AAA Travel Tips / 8 Pet-Friendly Vacation Ideas in the South

8 Pet-Friendly Vacation Ideas in the South

iStockphoto.com/Tom Merton
By AAA Travel Editor Katie Broome
January 20, 2021
AAA knows a thing or two about planning trips with the whole family in tow — including pets! From finding paw-approved restaurants to booking pet-friendly hotels, AAA has you covered with expert recommendations and travel planning tips to inspire your next family vacation. Here are a few of our favorite places to visit in the South if you’ll have your pets along for the ride.
For even more pet-friendly vacation ideas, visit AAA Pet Travel. Pet policies and fees may vary, so check with each property ahead of time to confirm rates and restrictions. (Some properties listed below allow cats, too, but this article mainly focuses on travel with dogs. Phone ahead if you'll be traveling with a cat.)
Courtesy of Home2 Suites by Hilton Fernandina Beach Amelia Island

Amelia Island, Florida

Leashed dogs are permitted on all city and county beaches in Amelia Island, Florida, which means plenty of opportunities for walking, splashing and playing while on vacation. Catch a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean with your pup, then head inland to explore the cute shops and restaurants of downtown Fernandina Beach. You can see the sunset over the Amelia River from an outdoor patio in the evening, or hop in the car for a drive on A1A with the windows down. Amelia River Cruises & Charters even allows well-behaved pets on its scenic boat tours.
Where to Eat: Amelia Island’s dog-friendly restaurants include Brett's Waterway Cafe, Pepper's Mexican Grill & Cantina and Sliders Seaside Grill.
Where to Stay: With an ideal location near downtown Fernandina and right on the beach, the Seaside Amelia Inn welcomes pets in its ground-floor rooms and charges a pet fee of $100 per stay. There are additional pet-friendly hotels near Amelia Island’s Seaside Park: Hampton Inn Amelia Island at Fernandina Beach and Home2 Suites by Hilton Fernandina Beach Amelia Island are both good for travelers with smaller dogs and charge around $75 per dog, per stay.
Courtesy of 1900 Inn on Montford

Asheville, North Carolina

If you and your pup are the hiking type, consider a getaway to Asheville, North Carolina. Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway (another fun destination with pets), this dog-friendly city offers a plethora of outdoorsy activities, from exploring the blooms at the North Carolina Arboretum to roaming the grounds of the Biltmore estate. Well-behaved dogs under 25 pounds can even join for a bit of sightseeing with Gray Line Trolley Tours of Asheville.
Where to Eat and Drink: Dogs are welcome on a few outdoor dining patios around the city as well as at the New Belgium Brewing Liquid Center near the River Arts district; Highland Brewing Company off the Blue Ridge Parkway; and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., close to the Biltmore estate.
Where to Sleep: Choose from dozens of pet-friendly hotels in Asheville, N.C. Standouts include the Kimpton Hotel Arras (no pet fees or restrictions), 1900 Inn on Montford (no pet fees) and Hill House bed and breakfast, which charges $10 per dog, per night.
iStockphoto.com/Sean Pavone

Athens, Georgia

The college town of Athens, Georgia, offers dozens of places to shop, sip and stroll with your pet. Wander the tree-lined streets of downtown, then venture onto the campus of the University of Georgia to see the historic buildings and majestic oaks of the first state-chartered public university in the United States. (You might find some cute Georgia Bulldogs gear for your pet at the campus bookstore, too.) For nature hikes and water views, check out Sandy Creek Park just north of town, or the Oconee Rivers Greenway linear park system.
Where to Eat: The Athens location of Terrapin Beer Co. allows pets and occasionally hosts food trucks. Other popular dog-friendly restaurants in Athens, Georgia, include DePalma's Italian Cafe, Hilltop Grille, Marti's at Midday and The National.
Where to Stay: The retro, boutique-style Graduate Athens hotel is close to downtown and offers a very affordable pet fee of just $25 per dog, per night. Also affordable for pet owners is the Wingate by Wyndham Athens Near Downtown ($25 per dog, per night; smaller dogs only) and the Best Western Athens ($30 per dog, per day; larger dogs allowed).

Charleston, South Carolina

There are lots of things to do with your dog in Charleston, South Carolina. Walk downtown’s cobblestone streets or opt for a horse-drawn carriage ride with Charleston Carriage Works, which allows dogs on tours (you’ll need to purchase a child’s ticket if your pet is too large for a lap). For a bit of Colonial history, explore Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, or watch boat traffic go by at Waterfront Park.
Where to Eat: Sample local cuisine at one of the many dog-friendly restaurants around Charleston. Crab Shack has fresh-off-the-boat seafood at reasonable prices; Poogan's Porch was named after a local pup and offers Southern fare; and Southern Roots Smokehouse serves barbecue on a screened-in patio.
Where to Sleep: Among the many dog-friendly hotels in Charleston are two standouts: John Rutledge House Inn dates back to 1763 and once housed a signer of the U.S. Constitution, while Kings Courtyard Inn features interior courtyards and original fireplaces in some rooms. Both historic properties have pet fees around $40 per day and are perfect for a romantic stay.
AAA/Maria White

