FORT DE SOTO PARK, Fla. — You’re sitting on a white sand beach in the sun. Sunscreen wafts in the air. A splashing noise comes from the blue Gulf of Mexico. It’s your dog, happily retrieving a favorite ball from the water.
With miles of sandy beaches, endless sunshine and a laid-back vibe, there’s no reason to leave your four-legged pal behind as you vacation in Flo-rida. From lodging with special pet beds, beaches with off-leash play, and theme parks with nearby kennels, many places cater to visitors with pets.
Lodging with your dog can be as rustic as a campground or as ritzy as, well, the Ritz Carlton. In places like Key West or Sanibel Island, where beaches are open to leashed dogs, pet-friendly accommodations can be found.
Most counties have tourism boards and many have details on their websites about pet-friendly activities, restaurants and hotels. Visit Florida has info at www.visitflorida.com/en-us/topiclanding.gridview.html?t=pet+friendly.
Here are some dog-friendly destinations in Florida.
Dog Beach & Paw Playground at Fort De Soto State Park. In 2010, Southern Living named this spot on Florida’s West Coast one of the top five dog beaches in the South. It’s gorgeous and peaceful.
Dinosaur World in Plant City. Between Tampa and Disney, Dinosaur World features 150 giant statues and trails winding through lush Florida landscape.
Dog Wood Park, Jacksonville. 25-acre park is heaven for dogs: off-leash, fenced in.
Best Friends Pet Resort, Lake Buena Vista. Day and overnight care for pets.
Loews hotels at Universal Orlando Resort pet-friendly.
La Quinta. Affordable chain in Florida likely is the best-known pet-friendly chain.
Luxury hotels. Pampered people have pampered pooches. For small dogs who need luxury (under 25 pounds), try Ritz Carlton hotels in Sarasota, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami Beach. Nonrefundable pet fees vary, but hover near $250. And swanky Mandarin Oriental in Miami is frequented by celebrities.
There’s usually a veterinarian, big-box pet store and pet-friendly hotel within a short drive. A quick Google search of sites like www.bringfido.com or www.dogfriendly.com can help locate them.
Larger theme parks such as Busch Gardens in Tampa offer kennel services; make sure to bring your pet’s vaccination record along.
Other basics for a Florida vacation with your dog: Drinking water, heartworm medicine and sunscreen.
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