If you’re looking for a dog friendly beach destination look no further than St. Augustine Beach, FL. In fact, I’d venture to say, it’s one of the most dog friendly places we’ve ever visited. And that’s saying A LOT!
There were dogs on every city sidewalk, in the drop-tops cruising A1A, and in the bars, breweries, and restaurants. Practically anywhere you go in the Ancient City, if there is an outdoor patio, dogs are welcome. In addition, ALL the beaches in St. Augustine, with the exception of Anastasia State Park, are dog friendly beaches. For off-leash play, you can find at least six fenced dog parks. Our morning beach strolls were a meet and greet of epic proportions. Does anyone in this town not have a dog?
Finding dog friendly lodging in such a dog friendly town isn’t difficult either.
Unless…you’re booking last minute reservations for the week after Christmas, including New Year’s Eve. Or you’re traveling with a girl friend instead of a lover and would prefer two queen beds.
We had planned to split our stay into two parts, St. Augustine Beach and St. Augustine Historic Downtown. We really wanted to book a cute little B&B type place in the city. Turns out, that aside from being full, most of those are single queens or kings designed for romantic get-aways, not chick trips with dogs. We didn’t score a place downtown, but we did find a resort on the beach and another, less expensive option just off of it.
Dog Friendly Lodging in St. Augustine Beach
Guy Harvey Resort
Guy Harvey Resort is located right on the beach on the infamous A1A and your stay here includes direct beach access via the pool deck. Dogs are not allowed to hang out on the deck, but they are allowed to pass through to the beach. The on-site restaurant and bar features a pet friendly outdoor patio, and prior to Covid, hosted Pups on the Patio, a weekly yappy hour with specials for dogs and their humans.
There is plenty of non-fenced grassy space for your pup’s duties with a designated ‘Doggie Business Center’ at the front of the property. A complimentary waste bag station is provided, but it was empty. You should always carry your own anyway. Pick up your poop!
While visiting the resort, be sure to check out the works of local artists in Surfboard Hall and the Fast Glass Gallery. The recycled boards are for sale with proceeds benefiting local charities and conservation organizations, and the Fast Glass Gallery features rotating works from the Camera Club of St. Augustine. Dogs are allowed in this area of the resort, so I suggest grabbing a drink from the bar and taking your time.
This resort is very dog friendly and though the pet policy states that pets are only allowed in ground floor rooms 102-124, I did see a few dogs on balconies. I’m sure they were “service dogs” (insert eye roll). A fee of $50 per night is charged in addition to your room rate, but the fee will not exceed $100. Dogs may be left unattended in rooms and crating is not required. However, housekeeping will not clean or enter rooms with unattended pets. That being the case, when you run out of coffee pods, just go to the front desk and ask. Those folks are Disney nice!
One thing to note about your stay at this resort is that while the beds are super-comfy (an amazing gift after a long day), the walls are paper thin. It’s really the only drawback. If you have a dog that is prone to “alerting”, be aware that room 102 is near the elevator and a high traffic location; it felt a little spring-breaky at times. If available, I’d suggest requesting a room further down the hall.
America’s Best Value Inn Ocean Inn
For our third and fourth nights in St. Augustine, we checked into America’s Best Value Inn Ocean Inn just down the road. It is part of the Red Lion Hotel Corporation. A basic, no frills motel, it was clean to the point of smelling like bleach, and of course, dog friendly.
According to their website “a maximum of 2 pets per room weighing 20 lbs or less are welcome for a $20 nightly charge per pet”. Henri weighs 48 pounds and I saw two other dogs that were about his size. I guess two pets weighing 20 is the same as one pet weighing 40ish.
Again, housekeeping did not enter the room during our stay, but anything we needed was readily available at the front desk, including a can opener for the one can of Hoppin’ John’s we found on the shelf at the local Publix. Shout out to the attendant for making that available to us. We couldn’t find a restaurant serving black-eyed peas, and we weren’t taking ANY chances with 2021.
