The soft white sand, pleasant breeze in your hair, the lovely sound of your pup splashing in the water – it sounds like a true beach getaway for any pet lover, doesn’t it? Nowadays, pets have become an increasingly important part of our lives, and many people can’t imagine going on a vacation without their furry friends. The good thing is, they don’t have to. You’ll find plenty of places where you can bring your dog at the beach in Southwest Florida.

Taking your dog at the beach is a great way to create long-lasting memories, but it’s essential to plan ahead. So for a fun and safe experience, we’ve put together some helpful information such as: 

  • The best dog-friendly beaches
  • Ways to keep your dog safe under the sun
  • What to pack for a successful beach day

 You will find many more helpful insights as you read on. 

How Long Should Dogs Spend in the Sun?

Sunny weather is enjoyed by dogs just as much as their owners. After all, how many times do we catch our furry friends lounging precisely on that one spot where the sun shines through our window. Although it can be very beneficial to spend time outside in the sunlight, it can also be harmful in excess.

You shouldn’t have a problem spending an entire day outside if you bring a tent or umbrella and plenty of cool water. However, if you cannot find or provide a good shade for your pet, it is best to have a beach day when the temperatures are cooler, either early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

Are Dogs Allowed on the Beach in Southwest Florida?

There are many beautiful beaches in Southwest Florida; however, not all are dog-friendly. Some allow your pet to run free and wild, while others will require them to be on a leash at all times. To make life easy for you, we’ve added dog-friendly beaches, pet-friendly outdoor activities, and must-try restaurants throughout Southwest Florida in the following section.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Fort Myers Beach FL

Fort Myers Beach

This popular tourist destination is well known for fishing, dining, relaxing, and being one of the few dog-friendly beaches in Southwest Florida. Although pets are allowed on Fort Myers Beach, they must always be on a non-retractable leash no longer than six feet in length. In addition, pet owners must ensure their furry friends don’t disturb other beachgoers and pick up after them. So are you ready to experience the stunning sunset over the Gulf with your four-legged friend by your side?

Beach Buddy Tours

Beach Buddy Tours is a pet-friendly sightseeing tour of the surrounding areas. Even though it is not a beach adventure, it is an excellent opportunity for a fun experience with your pet. Beach Buddy Tours can also include a cruise dedicated explicitly to your four-legged companion with a stop at Bonita Dog Beach – known as the Doggie Paradise. The staff provides dog toys, waste bags for clean-up, and fashionable bandanas for your pup. Meanwhile, you can bring along some snacks and drinks of your choosing. Please note that dogs cannot join tours without being approved first.

Lover’s Key State Park

Unfortunately, you cannot take your dog to the beach part of the park; however, you can still enjoy the outdoors by taking them on the hiking and biking trails. In addition, you and your furry friends might see dolphins, manatees, ospreys, or alligators in this area. Although you won’t get to splash in the water, the path through the mangroves is well worth a visit.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Naples, FL

Keewaydin Island

Presently, Keewaydin Island is the only dog-friendly beach in Collier County, and although you must keep your furry friend on a leash, you will both have a great time. Unfortunately, the only way to get to this pet-friendly beach is by boat, but no worries, the daily express shuttle will happily welcome your four-legged friends. There are several return options, but booking ahead of time is required. Though a ticket for the Keewaydin ferry is a bit pricey, it’s well worth it. Once you arrive, you’ll notice no cars on the island, just beautiful plant life, nature, various animal species, and serenity.

Naples Botanical Garden

Do you want to stop and smell the roses with Fido? Now you can. Another fun adventure you can both have is to explore the 170 acres of botanical paradise filled with plants from around the world. This peaceful and picturesque place is an excellent spot for taking pictures with your furry friends. Keep in mind that pets are permitted only on Sundays and Tuesdays between 9 am, and 11 am. Before visiting the Naples Botanical Garden, fill out the dog form on the website.

Paddle Marco

Have you ever thought about kayaking with your pet? Bring a lifejacket for your pup and start exploring the mangrove tunnels. You’ll see a variety of wildlife and gain a new understanding of Southwest Florida waterways and the significance of the mangroves. Well-behaved dogs who won’t bark or jump in the water will be happily welcomed by Paddle Marco.

