15 of the Best Pup-Friendly Beaches in Destin FL

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Located in the panhandle of Florida, Destin is a popular tourist destination with numerous attractions, dining, and shopping opportunities. The city boasts a variety of parks, such as the museums like Henderson Beach State Park, James Lee Park, and Crab Island. Or you can learn more about the area at Destin History & Fishing Museum, the Zoo Gallery, and The Redbird Art Experience.

Besides all that, Destin has some other entertainment venues you may enjoy while you and your pup are in town. Take a dog-friendly boat ride, go on a scavenger hunt, or rent your own boat to enjoy the water with your fur baby. You will also find some amazing beaches on the Gulf of Mexico to explore with your fur baby. While many of them are happy to let you bring your pooch along, some have laws against it. Because we are dog lovers like you, we searched for the best dog beaches in Destin to enjoy. Here are 15 of the best pup-friendly beaches in Destin. 

Liza Jackson Dog Park

Right on the Santa Rosa Sound, Liza Jackson Dog Park is a beautiful city park with all sorts of amenities for you and your canine companion to enjoy. With more than 1,000 feet of waterfront, this park is packed with playgrounds, a fishing pier, and pavilions to use as well as restrooms and water fountains. If you have a boat, bring it along because this park also has several boat ramps to launch from. 

Named after a local businesswoman who built homes for soldiers during WWII, the park also boasts a fantastic dog park for your pooch to run around off the leash with other fur babies. There are separate areas for large and small pups, doggie water fountains, and plenty of space to run around as well as benches and shade for pooch parents. Bring your own doggie cleanup bags, and be sure your dog has all his shots and rabies tag. 

Ross Marler Park

Over on Okaloosa Island, Ross Marler Park takes up a whole corner of the northeast part of the island on Choctawhatchee Bay. The large park boasts a roped-off swimming area where you and your fur buddy can cool off in the gorgeous warm waters and play on the soft white sand. Enjoy a game of fetch or toss a frisbee around, build a sandcastle, or watch Fido dig holes. Just make sure you bring doggie poo bags and pick up after him. 

There are also two sets of restrooms with drinking water, pavilions and grills for picnics, and a walking trail you and your canine companion can explore. It even has interpretive signs so you can learn about the area. The park also has two boat ramps, so you can bring your boat along if you have one. And if you bring the kids, there are several play areas for them to enjoy. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash while you are here too. 

Garniers Beach

Also, on Choctawhatchee Bay, with 240 feet of beach space, a swimming area, playgrounds, and picnic tables, Garniers Beach has everything you and your pup need to have a fun day on the water. Whether you are ready to dive into the cool blue water or spread out a blanket on the beach, you will have plenty of space here to do it all. Be sure to bring some beach toys to play a game of catch with your fur baby while you are there, but he will need to stay on a leash. 

After you work up an appetite, head over to one of the picnic tables and have a bite to eat with your furry friend before going back to the water. There is also a boat ramp available if you have a boat to launch. Your dog will love spending the day on, in, or next to the water here. The playground does not allow dogs, but if you have kids who are old enough, they can play on the fun equipment while you and Fido watch from a bench in the shade.

Destin Dog Park

Also known as the Nancy Weidenhamer Dog Park, this off-leash paradise is right in the middle of Destin. This large grassy play space is fully fenced and has a bunch of agility equipment for the pups to play on. If you have a small pooch, don’t worry, there is a special section for the littler dogs and those that do not like to play too rough. There are water features on each side and benches for the humans. 

Just a short walk from the beach, this fantastic dog park is where you and your canine companion can relax and play uninhibited. No leashes are needed. Your pooch can run around until he wears himself out. It is approximately three acres and has lush Bermuda grass that is soft on doggie paws. You can also find mutt mitt stations, but it is best to bring along your own doggie bags, just in case. 

Captain Leonard Destin Park 

This park has over three acres of space and a large beach where you and your leashed pup can swim and splash all day. From sunup to sundown, Captain Leonard Park is your place to play on the western tip of Destin between Destin Crab Island Adventures and Wet N Wild Watersports. Besides the awesome beach, you can also enjoy the splash pad where you and the pooch can cool off as well as historical signage to teach you more about Destin.

