More than 55 pet-friendly hotels, surf-side dining, a dog beach and pet salons are all just 45 minutes from Orlando
Long walks on the beach. Al fresco dining. Boutique shopping. Mani-pedis. Although it’s delightful for humans too, this itinerary has been planned with four-legged visitors in mind.
Florida’s Space Coast is rolling out the welcome wagon this fall for visitors traveling with their pets, from poodles to pot-bellied pigs and everything in between. The destination, which includes iconic Cocoa Beach along Florida’s east coast, has aggregated its creature comforts on a new micro-site, www.visitspacecoast.com/pets, which points guests to more than 50 pet-friendly hotels, dining spots, parks, beaches and shopping, as well as local just-in-case emergency clinics.
“Pets are family, period,” said Emma Richard, Corgi owner and e-commerce manager at Ocean Partners, which operates five hotels in Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral. “We have guests that come back year after year because we don’t just accept pets, we embrace them. Or should I say, hug them?”
More than 20 parks and campgrounds along the coast are canine friendly, including Lori Wilson Park, Wickham Park, Port St. John Dog Park and Sebastian Inlet State Park. They can frolic in the surf at Canova Dog Beach or take in the sights at one of three quaint shopping districts in Melbourne, Titusville and Cocoa Village.
Pet-perfect patio and terrace seating is available at many restaurants and cafes along the Space Coast’s 72 miles of beach, including aptly named Long Doggers Radically Relaxed Grill & Brew, which has five locations throughout the county. For a more refined meal, outdoor dining at Ossorio Bakery & Cafe in Cocoa Village and the Melting Pot in Melbourne are both good options.
“We regularly have dogs and cats stay with us, and we have the occasional pig and bird,” said Hilton Rialto’s Courtney Lillig. “The most unusual visitor has been a miniature horse, which was being used as a therapy animal. She definitely turned heads.”
Many hotels like the Rialto hotel in Melbourne provide complimentary pet beds, food and water bowls.