Dog-Friendly Beaches on Sanibel Island, FL

Bowman’s Beach

Bowman Beach is a perfect beach getaway that offers many amenities such as walking trails, picnic tables, grills, a play area, bicycle racks, and restrooms. Even though your pet needs to be on a leash, it is a great spot to spend an entire day looking for seashells and soaking up the sun. Did you know that Sanibel Island is the “Sea Shell Capital of the World”? That means that you’ll find a variety of stunning, unique shells to take home as souvenirs, but be sure to watch your pet closely as some of the shells may break and cause damage to their paws.

Causeway Islands

Why are the Causeway Islands so popular with locals? You can fish, barbecue, kayak, relax, or go swimming. There are picnic areas, and parking is free. When driving from Fort Myers, you must pay a toll of $6, but there is plenty of parking once you arrive.

Do you have a pup that’s afraid of the water? Then, Causeway Islands is the perfect place to gradually introduce them to swimming thanks to the shallow calm water. After all that fun, cook up some hot dogs to share with your furry friends. Even though your pet must be on a leash at all times, this is an excellent place they sure will enjoy. Are you looking for a memorable photo opportunity? Wait until sunset! You will not see such beautiful skies anywhere else, we promise.

Gulfside (Algiers) Beach

Gulfside Beach, also known as Algiers Beach, is another pet-friendly beach with soft white sand, unique shells, and clear blue water that will wash away all your worries. While it’s not as secluded as some other Sanibel beaches, it has all the amenities you’d expect, including showers, picnic tables, and grills. The section of beach reserved for your furry friends is located near the nature preserves, where you can also see nesting shorebirds and sea turtles. Remember always to keep your pet on a leash.

Dog-Friendly Beaches on Captiva Island, FL

Although dogs are not permitted on Captiva Island’s beaches, there are other places on the island where you can enjoy time with them.

Pet-Friendly Restaurants

Mucky Duck – Do you enjoy watching the sunset while drinking a refreshing drink on the patio? If so, then you would love it here. With your pet by your side, you can take in the laid-back atmosphere, the gorgeous views, and some seriously delicious comfort food.

Cantina Captiva – Is there anyone who doesn’t love Mexican food? At Cantina Captiva, guests are welcome to bring Fido on the outdoor patio, where they can indulge in some tasty homemade guacamole, fajitas, or burritos. If your pet’s thirsty while you’re sipping on frozen margaritas, make sure to request a bowl of water, and the staff will gladly provide it.

Key Lime Bistro at Captiva Island Inn –  This tropically-inspired American restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, featuring their very own mouth-watering and must-try key lime pie. Visit the dog-friendly patio and listen to live music.

Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille – Captiva Island –  Are you in a mood for a cocktail and a Caribbean flavor dish? You will find a meal to satisfy all your taste buds here. The patio offers plenty of space for your pets to stretch their legs and enjoy relaxing by your side.

New Wave Eco Charters

New Wave Eco charters offer several different tours that will take you on a sightseeing journey that will not be forgotten. In addition, you can go on a dolphin research excursion, birding tour, or a snorkeling and shelling adventure. If you want your pet to have another canine companion, you can request Dawson, the captain’s first mate. Make sure you let the captain know that you plan on bringing your pet when you make a reservation.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Estero, FL

Estero Bay Preserve State Park

Why don’t you take advantage of the fantastic Southwest Florida weather and go on a four-mile mile hike? In Estero Bay Preserve State Park, you can find a piece of Florida in its natural, undiscovered state, where you can walk through the tidal marshes and wet flatwoods. The furry members of your family may enjoy mud play, but you may want to wear waterproof shoes.

Paw-radise Dog Bakery

Did Fluffy behave well? Take him to Paw-radise Dog Bakery, where they offer over 15 types of cookies freshly made in various flavors. In addition, there is a wide choice of holistic brands available to ensure your pet’s health and wellbeing. You can treat your pet to tasty strawberry and peanut butter hand-dipped yogurt treats as a way to show how much they mean to you. At Paw-radise Dog Bakery, you can find themed cookies, granola donuts, cupcakes, custom cakes, and paw pizzas that are tasty and healthy.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Cape Coral, FL

Waggin Tails Dog Park at Rotary Park

Are you feeling bored at home? Hop in the car and go to Rotary Park, Cape Coral’s only dog park. There is a section for little and big dogs and a shaded area where pet owners can catch up and chat. Before you go, you must go to the Rotary Park office and show proof of up-to-date vaccinations, pay a $20 fee, and register your pet.

