Black dog at the seaDestin, FL

Written by Michelle Mantor, Originally published in August 2012.
When I was a child, I had the old-style cork bulletin board in my bedroom where I would dutifully display awards, keepsakes and pictures of things I wanted. One picture that remained on the board until I moved out of the house was a photo of Tahiti. I was fascinated by the far away tropical paradise and mesmerized by the water color. I haven’t made it to Tahiti yet but in years since, I have visited Caribbean islands where the azure waters prevail and my love for them remains.

I always thought the closest I could get to beautiful blue-green water in the U.S. was the Florida Keys until I visited Destin Florida on a recent vacation. Dubbed the Emerald Coast, the stretch of beach from Pensacola to Santa Rosa Beach boasts gorgeous Caribbean-like waters and it’s only a short flight or a reasonable drive from Houston. Given that it is a comfortable driving distance also means you can bring your pets along for the trip!

For lodging, much of the Emerald Coast is home to condominiums rather than traditional hotels. Some allow pets while others do not and you can find properties on several sites including, and (which I used). The individual properties will note if they are pet friendly. Easy Street Vacation Rentals ( has a large selection of pet friendly vacation homes so they are definitely worth a try.

In Destin, there are a number of pet friendly activities and destinations so that your dog can enjoy numerous outings with you. First is Henderson Beach State Park featuring a nature trail through the park grounds. Dogs are welcome on this 3/4-mile trail as long as they remain on 6-foot leashes. If you stay in Panama Beach, visit the area just west of the Dan Russell pier that the city has sanctioned as dog-friendly. If your dog is looking for a little social mixing, Destin recently opened a leashfree dog park next to the Destin City Hall Annex on Indian Bayou Trail.

In addition to beach outings, we discovered a few pet friendly restaurants including Hammerhead’s Bar and Grille (, which features its own doggy menu and Bistro Bijoux in Sandestin’s Baytown Wharf (a fun shopping/restaurant village with plenty of amusements for the kids and if you enjoy dueling piano bars, try Rum Runners).

If you are in need of premium foods or just want to go shopping with your dog for some yummy treats or boutique items, we found a great store in Destin’s Crystal Beach Shopping Center called The Doggy Bag. They were super nice and had top quality foods, treats, bakery items, toys and more.

Given its proximity to Houston and the unparalleled beach quality, Destin and the rest of the Northwest Florida Emerald Coast is a good vacation option for Houston pet owners. If you are planning a trip, a fun time to go would be in February for the annual Mardi Gras Dog Parade in Baytown Wharf. I saw some photos of last year’s event during my visit showcasing costumed canines in the parade and it looked like a great event for all dog lovers!

For more information on the area, you can visit