Paw Friendly on the Panhandle Coast?

Beach, blue, the pooch and us on St. Joseph beach -> exactly the way we like it!

I’d been duly warned by those in the know that the Panhandle Coast is one of the least dog-friendly spots in the country. For a couple like us, where camping is ALL about the paws, this was a rather depressing piece of info, and unfortunately my preliminary investigations showed it to be true. There are 5 or 6 fairly “well-known” Florida State Parks nestled along the Pandhandle coast (Top Sail, Henderson Beach, Grayton Beach etc.) each of which promise pristine white-sand beach, play in the sand and absolutely no dogs. Don’t get me wrong now…you can take pooch in the campground and around the trails (if there are any), but absolutely not and under no circumstances on the beach, and that goes for most of the surrounding area too.

Where paw prints and footsteps align

Now, this just doesn’t do it for us. No matter how nice the place is, if we can’t take doggie for a romp in the sand, then it just ain’t the spot for us. Walking with pooch is a core part of our daily enjoyment and feeling the sand between our toes is something we all relish. At this point I almost gave up and decided to re-route us through the “inner” Panhandle and leave the popular spots to the crowds. After all, even without the dog restriction, we didn’t want to squeeze in with all those people herding to the same busy spots.

But then we discovered the Forgotten Coast, and we uncovered an extra little secret that made it just right for both us and the paws.

A play and a run on the Bayside of St. Joseph Peninsula

You see, the State Parks here are not really any different. The 2 “big” ones, St. George and St. Joseph are lovely, isolated spots but still have the annoying “no dogs on the beach” restriction. However, what makes these places unique are the beautiful and accessible public beaches just a short drive away. It’s the same coastline and the same pristine snow-white sand on the same peninsula, but here paws are welcomed and doggie-heaven is absolute. On St. Joseph the access is one of the closest. The public beach is only ~1 mile from the entrance to the state park, many miles long, wide, gorgeous, almost entirely deserted and totally paw-friendly. On St. George public beach they actively advertize themselves as a “dog-friendly” spot, and just between the two, on Carabelle public beach, dogs are allowed off-leash right on the sand. It’s yet another reason this place gets our vote with all 4 thumbs and 12 paws up.

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  1. says

    Great post on a good topic!

    We travel with two dogs and are farther west on the Florida panhandle at Grayton Beach State Park. Of course, no dogs allowed on the beach at the this park either.

    The surrounding Walton County beaches are also no dogs allowed. Walton County does allow dogs on the beach if you are a county resident or property owner and purchase a beach permit for your pet. For visitors, no dogs allowed on the beaches period.

    Grayton Beach S.P does however have some nature trails where dogs are allowed, some nice Multiuse Paths along hwy 30a, and just across from the park entrance in the State Forest there are plenty of trails to exercise the hounds.

    Looks like the area you are in is the place to be for beach visitors with dogs.

    • libertatemamo says

      I read on your blog that you guys were travelling this way and wondered how close you were. Thanks for the info on Grayton. I’d heard something of the sort, but wasn’t sure. You guys gonna make it to the Coast over here? We’re staying for next 3 days in Blackwater River. Would love to meet if we’re close. Nina

      • says

        We are leaving Grayton Saturday morning and heading further east to Ochlockonee River. Dang, so close! Looks like we will just miss each other. If you pass by Grayton on your way west and have time for a quick roundevous let us know.

        • libertatemamo says

          Ahhh…no worries…we weren’t able to stop, but did do a wave on the way past and will raise a glass of wine to you this PM :) Will be following you East on your blog. Nina

  2. says

    I agree that finding pet-friendly locales is a must! We were pleasantly surprised to find out that Oregon state park beaches not only allow dogs, but they only have to be under voice control, not leashed. I don’t know if this is the case with all beaches, but all the ones we’ve visited follow this rule. Our dog, a 9-year old greyhound who is definitely showing his age, is typically very calm. However, when he gets on a beach and the sand oozes between his toes, he turns into a totally different dog. He loves running in and out of the surf. Living his whole life in a land-locked state, this was such an unexpected, but wonderful, surprise.

    Just found your blog yesterday through NuRVers. Great writing. I look forward to following your adventures!

    • libertatemamo says

      I can’t wait to go to Oregon! I’ve heard so much about the coast and the parks there. It’s wonderful doggie is so welcome in the area! Nina

  3. says

    We also will be traveling with our 2 pups, and pup-friendly is high on our requirements. Thanks for posting this, and I rnjoy your posts all the time!

  4. Jon & Sue Francis says

    Just stumbled across your blog and enjoyed reading it. We travel with Kudah our black lab so we are always looking for dog friendly beaches.

    A couple of beaches we have found is Jekyll Island State Park, GA and Hunting Island State Park in SC. Both allow dogs on the beach on leash with the standard rules of cleaning up after them. Both parks also have plenty of trails for walking your best friend.


    • libertatemamo says

      Hi Jon, Yup we went to both Hunting Island and Jekyll Island last year and had a blast both places. Hunting Island actually made our “top campgrounds of the year”. We loved the place, as did doggie! So nice to “meet’ other people on the net who are as dog-nutty as us :) Nina

  5. kim says

    Hello! We recently bought a camper with a big reason being that we hated to leave our dogs behind when we went anywhere. Now, we can take them whenever we decide to go. Our first trip will be to St. Jospeh Penninsula and we are so excited. My older 10 year old dog has never been on the beach and I’m so excited for her. Thanks for your post and info!

    • libertatemamo says

      Oh how exciting!! We loved, loved, loved St.Joseph and I’m sure you will too.
      For doggie access just drive south of the State Park area. There’s a public beach
      access point literally ~1/2 mile from the entrance to the park (right opposite the street from the diner).
      The beach sign is mini-small, but the road is fairly obvious once you see it. We drove to
      play by the beach there twice/day with Polly.

    • Amy says


      We will be there shortly with our pup as well :) This is our first time camping with her and we will be far from home (mtns. of NC) but we are looking forward to it!

      Thanks for this write up – it helped seal the deal: pup is coming with us!

      • libertatemamo says

        Sooooo excited for you! DO hope you enjoy the spot.
        By the way at St.Joseph there’s a nice little nature trail (close to the camping spots)
        where you can walk pup if you’re not driving to the public beach to
        romp on the sand. Enjoy!!


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