The Beach Dog

If you run out of dog food while staying in the Cape Coral area, be sure to stop at the Beach Dog. Their doors opened in 2014, and they offer a holistic approach to pets’ health and well-being. So whether you are looking for food, toys, treats, or supplements, you will find it all here. Aside from selling the healthiest products for your pet, The Beach Dog is also involved in the community, donates to non-profit organizations, and works with animal shelters.

Scotty’s Bierwerks

This dog-friendly brewery has been open since 2017. So whether you’re looking to try a new craft brew, enjoy a glass of wine, or take part in a bar game, everyone will feel right at home—even Fido. So while you relax and unwind on the patio picnic tables, your furry friends can keep you company.

Dog-Friendly Beaches in Bonita Springs, FL

Bonita Beach Dog Park

Bonita Beach Dog Park, also called Lee County Dog Park, is the ultimate pet-friendly beach. It is located between Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach, and it is the only off-leash place in Southwest Florida. There are no fences or leashes, only calm water and happy pups of varying sizes and breeds. Interestingly enough, many people who do not own pets come to this beach just to watch the playful dogs in action.

Although this beach is not visible from Estero Road, the signs near the trees can help you locate it. There is a sandbar, and the water isn’t deep, making it a perfect place to either relax or splash around with your furry friends. An outdoor portable toilet is available for humans, but remember to pack waste bags for your pets. Finally, once your outdoor adventures come to an end, there are multiple showers to rinse your dog.

Paddle Naples

If you have a calm but adventurous dog, consider taking them paddling. You’ll be able to explore many mangrove tunnels and trails where you can also encounter manatees or dolphins. This guided 2-hour tour is suitable for all ages, and it includes complimentary high-definition photos of your adventures. Additionally, you can choose to paddleboard by yourself or make a reservation for a guided tour. Why not bring a GoPro to capture the whole experience?

How to Keep Your Dog Safe at the Beach?

In the same way that people prepare for a beach day, you must prepare for your furry friends by bringing fresh cool water, umbrellas, and a first aid kit. Here are some helpful tips.

  1. Never allow your dog to drink saltwater – While small amounts of saltwater are likely to upset their stomach, large quantities are incredibly harmful and can lead to salt poisoning. If you suspect that your pup ingested saltwater, be on the lookout for vomiting, dehydration, loss of coordination, and decreased appetite. Always make sure to bring plenty of fresh water, so your pet is not tempted to find a source somewhere else.
  2. Don’t let your dog get sunburned – Our furry friends are susceptible to sunburn when exposed to the sun for an extended period of time. As we all know, time flies when you’re having a good time, so bring an umbrella or a tent to provide shade when the sun is too intense. Investing in a good sunblock for your dog is also a good idea.
  3. Be aware of the dangers on the shore – Always keep an eye out for broken glass and sharp objects. Whether it may be a shattered beer bottle or a broken shell, you should inspect the area first before letting your dogs run wild. Even better, do a little beach clean-up (if necessary), bring a reusable bag with you, and dispose of any trash you see. If you do that each time you visit the shore, not only will you feel good about it, but the beach will become a true paradise for pet owners as well.
  4. Keep an eye out when they’re swimming – Be cautious of strong currents, rough waves, and cold water, which can put your dog at risk. Moreover, keep in mind that there are hidden dangers in calm water too, so never leave your pet unattended.
  5. Keep them cool – Dogs have a hard time controlling their excitement and energy during play, so it’s our job to keep them from getting overheated. One way to keep them cool is by avoiding the beach during the warmest hours of the day. Another option is to bring an umbrella or tent so they can rest under the shade and rehydrate with fresh cool water.

What Does a Dog Need for the Beach?

With the warm weather in Southwest Florida, you may be eager to get to the beach as soon as possible, but preparing ahead ensures that both you and your pet have the ultimate beach day. Saltwater, sun, and heat may sound like a dream beach vacation, but they can also cause dehydration and heat exhaustion. So, what does Fido need for a successful day in the sun?