While direct beach access is not available at America’s Best, there are multiple drive-to/ thru access points along A1A. Driving on the beaches of St. Augustine is allowed. Please be sure to educate yourself on their safe driving practices.
Dog Friendly Things to Do In St. Augustine
A five and half hour drive from Destin had us ready for some relaxation. Check-in as, well as bar service, isn’t available at Guy Harvey until 4 PM. Since we were early, we decided to stretch our legs on the beach. St. Augustine Beach logs #10 for Henri. I’m pretty sure he knows the word “beach”.
After settling into our room, it was time to think about dinner. We have friends with a condo in the area and they suggested meeting at Hurricane Grill & Wings. I’m not typically one to visit chain establishments while on vacation, but this one has dog friendly outdoor dinning with live music.
No need to say it again. The restaurant was within walking distance of our resort.
Dog Friendly Patio
Once seated on the patio at Hurricane Grill, the waitress offered to bring the dogs water bowls. I carry a travel bowl and water in my Dog Mom bag (you must get a ToteSavvy), but I always appreciate a place that caters to the pooches. The patio was crowded, but our party of five plus two dogs required a corner table. That minimized passersby and afforded Henri the chance to tuck himself under the table. Our friend, Champs, posted up in his stroller.
I ordered a Beach Bowl of seasoned shrimp and Mahi Mahi served on a bed of cilantro lime rice for me, and a hamburger patty with bacon and cheese for Henri.
The bowl would have been delicious, I’m sure, had they not put cheese and bacon on it instead of the burger. The waitress apologized and offered to rush me out a new one, but I’d already picked around the topping and tossed it off to Henri. The fact that I was on a patio with my dog, enjoying live musi made me not really care.
It was well after dark by the time we left. Instead of walking, we hitched a ride in our friend’s convertible Mercedes. Henri likes style (and apologizes for the dog hair).
Walk Your Dog at the Wednesday Pier Farmer’s Market
On our first morning in St. Augustine, we headed to the Wednesday Pier Farmer’s Market at St. Augustine Beach Pier Park. Attending the local farmer’s market was one of my favorite things to do in my hometown until the pandemic hit. Post-Covid, they closed the market to dogs. I’m rather indignant about it. I haven’t been since.
I love a good farmer’s market and was excited to find a dog friendly one just a mile and a half from Guy Harvey Resort. We walked there via the beach, stopping to sniff the trinkets left by high tide and watch the surfers take advantage of the waves.
The market is open from 8 AM to noon and features a variety of produce, prepared foods, arts and crafts. According to current website information all vendors are required to wear masks, there is no on-stie consumption of food, foot traffic is one-way, and social distancing is encouraged. The food consumption thing wasn’t really being enforced, nor was the one-way traffic, but the majority of visitors were masked and being respectful of each other’s space. It wasn’t crowded and I felt very at ease.
I couldn’t turn down a free sample of chowder from Jack’s Island Eats and ended up purchasing fresh conch fritters for breakfast. It was a healthy portion of six good sized fritters and I plopped onto a nearby bench to eat them while they were hot.
Before leaving the market, I picked up a beautiful sea glass pendant from local artist, Tracie Brown of Colorworks Design, and a hand-crafted pottery design from Fabu Pottery. Fabu artist, Fabian Pesci, poured some water for Henri into one of his custom bowls and promised my piece would be as functional as it is beautiful. I can’t wait to use it.
Having made our laps and acquired a bag full of goodies, including some free turkey wraps that I’d stuck in purse for later, it was time to think about cocktails. Any morning at the farmer’s market should be followed by cocktails. It was 11 AM and Beachcomber was on the way back to our resort. We strolled the sidewalk along A1A instead of the beach just to make sure we didn’t miss anything.
Dog Friendly Beach Bar
Located “where A Street meets the ocean” and tucked behind a dune, this patio sits right in the sand. Picnic tables are spread across a concrete pad with covered, open-air seating, and spill into the ‘sand pit’ to accommodate socially distanced seating. Several parties were drinking and/or dining with well-behaved pooches, and all were welcomed with bowls of fresh water.
