As our short Winter seems to be fading away all too quickly, it will soon be time to head back to the beaches. If you think you’re excited to get your toes in the sand, just wait and see your dog’s reaction when they see the waves again! If you have ever taken your dog to a beach, you probably already know what I’m talking about. I know any time we get within a few miles of the beach, our dog Sierra, losses her mind. As soon as she smells the salt water, it’s all over.
Every beach in Orange County has different regulations when it comes to allowing dogs, so I’m going to list the beaches in order of dog friendliness to make it easier to plan your next trip to soak in some California sunshine.
This is by far the most dog friendly stretch of beach in Orange County. This is due to the fact that it’s the only off-leash dog beach around. The dog beach is open from 5am-10pm 365 days a year. The off-leash portion stretches between Seapoint Avenue and Goldenwest Street. Parking is $1.50 per hour, which you can either pay for with change, or most of the meters now take Visa and Mastercard as well. If you want your dog to socialize with others, I recommend parking close to the Goldenwest part of the dog beach. This area is usually where most of the dogs will be hanging out. If you are looking for less crowds, as you go further North, the bluffs become larger, so you are a little more sheltered from the busy PCH Highway and will also have more space to stretch out. If you haven’t gone to the dog beach before, you could always walk the entire length so you get a good feel for the different areas, and I’m sure your dog would love the extra exercise. One word of caution, if you do take your dog off-leash here, make sure your dog is trained with a reliable recall. There are seagulls and some squirrels that can easily distract your dog, and with the busy Highway so close, it could definitely get them into trouble. We had a scare once with Sierra when she decided to chase a squirrel up the rocky bluffs and onto the bike path that runs along the beach. It definitely wasn’t fun scaling the jagged rocks with bare feet trying to catch her before she got too close to the street. Luckily, she didn’t go any farther than the bike path because the squirrel ran up a palm tree, so it kept her attention long enough for me and my wife to catch up to her. She definitely keeps us on our toes!
Two additional things to remember before going to the dog beach.
1) Bring water! Trust me on this one, you don’t want your dog drinking the salt water. It not only dehydrates them, but it makes for some really nasty poop clean up over the next 24 hours as they flush it through their system.
2) Bring some toys that float, and leave the tennis balls at home. Tennis balls pick up a lot of sand and unless you plan on making sure that ball never touches the inside of a house again, find a ball that’s easier to clean off after a day at the beach. Chuckit! makes a great floating ball, that is also neon orange, which makes it easy to spot when you throw it into the water. You can also buy the Chuckit! Launcher if you have an athletic dog. This launcher will help you throw the ball over 100 feet.
“Secret” Unincorporated Beach
This little know “dog beach” is tucked away in-between Huntington and Newport Beach on the South side of where the Santa Ana River meets the Ocean. Because Newport and Huntington don’t have jurisdiction here, there are really no laws about what you can and can’t do when it comes to dogs on the beach. On a sunny day, you can usually find 20-30 dogs in this little sliver of beach playing around in the ocean. The only reason I usually avoid this spot is because the Santa Ana River is located right next to it, and the river isn’t really know for it’s clean water. Also, my dog likes to swim and can easily swim across the river onto the Huntington side and I would have to end up swimming after her if she found a Seagull she wanted to chase down the beach. If you have gone to the Huntington Dog Beach 100 times and wanted to try something new, check it out. Even though it’s a small area, there are plenty of friendly dogs there and it’s always nice to have a change of scenery every once and a while.
Laguna Beach is a great place to spend the day with your dog. There are plenty of dog friendly shops and restaurants that can keep you, and your dog, busy all day long. The only bummer is that the beach itself is really only truly dog friendly in the non-summer months. It’s still accessible during summer, but there are restrictions on the hours they are allowed on the beach. Between September 17th and May 31st, leashed dogs are welcome on the beach all day. But from June 1st through September 16th, they are only allowed before 8am and after 6pm. You can still squeeze in a sunset walk with your dog on the beach during that time, but it doesn’t leave room for much else. However, even with the limited beach access, there are still plenty of activities to do in Laguna with your dog. For a great break down on hotels, restaurants and shops check out this link.
Newport Beach and Corona Del Mar
Both of these beaches allow limited access for dogs on the actual beach. They both allow leashed dogs before 10am and after 4:30pm. If you want to head down to the beach to catch a sunrise or, more likely, a sunset, both of these places are great options. During the longer hours of summer, you can probably spend some time in the water before having to calling it a day. If you are planning on making a night of it, Newport Beach will have a little more selection of restaurants that have dog friendly patios, so if you had to chose, I would probably recommend Newport over Corona Del Mar.
Bonfire with your Best Friend
As of January 23, 2015, Newport and Corona Del Mar both have fire pits that once again allow wood to be burnt in them. Because both cities don’t restrict access to dogs after 4:30pm, this would make for a fun and relaxing way to spend an evening on the beach with your dog. There’s nothing better than sitting by a fire, listening to waves crash, while you, your dog, and friends/family munch on some BBQ :). The only issue with the fire rings, especially because not all of them are authorized to burn wood, is they often fill up fast, sometimes before 4:30pm. So if you want to bring your dog to the bonfire, you will probably need to send someone down to the beach a few hours earlier to stake out a spot, and then you and your dogs can come down later. I haven’t taken Sierra to a beach bonfire yet, but it’s high on my priority list, and I’ll do a quick write up once I get down there.
The “Other” Beaches — Booooooo!
From doing some research on the other beaches in SoCal, it looks like dogs are restricted to paved walkways only. So you are better off sticking to one of the four beaches listed above.
If I have missed a beach that allows dogs, please message me or leave a comment to let me know. A lot of dog friendly beach policies are hard to find and some laws that are in place might not be strictly enforced in some areas. So if you know of one, let me know and I’ll add it to the list. Thanks!