  • Fresh cool water – We previously covered the importance of not allowing your dog to drink saltwater. The best way to keep them hydrated and away from drinking ocean water is by making sure you bring plenty of fresh cool water. Regularly check their water bowl and replenish it often. Then, if you still have water left over at the end of the day, you can use it to rinse your dog from the saltwater. By doing so, you will avoid worrying about itchy skin or a damaged coat.
  • Towels – Bring at least two towels, one for you and one for your pet. That way, they can enjoy a break from standing or sitting on the hot sand, and you can use it to dry them when your beach day is over. In addition, we recommend placing the water bowl on the towel to prevent sand from getting in.
  • Umbrella or tent – Even though the sun feels good on your skin, it’s always a good idea to bring an umbrella or a tent, especially if you’re visiting with your furry friends. Keeping them cool in the shade will prevent them from overheating, allowing you to spend more time at the beach.
  • SPF – The same way humans can get a sunburn, so do pets, especially the hairless breeds or ones with short light coats. Protect sensitive areas like the nose, ears, groin, belly, and inner thighs with sunscreen formulated specifically for dogs (both sprays and balms are available).
  • Dog Toys – What keeps you occupied at the beach? Perhaps you’re reading that book you just bought on Kindle, watching YouTube videos, or possibly solving Sudoku? Similar to humans, pets need a source of entertainment, and waterproof toys are the perfect solution. After all, if you’re going to spend time outside, why not throw a ball and stay active? If you keep your pets engaged, they are less likely to get in trouble.
  • First Aid Kit – Have a first aid kit on hand, regardless of whether you have a pet with you or not. Hopefully, you won’t run into any trouble, but it wouldn’t hurt to be prepared just in case. The last thing you want is for your dog to cut his paw on a broken shell or get stung by a jellyfish when you’re unprepared.
  • Dog Waste Bags – A responsible dog owner will always have waste bags and clean up after their furry friends. Most places that allow pets already have them, but it is always possible that they have run out, and to continue having dog-friendly beaches, we must ensure they are kept clean. After all, no one would be pleased if they took a walk barefoot and stepped on a forgotten pile.

Can I Let My Dog Off-Leash at the Beach?

Most Southwest Florida beaches require your pet to be leashed at all times, but in Bonita Beach Dog Park, they can socialize, go swimming, and run free without a leash. This place is a true pet paradise, but before you can have a safe and successful visit, you have to ask yourself a few questions and determine if your pup is ready to be off-leash.

For example, “Is my dog socialized enough to get along with other dogs”? In the same way as people, not every pet likes the company of others, especially in a crowded place. If your dog is a social butterfly, let them run loose, but if you’ve got an anxious or aggressive pup, this might not be the best option for them or you.

Is your pet familiar with the “leave it” command? If you’re planning an off-leash beach day, make sure to go over it a few times because pets are naturally curious about their surroundings, and they may get into trouble if they don’t listen to you. In addition, they may run into dead creatures or live shells at times, so they should pay attention to “drop it.”

There are two kinds of dogs, the ones that immediately jump in the water the moment they get to the beach and the more timid ones that need a little bit of time to get used to their surroundings. If your pet happens to be the second one, be patient and let them adapt to the calm water at their own pace. If you want to minimize their anxiety, you should throw a ball on the beach, not directly in the water, and once you see them getting more comfortable, let them gradually venture out deeper on their own.

Having your dog at the beach is a great experience that will surely make you smile; however, as a responsible owner, be aware of the specific rules you have to follow. For example, if you allow your dog to be off-leash and run free, supervise them at all times, clean up their messes, and ensure they are up-to-date on vaccinations. That is the recipe for good beach etiquette.

How Can I Protect My Dog’s Paws from the Beach?

A dog’s paws are generally capable of walking on most surfaces with no problem, but to keep your dog safe, avoid letting them walk on asphalt, concrete, or pavement without any protection, especially when temperatures are too warm or cold.

To protect your pup from the hot sand, you can purchase waterproof dog boots or use paw wax or socks. During the warm summer months, pets can get Paw Wax applied to the pads of their paws, which protects against damaging surfaces. Booties are another great temporary alternative, particularly on the beach, where there may be other dangers such as glass, broken shells, and jellyfish. If your pet does not like the booties, socks may be another good alternative as they are comfortable to wear and easy to put on and take off.

So, how would you know if something was wrong with their paws? Here are a few symptoms:

  • Your pet avoids going on walks
  • They are constantly licking their feet
  • Paw pads differ in color
  • Their paw pads are red or cracked

If your dog displays any of these symptoms, you should bring them indoors and keep them away from the affected area. In addition, to prevent infection, you should also take your pet to the veterinarian.

Vacationing with Your Pet Has Never Been Easier

Have you started planning your vacation yet? Whether you will be visiting Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Captiva, Sanibel, Bonita Springs, or Naples, it is our goal to make your trip memorable, even for your furry friends. Royal Shell has many pet-friendly vacation rentals that will accommodate your needs and those of your dog. So, are you eager to take your dog at the beach? Contact us today and let us help you create unforgettable memories.