photo by @atlas_the_ridgeback
According to the calendar, spring is just around the corner, however much of the United States and Canada is still suffering from temps below zero and snowstorms. It’s that point of the year where warm weather never seems like it will arrive. Fortunately, spring break is coming up and warm weather isn’t all that far for many. Pack your bags and have some fun in these dog-friendly warm-weather destinations.
The weather in Tampa ranges between 71° and about 90° year-round, so it’s never unbearably hot and perfect for a winter escape.
Thanks to the year-round warm weather, most Tampa restaurants have patios that allow dogs. The best ones includes menus for your pooch, such as Sweet Sage Cafe, which welcomes pups to their Garden of Eatin’ and offers a doggie menu filled with delicious treats like French Poodle Toast, Mutt Loaf, and a Beagle with Cream Cheese and Salmon. For dessert, head to Bo’s Ice Cream, which has been serving the Tampa area for over 60 years. Dogs can order the ice cream bowls complete with a mini bone on top.
If you’re looking for a brew, check out Pinella’s Ale Works (or PAW), a dog-themed brewery that serves beers such as the Play Dead Barleywine, Piddle Pils, and Sit Amber Ale. If the outdoor patio is too hot, then your pup is welcome inside to feel the air conditioning. PAW hosts a “yappy hour” the last Thursday of each month to benefit Friends of Strays.
As expected, Tampa has also set aside plenty of beach space for dogs. Davis Islands Dog Beach is great for letting your pooch run around, however if you care to swim and play with your dog, then Fort De Soto Park is the place to go.
With all the water access, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, or boating are all dog-friendly activities to consider as well. Dogs ride free aboard the 1.5 hour “Howl at the Moon” Sunset Cruise on the Shell Key Shuttle.
Southern Oregon Coast
Oregon may not be the first location that comes to mind when you think “warm weather destination,” however, there is a 60-mile stretch between Brookings Harbor and Gold Beach where it’s not all that unusual to find a 70° day in January. The best part about the Oregon coastline is that it belongs to the public. That’s right. All visitors have legal public access rights to every grain of sand along Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline.
Walk along the 18-mile stretch of the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, which features craggy bluffs overlooking the Pacific along 12 miles of coastline. If you’re not quite up for 18 miles, simply pick one of the many trail sections for a snippet. Keep your eyes on the horizon to look out for gray whales during the winter and spring.
For a simple beach walk, hit up Sporthaven Beach in Brookings, or if you want to check out some windsurfers and go sand dollar hunting, Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint is the place to go. Most Oregon beaches require leashes, however McVay Rock is a secluded beach where dogs are welcome to run around free.
When you need a break from the sand and some nourishment, stop in to Woofs Dog Bakery to pick up a sweet treat for your pup and then make your way to Checto Brewing, the local brewpub that grows all the fruits and herbs on their own property. Since this dog-friendly brewery doesn’t have a kitchen (but a food cart outside will keep you fed) dogs are allowed both inside and outside on the patio.
Camping is popular during the high season, but if you book early enough, you might be able to score one of the dog-friendly yurts at Harris Beach State Park.
Los Barriles, Baja, Mexico
Just an hour from the San Diego airport over the border in Baja, Mexico, lies a doggie heaven. Typical to most Latin American countries, rules for dogs don’t really exist. What this means is that dogs are often allowed just about everywhere!
A relatively unknown spot in Baja (though that is changing), Los Barriles is becoming an active getaway destination for expats, vacationers, retirees, and families from all over the world. Catch world-class wind and kite surfers taking flight in the strong winds and keep an eye out for breaching whales and leaping mobula rays close to the shoreline.
From local craft beers at Smokey’s Grill & Cantina, to all the tacos you could want to eat, there is no lack of places to eat fantastic food with your pup by your side. There are also plenty of hiking excursions in the area, just ask the locals for some good spots.
It’s easy to take your dog across the border, simply obtain a certificate of health and proof of rabies vaccinations from your veterinarian no fewer than 10 days before departing and you’ll need the same on your way back home. That’s it!
Charleston, South Carolina
This charming destination is well known as one of the most pet-friendly vacation spots in the south. The winter temperatures dip to just 55°, and springtime is perfect for strolling or eating outdoors.
Charleston has several historical tours that welcome dogs, including the free Charleston Tea Plantation tour, the only tea plantation in North America with hundreds of thousands of tea bushes spanning as far as the eye can see. For a lovely walk along 125 acres of riverbanks and through gardens, head to Drayton Hall. Pet-friendly walking tours include Free Tours by Foot, which allows dogs to join their humans on their History and Architecture tours and Bulldog Tours welcomes pups on the Ghost and Graveyard and Dark Side of Charleston tours.
After working up an appetite walking around, head to Kitchen 208, a casual patio restaurant located in a relaxing spot that is perfect for people watching. To dine in one of Charleston’s more famous restaurants, head to Poogan’s Porch. Named for the dog who used to reside in the former Victorian home, Poogan’s pays homage to their namesake with every doggie visitor today.
If you fancy coffee or beer, Kudu is the place to go. This busy establishment features 20 taps, including several local brews as well as a large selection of high-quality coffee drinks.
Pets are welcome all year on Folly Beach and depending on the season, can play in the waves and dig in the sand to their heart’s content. Be sure to check out the surfers and Morris Island Lighthouse for a treat. Isle of Palms is another great option that allows dogs off-leash between September 15th and March 31st from 4 to 10pm. Otherwise, take the short drive to James Island County Park where your pup can romp with his pals in the four-acre dog park and beach. Well worth the $2 entry fee.
Taos, New Mexico
At an elevation of 8,000 ft, you’d expect Taos to be quite chilly, however, springtime averages range from 54° to 72° during the day and that sun feels warm when it hits you just right. Nighttime still brings chilly temperatures, but as long as you have a cozy home, then you’ll avoid the cold completely. This art-driven community set in the mountains is home to more pet-friendly eateries and lodging than any other southwestern town of the same size (~6,000 inhabitants).
Hiking abounds in Taos. Your problem won’t be finding a trail, but rather choosing which ones to tackle. Closest to town is Carson National Forest. Since it’s a National Forest, it means that leashes are not required by law over the 1.5 million acres it covers. Just beware that the park is home to many wild species, including elk, antelope, black bears, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep. Here are a few favorite trails according to AllTrails.
Just under an hour outside of Taos, visitors can experience the Wild Rivers Recreation Area, located within the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and the Wild and Scenic Red River corridor. This rugged area offers countless recreational activities, including hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and spectacular views. And, since this is BLM land, your dog can enjoy off-leash freedom just about anywhere in the undeveloped areas.
Most shops and galleries welcome your dog inside, so no need to miss out on the beautiful creations by locals while you’re out wandering the town with your pup. And when you feel hungry, Taos has several dog-friendly dining options. Stray Dog Cantina serves Northern New Mexican fare including flame roasted red and green chiles. The Alley Cantina makes its home in the oldest building in Taos, built by the Pueblo Indians in the 16th century. Come during happy hour for great specials on food and drinks.
photo by @atlas_the_ridgeback
Jen Sotolongo is a writer and photographer and runs Long Haul Trekkers, a blog about independent, responsible travel with a pet. Over the past few years, she and her partner have taken their dogs around the globe including a cycle tour spanning across Europe and South America, proving that adventures can include your dog, no matter where in the world they may be.