I love a good beach bar and I can see why this spot is a favorite with the locals. I liked it, too. I ordered a mojito, and even though I wasn’t very hungry, some smoked tuna dip served with fried pita. Beachcomber serves lunch, dinner, and beach cocktail favorites everyday from 11 AM- 9 PM. If I were a local, this might be my default place.
(Don’t) Take Your Dog to Nights of Lights
Arguably one of the best holiday light displays in the United States, I was pretty excited about Nights of Lights and walking the centuries old streets of the Ancient City. An entire city of straight white Christmas lights and towering oaks dripping with Spanish moss is right up my cobblestone alley.
Taking Henri was a mistake.
Don’t get me wrong, dogs are allowed. I saw several. However, you really need to consider whether your dog will enjoy this. He probably won’t.
The streets are congested with motor vehicle traffic, horse drawn carriages, bike taxis, tour trollies, people, and noise. The sidewalks are crowded enough that you can’t avoid occasionally brushing against strangers. A medium size dog can easily go unnoticed. The Grinch would totally hate it, and I’m pretty sure Henri did, too.
The combination of a strange place, flashing headlights, random noises, and frequently cramped walkways was more than most dogs are prepared to handle. It was certainly too much for a 14 year old dog who had been on the go most of the day. I really think all the lights and sounds were disorienting for him at his age. It was stressful for us both.
Our saving grace was the dog friendly bike taxi, and I can’t recommend this form of tourism enough.
We were stopped for a photo op when Chris Taylor of Pedi Express Bike Taxi peddled past and hollered that his bike was dog friendly. I jumped out into the street to grab his card. Little did I know that in less than an hour, he’d be picking us up from our hiding place at a dog friendly brewery.
We darted into Bog Brewing in the West King Street District to reevaluate our situation. The Bog is also where we purchased our passport for Nights of Pints, a bar-hopping special that benefits local charity. As we sipped our brews, it occurred to me to message the bike taxi guy and inquire about his rates. If reasonable, it seemed a much better option than roaming a crowded street of unmasked strangers (it was about 80% masked to unmasked).
For $40 plus tip you can get a private and personalized Nights of Lights or historical tour. For tips only, you can hitch a ride from one point to the next, and there’s no sharing. The seat is just right for two adult women and one very happy 50 pound dog.
We asked our driver to take us the scenic route to a dog-friendly restaurant and he happily obliged, narrating our ride through town. We were dropped off at the restaurant right as they were closing, so in search of another place to eat, we meandered our way through the alleyways to the pedestrian-only St. George Street. It was here that some fool decided it would be great to shoot off a firecracker in the middle of a crowd.
That did it. Henri and I were done. I was hangry and he was tired. We had wine, snacks, and soft bedding in our hotel room. We were in desperate need of all the things.
My recommendation is to do this one sans dog, and take advantage of a bike taxi or carriage ride to avoid mingling with too many strangers. The lights will shine until January 31st and they are worth seeing.
Yoga With Your Dog
A good night’s sleep had me ready to face the last day of 2020 with gratitude and enter the new year with a positive mindset. Henri, too, seemed recovered and ready for his walk. I grabbed my towel, leashed my doga partner, and headed to the beach.
Beach yoga is available to guests of Guy Harvey, and others, every Wednesday and Thursday, weather permitting, at 9 AM. It is a donation based class taught by Ancient City Beach Yoga. I assumed bringing Henri would be ok. We made our spot near the back outer edge of the group.
On this particular day, December 31, 2020, our instructor handed each of us a shell with “2021” written on it. She invited us to use our session/shell to focus on our intentions for the New Year, and when we were ready, toss it into the ocean. While I stretched, moved, and meditated, Henri laid calmly in the sand.
Whether a beginner or a seasoned practitioner, if you’ve never done beach yoga, I highly recommend it. There’s something about the salt air moving with you that is both relaxing and invigorating. I’m sure that Shavasana was meant to be practiced in the sun with the smell of the ocean and the sound of infinite possibilities rolling ashore. We followed up our session with a brief walk then made our way back to our room to pack.
Our New Year’s Eve Day agenda was loosely constructed around check-out at 11 AM and pedicures at 12:30. I’ve never scheduled a beach trip without a pre-vacation pedi, but I’d promised my parents I’d maintain strict social distancing before my Christmas visit. My toes were starting to look pretty shabby. Unfortunately, our appointment was ill-timed. We had checked out of one hotel and not yet checked into the other. Since I’m not comfortable leaving Henri alone in the truck for more than a few minutes, we were on our own for a bit.
Ocean Hammock Park
While zipping up and down A1A, I noticed a a sign for Ocean Hammock Park. It looked like a good place to kill time.
If your stay in St. Augustine doesn’t include direct beach access and/or you don’t have a vehicle that can drive on the sand, then go here. A small paved parking lot is surrounded by a maritime hammock and a short stroll down the public boardwalk provides through access to the beach. It’s a gem of a spot that I’m guessing fills up fast during busier times of the year. If you’re lucky enough to find a space in this partially shaded lot, you’ll also find a majestic Oak that just begs to be climbed.
Taking Your Dog to the Fountain of Youth
We didn’t have to wait long for the girls because the nail salon botched their reservations. We reconvened in the parking lot of our new hotel, jumped into one vehicle, and headed to the Fountain of Youth. As an almost 50 year old woman with a 14 year old dog, I was really excited to discover Fountain of Youth park is dog-friendly.
I was prepared to go full Katherine ala Under The Tuscan Sun, embarrassing my friends and myself for a mere chance at restoring our youth.
Alas, the fountain is mythical. There isn’t even a fake one taking up space in the middle of the park. After discovering that tidbit of information, we decided it wasn’t worth the $18 entry fee or another $9 sangria, which we would certainly consume during our tour. Hitting the next brewery on my Nights of Pints passport seemed like a better idea.
Please note that if you DO to choose to visit this historical landmark with your pooch, there is an hourly weapons demonstration that includes cannon fire.
Dog Friendly Breweries
I’ve referenced this a couple of times in this post, but here’s the scoop on this brewery-hopping adventure. Nights of Pints is offered by four local breweries during the Nights of Lights 2020-2021 season. It’s a great excuse to drink with your dog, drink local, and support charity. With the purchase of a $30 passport, we received a t-shirt, and a pint at each of the four breweries. We also discovered some things in St. Augustine that we might have otherwise missed.
We punched Ancient City Brewery and picked up our passport and t-shirt the night we hid from downtown traffic. So after our failed attempt to set back the clock on our age on New Year’s Eve, we decided to try Dog Rose. It was only twelve minutes from the archeological park and a short hop back over the Bridge of Lions to make an escape before New Year’s Eve revelry began.
Dog Rose does not allow dogs inside the brewery, but they have a nice courtyard with picnic tables. Food is available from the Wingin’ It food truck. The chef was nice enough to make a not spicy, chopped version of their chicken for Henri, who had skipped his breakfast. We only stayed long enough for one beer. I wanted us OUT of downtown and settled into our new room long before dark.
We punched our third brewery on New Year’s Day at Old Coast Ales. Located on Anastasia Island, this was my favorite for lots of reasons. The fantastic Tugboat Smoke Scottish-style Ale, the newly released- like, THAT DAY- limited batch El Galeon bourbon barrel Imperial Stout (I bought a bottle to take home), and the amazingly delicious Osprey Tacos next door, were all indicators that this was yet another place we could be regulars.
I’m proud to say that because my Facebook check-in at Old Coast Ales noted their “Share The Beer” board, where patrons can buy beers for other patrons, a local brewery in my hometown now has a “Beer It Forward” board. The idea was submitted by a friend of mine after seeing my post.
