2014 Best Cities for Dog Friendly Vacations
Bar Harbor, Maine
Surrounded by a national park and perched on the sea’s rocky shore, Bar Harbor is a friendly fishing town with cosmopolitan amenities. Where millionaires once built their summer cottages, you’ll now find boutiques, galleries, inns, sidewalk cafés, specialty shops, and guest houses – perfect for an afternoon of window shopping and people watching. If you’re feeling more ambitious, 165 miles of dog friendly hiking trails and carriage roads spiderweb through Acadia National Park‘s 49,000 acres. And between Seal Harbor and Northeast Harbor, is a spectacular dog park with a pond for swimming and trails for off-leash exploring. For a different perspective, admire the coast from a dog friendly schooner cruise or go on a whale watch, and when you get back stop at the legendary Stewman’s for a lobster bake overlooking the ocean. When your feet and paws won’t carry you any further, take in the sites from the air-conditioned comfort of the free shuttle service. And, when it’s finally time to call it a day, rest your head where history and luxury meet at the dog friendly Balanced Rock Inn.
Bend’s location – just east of the Cascade Range – gives this high desert town some of the most spectacular weather you’ll find anywhere, with more than 300 days of sunshine and cool, star-lit nights. Being near the mountains also provides a plethora of outdoor activities, from hiking and biking, to fishing, rafting, and paddle boarding on the area rivers, streams and lakes. For urban hikers, there are fifty-one miles of trails in town, and thirteen off-leash areas where your dog will have plenty of space to romp. Dubbed “Beer Town USA” for its surprising abundance of world-class breweries, the 10 Barrel Brewing Company is our first choice for tasty pub food on the dog friendly patio. Can’t get enough? Check out fourteen of the local favorites on the Ale Trail Beer Tour – just be sure not to miss Boneyard Beer for the DAWG GROG, a non-alcoholic brew your pup. At the end of the day, you’ll find the welcome mat has been rolled out for you and your pup at The Riverhouse Hotel. For more information about the Bend area, head to Visit Bend.
Cape San Blas, Florida
Cape San Blas is a 17-mile long barrier peninsula, separating St. Joseph Bay from the Gulf of Mexico on the panhandle of Florida. Known for it’s white beaches, gentle surf, and strikingly clear water, the Cape is a sanctuary for anyone looking to escape the hustle and bustle. Dog friendly beaches stretch for miles, and kayak, canoe, paddle board, or bike rentals allow you to delve a little deeper. The paved Loggerhead Bike Trail runs the length of the Cape and is great for walking, jogging, or biking. Or venture into the quaint town of Port St. Joe for a stroll along the BayWalk Trail with it’s stunning views of the bay. If you’re looking to get really deep, try chartering a boat for a day of fishing. For more tips and things to do, stop by the Gulf County Welcome Center – it’s pet friendly, too! There aren’t a lot of high-rise hotels marring the sunsets on Cape San Blas – dog friendly inns, cottages and vacation rentals are the way to go here. And the outdoorsy types can camp or RV at St. Joseph Peninsula State Park.
Carmel-by-the-Sea, or Carmel for short, is the perfect combination of well-to-do beach town and European village – casual and classy … not to mention famously dog friendly! With an off-leash, white sand beach that most dogs only dream about, top-notch pet friendly hotels like the Cypress Inn, more than a dozen mouth-watering restaurants that welcome doggy diners, and an eclectic variety of shops and boutiques to peruse, what more could a dog ask for? It’s no wonder this was GoPetFriendly.com reader’s choice for 2013 Best City for Pet Travelers! Visit in June and you’ll get to enjoy Carmel’s unique architecture and immaculate landscaping at the annual House and Garden Tour, or go in September and participate in the The Great Sand Castle Contest! If you can tear yourself away, take a ride down 17-Mile Drive and stop at Asilomar State Beach to savor the scenery that has been inspiring painters and photographers for years. The park welcomes leashed dogs on the paths and beach.
This 50-square mile island, sits thirty miles south of Cape Cod, and was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1966, for being the finest surviving example of a late 18th- and early 19th-century New England seaport town. Getting there may be half the fun if you fly on Cape Air, which welcomes pets in the cabin for just $10 each way – or take the ferry, where pets ride for free. No matter how you arrive, windswept beaches and blinking lighthouses await you. All but two of the public beaches welcome dogs, but you can get off the beaten path at Steps Beach or Nobadeer Beach – a wide stretch of sand perfect for playing a game of fetch! Both beaches are accessible via The Wave shuttle, which allows pets in carriers aboard for free. Something Natural‘s park-like setting is a great place to stop for lunch and, with their piled-high sandwiches and award winning cookies, you might even have enough to share. The island is know for it’s quaint inns – request a ground floor room at the dog friendly Brass Lantern Inn for convenient access to their dog run.
Spread across the banks of the Willamette River, Portland’s neighborhoods each have a distinct character, but the overriding vibe is funky and energetic. Portlanders embrace summer like few other places in the country – biking, hiking, meeting in the park, or making for the beach – the sunshine and warm temperatures from June through October lure everyone outdoors. To feed the hungry packs, there are more than 600 food carts spread in “pods” around the city, serving up creative culinary options that will make your head spin and your pup drool. If your dog’s not finding anything to his taste, try one of the 26 dog bakeries around town. When you’re ready to burn off those calories, make your way to Forest Park, flanking the hills on the west side of the city and boasting more than 70 miles of hiking and walking trails – or visit the International Rose Test Garden and walk amongst the 650 luscious rose varieties. Then kick up your heels at the extraordinarily dog friendly RiverPlace Hotel.
San Diego, California
As if the 70 miles of coastline and reliably sunny weather weren’t enough, San Diego is also one of the most dog friendly cities in the country. Take a stroll through the famous Balboa Park, the nation’s largest urban cultural park, or walk the infamous Gaslamp Quarter, where historic Victorian buildings are now home to a dazzling collection of restaurants, bars, and clubs. When you’re ready to play, you’ll have plenty of dog friendly beaches and off-leash dog parks to choose from. Mission Beach is the epicenter of beach culture in San Diego, with it’s lively boardwalk on one side, and peaceful Mission Bay Park on the other. Coronado Island is a must see with it’s sparkling sand beaches and small-town feel. Decide to stay? The historic Hotel del Coronado now welcomes small pets, and for those with bigger dogs, the Loews Coronado Bay Resort will make you feel right at home. Plan your trip in July to take in the Surf Dog Competition, where 40 or more of the most fearless surfing dogs jump on their boards to hang 20 and vie for the title of top dog.
Nestled in the Green Mountains, Woodstock is the picture of a quintessential New England town. A showcase of fine Federal homes have been thoughtfully preserved around the village green since the town first became a year-round resort in 1892 when the Woodstock Inn was opened. Now pet travelers are drawn to charming lodgings like the dog friendly Kendron Valley Inn, set on eleven idyllic acres. Vermont’s only national park, the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park tells the story of conservation history and the evolving nature of land stewardship in America and offers 20 miles of dog friendly carriage roads and trails crisscrossing its 550 acres. For a sample of the award-winning cheddar and maple syrup that make Vermont famous, visit Sugarbush Farm. This hilltop farm is still run by decedents of the family that established it in 1945. Dogs on leash are welcome to join you for a walk through the maple trees, and a tour of the sugar house – where the maple sap is turned into syrup – so pack a picnic and enjoy the panoramic views.