50 Great Beaches To Take Your Dog
Have you ever noticed how many TV commercials and magazine ads show happy people walking down a beach with their dog? Fast forward to real life. Yes, it is hard to imagine any place a dog is happier than at a beach. Whether running around on the sand, jumping in the water or just lying in the sun, every dog deserves a day at the beach. But all too often dog owners stopping at a sandy stretch of beach are met with signs designed to make hearts - human and canine alike - droop: NO DOGS ON BEACH.
The reality is that about half of the beaches in America never allow dogs on the sand. Most of the rest only allow dogs in the off-season. Whenever you see a lifeguard stand you can assume your dog will not be welcome. Other beaches ban dog to protect nesting shorebirds.
But all is not lost. Here are 50 great places where you can get that dream vacation at the ocean with your dog.
Old Orchard Beach, Maine.
Maine is known for its rocky coastline, especially in the northern stretches, but the many coves offer small sandy beaches in places. Old Orchard Beach is a classic resort beach with plenty of white sand and a long fishing pier. No dogs allowed on the beach midday during the summer but you don’t have to get off the beach until 10:00 a.m.
Fort Popham State Historic Site, Maine.
Popham Beach State Park is better known but only permits dogs in the off-season. The preservation of this Civil War-ear fort is the destination for dog lovers. The beach extends for more than a mile and a hike here passes not only the half-completed semi-circular granite fort but a life-saving station and offshore lighthouses perched on rocky atolls.
At York Harbor Beach you’ll find a big, convenient parking lot next to a wide sand beach in a sheltered cove. You have to arrive early or come late in the summer but your dog can play here under voice control. Wells is a dog-friendly place with several beaches. Drakes Island Beach is a wonderful, secluded choice.
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is the best northeastern state to take your dog to the beach in summer. The resort islands are particularly dog-friendly and several spots on Cape Cod will permit dogs in non-swimming areas. At Cape Cod National Seashore dogs are allowed on all non-nesting protected beaches year-round. Walking the beaches at Cape Cod is a special experience due to limited sight distance down the shore caused by the curvature of the coastline. The effect is that of a series of private beaches as you move from beach alcove to beach alcove. In addition to Atlantic Ocean beaches backed by impressive highlands, the park extends across the cape to include bayside beaches with gentler waves for doggie swims.
Scarborough State Beach, Rhode Island.
With some 400 miles of shoreline within a short drive your wave-loving dog can enjoy a salt-water swim somewhere any time of the year - even in the summer, if you get out to Block Island where dogs are welcome on the beach all year-round. Scarborough State Beach is the Ocean State’s biggest sand beach in Narragansett and off-limits from early May through Labor Day but your dog will want to line up on that first Tuesday in September to romp on this long, wide stretch of white sand.
Cliff Walk, Rhode Island.
No vacation in Newport is complete without a visit to the Cliff Walk, a path through America’s most spectacular backyard. The busy Cliff Walk is not only open to dogs but poop bags are provided. In the off-season your dog can enjoy a 3/4-mile swath of sand on First Beach at the beginning of the Cliff Walk or anytime on Reject Beach deep into the Walk after the civilized path falls away and there is nothing between your dog and crashing Atlantic Ocean waves except gigantic black rocks.
Bluff Point Coastal Preserve, Groton, Connecticut.
Bluff Point is the last remaining undeveloped public land of any size along the Connecticut coastline. That is an irony since it was one of the first to be developed. Connecticut Governor John Winthrop (1698-1707), grandson of the founding governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, made his home on the peninsula and subsequent generations farmed the land for more than a century. A short detour from the main loop path leads to a one-mile wide sand spit that connects to the small Bushy Point Beach. Your dog will salivate at the chance to romp across the open sand but it is closed to dogs during the plover nesting season from April 15 to September 15. That means the beach and small, grassy dunes are now open to your dog. And since it requires a one-mile hike to reach the Bushy Point Beach you can usually count on plenty of space for your dog to romp when you get there.
Montauk, New York.
The further east you go out on Long Island the more dog-friendly New York becomes but whether on the north shore or south shore your dog is going to need to wait until the off-season to really sample the Long Island Sound or Atlantic Ocean. Around Montauk the many beaches, some stone and some sandy, will welcome dogs if you stay out of the swimming areas. The town beaches are very tail-friendly and Hither Hills State Park (no ocean beach for dogs) and Theodore Roosevelt County Park offer geat trails before you reach the beach. Come in the winter and you and your dog will have these magnificent Atlantic Ocean beaches of the exclusive Hamptons to yourself.
