Palm Coast, Florida

All Dogs Go to Flagler Beaches

A canine and his human discover the pet-friendly, naturally simple charm of Flagler Beach

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By Kona Jackson

I’m as predictable as a dachshund is disproportionate. There’s the enthusiastic tail thump when I see my human grab the leash. Then, there’s the windshield wiper tail wag when I see her grab the leash and her keys. Finally, there’s the full blown happy dog dance—windshield wiper tail wag accompanied by a serious round of barks and the uncontrollable urge to jump—that happens when I see her grab the leash, her keys and our luggage.

“Flagler Beach or bust,” she said, pulling out of the driveway.

Beach? I gulped. The last beach we’d visited was as dog-friendly as a fluffy, little Maltese is masculine. But either way, I was down for the road trip. Wind in my fur, tongue out of my mouth and my best friend behind the wheel? Woof yes!

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A warm, yet cooling, welcome

So doggone good!

Six hours later, we had six legs to stretch and two bladders to empty. Fortunately, our first stop, Palm Coast’s James F. Holland Memorial Park, served up space, fresh air and facilities. With my keen sense of smell, we found the dog park faster than we could ask for directions. Technically, there were two parks—one for real dogs like me and one for those toy breeds packed around in purses. We all shared the lake and fountain, though. Now that was fun. Running through a sprinkler while swimming: who knew you could do both at the same time?

“Time for ice cream?” she asked at the park’s dog washing station where I shook once more, knowing the Florida sun would work wonders. Like my rhetorical shake, it was a rhetorical question, so I didn’t even bother with my puppy eyes. I just hoped she’d get a cone with enough scoops that it would melt and drip to the ground before she could finish it. I had learned that was the only way I’d get some. However, I quickly discovered that at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream there’s a beautiful thing called a Doggie Sundae. The cherry on top is a milk bone! Since you can’t put a price tag on that sort of ingenuity, Bruster’s gives them away for free.

After running around the park and then experiencing my first-ever brain freeze, I was ready to relax at our hotel. That is, if I didn’t have to be sneaked in. I’ve overheard horror stories at the dog park about pet owners doing this when they learn the property they booked wasn’t dog-friendly. Would Si Como No Inn welcome a tailwagger like me?

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Barking up the right beach

This could be you

The answer was “Si´, como no.” In English, that means, “yes, of course,” the inn’s owner explained.

We woke up the next morning and I heard my human stretching in the bunk above me (I took the lower bunk, naturally). We walked out of our cottage, passed a dog washing station, and within minutes, the warm, cinnamon-hued sand tickled our toes and paws. “It’s easy to remember where you’re welcome,” the owner had also explained. “Most of the beaches here are dog-friendly. The only place that isn’t is between North 10th Street and South 10th Street.”

I didn’t need that patch. This stretch of beach was big enough to host the Olympics of driftwood fetch, and more importantly, to find an unmarked piece of territory to claim.

After realizing I was never going to “claim” a seagull or a fish for breakfast, we ended up at Java Joint. I was all prepared to be tied up outside until the waitress sat both of us on the beachfront patio. There was even a cooling fan so I didn’t have to get my pant on! She also brought me a biscuit and a porcelain bowl filled with ice water. Disclaimer: she did ask me to shake first.

Speaking of tricks, they say you can’t teach an old dog new ones. But that afternoon, I learned how to paddleboard. Technically, my human did the paddling as we cruised along the Intracoastal Waterway behind Si Como No Inn. I sat up front, the self-designated wildlife scout. I did such a good job you never would have guessed it was my first time.

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Made with us in mind

Sand is awesome!

They also say you should let sleeping dogs lie, but I was stoked when she woke me up the next morning. There was more beach to cover! Plus, according to a Frenchie I’d exchanged sniffs with at Java Joint, Wadsworth Park had the crème de la crème of dog parks. “It’s a 60,000-sq.-ft. off-leash oasis,” he’d said. “There’s water and shade for you, seating and dog bags for her and even a separate, fenced-in area in case the little guys wanna climb outta their clutches.”

Frenchie’s recommendation was spot on. And although it was tempting to chase after flying balls at the tennis courts, I behaved well enough at Wadsworth Park to earn a belly rub.

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Made with us in mind

All dogs dig Flagler Beach

Like the other restaurants we’d visited in Flagler Beach, High Tides @ Snack Jack welcomes dogs with a bowl of water, which I slurped unabashedly.

“Would you like ‘pups with that?” our waiter asked my human. I gave her my look of jealousy normally reserved for when she comes home reeking of another dog.

“Relax,” she said, scratching that special spot behind my ear. Minutes later she explained by “accidentally” dropping a yummy cornmeal ball. Since I abide by the five-second rule as faithfully as I stick to my grain-free diet, that hushpuppy was history upon hitting the patio floor. 

I can’t say that we made history that weekend in Flagler Beach, but we definitely made memories. In fact, we think of them whenever we get in the car. Yep. That’s our car with the “My Dog Digs Flagler Beach” bumper sticker.

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Plan a pet-friendly getaway with your four-legged friend to Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches.