Gulf Coast Beaches That Allow Dogs: A 5-State Roundup

Vacationing without your dog is stressful. It’s difficult to find a reputable kennel and dogs are part of the family. Finding the right destination is key. Cities provide plenty of entertainment for both kids and adults, but many areas are not suited for dogs. Whether it’s dangerous, or too fancy for pets, crowded spaces can make dogs (and owners) anxious. Instead, the perfect spot should be a place that feels comfortable for everyone.

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What are some of the best dog beaches around the Gulf Coast?

Certain beaches along the Gulf Coast are known for their dog-friendly atmosphere. Depending on the location, leashes are optional. The Fort Morgan Historic Site Bayside Beach is a popular dog destination as well as Perdido Key River Road Park. In Destin, however, a special permit is required.

The Gulf Coast covers Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. Since this land spans five states, there are plenty of dog beaches to choose from. Beaches that don’t have severe thunderstorms are best for both small and large dogs. 

State policies provide rules about specific beaches on the Gulf Coast. By gathering information from locals and experienced travelers, beach tips make the trip more enjoyable. 

Dog-Friendly Beaches 

Although public beaches may seem all-inclusive, it’s hard to know which beaches on the gulf coast are dog friendly. A dog-friendly beach is usually specified because it’s not an automatic assumption, but the rules may vary. Since some vacationers are frightened of dogs, they may not understand when a pet is just playful. 

Dog-friendly beaches typically allow dogs of all breeds and have different policies regarding leashes. Charlotte Reed, an author on pet etiquette, reminds dog owners that disobeying leash laws can lead to a hefty fine. In most cases, leash laws regulate the length of the leash to approximately 8 feet. 

Dog-friendly beaches do not provide clean water or food for dogs and they will not measure leashes to ensure it’s the legal size. To be in proper compliance with the state regulations of a specific beach or park, the owner must measure the leash themselves. 

The Purpose of Dog-Friendly Beaches

High-energy and low-energy dogs can both enjoy the beach. If you have a young dog or one that requires activity, going to the beach allows them to run on the sand, swim, find new creatures, and socialize with other dogs. 

Older dogs with lower energy levels also benefit from being outside with their owner. They can relax in the sun or walk along the water’s edge in search of new life forms. Time spent outdoors with other dogs is a way to keep dogs social and healthy. 

Public beaches that allow dogs will often have a dog park. This allows dogs and their owners to get to know each other. It can also prevent high-energy dogs from jumping on those who are afraid of dogs. By having a designated space designed for dogs, dogs can stay safe in public. 

The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Alabama 

Alabama’s Eastern Shore is known for its warm breezes. The sand is pure white and several types of birds are native to the area. Bald eagles, osprey, and even pelicans can be found near the Orange Beach Loop. Dog-friendly beaches in Alabama have a lot to offer for both pets and humans.

Fort Morgan Historic Site Bayside Beach

The Fort Morgan State Historic Site is located in Mobile Bay, Alabama. Dogs are welcome on the beach, but only in one specific area. The Bayside Beach allows dogs from the old Fort Morgan Pier to the Fisherman’s Wharf. 

Dogs should be leashed at all times. While this does restrict dogs from actually swimming, they can still play on the shore. Doggy clean-up bags and scoopers are not provided but must be used to take care of the beach. 

Perdido Key River Road Park

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Located in Pensacola, the Perdido Key River Road Park has one of the best beaches for dogs. Both small and big dogs can enjoy the park without worrying about danger. There are two separate areas for dogs of different sizes where they can play without fear of getting hurt. Both areas are enclosed to protect dogs from wandering off.

Although the beach is more narrow than Fort Morgan Historic Site’s, it does have fencing on both sides. Dogs are allowed off-leash and can swim as much as they’d like. There are shallow spots for smaller dogs and puppies that still want to paddle. Although the beach does have ample shade, bringing your own water is recommended. 

Dauphin Island Beach

There is only one cafe on this island. The rest is the beach. For dogs, Dauphin Island Beach is a wide-open space with few people and stores in the way. There is very little trash and the vibe is quiet, making it ideal for older dogs too. 

The only place dogs are not allowed is on the west side. The entire west side of the island preserves birds and wildlife. Dogs are free to play without leashes here and can enjoy moderate waves with a life vest. 

