The pet-friendly Gulf Coast of Florida is all about enjoying the sun, sand, and water, and relaxing to the max. And who better to share it with than your best buddy, your pet? There's no reason to leave your pet behind when you're heading to the gulf shores; we've got plenty of pet-friendly hotels, motels, cottages, and bed and breakfasts that are waiting to welcome you both with a smile and a pat on the head (we mean for your pet, but, of course, you've been a good boy, too).
First and foremost, the Gulf is about beaches and to make it easy to find a place to romp in the sand with your pet, we've compiled a guide to the pet-friendly beaches of the west coast of Florida, extending from Cedar Key down to Fort Myers Beach. If you're traveling further north, take a look at our guide to the pet-friendly beaches of the Florida Panhandle.
The west coast of Florida offers some spectacular natural surroundings. In Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, you and your pet (on a 10-foot leash) can explore the park's 53,000 acres of river delta, the meeting of the Suwannee River and the Gulf of Mexico. Discover its salt marshes, tidal flats, swamps, and forests, habitat for bald eagles, wild turkeys, manatees, sturgeon, and much more. Check out the Shell Mound, created from oyster and clam shells discarded by Native Americans more than 1,000 years ago, and take advantage of the refuge’s hiking and biking trails, as well as the 9-mile Lower Suwannee Nature Drive.
And of course there are the Everglades, which you can access on the west coast from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. Your pet can accompany you into the park but because of its fragile ecosystem, there are significant restrictions. The good news is, if you want to explore the Everglades by boat, your pet can come along. If you're exploring from terra firma, however, your pet is limited to the roadways within the park, the campgrounds, picnic areas, and the grounds around park buildings.
For some pet-friendly fun, don't miss Suncoast Animal League's annual Mutt Madness in Dunedin. It features an owner-pooch lookalike contest, Dancing with the Paws, and a Fido Idol singing contest for pooches competing to see who had the best pipes. You also don't want to miss their annual Dogtoberfest in October, with the Blessing of the Animals, a Pup Art contest, the Running of the Wieners (no, not Anthony), and the crowning of the Dogtoberfest king and queen.