There is a large playground, a nice boardwalk to stroll along, and a dock where you can launch a kayak or paddleboard if you happen to have one. If not, you can rent one nearby. This park is also home to a group of herons. But please do not let your dog chase or irritate them. Although the park has water fountains and restrooms, bring your own water to drink, and make sure you pick up after your pup.   

Clement Taylor Park 

If Captain Leonard Park is too crowded, you can visit the Clement Taylor Park next door. It is a little bit bigger and has the same amenities as well as a waterfront gazebo where you and Fido can sit and watch the water birds and other wildlife. The beach is large with soft snow-white sand, and the water is super clear and beautiful. This is a great place to barbecue some burgers and have lunch or dinner because there are grills and picnic tables to use. 

There is also a sand volleyball court if you happen to have enough people with you to play a game. Or watch others play a game while you chill out with your pup. The park has plenty of shade and quite a few benches to sit on while you enjoy the Florida sunshine. The restrooms are clean, and the playgrounds are really special. You will need to keep your dog on a leash at all times while you are here and clean up after him. 

Okaloosa Island

Okaloosa Island has almost 900 acres to brag about on Santa Rosa Island, with more than three miles of waterfront. There are numerous beaches, both public and private, some that allow dogs while others do not. Elgin Matterhorn Beach Access in the middle of the beach is a dog-friendly place with several hundred feet of sugary white sand beach to enjoy. The sand came from the Appalachian River and mountains way back in the Ice Age, and the emerald water is just strikingly stunning. 

You and your dog can enjoy Princess Park as well, which is right next door. It has over 40 picnic tables, several pavilions, and a seafood restaurant. There are restrooms and water fountains, a playground, and a boardwalk as well. John Beasly Park is a nice quiet park just west of the boardwalk with lifeguards, playgrounds, picnic areas, and pavilions. You will need to keep your fur baby on a leash at all of these beaches, but he can still have a ball. 

Henderson Beach State Park

Henderson Beach State Park in Destin has sensational sand dunes on over 6,000 feet of beach on the Gulf of Mexico. With breathtaking views and gorgeous sunsets, this beach is the perfect place for a photo session with your canine companion. Of course, it is also a wonderful spot to swim and play in the sand. It is one of the few beaches in the area that allow dogs all year long from sunrise to sunset. 

The park is also home to a variety of wildlife, including water birds, marine animals, and even some gators. But don’t worry, they try to avoid humans and dogs. After playing on the beach all day, you and your pup can clean off in the outdoor showers and then grab something to eat at the Beach Walk Cafe or Fuddpucker’s Beachside Bar & Grill. If you want to stay for a few days, the park has 60 campsites for tents or RVs. But be sure to reserve a spot in advance.

Doolittle Park

Doolittle Park, between Niceville and Valparaiso just north of Destin, is a historic park named after a WWII General who trained pilots during the war. It is not a large park with just over one acre. It is a nice place to enjoy the shade of the mature oak trees. Only a short walk from the beach, you and your pup can head over to the public water access of Boggy Bayou. You can let your dog play in the water but keep him nearby because alligators have been seen here. 

This is a quaint area with several places to grab some grub for you and your canine companion like the Shuckin Seafood and Oyster Bar or The Boathouse Landing. Take a walk along the shore or watch the boats depart at the public boat ramp nearby. Just make sure you keep your dog on a leash and bring extra dog waste bags to clean up after him. 

Niceville Dog Park 

A little to the north near Twin Oaks Park, you can take your pooch to play off the leash at Niceville Dog Park. This is a large dog haven with lots of sand, grass, and shade to keep everyone cool. There are benches for the pooch parents and water spigots to fill up a bowl or bottle. The dogs here love digging in the sand, and you do not have to worry too much since the sand ends up covering itself back up. 

The park also has two water stations with bowls as well as toys in toy bins for your dog to play with and share with other fur buddies. There is a mutt mitt station at the entrance, but it is best to bring your own baggies because this is a popular spot for locals, and they may run out. You will need to make sure your dog has all his vaccinations and a rabies tag as well. 

