By Natalie Haddock
A family trip to the beach is what South Walton is all about. It’s about splashing in the surf with the kids, dining on fresh caught local cuisine, relaxing in the sun and salty air, and creating memories with the family. And for many, that means the whole family, the furry four-legged ones included.
For pet owners, vacation can often be ruined by the guilt or worry of leaving Fido behind. Sure, he’s in good hands; but for the week or so you are away, he’s not in your hands and that could be stressful, even when visiting the beautiful beaches of South Walton.
Not to worry, however, because many communities along 30A are opening their doors and welcoming footprints as well as paw prints. Grayton Beach is probably the most notable 30A community for dog lovers. Their slogan says it best – “Nice Dogs, Friendly Folks.” Here you will find pet friendly porches and restaurants, usually willing to set out a cold bowl of water for a panting pup. The town center also hosts various dog friendly events including adoption days with Alaqua Animal Refuge and Dog-Harmony as well as fundraisers throughout the year.
Julie Brown, owner of Furry Fanatics in Gulf Place, is an animal lover and considers herself a “failed” shelter mom (meaning her foster pups became forever pups). She is a firm believer in treating our fur babies like family and is knowledgeable about local businesses and services for pets along 30A. “This area is so beautiful,” she says, “and walking around with your dog is becoming more acceptable and more popular because this area is tucked away from fast, busy roads.”
Furry Fanatics offers all the toys and necessities for pet ownership. Here you can find assorted collars and leashes, bowls, treats and chews, bedding, vitamins, and supplements. She has worked with Dr. Fowler, a holistic veterinarian in Panama City Beach, and has researched and tested various dog food brands to carry in her shop. Most of the dog food offered at Furry Fanatics is centered on the natural canine diet, equating to high levels of protein and less fillers. “It is amazing how many dogs have allergies and skin problems that can be treated with proper diet. And it’s exciting that even in such a small area, we have a lot of alternative health options available in addition to terrific veterinary care.” The shop also offers free delivery of pet supplies and is happy to provide recommendations for pet healthcare, grooming, training, pet sitting, and adoptions.
When looking for a pet friendly vacation rental, Brown is happy to make some suggestions on that too. Her website, TheDogsof30A.com, is an informative and helpful resource for pet friendly accommodations from Dune Allen to Inlet Beach. Brown keeps her website updated with new listings and is frequently contacted by property owners with pet-friendly vacation homes. There are many property rental management companies in the area that offer pet friendly homes and condos as well including Paradise Properties, Ocean Reef Rentals, 30A Escapes, and Dune Allen Beach Rentals, just to name a few.
Most vacation rentals will require a non-refundable pet deposit and will have size and weight limitations for the pets allowed so be sure to speak with a reservations agent if possible to ensure you have all the details before putting down a deposit. You may also want to ask about walking trails and nearby parks for playtime with your pooch. Consider, however that dogs must remain on a leash when in public areas.
Although South Walton beaches limit pet access to property owners and for certain times of day, there are many other outdoor spaces along 30A that are perfect for a day of playing fetch. Point Washington State Forest offers three trail systems, perfect for walking, running, or sniffing for hours on end. Other nearby parks like Grayton Beach State Park and Topsail Hill State Park offer affordable campsites, picnic pavilions, and trails as well.
One of the best things to do when bringing your dog with you to the area is taking them out on the town before sundown. Many restaurants like the Red Bar and La Playa offer outside patios where patrons and pups can enjoy the warm summer air. If your pet is socialized and good with crowds, take a quick trot around Seaside or pick a spot near Airstream row and let them enjoy people watching as much as you do. The Great Southern Café in Seaside also has a cool outdoor deck for dining with the dogs and offers a covered patio and bar scene.
Brown reminds “visiting pet owners need to remember that things are going to be different here for the dogs so it is helpful to bring a few comforts of home like toys and bedding.” She also notes for owners to be mindful of the weather. “It’s hot. The concrete, the car, everything, so watch the time of day and the humidity and always keep water handy.”
They don’t call it the Dog Days of Summer for nothing so when you’re packing up for your 30A vacation stay, bring Fido, or Lucy, or Buster along with you. Stay in a fabulous rental, dine outdoors, and throw the ball around. Every dog will have its day; let that day be spent with you this summer in South Walton.
Photos and Images provided courtesy of Furry Fanatics and Cheryl Hodges