Not all dogs are cut out for Honeymoon Island, Ft. Desoto, or Davis Island Dog Park. Most Tampa Bay dog-friendly beaches are packed with pooches. Taking an unsocial dog to a busy dog beach can be nerve-racking and potentially dangerous. But that doesn’t mean a water loving dog has to miss out on all of the fun. You may be tempted to find a hidden spot on a local lake or a park on the river, take off the leash, and let your pup go. But take it from Rodger, the pit bull that had a close encounter with a 10-foot gator on the Hillsborough River or Jessie, the 50-pound mixed breed snatched by the bank of a lake in Sunrise, FL earlier this year; it can be risky.

The Apollo Beach Nature Preserve is dog friendly, leash only, and not crowded. There are often only a few dogs there, even on the weekends. If you really want to isolate your pup from the other dogs there are plenty of bends, coves, lagoons, and mangroves, so if you find the right spot he can swim without the distraction of seeing other dogs playing. Even with the lack of crowds, take caution if you have an aggressive dog, as some owners don’t follow the leash rules and the enforcement appears to be lacking. But the beach is nice and you can choose the bay side with waves or the calmer inlet near TECO’s Big Bend Power Station.

Other activities include bird watching, fishing, and picnicking. Restrooms, water fountains, and picnic shelters are available. The Apollo Beach Nature Preserve is on Tampa Bay only about 30 minutes from Tampa and 45 minutes from St. Petersburg off of I-75 (google maps).


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