James Lee Park Beach

Located at the Okaloosa and Walton border, James Lee Park features restrooms with changing rooms so you can get changed into your suit. There are also more than 35 picnic tables with numerous pavilions and a huge playground for the human kids if you happen to have some with you. The white sand dunes are perfect for taking awesome pics of your pup digging and playing and nine dune walkovers. 

The boardwalk is outstanding and is a nice way to walk around and see the water from above. James Lee Park is one of the largest beaches in Destin and is very popular, so if you do not like crowds, you may not want to visit here on weekends. This park is also known as The Crab Trap beach because of the great restaurant right on the beach. You will need to keep your dog on a leash and bring your own doggie waste bags to pick up his messes. 

Grayton Dunes Beach Access

Another huge park, Grayton Beach State Park has 2,000 acres of space for swimming, playing, boating, fishing, and camping. There are four miles of trails to explore on foot or by bicycle that take you through the magnolias and scrub oaks, where you may see some of the local wildlife if you are quiet. Here you can enjoy both the ocean and the 100-acre freshwater Western Lake, which is a coastal dune lake, a rare phenomenon in the US.

If you did not bring a kayak or canoe, you and your pup can rent one at NuCanoes. They also have paddle boards and other water toys. The beach on the ocean is stunning, with cool clear waters and soft sand. Be safe and keep your dog on a leash at all times. Do not let him chase or bother the shorebirds that frequent the beach. Fishing is always fun here whether you want to fish in the lake or the ocean, but you will need a fishing license. 

Eastern Lake Beach Access

Located right on the edge of Point Washington State Forest just east of Grayton Dunes, Eastern Lake Beach is a lovely park with access to both the lake and the ocean. The freshwater lake is popular with the locals as well as tourists so you will find it quite crowded on weekends during the summer season. If you want to stay the night or a week, the park has several campgrounds with more than 100 campsites in the forest. 

The unique thing about the 62-acre Eastern Lake is that it goes all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. If you want to get in your kayak or on a paddleboard and paddle to the ocean, you and your pup can do that here. Just make sure you have your dog fitted with a life vest for safety. Another unique trait is that the water in the lake is naturally brown. This can make some shy away from swimming here, but it is safe. 

Camp Helen State Park

Just east of Eastern Lake, Camp Helen State Park boasts 180 acres on the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell. Lake Powell is the largest coastal dune lake in the state of Florida. Here you and your pup can explore as long as you keep him on a leash and do not let him disturb the sea turtles and other wildlife. The park is a favorite place for birding, with hundreds of species living there, and you can see many of them on the hiking trails. 

The swimming beaches are fantastic, and you and your canine kid are welcome, but he still needs to be on a leash. Or you can take him out on a paddleboard or kayak or do some fishing. In addition, there are prehistoric mounds in the park that were home to indigenous people over 4,000 years ago. You can see these from afar but do not let Fido near them as they are delicate. 

Dog Beach at Pier Park Panama City

Panama City Beach has 27 miles of beaches, with many that allow dogs. But the most pup-friendly spot in this fun area is the Dog Beach at Pier Park. In fact, this beach was ranked one of the 30 best dog-friendly beaches in the United States! Located between Lullwater Beach and Edge Water Beach, Dog Beach is about 400 feet of white sand and turquoise surf on the Gulf of Mexico. 

Being one of the only dog beaches in the area, this is a popular spot for locals, and you will find it quite crowded on the weekends. If you are not a fan of crowds or your dog does not like to have too many pups around, visit the beach on weekdays. You will need to keep your fur baby on a leash at all times and bring your own doggie bags and water. While you are there, take a short walk to Pier Park Shopping Center, a pup-friendly outdoor shopping mall with lots to do.

The Final Woof

Destin is a great place to visit or live with your canine companion. Many of the attractions welcome your four-legged family member with open arms. You just have to know which ones they are. 

We listed 15 beaches and parks you and your pup can enjoy, but there are many other places in Destin to visit. Destin Commons is a pooch paradise with almost 100 shops and eateries that welcome dogs. And you can even learn more about the air force at the Air Force Armament Museum. It is the only museum in the world that focuses on preserving Air Force Armament. Be sure to keep your fur buddy on a leash, though, and bring doggie bags.

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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