From coast-to-coast, dogs in the USA have plenty of options for fun in the sun at the beach. They can plant their paws in the fine white sands of Florida, hang 20 on a surfboard in the cranking waves of California, or visit places you might not envision when you think “beach.”
Here’s a rundown of 10 of the best dog beaches our American pooches enjoy.
The West Coast
1. Huntington Dog Beach, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Nestled along the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway in Orange County, just south of Los Angeles, all manner of canines romp in the waves and shake sand on their owners at Huntington Dog Beach. This is an official dog beach, with its own service board that maintains the beach and refills the poop bag dispensers. Hillsides and the terrain surrounding the beach create a natural barrier between dogs and traffic, creating a perfect spot for friendly pooches to chase balls and sometimes ride the waves on surfboards. This is Surf City, after all.
Andrea Servadio, co-founder of Fitdog Sports Club in Santa Monica, Calif., takes her 4-year-old Jack Russell Terrier, Brecken, to the Huntington Dog Beach year-round.
“Brecken gets excited even before we get there,” Servadio says. “He immediately darts towards the water and has a huge smile on his face the whole time.”
- Hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., 365 days a year
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.dogbeach.org
2. Coronado Dog Beach, Coronado, Calif.
“All dogs go to heaven, but before they go, they should visit Coronado Dog Beach,” says Will Kearney, a pet adventure blogger from Chicago, and owner of a seaside-loving 2-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback named Mr. Eko. “The beach is gorgeous, and the only thing friendlier than the people are the dogs.”
Coronado Dog Beach is another San Diego treasure, located on the north end of Coronado Beach, which in 2012 was ranked by Dr. Beach as the best beach in the United States. Wet dogs and soggy tennis balls fly past beachgoers, and your furry beach bum can even take a surfing lesson from the Coronado Surfing Academy.
The long walk toward the water can get hot on bare feet in the summer, but the stretch acts as a safety barrier between dogs and cars, and at the end of the day, there’s a foot and dog washing station where the sand meets the parking lot.
“There’s great camaraderie between the dogs,” says Ashley Torresala of San Diego, owner of Zia, a 4-year-old Finnish Spitz who loves the water. “For some reason, they’re all in the mindset of sharing toys and including others in their play in a way I don’t typically see in a dog park setting.”
If dogs roam outside of the dog beach boundary, owners are subject to a $500 fine, though Kearney says police are more likely to hand out belly rubs than tickets.
- Hours: 24 hours a day
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.sandiego.org
Photo by Ernie Slone
3. Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago
The Midwest is not known for its beaches, but it is known for its lakes and its love of dogs. Combine the two and you get Montrose Dog Beach on Lake Michigan in Uptown Chicago, a haven for landlocked dogs and their owners. A fence separates dogs from the traffic except toward the south end of the beach, but it is large enough so that owners can stay clear of that spot until dogs are on leash. Be careful, however, and be sure your dog responds reliably to recall commands. Otherwise, you might find yourself chasing your dog down busy Lake Shore Drive.
This beach draws a lot of bigger dogs, so small dog owners may want to take caution. It is crowded in the summer, and diehards claim that the best time to visit is in the winter, when there are fewer people and the dogs seem to be better behaved.
All dogs using the beach are required to have a “Dog Friendly Area” tag purchased from a veterinarian for $5, showing that a dog is healthy and up to date on vaccinations.
- Hours: Daylight hours
- Cost: $5 Dog Friendly Area tag fee
- Website: www.mondog.org
4. The Dog Beach of Hollywood, Hollywood, Fla.
Tropical doggie heaven spans the space between two orange safety cones on the pristine white beach in Hollywood, Fla., just north of Miami, where dogs splash in the warm turquoise water of the Atlantic Ocean. Sand dunes act as a natural barrier between the dogs and the parking lot as hounds sniff the shore and terriers dig holes in the sand. The beach is wide, with no commercial activity nearby. The regulars are friendly, and there’s always shade under the palm trees.
Bridgette King, a resident of Hollywood and regular at The Dog Beach of Hollywood, says that her 3-year-old Poodle, Dolce, isn’t a swimmer, but loves to dig.
“When we pull up to the parking lot, her tail starts wagging like crazy,” King says. “She’s sometimes a little hard to catch when it’s time to go home.”
- Hours: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday only, year-round. November-March: 3-7 p.m.; April-October: 5-9 p.m.
- Cost: Daily, Hollywood resident with ID: $5; Nonresident: $10
- Website: www.hollywoodfl.org
5. Jupiter Beach, Jupiter, Fla.
Two-and-a-half miles of pawprints dot the sand in Jupiter, Fla., from north of the Juno Beach lifeguard area to south of Carlin Park’s lifeguard area. Because of the beach’s beauty, 30 of Jupiter Beach’s residents didn’t want to keep it all to themselves, so in 1994 they privately funded poop bag stations and installed some common-sense rules so that the beach would stay tidy and fun for both dogs and owners. Today the organization is 5,100 dog lovers strong, keeping the beach clean and safe for everyone.Dogs laze under the sea grape trees and doggie paddle in the crystal blue water, as owners watch them from beach chairs under colorful umbrellas.
