Here's a treat: 4 of Florida's top-rated dog-friendly beaches are in SWFL

Mark H. Bickel
Fort Myers News-Press

Dog lovers who live here, or visit here, have reason to celebrate. And maybe some dogs might roll over or dance on two legs when they hear this news.

Veterinarians.org has rated four Southwest Florida dog-friendly beaches as among the best in the Sunshine State. The organization recently released its 10 Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Three are located on Sanibel Island — Gulfside City Park Beach (2), Lighthouse Beach (6) and Bowman's Beach (10) — and one is on Fort Myers Beach — Dog Beach, ranked fourth best.

Here is what the experts had to say about each:

GULFSIDE CITY PARK BEACH

If you’re on the lookout for a secluded beach without much doggo traffic for your shy mutt, zip down Casa Ybel Road on Sanibel Island to Gulfside City Park (aka Algiers Beach). 

Besides the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, this beach offers truly fantastic sights as it’s a nesting spot for endangered turtles and birds. 

These species are protected, which means you’ll have to keep your fur baby on a leash at all times. Nonetheless, you can let your pup frolic on and explore the countless seashells littering the shoreline. 

The beach extends approximately 15 miles, is ADA-compliant, and includes showers and restrooms. It’s also equipped with charcoal grills, sheltered pavilions, and picnic areas if you want to plan a full-family outing. 

Oh, and anglers will be happy to know that fishing is allowed, but you might want to read up on the fine print before you go-fish. 

2001 Algiers Lane, Sanibel Island, FL 33957

DOG BEACH

Dog owners looking for a beach that allows them to share the beauty of nature with their canines will appreciate this beach situated along Fort Myers Beach. This doggy beach is a favorite among locals and tourists for several reasons. 

First off, the beach is about 6 1/2 acres in size and has plenty of room to accommodate large numbers. The water is pretty shallow, so dogs can relax and cool off without being afraid of big waves. 

Ava Drcar plays with "Bailey" the Labrador during a visit to Bonita Beach Dog Park on August 12, 2021.

Besides that, it’s off-leash and includes separate fenced areas for dogs to frolic in according to their weight/size. That means owners of small canine breeds won’t have to worry about their pets being intimidated by their larger counterparts. 

The beach doesn’t offer much except port-a-potties, which means owners need to stock up on litter bags, treats, snacks, and drinking water if they’re planning on spending more than a few hours. 

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8800 Estero Blvd., Bonita Springs, FL 33931

LIGHTHOUSE BEACH

Situated on Sanibel Island, the Lighthouse Beach Park offers an expanse of 32 acres with warm waters, plenty of seashells, and a scenic lighthouse. 

The sun sets behind the Sanibel Lighthouse on Tuesday Dec. 17. 2019. Photographed from Bunche Beach. The famous lighthouse was completed in 1884 and is the location of a park and beach for visitors and residents alike.

The area is dog-friendly but requires canines to be leashed and cleaned up after. Lighthouse Beach is a good bet if you’re on the hunt for a seaside that offers substantial leg-room for Fido, without too many bells and whistles. 

Amenities include outdoor showers, restrooms, plenty of parking space with charges up to $5 per hour. 

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110 Periwinkle Way, Sanibel, FL 33957

BOWMAN'S BEACH 

Bowman’s Beach comes in last in our top ten list, but don’t let that fool you. This dog-friendly beach allows leashed canines to cavort their hearts out and includes conveniences like restrooms, changing rooms, picnic tables, and grills. 

It’s perfect for dog owners looking for a spot to picnic with the family. There’s plenty of parking space for visitors (with a fee, of course), and nearby attractions include plenty of places to eat out and the J.N ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge for birdwatching. 

1700 Bowman's Beach Road, Sanibel, FL 33957

Jim, Anne and dog  Noel Ruelle enjoying a sunset on Sanibel's at Bowman's Beach.

10 Best Dog-Friendly Beaches on Florida's Gulf Coast, according to Veterinarians.org

  1. Davis Island Dog Beach, Tampa
  2. Gulfside City Park Beach, Sanibel Island
  3. Brohard Beach and Paw Park, Venice
  4. Dog Beach, Fort Myers Beach
  5. Fort DeSoto Dog Beach Park, St. Petersburg
  6. Lighthouse Beach, Sanibel Island
  7. Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin
  8. Pass A Grille Dog Beach, St. Petersburg
  9. Apollo Beach, Apollo Beach
  10. Bowman's Beach, Sanibel Island