15 Pawesome Dog-Friendly Beaches in Tampa, FL You Have to Visit

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Tampa is a tourist city located on Tampa Bay in western Florida. According to records, humans have lived in the area for the past 2,000 years. But other records show that dogs have lived there even longer! In fact, scientists found evidence that dogs have been living in and around the world for more than 31,000 years. And Tampa is the second most dog-friendly city in the United States, so there should be plenty of dog beaches in this fine city to enjoy with your fur buddy. 

From Davis Island to Picnic Island, your canine companion can join you in the sand and surf when you go. Some of these beaches allow your pup to run and swim off the leash, while others require him to be leashed at all times. There is even a water park where they have a special section for fur babies! After all, it stays warm here all year long, so it is important to know where the best dog-friendly beaches are in Tampa. 

Picnic Island Beach

Not only is Picnic Island Beach dog-friendly, but there is also a dog park there where Fido can run around off his leash. You will be able to join your fur baby in the bay for a swim or to play fetch without worrying about a leash. We know it can be difficult to play fetch or swim while he is on a leash. You can find this awesome park at the tip of the peninsula in Port Tampa City, where Tampa Bay meets Old Tampa Bay. 

Picnic Island is not really an island, per se, but it may as well be since it is surrounded by water and beaches. The park is well-known for its disc golf course, picnic areas, and outdoor gym but pup parents love it because of the dog park section. No need for a leash here on the white sand beach with tranquil turquoise water. Just bring some doggie poo bags, and be sure to pick up anything he drops. 

Curtis Hixson Waterfront Park

Scoot on over to eastern Tampa to the pup-friendly Curtis Hixson Waterfront Park. Located on Hillsborough River in the historic district across the water from the University of Tampa, the eight-acre park has several water features besides the river, as well as a leash-free dog park. The splash pads are for the kids, but you will often see dogs and their pup-parents enjoying them too. The playground is perfect for all kids, with a variety of different play structures. 

The waterfront is nice but may be a little too “ruff’ for your pooch to swim. Instead, just let him sniff and splash at the water’s edge. But the fenced dog park is the main attraction for most dogs since they can run around and play with other fur babies off the leash. There are some unique tunnels to climb in and on, all sorts of doggie obstacles, and a separate space for little dogs. The park also has shaded benches, water fountains, and doggie bag dispensers. 

Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park

Across the river to the north, Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is also a pooch-friendly park to enjoy with your canine companion. Situated on 25 acres of space north of the University of Tampa right on Hillsborough River, here you will find a community front porch for all. The large plaza in the center of the park has vibrantly colored tables, chairs, benches, and game tables. Your pooch will need to stay on his leash here.

The fenced dog park is at the northern end of the park, just on the other side of West Laurel Street, right next to the transient boat ramps and dock. There is ample space for splashing in the water but be careful since the river has a strong current. Your pooch will love running through the large grassy oasis and playing on the agility structures. Outside the dog park, he has to be leashed, but you can all enjoy a picnic, playing in the splash pads and watching one of the ball games.   

Pass A Grille Dog Beach

At the other end of Tampa Bay in St. Pete Beach, this actually is an island just past Treasure Island and South Pasadena. Pass A Grille Beach runs almost three miles from St. Pete Beach to the southern tip of the island. The dog park on 16th Avenue at Hurley Park is pawfect for letting your fur buddy run around off the leash with the other pups in town, and then you can take him down to the dog beach where he can cool off. 

The main beach is fantastic, but you need to visit the southeastern corner of the island where the actual dog beach is. Some folks at the other part of the beach do not appreciate dogs like we do. The dog beach is from First to Third Avenue, south of the Merry Pier. Besides playing in the surf and digging in the sand, you can also take your pup with you to grab a brew at Shadrack’s Bar. Just be sure to keep your canine companion on a leash. 

Fort De Soto State Park Beach

South of Pass a Grille Park, just southwest of Tampa in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, Fort De Soto State Park has more than 1,100 acres to explore with your dog. It is actually five different islands that are connected by road, each with its own specific ecosystem to support the flora and fauna that live there. Besides hundreds of plant species, there are also more than 320 bird species that call the park home for at least part of the year

You will find over seven miles of waterfront with three miles of white sand beach. They are all dog-friendly as long as he is on a leash. The best part is the Fort De Soto Dog Park, where all dogs can run off-leash, and it has its own stretch of sandy beach. Besides all that, the park boasts a 7-mile recreation trail, a 2.3-mile canoe paddling trail, and a 1-mile nature trail. If you want to stay longer, there are over 300 campsites to pick from, with concessions, restrooms, and showers. 

De Soto National Memorial Beach

Across the bay to the south, De Soto National Memorial Beach is another spot where dogs can enjoy the sand and surf. But he has to remain on a leash here. There are several small beaches in the park, including the De Soto Point Beach right on the point, which has a rough current from the Manatee River, so it is not great for swimming. But it is good for bird watching and shelling.

Cove Beach on the south side of the peninsula is the most popular swimming spot because it does not have the waves and currents like the other ones. However, there are no lifeguards, so you will be swimming at your own risk. Consider a doggie life jacket for your canine companion. You can also go boating, fishing, or hiking here, and there is a large picnic area by the parking lot where you can enjoy a meal with your fur baby.

Palma Sola Causeway Beach

On the other side of the peninsula from De Soto National Memorial Beach, Palma Sola Causeway Beach is located on the Palma Sola Causeway that runs from Anna Maria Island to Bradenton. There are several separate beaches along the causeway, three of which allow your canine companion to run around off his leash to play. This dog-friendly area has several restrooms, picnic tables, and concessions for your convenience. But you will need to bring your own doggie waste baggies to pick up after your pup.

Around Palma Sola Park, you can find water fountains, several ball fields, a playground, and picnic areas with barbecue grills. If you did not bring food, don’t worry, there are concession stands where you can grab something to eat. There is a long fishing pier if you want to fish or just walk out and enjoy the view. And Palma Sola Bay is always nice to swim in for you and your fur baby. 

Apollo Beach

Just south of Tampa in Hillsborough by the Manatee Viewing Center, Apollo Beach has all sorts of amenities for dogs. First, you and your fur baby can enjoy the 63-acre nature preserve with him on a leash as you check out all the hidden mangroves and swampland areas. Keep him close to you because alligators are known to live here. The nature trail is short but exciting, with all sorts of different flora to see. The two-acre beach here is nice for picnics and fishing but not swimming. 

The dog park on Golf & Sea Boulevard has several acres of fenced space for Fido to run around off his leash. There are two sections for both big and small dogs, and both sides have agility obstacles like tunnels and ramps. Each side has a large grassy area with benches for humans and water fountains for everyone. Outside the dog park is a skate park and playground for the kids but make sure your pup is on a leash when you exit.   

Gandy Bridge Causeway Beach

Gandy Bridge is a 2.7-mile bridge that connects Tampa to St. Petersburg, and you will find several beach areas all along the sides of the bridge. This bridge has been around since 1924 and even has a drawbridge. But the most important part of this bridge is that dogs are free to run around on the beach and in the water without having to be on a leash! Playing in the white sand and splashing in the fresh blue water are the perfect ways to spend the day with your pooch. 

The only problem, per se, is that since it is not an official “beach,” you will not find any of the amenities you get at other beaches. There are no restrooms, benches, picnic tables, or water fountains here, so bring your own water and a blanket to spread on the sand. But you do not need all that other stuff to have a great time. Just the sand and the sea. 

Clearwater North Beach

Between the Mandalay Channel and the Gulf of Mexico, Clearwater Beach is a very popular spot for tourists. Much of the beach area does not allow dogs, but Clearwater North Beach, which starts on Somerset Street, allows pups to enjoy the sand and water with their pup parents. Just north of all the hotels like Hotel Cabana and Fairfield Inn, your dog is more than welcome to play in the water and run around on the sand here. Maybe that is why it has been named the number-one beach in America several times. 

The beach does not allow your fur buddy to run off-leash, though, and you will need to bring your own doggie cleanup bags. You need to pick up anything your pup drops right away to keep the white sand white. You will not have to worry about going hungry either because there are over 100 eateries nearby as well as food trucks. 

