We try to travel with our two dogs whenever possible. Florida poses many challenges for dog travelers. Fortunately, Feng Shui By Fishgirl has scoped out the sitch for you in Key Largo so you can plan your vacation ahead of time and avoid hassles.
First of all, Florida is hot and humid so don’t even consider leaving your animals in the car while you are playing tourist. It’s also illegal in the state of Florida –private citizens as well as police will smash in your car windows to rescue animals in cars. Don’t do it! Also be aware that most of the beaches in the Keys do not allow dogs on the shoreline.
You are allowed to bring them to parks like John Pennekamp State Park if you keep them on a leash. There are 3 nice walks within Pennekamp to take your dogs–including a short but memorable boardwalk loop through the mangroves– just remember not to sit on the beach with your pet. We suggest wearing your dog out physically so that she will want to sleep a few hours in your hotel while you’re out and about.We noticed our hyper active English springer spaniel was slowed waaaay down by the heat. Make sure you carry lots of water in the car when your dog is with you!
The best daycare or overnight boarding in Key Largo is Wendy Moore’s The Pet Motel. The Pet Motel provides several yards where your pets can interact or be separated for doggy daycare. We highly recommend their competent staff and left our two dogs for two nights while we visited the Everglades National Park where dogs are not allowed. The Pet Motel is a groomer which is great if your dogs are in need of some attention to their coats.
For dog friendly lodgings, try renting a private home via VacationRentals.com (ours was on a canal with a pool that our dogs could swim in with us!) or you can choose from one of the pet friendly resorts listed here. Eating is easy. Many of the restaurants in the area have outdoor seating and allow you to have your dog by your side. The good news is you can bring your four legged friends to many of the best places to eat:
Mrs. Mac’s Kitchen (the original not the second one) has an outdoor area. This was our all time favorite food breakfast, lunch, and dinner and we’re not alone–there’s always a line of locals and tourists to get in. The Mandalay Grill & Tiki Lounge was our second all time fave. They are located in a marina under a bright yellow tent. Everyone from staff to fellow diners was super friendly to our two furry kids and the cuisine was fantastic. We heard that Calypso’s Seafood Grill also lets you bring your dogs but when we ate there we didn’t have them with us. Good thing, too, otherwise we might have had to share some of our delicious Thai shrimp appetizers! For a hearty breakfast, a good choice is The Hideout restaurant where dogs are welcomed in the outdoor patio area. Don’t let the name confuse you—-it’s now called The HiddenOut but only because of some technical legalities in transfer of ownership. Act like a local: refer to it as The HideOut. We also discovered the only local dog park in the area: find the road sign for Sunset as you drive south (it’s around MM 94.5) and go drive down Sunset til you find the fenced in dog park on the bay side. The locals with their dogs are very friendly at this park.
Finally, take a day trip–or stay a few days–to Key West. They are very strict about picking up your dog poop ($500 fine) so make sure you have plenty of bags with you. We walked our dogs all around Key West including Mallory Square where literally thousands gather to watch the sun go down. With the exception of one incident where a shopkeeper’s German shepherd came out of an open door and attacked our dog on his leash (thankfully without injury), we found Key West to be enjoyable with our pets along. Although we didn’t stay at the Doubletree, we did explore the hotel’s grounds and were happy to learn that they do take dogs (with a steep $75 fee). We stayed 3 nights at the Old Wooden Bridge Fish Camp in Big Pine Key. It’s about 35 minutes north of Key West in a secluded location a short walk from the No Name Pub. The No Name Pub has great food and also an outdoor area for diners with dogs but be sure to check out the interior–it’s covered with dollar bills. The Old Wooden Bridge Fish Camp is located within the wildlife protected area where miniature Key Deer are roaming freely so make sure you keep your dogs under control. We found upstairs cottage room #B to be charming, cheap, and cheerful (bring your own sheets unless you like polyester satin).
The Keys have a tree called “poisonwood” and its bark causes severe rashes. It works like poison ivy so if your dogs go off a trail and brush up against it, you’re going to be exposed to the poisonwood oil when you touch your dog. Another reason to keep your dog on leash at all times and you don’t want them chasing after the wildlife, many of the Florida creatures are endangered species. Here are some more tips to keep your pets safe:
KEY SAFETY TIPS:
*Have lots of water on hand in your car and your hotel room for your dog so he doesn’t get overheated and dehydrated.
*Don’t leave your dog unattended in your car as it gets too hot and it’s illegal in Florida.
*Keep an eye out for alligators and crocodiles. Seriously!
*Keep your dogs on leashes at all times to protect them and to protect the endangered species.
*Check for burrs, nettles, and ticks as there are a lot of deer down there.
*Carry lots of doggie doo doo bags as there are stiff fines if you don’t pick up.
Please feel free to pass this info on!