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8 Great Things To Do In St. Augustine With Your Pup

  • Monday, May 13, 2024
  • Ann N. Yungmeyer

As our nation’s oldest city founded in 1565, St. Augustine is a destination known for fascinating heritage, natural beauty, and abundant cultural and outdoor activities. The heart of Florida’s Historic Coast, St. Augustine is also a dog-loving community. It’s a great choice for dog owners who want to take their pup to the beach and those who enjoy strolling with Fido among quaint corners of history and extraordinary Spanish Renaissance and colonial architecture. The city boasts dozens of pet-friendly lodging accommodations and many restaurants and attractions that allow dogs on leash.

My husband and I recently visited St. Augustine with our doodle in tow, and she certainly felt the city’s love – sniffing, prancing and making countless friends on all of our excursions, from the brick-lined streets of Old Town to the vast Atlantic shore. Here are some of our best discoveries!

1. Vilano Beach – This dog-friendly beach, one of many in the area, is just across the Intracoastal Waterway from St. Augustine. There are several beach entrances, and parking is free. We found other families with dogs playing in the sand and surf, and once we began walking north away from Porpoise Point, we had the beach to ourselves to romp and hunt for shells and fossilized shark teeth.

2. Sunset Dolphin Cruise with Adventure Boat Tours – Yes, Captain Jimmy welcomes furry friends aboard his pontoon cruises, which last just over an hour. Head to Vilano Beach Pier to board the boat for a tour of St. Augustine’s waterfront setting and historical monuments as seen from the water. We also enjoyed a beautiful sunset and seeing frolicking dolphins.

3. Ripley’s Red Train Express Tour – If your dog likes a car ride and watching the action, she will love this one-hour sightseeing tour that humans enjoy too, as a way to get your bearings around the city. Our driver/tour guide hails from Yorkshire, England, and he adds a bit of British humor while sharing tales of St. Augustine history. He pauses briefly at the city’s most important landmarks including Flagler College and Lightner Museum, both originally built as opulent hotels for the elite by Henry Flagler, an industrial tycoon credited as the father of Florida tourism beginning in the late 1800s.

4. Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park – Visit the birthplace of St. Augustine, the site of the first settlement in 1565, where Ponce de Leon had previously explored. The park features a Timucuan living history village, exhibits on New World discovery, and Ponce de Leon’s natural spring of eternal hope, from which you can drink. Numerous peacocks roam the 15-acre park, so keeping a tight leash on dogs is recommended.

5. Castillo de San Marcos – You can’t miss St. Augustine’s most impressive historical landmark, built by the Spanish to protect their settlement and treasure fleets from pirates and British invasion. Completed in 1695, it is the oldest masonry fort in the U.S. Pets are not allowed inside the walls but you can walk the moat and around the expansive grounds and enjoy views of the bay.

6. St. George Street – Wander this pedestrian-friendly hub of Old Town, and head over to the quaint Aviles Street, the oldest street in the nation and the early home to St. Augustine's arts district. Many boutiques have water bowls out for Fido and some attractions welcome pets on tours, including The Oldest Wooden School House, the Colonial Quarter Museum and Spanish Military Hospital Museum.

7. Drinks and dining – Plenty of restaurants are pet-friendly for patio dining, and amazing choices of cuisine await, thanks to St. Augustine being a melting pot of Spanish, Minorcan, French, Greek, Gullah, West African and Caribbean influences. Not surprisingly, fresh seafood is a mainstay. Our dinner spots included The Floridian, a locals’ favorite for regionally inspired, innovative Southern fare; and Catch 27, featuring local fish and unique appetizers such as deviled eggs topped with a fried oyster. Lunch called for seafood tacos and chowder from St. Augustine Seafood Company at Taberna del Caballo. For happy hour, delicious sangria can be found at Bin 39 Wine Bar at the enchanting St. George Inn. St. Augustine is home to several breweries, as well as St. Augustine Distillery and San Sebastian Winery which allow dogs on tours.

8. Pet-friendly Lodging – With a variety of accommodations for travelers with pets, plan your stay according to your travel style and budget. Pet-friendly options range from elegant resorts and charming boutique inns in the historic preservation district to oceanfront suites and traditional motels. Favorites for location and old-world charm are The Collector Luxury Inn & Gardens and Casa Monica Resort & Spa. For pet amenities, Beacher’s Lodge provides a dog tag and a list of pet-friendly attractions, and the motel-style Southern Oaks Inn has a separate wing for travelers with pets, along with a picket-fenced dog park and shuttles to historic downtown and Vilano Beach.

We saved more pet-friendly activities to explore on another visit, including nature trails, kayaking Salt Run, and the Bone-appetit Food Tour by City Walks. And, if NOT traveling with a pet, St. Augustine’s popular attractions such as the unique Pirate and Treasure Museum, World Golf Hall of Fame, and stunning views at the top of St. Augustine Lighthouse add to the must-do list. https://www.visitstaugustine.com

Ann Newell Yungmeyer is a freelance writer.

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