Going to the beach is the quintessential summer activity. Luckily, Virginia is home to some phenomenal beaches. If you’re looking to soak up the sun and go for a dip this summer with your best friend (four-legged best friend, that is) you’ll want to make sure you go to a pet-friendly beach.
No need to guess or worry whether your favorite beach hangout will welcome your pooch; we’ve got you covered. Check out this list of the top 12 pet-friendly beaches in the commonwealth, broken down by area.
Virginia Beach is probably the best-known oceanfront destination in the commonwealth, and for good reason. It’s a good summer spot for both two-legged and four-legged vacationers.
“Your four-legged family members are always welcomed in Virginia Beach and we want them to enjoy a paw-sitively perfect vacation with you,” the Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau states on its website.
While dogs are welcome at Virginia Beach, there are seasonal restrictions that last from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Dogs are allowed on the beaches—including Oceanfront North End, Sandbridge, and the Chesapeake Bay beaches—before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. daily.
For a pet-friendly place to stay near the water, consider Hyatt Place Virginia Beach Oceanfront, which just opened in June.
Sandbridge is the perfect location for a dog that doesn’t like a lot of commotion given its secluded nature. Your dog will love the “pristine sand dunes and dancing sea oats.”
If you’re on the boardwalk in the Oceanfront district, dogs are welcome all day long. Considering the 28-foot-wide boardwalk stretches for three miles, you and your dog will both get in a workout if you walk it from end to end. If you need to take a break, you’ll both be welcome on the pet-friendly patio at Abbey Road Pub & Restaurant.
Known locally as Chic’s Beach, the waves there are gentler in the Chesapeake Bay, so your dog can better enjoy splashing around in the mild surf. The relaxed atmosphere of the beach will allow you to let your dog roam around off-leash during the permitted seasonal hours.
After spending the afternoon on the beach, stop by Salty Paws to reward your dog for being on good behavior. It’s the first dog ice cream bar in the commonwealth. Your pup will love lapping up a bowl of maple bacon lactose-free ice cream. Baked goods, including doggie doughnuts and cookies, are also available.
“We understand that dogs are part of the family and encourage visitors to bring their pups when they visit Norfolk,” reads the VisitNorfolk website.
Your pup can continue to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay over at Norfolk’s Ocean View, which offers 7.3 miles of free-to-access shoreline. Leashed dogs are welcome on the beaches from Labor Day through Memorial Day before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m., which means you can bring your friend along for a nice sunset stroll along the water.
“We know your furry friends need to get out as much as you do, and we love to see them around Hampton,” states the Visit Hampton website. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until Sept. 15 to take your pooch with you because the city stipulates that dogs can only be on the beaches between Sept. 15 and May 15.
You can visit the .75-mile beach that also offers views of the Chesapeake Bay for free. While your pup is frolicking in the sparkling water, you can watch ships prepare to arrive at their ports of call.
Outlook Beach is Fort Monroe’s free public beach access. It’s a great place for swimming, sunbathing and watching the sun rise and set. Given that the beach extends for miles, your dog will surely enjoy exploring every inch.
The beaches along the historic district of Cape Charles are perfect for smaller dogs that still want to get in on the beach action, given that the water is calm and there are no waves. You can let your pup splash around while you relax in one of the oversized wading pools.
Be mindful of the fact that you won’t be able to spend all day on the beach with your buddy. Between May 1 and Labor Day, the presence of dogs on the beach is restricted between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t bring your pup along for a relaxing sunrise or sunset stroll along the water.
Dubbed the “Playground of the Potomac,” Colonial Beach is one of the closest beaches to Washington, DC. The town’s beach areas—North Beach, Downtown Boardwalk Beach, Irving Avenue Beach, Castlewood Beach, and The Pointe—stretch for more than two miles along the Potomac River. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until Sept. 30 to bring your dog with you. When you do, be sure to check out Castlewood Beach, as it has a dog park.
Richmond is home to the 600-acre James River Park System, making it the only urban city in the country with Class IV whitewater rapids in the middle of downtown.
Both you and your dog will love exploring Pony Pasture Rapids Park on the south bank of the James River, two miles downstream from the Huguenot Bridge on Riverside Drive. Visit Richmond VA describes it as “a cheap way to make the best of one’s day for those that can’t afford a trip to the beach or don’t have time to leave the city for a vacation.” If your dog isn’t too easily excited, bring it on a whitewater canoe run with you.
Your dog can also tag along while you hang out on Belle Isle, a small yet popular island on the James River near downtown. It’s accessible by footbridge from Tredegar Street on the north shore. The two of you can relax on one of the large flat rocks that surround the island, then cool off by taking a splash in the water.
Even if you can’t drive to the coast, Virginia State Parks can be found throughout the commonwealth. No matter which park you go to, your dogs will be welcomed. However, there are some regulations you should be aware of, including one stating that dogs aren’t allowed in designated swim areas and are required to be kept on a 6-foot leash.
Despite those restrictions, there are plenty of beaches along lakes, bays, rivers, and creeks that aren’t designated for swimming that your furry friend can enjoy. When in doubt about where your dog can swim, ask a ranger.
Leesylvania State Park consists of 500 acres along the Potomac River. It has a small beach where you and your dog can walk barefoot through the sand and cool off by dipping your toes in the water. You can also rent a canoe and take your dog for an afternoon on the water.
Westmoreland State Park is located along 1.5 miles of the Potomac River on the Northern Neck. Your dog will enjoy exploring the secluded beaches while you keep an eye out for some of the unique birds that call the park home, including American bald eagles, ospreys, and kingfishers.