For her birthday, my friend requested that Core institute something similar, and they did. To kick things off, she bought 42 beers for teachers, truck drivers, nurses, healthcare workers, line workers, first responders, social workers, UPs/ FedEx/ USPS drivers, and many more. I made my own contribution by adding a beer for anyone with a dog named Henri. The incorrect spelling of ‘Henry’ is also acceptable.
I love it when my shenanigans amount to something good.
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to our fourth punch, but we sure had a great time exploring the St. Augustine beer scene while supporting Swamp Haven Rescue. I guess I should’ve mentioned that part sooner. Proceeds from all this drinking benefited local animal rescue. You can grab a passport and support the cause until January 31st, but they are getting low on t-shirts.
After leaving Dog Rose, our New Year’s Eve was very low key. With the St. Augustine Beach Blast Off canceled and a moderate wind cooling the air, we didn’t have to share the beach with many folks. We enjoyed our smuggled champagne at dusk with a smattering of fireworks lighting up the distant sky, seen, but not heard.
Zaharia’s patio does not allow dogs, but its location next to our motel, availability of seating without reservations, and live music made it an easy choice. We were back in our room long before midnight and resting our heads in preparation for a full day to kick off 2021.
We survived 2020!
Visiting St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum With Your Dog
Our first stop on New Year’s Day was the dog friendly grounds of the St. Augustine Lighthouse and Maritime Museum. I say “grounds” because the lighthouse itself is inaccessible to dogs, and only service dogs are allowed in the other buildings. I should have let my girlfriend sit with Henri while I climbed the stairs of the lighthouse, but I didn’t.
Instead, we meandered the trails through a portion of low forest that formed as the coastline receded. Called a ‘maritime hammock‘, the shrub layer is home to an abundance of small animals, while the taller tress provide nesting for native bird species. Kids can take advantage of the scavenger hunt and dogs can enjoy the coastal sniffs. I did not see any doggie waste stations here. So please bring your own poop bags and pick up after your pup.
The lighthouse is open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM. Adult General Admission (13 +) is $12.95 and includes the opportunity to climb the lighthouse tower, view maritime exhibits, and explore the nature trails. Children who are not yet 44 inches tall are not able to climb the lighthouse tower and are admitted free with a parent or guardian. All other children 12 and younger are $10.95. Current guidelines require that masks be worn inside all buildings.
Since we didn’t know there was a lighthouse “gedunk” serving gourmet sandwiches and hot dogs, after our visit, we were in search of food. We hit Old Coast Ale and Osprey Tacos before making our way downtown.
Dog Friendly Shopping in Historic Downtown St. Augustine
After the not-so-great experience that was Nights of Lights, I was hesitant to take Henri back downtown. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of traffic- both vehicular and pedestrian- and can highly recommend sandwiching your visit somewhere between the hours of ‘too early for midnight revelers’ and ‘not quite late enough for Nights of Lights tourists’. That was about 2 o’clock. We weren’t sure if shops and galleries would be open New Year’s Day, but many were. Several had dog bowls with fresh water outside their entry ways, and the two art galleries we most wanted to visit were dog friendly.
James Coleman Signature Gallery was the first stop. A little sticker on the front door indicated that “Dogs (were) Welcome”. Not knowing how the gallery was laid out, we entered slowly with Henri in a tight ‘by me’. We were immediately greeted by Angel, the fine art consultant, who put us at ease by bending to pet Henri. I don’t think we looked like much, but as we wandered the gallery, Angel graciously answered our questions about this or that. More than just a James Coleman gallery, the space features artists Rob Kaz, Rhupert creator, D. Arthur, Borowski Glass, and new to me artist, Will Bullas, whose aluminum panel designs of animals drinking, I may need to start collecting.
