This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Gulf County Tourism. All opinions are 100% mine.
Okay guys, so I have a serious internal struggle going on right now. We just got back from THE BEST beach vacation that we’ve ever been on, in the most amazing little beach town. I want to tell everyone about it because I loved it so much, but I also want to be selfish and keep this little gem a secret. Preserve it, leave it exactly like it is. Alas, beautiful places like this should be for all to enjoy so, here goes… Gulf County, Florida! Never heard of it? Yeah, I hadn’t either. This little gem of an area is tucked away in the panhandle of Florida and it’s absolute paradise!
Why I fell in LOVE with Gulf County, FL
Not only is the entire Gulf County area beautiful, but it has that laid back small town feel. Everyone is SO nice! We never felt like outsiders or “just tourists.” Everyone made us feel welcome from the moment we arrived. The beaches are some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen! They’re not crowded at all and check this, the beaches are DOG FRIENDLY! I don’t mean “dog friendly” like most places where you can bring your dog during the off-season. Or the places where you can bring your dog at the crack of dawn or late in the evening. In Gulf County, your dog is welcome all the time! (with the exception of the state park). Just make sure you bring your leash!
I’m PRETTY sure Boomer had a good time. Hard to tell, right? HAHA. It was so nice to be able to bring her with us to the beach instead of leaving her by herself in the cottage. She had an absolute blast swimming in the waves and rolling in the sand.
10 MUST DO Dog-Friendly Family Activities in Gulf County, FL!
While the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Florida, or any destination on the coast really, is the beach (and these beaches are amazing), there is SO much more to see and do in this area. Here are a few of our favorite activities from our recent trip to Gulf County:
1 – Wake Up and Watch the Sunrise
I love a good sunset as much as the next person, but there is something magical about watching the sun come up over the water. Thanks to a teething baby, I was up in time to catch each and every one during our stay. It was so nice to just walk out the door of our cottage, with the baby in one arm and Boomer’s leash in the other, and be sitting at the edge of the water within minutes, watching the world come to life. It was the perfect way to start each day of our vacation.
If your trip doesn’t include a teething baby, I highly recommend you set an alarm. These sunrises are not to be missed!
2 – Spend a Day at the Beach (Obviously)
You obviously can’t go to a beach town without going to the beach! Cape San Blas easily made it onto my list of favorite beaches of all time with its powder-soft white sand and crystal clear blue-green waters. The tall grassy dunes and lack of crowds allowed for that perfect serene beach experience. I could have stayed right there all weekend! The water was perfect too. There were just enough waves to splash around and play in, yet the water was gentle enough for Boomer to confidently swim and for us to take Parker in without worry.
Happy Cabanas hooked us up with an amazing setup, including a large canopy, 3 lounge chairs, and a small table. Having this reprieve from the sun was a game changer, especially for Parker and Boomer. It allowed us to spend the entire day at the beach. Plus, I was super thankful that I didn’t have to carry a bunch of umbrellas or a beach canopy. Going to the beach with a baby AND a dog requires enough gear as it is!
After running and playing in the water, Boomer took a nap in the shade while Corey used his new snorkel mask to search the shallow water for shells. Parker happily sat in the sand, grabbing handfuls of it and letting it run through his fingers, completely amazed! It was his first introduction to a real beach and priceless to watch. We made memories on this beach that will stay with us for years to come!
3 – Explore the Waterways by Boat
One evening, we all set out for a relaxing sunset cruise on Saint Joseph Bay with Bali Hai Charters. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip! I cannot say enough great things about Tim, our captain for the evening. He was friendly, knowledgeable about the area, and more than accommodating. We’ve tried to do similar charters in other areas so many times and usually ended up skipping it because we couldn’t bring the dogs. Not only was Boomer welcomed with open arms, but Tim even let her smother him with her relentless kisses.
The cruise couldn’t have been any better. The temperature was perfect, the sunset was beautiful, and the water was surprisingly empty and peaceful. I’m so used to being out on the water with hundreds of other boats, but that was not the case here at all! It felt like we had the whole bay to ourselves and it was amazing!
4 – Get Your Dose of Nature Therapy
Whether it’s a horseback ride on the beach, a paddle on the bay, or a hike on one of the trails at St Joseph Peninsula State Park, there are countless ways to hit the reset button and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area.
5 – Go on a Scavenger Hunt
Did you know that Gulf County is the largest nesting place for sea turtles in Northwest Florida? More than 40% of the sea turtle nests are found along its shores! As a fun way to bring attention to and educate visitors about these beautiful, massive creatures, Gulf County designed the Turtle Trail. It’s like a big scavenger hunt where you try to find these hand painted turtle statues around the county. Don’t worry, there’s a map to help you!
Find and take a selfie with all 6, tag them with #TurtleTrail and #InGulf to win a prize… a stainless steel Gulf County straw! Plastic from disposable, single use items like straws is extremely harmful to marine ecosystems and wildlife. So bring your stainless steel straw with you when you eat out and help protect the turtles!
6 – Rent a Bike (or a Kayak, Paddleboard, etc)
For some active fun, check out one of the many rental shops in the area. They have everything from bikes to kayaks and paddle boards, even sailboats. We opted for a pair of beach cruisers and a trailer for the baby from Scallop Cove. Cape San Blas is super bike friendly, with a large bike lane that’s separated from the street by a grassy median. I loved that we could enjoy our ride, letting Boomer run in front of the bikes and pulling Parker behind us without worrying about traffic. We ended up biking all the way down the Cape to the state park, logging over 7 miles along the way.
7 – Eat Some Good Food
Vacation shouldn’t be work, so be sure to hit some of Gulf County’s delicious dining options and let someone else do the cooking for you! Our personal favorite was a restaurant called Provisions. The food was absolutely delicious, the staff was super friendly, and the patio is dog-friendly too! Our waiter even brought us orange slice after orange slice from the bar for little man to snack on. So sweet!
8 – Go Fishin’
Grab a pole, some bait, and a fishing license and head for the water. Gulf County has plenty of options for fishermen (and women) of all skill levels, be it from a dock, the beach, or a private charter. Don’t forget to bring your pup, They make the best fishing companions, plus they’re great distractions while you wait for a bite!
9 – Do “Nothing”
My favorite thing about vacationing in beautiful places is that you don’t have to “do” much of anything to enjoy yourself. You’re away from the worries of everyday life, somewhere serene and relaxing. Don’t forget to sit back and enjoy it!
We stayed in one the most adorable little dog-friendly cottages on Cape San Blas called Scallop Cove Villa #3, “Phish Headz”. It’s one of a group of 6 villas situated right on the bay with gorgeous views of the water, plus a big, beautiful grassy lawn and a private dock. It was the perfect place to relax, play fetch, unwind, and do a whole lot of nothing.
Some of our best memories from this trip were made hanging out on this dock. We watched the sun rise and set here. We fished. Corey launched his inflatable raft and paddled around the bay. We found a starfish hanging out in the water, Boomer chased lizards and crabs. We made friends with other vacationing families. Which leads me to item #10 on our list…
10 – SPEND TIME TOGETHER AS A FAMILY
The whole point of vacations, in my opinion anyway, is to spend time together, make memories and have fun! There are countless ways to do just that here in Gulf County, FL. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or do anything extravagant. Just be together, be silly, and have fun. We met so many people who have been coming back to this same little beach town year after year with their families. After coming myself, I can definitely see why. I have enough pictures from this trip to fill an entire photo album and more precious memories with my little family than I can count. For that I am forever grateful.
If you’re looking for a fun, laid back vacation that’s perfect for the whole family, I urge you to check out Gulf County, Florida. In just 4 short days, this place went from a town that wasn’t even a blip on my radar to a place that I can honestly see myself visiting year after year. To learn more about Gulf County and start planning your own trip, check out www.visitgulf.com.
We’d love to hear about your favorite things to do with your family at the beach! Leave us a note in the comments, along with any questions you may have about this amazing vacation destination!
Thanks for reading,
Debbie & The Mutts
(and Parker too!)