Florida
Despite being surrounded by water, Key West has surprisingly few beaches. But we’re looking for quality, not quantity, so Key West Dog Beach definitely deserves a spot on this list. There’s something strange and wonderful about Key West. It’s like everybody decided to leave the real world behind and take a permanent Jimmy Buffet vacation, even the dogs. The beach itself is small, but pups can run free and are sure to find playmates. Several dog-friendly restaurants are within walking distance.
#5 Chicago’s Montrose Dog Beach, Illinois
Not all beaches are on the ocean. Chicago has a one of the best in Montrose Dog Beach. This popular spot draws locals and tourists alike – and their pooches. Dogs can roam and play leash-free across this beautiful sandy refuge, just a stone’s throw away from one of America’s largest cities. The water is pretty shallow for about 40-feet out from the beach so there’s plenty of space for splashing around. It doesn’t get much better than this truly unique Chicago experience.
Damion Wasylow is a freelance writer for Natural Balance Pet Foods. He and his wife love traveling the country with their two dogs, Mike and Lulu. They live in Florida and have visited nearly every state over the past five years. When he’s not on the road, Damion enjoys taking the pups to the dog park and tossing a tennis ball around in the back yard.