Dogs love a good day at the beach. Fortunately, there are numerous ocean and lake playgrounds for canine frolicking in pet-friendly cities across America. The best ones, of course, allow dogs to go off-leash, no matter what time of year.
A number of these dog-friendly meccas can be found in California.
As a city, San Diego is beach heaven for canines. There are three off-leash zones where dogs can run free and even enjoy water activities such as kayaking and surfing.
Dog Beach at Ocean Beach: The original dog beach of California. Popular with both locals and tourists. It offers a wide stretch of sand along the Pacific Coast and is a great place for early morning romps, sunset walks or simply sitting and watching the waves roll in. Parking is plentiful, and this area is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Fiesta Island: Most of this large, sandy island in Mission Bay is a leash-free zone. Filled with sand dunes for a romping good time and the waters in the bay are calm — perfect for canine swimming. There’s ample parking and the area closes at 10 p.m. daily.
Coronado Dog Beach: With the backdrop of the famous Hotel Coronado, it’s a great place to picnic and relax. South of the Hotel Del Coronado, you can see the hull of the sunken gambling ship the Monte Carlo and, on a clear day, you can even see Tijuana. While the beach is open 24 hours (street parking only), it can get crowded, so go early.
Dogs are welcome on a stretch of sand along the famous Pacific Coast Highway between 21st Street and Seapoint Street — about three-quarters of a mile long. Open between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily. The restaurant area off the main beach has plenty of outdoor seating areas where you can relax and keep your pooch close by.
A hangout for celebrity dogs and their owners as it’s the only off-leash dog beach in all of Los Angeles County. Dogs are welcome at many of the outdoor areas of restaurants, as well as in some stores on trendy Second Street. This is a popular place for beach events and activities. To keep track, visit hautedogs.org.
Despite the fact that numerous Web sites and blogs claim there is a plethora of off-leash beaches in the northern California, none of these areas are official off-leash areas.
The Susan Kimmelman Off-Leash Dog Beach located at the northwest corner of Montrose Beach (the point closest to the city) requires a special $5 DFA (Dog Friendly Area) tag confirming that dogs are vaccinated and in good health. The tags are sold at many veterinarian offices and directly from the Chicago Park District. Dogs must be leashed coming and going to the designated area.
The Evanston Dog Beach in northern Illinois, also requires a beach pass. The off-leash area is open May 1 through October 31, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The beach pass costs $50 for residents and $100 for visitors, to be worn by dog owners.
Quiet Waters Dog Beach on the banks of the South River in Annapolis, Maryland, is a popular hangout for dogs and is adjacent to a nearby fenced dog park. There are two play areas: One designated for larger dogs, the other for small or elderly animals. Owners are allowed to bring two dogs each, and there’s a shower to rinse off after a day of fun in the sun.
The Norman F. Kruse Park in Muskegon, Mich. offers a beautiful stretch of white sand, capped with sand dunes for canine fun and games. It’s a popular location for family beach picnics as parking is accessible and there are restroom facilities.
In the town of Duck, dogs and their owners have the whole year to enjoy the vast stretches of beach that trace the coastline beyond a 10-mile radius of city limits.
Whidbey Island, Wash.
This picturesque setting offers dogs a wonderful stretch of sandy beach and ocean to enjoy. It’s a great place for people to relax and unwind too. On a clear day, you can see Mt. Rainer and the Seattle skyline.
St. Petersburg, Fla.
North Beach at Fort De Soto features a stretch of white sand and has been named one of the most beautiful beaches in America. The Pinellas Country Parks and Recreation Department has opened a Paw Playground adjacent to the beach area where dogs can socialize and enjoy some serious doggy play.
Key Biscayne, Fla.
The Dog Beach in Key Biscayne, Miami is on the corner of Waddell and Vernon Avenue, just south of South Street. Don’t be surprised if you see dogs sporting the latest bikinis, board shorts and shades to match their owners.
Dog beach etiquette
Petfriendlytravel.com’s Travey Thompson says there are not as many off-leash beaches in this country as pet-lovers might imagine.
“Leash-free beaches are the result of huge efforts made at a grass-roots level by dog lovers within a community. I think it’s important for people to understand that these beaches are a privilege that can be revoked at any time. We all need to help keep these leash-free zones in tact by always picking up after our dogs and obeying the rules of the beach.”
For up-to-date information about off-leash zones and beaches that require a leash, visit Haute Dogs, the organization that initiated the Dog Zone in Belmont Shore — it’s also a good source of doggy beach information countrywide.