The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Texas

According to dog experts at The American Kennel Club, owners should be aware of doggie beach times. Not all dog-friendly beaches allow dogs throughout the entire day. Luckily, most Texas beaches do not require reservations or certain doggie hours. 

South Padre National Seashore

South Padre National Seashore is known for its calm surf. This is particularly inviting for big dogs that like to swim away from the shore. Although there are waves, it’s much less dangerous for labs and golden retrievers. 

Dogs have 70 miles of unleashed beach access. They can play throughout most of the beach with the only exception being the boardwalk and kids area. In addition to the beach itself, South Padre National Seashore also provides hiking trails.

Port Aransas Beach

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Port Aransas Beach is a popular vacation idea for dog lovers. It’s located on Mustang Island where warm water from the Gulf of Mexico is a staple. Dogs that are sensitive to temperature enjoy this beach during both the day and night.

Overnight beach vacationing is possible with a special permit. Dogs may stay out with their owners as long as they are leashed. Since golf carts are used during the day and night, this island is particularly safe for rambunctious dogs. 

Crystal Beach

Crystal Beach is quieter than many of the other Texas waterfront destinations. The sand is not as soft as other beaches because it is densely packed. This makes running easier for dogs because they don’t have to sink with every step.

Dogs do need to be on leashes, but they have ample space to walk. There is very little trash and doggie clean up is required. Lifeguards are present and can help with the safety of dogs as well as people. 

The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Mississippi

The Mississippi Gulf Coast is a unique part of the state. There is a strong artist community located nearby and creative southern cooking can be found in many beach restaurants. Big and small dogs are welcome in Ocean Springs.

Ocean Springs Front Beach

Front Beach is known for its shallow water. This is ideal for smaller dogs that want to get their feet wet without feeling overwhelmed by crashing waves. The beach itself is located between Ocean Spring Harbor and the Ocean Springs-Biloxi Bay Bridge and has plenty of room for dogs to play.

Dogs must be leashed on all parts of this beach. Although they are allowed to walk throughout the whole beach, there is little shade. Bringing an umbrella and extra water is recommended. 

Hancock County Beaches

The public beaches in Hancock are all dog friendly. They are also significantly less crowded than other beaches in Mississippi. This is partly due to the lack of crystal-white sand. For this reason, it is an ideal beach for dogs because there are miles of open beaches to roam.

Dogs must be leashed regardless of the beach. The owners are also expected to clean up after their dogs. Since these beaches are clearly open to dogs, many of the vacationers have their own and are friendly to playful pups. 

Pascagoula Beach Park and River Park

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Pascagoula is located in Jackson County. The park is approximately 15 acres with views of the Mississippi Sound. A 1000ft fishing pier stretches out across the ocean where vacationers can spot birds.

River Park provides over 8 acres for dogs to play. Dogs are not required to wear leashes and are welcome to sit with you as you fish off the dock or picnic with friends. The Mississippi sound has calm waters that are easily swimmable.

The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Florida

Florida beaches have clear green water that’s almost always warm. People from all over the state will come to specific Gulf Coast beaches for their ability to provide a dog-friendly paradise. 

Bayview Dog Park and Beach

Bayview Dog Park and Beach is located in Pensacola, Florida. This is one of the premier dog beaches available on the Gulf Coast. Dogs do not need leashes and can run and swim completely separate from their owner.

The dog park is approximately 1 acre of outdoor grass and sand. There is adequate shade for dogs to cool off. There is also an area inside the dog park where families and friends can picnic. Between the park and the beach, there are doggie showers and water bowls available.

Although leashes are not required, all dogs must have a rabies tag. This is for the safety of other people as well as dogs. 

Davis Island

Davis Island is in Tampa, Florida, and has a 2.5-acre dog park. In addition to soft sand and the ocean, the dog park is one of the best in the state. A vacation with your dog is a logistical dream. 

Dogs have access to a 200ft long beach and a grassy area with shade. Clean drinking water is provided as well as doggie showers. Picnic tables can be found inside the fenced-in area and owners frequently congregate together. 

Fort DeSoto Park Beach

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Fort DeSoto Park Beach has two fenced-in areas for dogs. Water stations are available for both small and large dogs. This is especially beneficial for big dogs that like running on the sand. Water stations include doggie showers and fresh water to drink. Dogs need to stay hydrated throughout a full beach day and should never drink ocean water. 