Island Beach State Park, New Jersey.
A vacation at the Jersey shore it a ritual for millions of Americans, most of whom leave the family dog at home. But one rare stretch of ten miles of undeveloped Jersey shoreline is open to your dog year-round - Island Beach State Park. Just drive down past the pavilions, park in one of the many small lots on the left and you can swim in the Atlantic Ocean with your dog right through the Dog Days of August.
Gateway National Recreation Area, New Jersey.
Although the summer at the Jersey shore is not a place for dogs after Labor Day some of America’s best white-sand beaches start to open wide for dogs. This strategic old military base at the northern tip of the shore is perfect for a long hike with your dog around Sandy Hook with views of the New York skyline across the harbor.
Brigantine Natural Area, New Jersey.
There is nothing like the solace of the wag of a friendly tail after a losing day at the blackjack tables and Atlantic City visitors can take their dogs to the beach by going one town north to Brigantine. Keep following the ocean until you can go no further. Park and let your dog onto the beach year-round.
Corson’s Inlet State Park, New Jersey.
Corson’s Inlet was established in 1969 before every last inch of Jersey shorefront became developed. There aren’t many places in the Garden State where the public can explore ocean dunes and a maritime forest but Corson’s Inlet is one. Even rarer still is to find a dune system that permits dogs but this is the place - from September 16 through March 31 anyway. If your dog finds the excitement of the Atlantic surf too intimidating, walk around the corner and enjoy the expansive crescent beach along the inlet with its calm, inviting waters.
Higbee Beach/Sunset Beach, New Jersey.
Cape May has more Victorian buildings than any similar-sized town in America and apparently town officials are concerned that dogs will mess up all that fancy gingerbread trim. Dogs are never allowed on the boardwalk, in parks or on the beach. I’m not sure what happens if you try to drive through town with a dog in the car - I’m scared to try it. But if you plan a vacation along the southern Jersey shore you can go to the tip of Cape May and cross over to Higbee Beach, where strict regulations melt away (this used to be the area’s unofficial nudist beach). Higbee Beach is actually on the Delaware Bay which is why your dog is allowed here year-round. With its wide sand and easy wave action your dog won’t know the difference. You can also hike through the last remaining dune forest on the Delaware Bay. The beach next door to Higbee is the similarly dog-friendly Sunset Beach, famous for its Cape May Diamonds. The “diamonds” are actually pieces of quartz crystals that have been eroded from the Upper Delaware River and been polished by a 200-mile journey of churning and jostling that can last a millennium or two. The stones, that can be cut and faceted to do a passable imitation of a diamond, are found in abundance here because the tidal flow bounces off a unique concrete ship that rests offshore. The Atlantus was built to transport soldiers during steel-short World War I. The reinforced-concrete ship worked but the recovery of post-war steel supplies made her obsolete and the Atlantus was being towed to Cape May to serve as a ferry slip when an accident dumped her on a sand bar where she remains today.
Fowler Beach, Delaware.
The sand is a little rockier and the beach a little narrower but if you are looking to spend undisturbed days on the beach with your dog come to the small towns of the Delaware Bay. Fowler Beach is one of the best. With no development and backed by dunes, this is the Delaware Bay beach that most resembles an ocean beach. The sloping coastline promotes excellent wave action and you can walk your dog for several solitary hours.
Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware.
Rehoboth Beach has long been known as the “Nation’s Summer Capital” because of the number of Washingtonians who visit during the summer but dog owners would be better advised to bivouac one town to the north, in Lewes, Delaware’s oldest town. Cape Henlopen, at the mouth of the Delaware Bay, is Delaware’s largest state park with more than 5,000 acres. The miles of beach reache around the cape into the bay. Your dog is welcome throughout the year but can’t go on the beach mid-day during the summer.
Delaware Seashore State Park, Delaware.
Stay away from the swimming beaches and you can bring your dog here right through the year. Those concrete towers you see on the beach were used during World War II to track German U-boat activity. You can also access the gentle waters of Rehoboth Bay where your dog can walk out a half-mile and scarcely get his tummy wet.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland.
Miles and miles of undeveloped beach march south out of the campground on this lovely barrier island. Entrance fees are good for one week and your dog is always allowed in the Atlantic Ocean here. When you drive onto the island make sure to turn right - straight ahead is the state park that doesn’t even allow dogs out of the car.
Virginia Beach, Virginia.