“This is the best dog beach in the U.S. because we have an endless summer, the people are chill and friendly, and the dogs are well-behaved and cheerful,” says Julie Rodrigues, resident of Jupiter and owner of Bristol, a 4-year-old exuberant Pointer-mix. “There is no worry of altercations between the pups, and if there are any, they are easily resolved. You just walk on and enjoy the sunshine.”
- Hours: 24 hours a day, year-round
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.friendsofjupiterbeach.com
Photo by Ernie Slone
6. Oak Island, N.C.
Twelve miles long and over 100 spacious feet wide, this Brunswick Island beach is off-leash playville for salty dogs in the morning hours, though leashed dogs are welcome any time. Out of the hustle and bustle of everyday life, this dog-friendly beach boasts long stretches of sandy dunes that will make Fido believe he has gone back to a simpler time. This south-facing beach features calmer water than other beaches in the area, and since dogs are allowed off leash during the offseason, you might find yourself alone with your pooch during the chillier months, when the beach is all yours!”The first thing I felt when visiting this beach was a feeling of open space and beautiful landscape,” says Rebecca Magee of Waxhaw, N.C., who owns Molly, a 7-year-old Labrador Retriever-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix who loves the shore. “Everyone has their own room to set up, and the dogs are friendly and play together on the sand and in the water.”
- Hours: Off-leash dogs play from 6-9 a.m., Oct. 15-March 15. Dogs are welcome on-leash at any time.
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.oakislandnc.com
7. Wiborg Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.
It’s the privileged canine who paddles the waters of Wiborg Beach in East Hampton, N.Y., the playground of the rich and famous. Manhattanites abandon the concrete canyons on summer weekends for the place where the water meets the shore — with their dogs in tow, of course.
Residents of the bungalows and mansions that dot the beach have free access to it, but visitors must purchase seasonal passes, which are capped at a certain number so that the beach is rarely crowded.
“It’s an afterthought to realize that the conversation you have had with the unnamed person who has admired your dog is Candice Bergen or Martha Stewart,” says Roy Cohen, an author from New York City and East Hampton, and owner of Oskar, a 3-year-old Labrador Retriever-Poodle mix. “Two summers ago, former President Bill Clinton was stopped by a local police officer for walking his dog in-season and off leash after hours.”
Of course, dogs don’t care that the people on the beach are hedge fund titans, Oscar-winning actors, or former presidents — they just care about that tennis ball in your hand.
- Hours: From Memorial Day thru Labor Day, dogs are allowed off leash before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m.; the rest of the year, they are allowed to roam free 24/7.
- Cost: $250 for a season pass
- Website: www.easthamptonvillage.org
Photo by Ernie Slone
8. Gooch’s Beach, Kennebunk Beach, Maine
The 3,346-foot long beach with a funny name draws dog lovers to its talcum powder sand from all over the area and as far away as Boston, including former First Lady Barbara Bush and her dogs. Outcroppings of rock and crashing waves make this shoreline unique — as does the 9-foot high tide, which engulfs the beach until it recedes. Summer homes line the clamshell-sprinkled beach, which has plenty of sticks for playing fetch.
“I’m not sure who enjoys it more, the people or the dogs,” says Brooke Sheldon of Kennebunkport, Maine, owner of Bradbury, a 6-month-old Golden Retriever. “Many people know each other by their dogs’ names, not necessarily the person’s.”
- Hours: Before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. between June 15 and Labor Day; after Labor Day, leashed dogs allowed any time
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.maine.info
9. Howarth Park, Everett, Wash.
This 28-acre park features an off-leash dog beach that’s spacious when the tide is out, so residents watch the tide tables for the perfect time to take Fido for a splash. The sounds of seals and dogs barking over Puget Sound, geese to chase, and friendly dog owners make this pebbly beach a destination. Your dog must have a solid recall due to train tracks nearby.
“There are tons of things to explore, smell, roll on, and climb on,” says Kimberly Gauthier, a blogger for www.keepthetailwagging.com//ital// from Marysville, Wash., and owner of three water-loving tail-waggers; Rodrigo, a 3-year-old Australian Cattle Dog-Border Collie mix, Sydney, a 3-year-old Australian Cattle Dog-Labrador Retriever mix, and Blue, a 1-year-old Australian Sheperd-Australian Cattle Dog mix. “The morning is a big game of chase on the beach, and they love it.”
- Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. from April 1-Oct. 31; 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Nov. 1-March 31
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.everettwa.org
10. Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site, Newport, Ore.
Just west of Highway 101 in Newport, Ore., you’ll find a bow-wow beachfront that’s a little too cold for people-paddling, but most dogs aren’t deterred by the chilly temps. Any Oregonian will tell you not to turn your back on the ocean, so keep your eye on the tides and your dog.
“It’s hard to beat this combo of easy access, lots of room, no fees, and beautiful views,” says Rachel Beck, a resident of Eugene, Ore., and owner of Tessa, a 6-year-old Beagle, and Bond, a 7-year-old mixed-breed dog. “Dogs don’t care about swimsuit bodies or umbrella drinks, and neither of those things are on display on the Oregon Coast.”
- Hours: November-February: Wednesday-Sunday, 12-4 p.m.; March-October: Seven days a week; March-May: 12-4 p.m.; June-September: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; October: 12-4 p.m.
- Cost: Free
- Website: www.oregonstateparks.org
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