Key West, Florida

Serene water views, stunning sunsets and a nightly party vibe — Key West, Florida, is a fun place to vacation with your pet all year round. You can explore the southernmost city in the continental U.S. on foot; the pedestrian-friendly town offers shops, bars and excellent people watching. A dog park at Higgs Beach has separate areas for large and small dogs, and leashed pets are allowed on the grounds of Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park and even inside the Key West Aquarium.
Where to Eat: It’s easy to find dog friendly restaurants in Key West. Lively places with outdoor patios include Amigo's Tortilla Bar, Blue Heaven Restaurant & Bar, Half Shell Raw Bar, Harpoon Harry's, Louie's Backyard and SHOR American Seafood Grill.
Where to Stay: Close to Duval Street are two historic B&Bs: Amsterdam's Curry Mansion Inn and Courtney's Place Historic Cottages & Inn. Both are dog-friendly hotels in Key West with pet fees of $10 to $15 per day (small dogs only at Amsterdam’s Curry Mansion Inn).
Additional dog-friendly hotels in Key West are located at the northeast corner of the island, closer to US 1. Standouts include The Gates Hotel Key West ($30 per dog, per day; small or medium dogs) and Havana Cabana at Key West, where dogs are allowed at the pool bar, in game areas and on the hotel’s shuttle (pet fee of $75 per night; small or medium dogs).
iStockphoto.com/ferrantraite

Outer Banks, North Carolina

The Outer Banks — a slender strip of barrier islands along North Carolina’s east coast — encompasses dozens of small towns and communities with prime oceanfront views. From Corolla in the north to Ocracoke in the south, you’ll find a variety of places to explore along the coast. One of the top things to do with your pet in the Outer Banks is to spend a day at the beach; we recommend the beaches in Kitty Hawk, Nags Head and Manteo for year-round fun (on leash). If you’d like to learn some local history, take your dog along to the Wright Brothers National Memorial or Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. (Both sites allow pets on the grounds, but not in buildings.) For something a little different, you can watch hang gliding and sandboarding on the sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge State Park.
Where to Eat: A few popular Outer Banks restaurants that allow pets on their patios include Agave Roja, Modern Mexican in Corolla, Capt'n Franks in Kitty Hawk, The Saltbox Cafe in Kill Devil Hills and Waveriders Coffee & Deli in Nags Head.
Where to Stay: Dozens of AAA Approved pet-friendly hotels dot the Outer Banks coastline. You’ll find pet fees of $10 to $30 per dog, per night at The White Doe Inn in Manteo, Comfort Inn on the Ocean in Kill Devil Hills (larger dogs allowed), and Sea Foam Motel and Comfort Inn Oceanfront South, both in Nags Head.
AAA/Thuyvi Gates

St. Augustine, Florida

An easy day trip from Orlando, the historic city of St. Augustine, Florida, welcomes pets at many of its popular outdoor attractions and tourist areas. Stroll the streets of the Old City with your leashed pet to explore its history; attractions like the Colonial Quarter, Spanish Military Hospital Museum and Ponce de León's Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park are all pet-friendly. If you’d rather ride than walk, opt for a narrated experience with Red Train Tours or a boat tour with St. Augustine Scenic Cruise.
Where to Eat: The historic district has quite a few AAA Approved restaurants that allow pets. Find Mayan-influenced cuisine at Casa Maya Mexican Seafood Grill and Tequila Bar, Cuban and Spanish specialties at Columbia Restaurant, casual Florida fare at Florida Cracker Cafe and mouthwatering barbecue at Mojo Old City BBQ.
Where to Sleep: The Bayfront Marin House is especially dog-friendly in summer, offering puppy popsicles to furry guests staying at the hotel ($35 per dog, per day). On the luxury side of things, The Collector Inn offers an adults-only experience for guests with small to medium dogs ($75 per dog, per stay).
Shutterstock/Sean Pavone

Savannah, Georgia

History buffs and nature lovers alike will find plenty of fun things to do in Savannah, Georgia. This Southern city is known for its lush public squares and well-preserved architecture. Pretty Forsyth Park has oak-draped paths and an impressive fountain dating back to 1858, plus water fountains just for dogs. River Street is great for wandering and people watching, and when your feet (or paws) get tired, Old Savannah Tours can show you around the city via an open-air trolley (small dogs welcome). For even more nature views, head to Wormsloe State Historic Site, where leashed dogs are permitted on 7 miles of trails.
Where to Eat: Popular pet-friendly restaurants in Savannah include Clary's Cafe, Love's Seafood Restaurant, Moon River Brewing Company and Vinnie Van Go Go.
Where to Stay: You’ll find the best pet perks at The Kimpton Brice Hotel, where there are no pet fees or restrictions. Some historic properties in Savannah are also pet-friendly — check out East Bay Inn ($50 per stay, for up to two pets), Foley House Inn ($50 per dog, per stay), and the Hamilton-Turner Inn ($50 per stay; small dogs only). If you have a larger dog, fees are reasonable at the Best Western Plus Savannah Historic District ($25 per dog, per day).
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