The Best Beach Vacation for Four-Legged Friends is in Gulf County, Florida

This is the place for a low-rise lifestyle and pet-friendly beaches

Gulf County Florida | I-10 Exit Guide
Photo Credit: Gulf County Tourist Development Council

Just two hours southwest of Tallahassee and an hour east of Panama City Beach, Gulf County, Florida, sits on the central northern Gulf Coast and is known as a welcoming destination for those who enjoy a laid-back vacation. From its low-rise landscape and eclectic downtown shops and restaurants to its public beaches and refreshing waters, visitors are thrilled that their four-legged loved ones are welcome here, too.

Gulf County, with its 43-mile stretch of shoreline, has plenty of beach access and a host of ways to enjoy its beaches, waters and diverse activities. As more and more people are choosing to bring their pets on vacation with them, they are finding Gulf County is an excellent destination for both people and pets to enjoy. In fact, two of the Top 20 Dog Beaches in Florida are located in Gulf County. Both Cape San Blas, on St. Joseph peninsula, and Salinas Park (280 Cape San Blas Road, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456) received the coveted “Five-Bone Rating” by for long stretches of uncrowded beaches and gentle waves. A stop at Weber’s Little Donut Shop (4975 Cape San Blas Road, Port Saint Joe, Florida 32456; 850-340-3552) before a morning beach walk is definitely an option to consider.

Other beach access points include St. Joe Beach, where Gulf County meets the Central Time Zone and known for remarkable sunsets and Port St. Joe, the hub of Gulf County’s beach communities. Convenient bay access points include Frank Pate Park (502 Monument Ave, Port Saint Joe, Florida 32456), popular for those launching a boat or joining a fishing charter, and Indian Pass beaches, where each area has an “Old Florida” personality of its own. Just a few miles inland in Wewahitchka, the inland waters of the Dead Lakes are popular for eco-cruises and kayak trips. 

There are plenty of dining establishments that welcome pets, too. Enjoying grouper bites and colorful cocktails al fresco is a tasty and relaxing way to start any meal at Krazyfish Grille (113 Monument Avenue, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456). And they provide water dishes and the choice of a beef or chicken patty for the four-legged friends. If a taste of Mexican cuisine sounds good, Quatro Locos Tacos and Cantina (301 Monument Avenue, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456-1817; 850-899-9014) in downtown Port St. Joe is the answer. Favorites on the expansive menu include Mole Enchiladas and Baja Fish tacos. Diners enjoy the lighthouse views from the cantina patio. At Joe Mama’s Wood Fired Pizza (406 Reid Avenue, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-229-6262) diners can enjoy artisan pizzas, cold brews and a sunset on the pet-approved patio. Provisions (222 Reid Avenue, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-229-9200) is the ideal spot for an upscale dining experience. Seasonal menus include culturally diverse specialties and beautiful preparations.

Even the Gulf County Welcome Center (150 Captain Fred’s Place, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-229-7800) is pet-friendly, too. Visitors are invited to come by and find out what’s new, get directions, suggestions and more. They also offer these friendly tips for pet etiquette:

  • Always keep your dog on a leash. It’s the law.
  • Respect children and adults around you who may not be familiar with your pet.
  • Always keep waste bags with you. We want our beaches to be people friendly, too.
  • Don’t bury pet waste. Children enjoy digging in the sand as much as pets.

Where to stay

Gulf County’s lodging choices offer a range of accommodations to meet the vacation needs of individuals, families and larger groups, and many are pet-friendly.

Knot Forgotten Vacation Rentals (107 Hemmingway Circle, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-229-2512) is a boutique rental company dedicated to matching the right property with the right guest. For groups big or small, they have a house, condo or town home to meet any need.

Coastline Vacation Rentals (315 Williams Avenue, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-227-3330) has a wide range of rental locations. The selections include Gulf-front, five-bedroom homes, quaint cottages in the heart of town or townhomes for a beachside escape and they aim to meet every group’s needs and budget.

Port Cottages (314 Cecil G. Costin Sr. Boulevard, Port St. Joe, Florida 32456; 850-229-7678) is a collection of 10 vacation rental homes located near the downtown shopping and dining district of Port St. Joe. Each of the two-bedroom, 1.5-bath homes offer flat screen TVs, fully-stocked kitchen and full-size washer and dryer. Port Cottages, with its private pool and outdoor grills, has become a favorite for families and fishermen.

Dead Lakes RV Campground (482 Gary Rowell Road, Wewahitchka, Florida 32465; 850-639-1008) is a favorite inland location for those who enjoy fishing, hiking, camping and kayaking in a natural setting. The family- and pet-friendly campground has full-size RV sites with water, power and sewer hook-ups. Picnic tables, playground and pavilions complement the two lakes on the property that are perfect for youth fishing and kayaking. Access to Dead Lakes fishing and to kayak rentals is easy.

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