Honeymoon Island State Park Beach

Honeymoon Island is a large barrier island just to the north of Clearwater and west of Tampa. The entire 2,810 acres of the island is one big park filled with beaches, hiking trails, picnic areas, and even a nature center. There are also several concession stands to make sure everyone stays well-fed while enjoying the park. You will have access to restrooms, showers, and playgrounds, as well as biking, fishing, and four miles of beachfront. 

The two trails are both dog-friendly as long as your pup stays on a leash at all times. The Osprey Trail is the most popular as it winds through the woods, where you can see all sorts of wildlife. Some of the critters you may come across include ospreys, eagles, gopher tortoises, and raccoons. Watch for rattlesnakes and alligators too. The pet beach at the south tip of the island is huge and wraps around Hurricane Pass, where the waters are calm. 

Bicentennial Park Beach

North of Treasure Island in Madeira Beach, Bicentennial Park is a pup-friendly park along the Tom Stuart Causeway across from Madeira Beach Patriot Park. Although he will have to stay on a leash, your fur baby is welcome to romp through the fields of wildflowers, dig in the sand, and splash in the waters of the bay. You can join your canine companion in the water or just hang out at the edge and watch as long as he is leashed. 

The woods are an inviting place for a walk before or after taking a swim but be sure you pack some doggie cleanup baggies so you can pick up after your pup. The park is open from dawn until dusk and does not usually attract many tourists so it is a good spot if you want some peace and quiet. You will not find restrooms or water fountains here so bring your own water and you can use the restroom at one of the eating establishments nearby. 

Madeira Beach Dog Park

This is a lovely little dog park in ROC Park across from Bicentennial Park where your pooch can be carefree and run around without his leash. The park has a story that makes it so meaningful as well as fun. ROC stands for Remember Our Children and is dedicated to those children who have lost their lives. All throughout the park, there are memorials in the form of trees, benches, and rocks with children’s names on them. 

In the southeast section of the park by the city hall, you can find the laid-back fenced yard for pooches who want to run around off the leash. The dog park is separated into two sections for large and small dogs so everyone can play with dogs their own size and temperament. There are water fountains, benches, and shade so pup parents can enjoy watching their fur baby run around and play with the other pups. 

Indian Rocks Beach Dog Park

Head north from Madeira Beach to Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve where you can find a special spot just for pups and their pet parents. Located on Gulf Boulevard between 9th and 10th Avenues, This place is pawfectly beautiful with tunnels decorated as dachshunds, spray hoses for cooling off or cleaning your pup, and covered benches for the humans. There are ramps and weaving sticks too as well as a few kiddie pools for the dogs to play in. 

Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve is also dog-friendly as long as he is on a leash at all times. And be sure to bring doggie bags to clean up after your pup. The preserve is about 10 acres with a long boardwalk that takes you on a tropical tour through the mangroves. There are numerous ecosystems like salt marshes, wetlands, and mangroves where you will likely see some wildlife such as fiddler crabs, sea turtles, and geckos. 

Queenie’s Dog Park at Water Works Park 

We saved the best for last! Water Works Park has an awesome riverfront park with a bunch of water features for your fur baby as well as your human kids! Just up from the Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park on Hillsborough River, the park is free to all and Fido is welcome as long as you keep him on a leash. But in the southeastern corner of the park, you can find an off-leash area for your canine companion to enjoy. 

There are water fountains for the pups and their pup parents and shaded areas to sit with plenty of space for pooches to romp around. The main difference here is that there are no separate spaces so dogs of all sizes play together. If you have a small dog or one that is not used to playing “ruff” with other larger dogs, you may want to skip the dog park and just enjoy the splash pad, picnic areas, and playgrounds. 

The Final Woof

After the beach, nothing tastes better than a glass of ice-cold beer. And your pup can join you at Pups Pub where they also have an off-leash area for dogs! Thinking of buying some new fishing or hunting gear? Your fur baby can join you at Bass Pro Shops in Tampa. Or head to Hyde Park Village, which has six blocks of shops, eateries, and entertainment. Looking for a bite to eat? Datz on South MacDill Avenue is a pet-friendly pub with delicious food such as the Nashville chicken doughnut, 10 different kinds of hamburgers, fish-n-chips, and fried chicken. You will find plenty of menu items that are dog-friendly as well. 

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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