There are a few specific rules of Fort Desoto Park Beach. Dog owners must not exceed three dogs. They do not seem to care about the size of your dogs, just as long as there are no more than three. Dogs must also be leashed when entering and exiting. Once you and your dog are inside either park, the leash can be taken off. 

Unfortunately, puppies are not allowed on the beach. Puppies may get hurt if they are too small to defend themselves. They are also unlikely to be trained at that age. Dogs that cannot follow commands may not return to their owner when called. This can also be dangerous. 

Sanibel Beaches

Sanibel is an island in the southwest region of Florida. Depending on the beach, some spots are more family-friendly than others. Beaches with heavy partiers may not be as safe for dogs depending on how attentive everyone is. Gulfside Beach allows dogs to romp in the water as long as they have leashes. 

Dog water fountains can be found on the island, but not doggie bags. Before going to Sanibel, it’s important to pack the proper cleaning supplies as well as a doggie vest and toys. 

The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Louisiana

Most Louisiana beaches do require all dogs to be leashed. Although this means dogs have less freedom to swim and play with others, the beaches are still worth exploring. These beaches have some of the most beautiful sunrises on the East Coast.

Holly Beach

Holly Beach is also known as the Cajun Riviera. In addition to the white sand and ocean, this stretch of coast has several unique water spots. This part of the Gulf Coast includes marshes, rivers, and unusual sea creatures like loggerhead turtles and bivalves. Both dogs and people like examining this environment.  

Holly Beach is a popular crabbing spot. Dogs that are more interested in meeting new creatures than deep-sea swimming will love this area. 

Port Fourchon Beach

Port Fourchon Beach is one of the only places where dogs can run free. There are no restrictions as to what dogs are allowed to do and as a result, there are a lot of dogs. During the summertime, the beach is often crowded so it’s best to get there early.

This is the southernmost point in Louisiana and fishing is extremely popular. Since it’s not a shallow beach, dogs will need to be carefully watched when they’re in the water. A life vest is a good idea for dogs who are not strong swimmers. 

North Beach

North Beach has a slightly urban feel to it. There are shops and restaurants in addition to the ocean. Since all dogs are leashed, they can be found near shops just as easily as on the beach.

The boardwalk has three separate dog-friendly parks. This is ideal for dog socializing since everyone is leashed, but accessible. Once on the beach, public bathrooms are available with cleaning drinking water for dogs.  

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What Is Beach Petiquette?

The term “petiquette” usually refers to dogs because they are so social. While most people train their dogs not to jump, there are other situations that require different rules. Acknowledging other people and their dogs is a smart way to ensure beaches stay dog friendly. 

If you are unsure whether a beach requires leashes, strap one on anyway. You can always take the leash off, but putting it on too late can lead to danger and a potential fine. Not to mention, children are sometimes afraid of dogs even if they’re friendly. 

Instead of assuming a public beach has doggie clean up bags, bring your own. It’s easy to forget bags and a scooper, but leaving one in the car can help. Most public beaches on the Gulf Coast will have trash cans somewhere along the beach. If not, you can always dispose of them once you get home.

Dogs, like humans, can get a little cranky when they’re hungry. To avoid excessive barking or misbehavior, pack a few treats. A doggie pack usually consists of kibble, a couple of toys, a first aid kit, and extra water. Doggie swim vests are also helpful as well as a waterproof leash.

Before going to a public beach with your dog, make sure he or she is trained. This is helpful for the safety of the dog as well as other vacationers. Puppies that haven’t been trained yet may be extremely cute, but not everyone shares that sentiment. At the very least it’s important that dogs know their name and can follow commands. This is especially important if you’re not using a leash. 

Public environments need to be preserved. If you leave a beach without picking up discarded napkins or drinks, you’re littering. Wildlife preservation that grows on the coastal shores can be trampled by dogs. Watch your dog so that they don’t destroy nests. This will help keep the natural ecosystem of the park. 

Check Before You Go

If you’re unsure if a public beach allows dogs, it’s easy to find out. Public beaches that are tied to a state park will usually have a website or phone number you can call. If you are unsure whether to use a leash, fasten one onto your dog before stepping onto the beach.