You can get your dog on all of Virginia Beach’s clean, white sand at some point during the year; after Halloween every grain is open to dogs from Cape Henryto the North Carolina border. In the summer, while you wait for “The Strip” to open for your dog, head around the corner to First Landing State Park where your dog can enjoy the wide sand beach at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Just move your dog down away from the bathhouse. Across US 60 the hiking trails of First Landing State Park are some of the most interesting anywhere.
Duck, North Carolina.
This could well be the best place in America to rent a vacation beach house anywhere in America. Arriving onto the Outer Banks most people follow Route 12 south but when others go right you’ll turn left to the towns of Duck and Corolla. In Duck your dog can go on the beach year-round under voice control. If it’s a long walk you are after, head north.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina.
The heart of the Outer Banks for active dog owners is the 70 miles of dog-friendly sand in America’s first national seashore, dedicated in 1937. In addition to the beach you can take you dog lighthouse hopping here. There are five on the Outer Banks and three in the National Seashore designed to warn ships away from the shifting sand shoals known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” No dog’s vacation to the Outer Banks is complete without a stop at Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the highest natural sand dune system on the East Coast. Next door, your dog is welcome in the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk to walk along the route of the world’s first self-powered flight.
Crystal Coast, North Carolina.
Most towns on Crystal Coast permit dogs on the beach year-round; Emerald Isle has the most parking. At the far eastern end is Fort Macon State Parkwhere the pentagonal coastal defense fort still stands. Your dog can walk through the massive masonry fort and enjoy the best dune-backed and beach on the Crystal Coast.
Topsail Beach, North Carolina.
Dog owners will not be disappointed with a vacation rental on this chunk of Cape Fear. Dogs are allowed year-round on the beach and when the summer ends can romp on the sand under voice control. (If you are starting to get the idea that North Carolina just might be the place for a summer vacation at the beach with your dog, you would be right...)
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, North Carolina.
On the site of the largest earthwork fort in the Confederacy your dog will find seven miles of tail-friendly white sand beaches open year-round. Once you clear the Visitor Center there is nothing but wide-open beach ahead of you. Robert Harrill, for one, sure liked Fort Fisher. In 1955, the 62-year old Harrill left behind a wake of failed jobs and relationships in the Carolina mountains for a life of solace at the seashore. He came to settle in the old World War II bunker at Fort Fisher where he would live for 17 years. He was tabbed the “Fort Fisher Hermit” but he was far from alone. He welcomed all visitors and more than 100,000 made the pilgrimmage over the years to listen to his philosophies of simple life. In 1969 the state of North Carolina called him the Tarheel State’s second largest tourist attraction behind the battleship North Carolina. Not that Robert Harrill ever lived truly alone - he often had a dog by his side.
Brunswick Islands, North Carolina.
When vacationing in these towns just north of the South Carolina border your beach choices for your dog will be limited in the middle of the day but your dog is welcome on either end of the day. After 6:00 p.m. bring your dog to the residential beach of Sunset Beach for a stroll into the setting sun behind the dunes.
Grand Strand, South Carolina.
Your dog isn’t allowed in Myrtle Beach proper - 34 blocks worth - but you didn’t think she would be did you. But jut south of town you’ll find two state parks your dog will love. At Myrtle Beach State Park, South Carolina’s oldest, there is over one mile of dune-backed sand where your dog can relax and a 100-acre maritime forest for trail time. A bit further down Route 17 some of the money from the original Transcontinental Railroad dribbled down to the magnificent surfside estate built here in the early 20th century. Today, head for the northern section of Huntington Beach State Park for long walks on the beach.
Edisto Beach, South Carolina.
The fame of Edisto Island, South Carolina cotton spread far and wide. It is stated that at one time the Vatican insisted that the Pope's garments be made only from "Sea Island Cotton." The Boll Weevil and the Civil War conspired to destroy the cotton fields and after that development slowed to a crawl. So today the Edisto Beach State Park maintains 1.5 miles of Atlantic Ocean beachfront, backed by some of the Palmetto State's tallest trademark trees. The beach is wide with plenty of room for your dog to stretch out for a hike. And if that isn't enough sand time, the park adjoins Edisto Beach that has remained a residential beach so your dog can just keep going.
Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina.
Hunting Island State Park is one of the best places you can bring your dog. Dogs are allowed on the park trails and the ocean beach - three miles of natural sand - are open for long canine hikes beside the Atlantic waves. The palmetto trees come right down to the beach in this marvelous park. You won’t wonder why the jungle scenes from Forrest Gump were filmed here.
Golden Isles, Georgia.