The next gallery on our hit list was Cutter and Cutter. They’re currently featuring the Art of Dr. Seuss, and I hoped they’d be dog friendly. There was no “Dogs Welcome” sign, so I cautiously poked my head in the door to ask. Somewhat hesitant, the gallerist nodded that it would be ok. We headed straight for the back, to the Seuss gallery. The display includes drawings, doodles, and sculptures that I’d only seen in books. The art spans the course of Theodore Geisel’s seven decade career.
There is a odd mix of old and new in the downtown area. Typical tourist shops with a smattering of standard chains occupy historic buildings and line the ancient streets of St. George. A sad sign of progress, if you ask me. Juxtaposed to that are the charming courtyards of local restaurants and cafes offering a relaxed European vibe. We didn’t stick our heads into any other shops or try to dine at any of the restaurants, but a lot of them seemed dog-friendly.
It was getting close to 4:00, and again, I wanted out of downtown before evening light-viewing traffic started. I had yet to make it to a marina bar, and had my eye on a spot called Hurricane Patty’s. It looked a little off the beaten path but it was on our way back to the beachside of St. Augustine. Turns out it was a perfectly timed late afternoon stop.
Dog Friendly Restaurant
In case you just started following this blog, I am obsessed with marina bars and boat watching. There is almost always a relaxed vibe, good food, and cold beverages. Hurricane Patty’s did not disappoint.
Upon arrival, I noticed a corner table facing the marina. I asked if we could have it. They cleaned it swiftly, even bussing the dirty dog bowl, and seated us quickly. I had a bit of a headache, so I ordered a Painkiller. That seems logical, right? The Painkiller at Hurricane Patty’s is made with Pusser’s Rum and you can “Choose Your Category“. Choosing a Category II, III, or IV doesn’t change the size of the drink, only it’s strength. I chose a Category II.
I eventually replaced my Painkiller with a Sauvignon Blanc and ordered a dozen raw oysters. I also ordered a bowl of something called Hurricane Seafood Chowder. A delicious blend of New England and Minorcan (spicy red base) Clam Chowders with a splash more of garlic, shrimp, and fresh catch. The soups at marina bars are always SO GOOD.
As the restaurant began to fill up with the dinner crowd, Henri was joined by two small kids. They gently greeted him, then plopped down next to him to stare at the water. I’m not sure what they were watching, Maybe, like me, they just enjoy the view. This would be our last stop in St. Augustine. We stayed until the sun set.
On January 2nd, we drove to the beach to do a bit of walking before the next long drive. There, I said goodbye to St. Augustine and thanks be for friends. It took two days, but I was finally ready to toss our 2021 shell into the ocean with our intentions for the new year.
If you plan to visit St. Augustine, with or without your dog, you’ll find Visit St. Augustine an invaluable resource. I referenced the site many times in planning our visit, and again, in writing this article. Whether you are a history buff, a beach bum, or a wannabe boat captain, you’ll find something to enjoy in this ancient city- even if it isn’t a swim in the Fountain of Youth.
A Note About Covid-era Travel in Florida
As of the publishing of this post, Florida is WIDE open. Restaurants and food service establishments, bars, and pubs may operate at full capacity with limited social distancing protocols. Local municipalities may maintain or issue emergency orders, but those orders may not reduce capacity by more than 50%. All other businesses are encouraged to maintain adequate sanitation practices among employees and patrons during all hours of operation. State parks and public beaches are fully open. Updates, including county specific information, can be found at Florida Covid-19 Response.
In less technical terms this means “All may, some should, none must.”
While every hotel or resort I visited required masks be worn by all employees and guests while indoors, as well as all the grocery stores, and most small businesses, bars and restaurants are hit or miss. Waitstaff are not required to wear masks, though many do, and countless places are operating at full capacity without socially distanced seating. I found myself most comfortable dining outdoors for late lunches and/or early dinners. My suggestion is simply take a peak. If you don’t like the way a place is operating, skip making a fuss. Simply vote with your dollars by spending them elsewhere.
If planning Covid-era travel be informed, be flexible, be courteous, and be kind.