EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

December 30, 2012

Florida is a vacation paradise for dogs

FORT DE SOTO PARK, Fla. — Picture this: You’re sitting on a white sand beach, warm sun on your skin. Coconut-scented sunscreen wafts through the air. A splashing noise comes from the blue Gulf of Mexico. It’s your dog, happily retrieving his favorite ball from the water.

This could be your vacation, with a bit of planning.

With miles of sandy beaches, endless winter sunshine and a laid-back vibe, there’s no reason to leave your four-legged friend behind when you vacation in Florida. From lodging that offers special pet beds, to beaches with off-leash play, to theme parks with nearby kennels, many places around the state accommodate visitors with pets. Many Florida state parks also permit leashed dogs

Lodging with your dog can be as rustic as a campground or as ritzy as, well, the Ritz Carlton. In places like Key West or Sanibel Island — where all beaches are open to leashed dogs — unique and funky pet-friendly accommodations are easy to find in various price ranges.

Most counties have their own tourism boards and many have specific pages on their websites about pet-friendly activities, restaurants and hotels. Visit Florida has lots of information at http://www.visitflorida.com/Pet_Friendly_Florida.

Jeannette Scott, a fashion blogger from Orlando, took her shih tzu-Yorkie mix named Bella on a three-day trip in June. Together, they drove three hours to Fort Myers, boarded a ferry to Key West, stayed at a Sheraton that offered a doggie bed for Bella, and posed for photos in front of a frozen yogurt stand that carried Yoghund, a froyo for doggies.

“She thought it was really fun to get away and go on adventure instead of staying at home,” said Scott.

If your dog might enjoy the same, here are some dog-friendly destinations around Florida, along with lodging advice and general tips for traveling here with pets.

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