Sea Island is private, St. Simon Island is residnetial and Jekyll Island is a state park. Jekyll Island with over ten miles of dog-friendly beaches., is your call. The southern tip of the island is backed by pristine dunes and easily accessed by boardwalk crossings from several picnic areas. The waves are gentle in the sound at the northern end of the island. Here the beach is infiltrated by the snags of dead trees. The tides bring in plenty of shells for your curious dog to sniff.
Amelia Island, Florida.
Florida ranks among the most dog-unfriendly of states. Entire counties and regions ban dogs from the beach. So if you are driving south to vacation in Florida you will want to get your dog onto the sand as soon as possible. This residential/vacation beach will fill the bill nicely. It will get dreary for dogs along the Atlantic Ocean soon enough.
Sombrero Beach, Florida.
A vacation in the Florida Keys is a mixed bag for dog owners. The dog beach in Key West can scarcely fit a pair of Golden Retrievers onto its meager sands. Unlike the mainland Florida coast the Keys are not mile after mile of sandy beach. The coastline instead is pockmarked by mangrove swamps and rocky reefs. Not that you can't find a pretty stretch of sand beach - one of the best is Sombrero Beach in Marathon, on the Atlantic Ocean side at Mile Marker 50 near the Seven-Mile Bridge. The wide beach is framed by palm trees whose only downside is that they don't drop any branches for your dog to fetch in the clear emerald waters. The soft sands extend far into the water so you can join your dog in the gentle surf. Even the beach sand is special. Pick up a handful. Looking closely, you'll see it comes in many shapes. Some grains look like bits of oatmeal, other like miniature deer antlers. Fashioned byspecial algae which thrive in Marathon's warm waters, these specks contribute much of the sea bottom and beaches surrounding the Keys.
Fort DeSoto Park, Florida.
Fort DeSoto was named “America’s Best Beach” by Dr. Beach in 2005. Your dog can’t actually go on that champion Gulf of Mexico beach but around the corner there is an enormous dog park and paw-friendly groomed sand on Tampa Bay. There are even doggie showers to spruce up a bit before you head home.
Bonita Beach, Florida.
Dog lovers vacationing on Florida’s Suncoast will want to stitch directons to Bonita Beach into their dog’s collar. A short walk through the trees leads to a long beach and shallow, gentle water on the Gulf of Mexico - and it is just for dogs.
St. Andrews Beach, Florida.
Another award-winning beach your dog can’t enjoy. But bring your dog anyway. Only when you pull into the park, turn left when everyone else goes straight for the beach parking lot. Your destination is the mostly ignored Grand Lagoon side of the park you and your dog can enjoy a narrow strip of sand and leisurely swimming in the shallow, gentle waters. The Grand Lagoon is reached by the Heron Pond Trail, a rolling exploration of the scrubby dunes. In the town of nearby Panama City your dog can dip a toe into the Gulf of Mexico at the Pier Park dog beach.
Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana.
People don’t seek out Louisiana for its sandy beaches, most of the coastline is made up of bayous. Grand Isle has a beach but it is not the manicured sand that attracts sunbathers - which means it is ideal for dogs. Bring plenty of bug spray for the squadrons of mosquitoes - and don’t forget to spray your best traveling companion as well.
Galveston Island, Texas.
On the Bolivar Peninsula many miles of open beach await your dog near Galveston Island; check in at the towns of Bolivar and Crystal Beach if you require civilization. In the eclectic town of Galveston your dog is also welcome on the beach. The sand in front of the breakwater is not the prettiest but your dog certainly won’t mind. Since the surf is gentle most of the time it is hard to imagine this was the site of America’s worst natural disaster when more than 6,000 people died in the aftermath of a storm on September 8-9, 1900. The oldest part of the 10-mile seawall built to protect the city is still visible from 6th Street to 39th Street and dates to 1902.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas.
Padre Island is America’s longest barrier island and the world’s largest undeveloped barrier island. For most of the time here the only inhabitants were range animals.- There is plenty of room for dogs to roam on its 113 miles of sand. The only place your dog can’t go is directly around the Visitor Center. Certainly one of the best places to vacation with a dog anywhere, and absolutely the destination of choice on the Gulf of Mexico.
San Diego Dog Beach (North Ocean Beach), California.
Southern California is not the place to vacation with a beach-loving dog (remember that “rule” about people beaches equaling “no dogs”). When you are practically the only beach within a short drive of 20 million people that allows dogs you can expect to be busy and city officials estimate that as many as 10,000 dogs visit each week. With 38 acres at the north end of Ocean Beach, Dog Beach is the second largest leash-free beach for dogs in America.
San Simeon Beach, California.
William Randolph Hearst’s beach at the foot of his castle is not dramatic nor expansive by California standards but your dog won’t be critical. Just pull off Highway 1, walk down some wooden steps and you are on the beach in about one minute. The beach in front of the short, grassy bluffs is a mix of stones and rocks and a strip of sand. And the resident dog when Hearst lived in San Simeon? A dachshund named Gandhi.
Pismo Beach, California.
A good, hassle-free beach to bring your dog on the Central Coast. When you see trucks lining up to drive on the beach, you can assume no one is going to much mind about your dog. Convenient parking in town as well.
Pfeiffer Beach, California.
The Big Sur coastline south of the Monterey Peninsula is a must-see for any traveler. A string of state parks provides the best access to seascapes that Robert Louis Stevenson described famously as “the greatest meeting of land and sea in the world.” Your dog, sadly, will not be able to confirm that since the Big Sur state parks ban dogs for the most part. But Big Sur is not a complete washout for dog lovers, however. A short, sandy trail leads to Pfeiffer Beach, one of the most beautiful public beaches in California. The sand is wrapped in spectacular rock formations making this a very secluded beach indeed. The rocks are sprinkled in the surf as well, forming coves and making for exciting play in the waves for dogs. The turn-off from Highway 1 is obscured and easy to miss on the crest of a hill so be diligent when seeking out Pfeiffer Beach.
Carmel-by-the-Sea. You will never find a more dog-friendly beach than Carmel Beach where dogs and people mingle freely on soft white sand. This is the biggest beach among the craggy headlands of Monterey Peninsula. Dogs are also welcome on Carmel River State Beach at the east end of town. Along famous 17-Mile Drive your dog can enjoy small cove-like sand at Fanshell Beach and Sand Beach.
San Francisco Bay, California.
In 1972 a menagerie of government properties around the San Francisco Bay that included forts, a prison, an airfield, beaches and forests were knitted into one of the world’s largest urban national parks, Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Much of it is open to your dog. Start on Fort Funston on the Pacific Ocean and work your way around the bay. The north end of Stinson Beach in Marin County is a dog beach.
Point Reyes National Seashore, California.
You just can’t hit the beach with your dog at the national seashore - there are restrictions for the snowy plover at certain times and elephant seal mating at other times and other beach restrictions but there is also plenty of open sand and interesting terrain around the peninsula for your dog.
The bluffs around the Northern California town are the main attraction for vacationers but your dog will favor the state park beaches in the area instead.
Crescent Beach, California.
Dogs aren’t allowed to poke around popular Redwoods National Park too much but they are allowed on this wide semi-circle of sand. The waves in the broad cove usually lap softly onto the shore but this was the site of a tsunami that wrecked Crescent City in 1964. A century earlier, the side-wheeler Brother Jonathan struck a submerged rock spire known as the “Dragon’s Teeth.” Lifeboats were deployed but only one made it to shore with 19 survivors. The loss of 215 lives remains the worst maritime disaster in California history.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, Oregon.
These wind-sculpted dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America. As long as the birds aren’t nesting, your dog is allowed anywhere on the sand.
Gold Beach, Oregon.
The wild and scenic Rogue River is on the radar for every outdoorsman. Gold Beach, where the Rogue reaches the Pacific Ocean is noted for its clean sands. Your dog can help with the beachcombing in the state recreation area.
Cannon Beach, Oregon.
All of Oregon’s beaches are public. You can step on every grain of Oregon sand for 400 miles and, in the rare exception of a ban due to nesting birds, your dog can be with you all the way. With its views of the sea, the mountains and rugged coastal outcroppings, this is one of Oregon’s most celebrated beaches. Haystack Rock looms out in the surf. Come in October for the Dog Show on the Beach.
Long Beach Peninsula, Washington.
These uncrowded Pacific Coast beaches are some of the dog-friendliest in America for a vacation - even Olympic National Park, which bans dogs from almost all of its 632,324 acres, opens some of its remote coastal beaches to dogs. Miles of wide open sand and county officials who promise not to enforce leash laws on the beach providing your dog is well-behaved. Now that is a deal all dog owners can live with!
Kalaloch Beaches, Washington.
You shouldn’t have to go to the corners of the country just to vacation on the beach with your dog but you’ll want to come to the northwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula. The Kalaloch Beaches and Ruby Beach on US 101 are the most accessible but you may want to seek out even more remote beaches for your dog in the Olympic Wilderness. Some consist of deep, soft sand; others of the more pebbly variety. Keep an eye out from giant driftwood logs the surf can bring in. Great for whale watching, beach combing, dog walking and sunsets.