Picture this scenario: you spend an hour slathering the kids in sunscreen, packing a cooler of water and snacks and a bag containing 762 different beach toys, strapping surfboards to the top of your car, and loading everyone up, including the dog, to head to the beach.
Only you get there and see the sign: “No Dogs Allowed.”
Planning and researching are critical when it comes to visiting the beach with our furry friends and beloved four-legged companions: restrictions (such as dogs on leashes only) or complete prohibition of dogs is not at all uncommon on public beaches for plenty of valid reasons.
In many cases, the dogs are not problematic, but their owners are. When people fail to clean up after their dogs on the beach, it can make the experience miserable for everyone around them. No one wants to find themselves enjoying a leisurely walk down a beautiful shore only to find they have stepped in dog waste. Ew!
Similarly, an anxious mother watching her toddler splash around in the waves for the first time does not want the added stress of watching an unruly and large dog running toward her little person (because the dog’s owner was distracted on his phone or perhaps even sleeping in his beach chair).
Irresponsible dog owners may, in some cases, ruin it for the rest of us, which is why it is incredibly important to follow all the rules at a dog beach, keeping them open as places to take our pets for (responsible) fun in the sun.
If you are looking for a dog friendly beach in Connecticut, we have rounded up the best spots for you to visit below.
1. Bluff Point State Park in Groton
This popular state park welcomes pooches to its beach from October through March, and you can take advantage of these off-season months to get out with your pet and enjoy some time in the salt air in a park of more than 800 acres.
Amenities are minimal here, with portable restrooms and some picnic tables, so bring your own snacks, drinks, and other supplies. Parking is free, and the lot is a short distance from the water, with a hiking trail located along the waterfront.
The local airport is just across the Poquonnock River, so aviation enthusiasts enjoy watching planes take off and land while visiting Bluff Point State Park. There are plenty of dog-friendly places nearby to grab a bite after your beach day as well.
2. Compo Beach in Westport
.Amenities abound at Compo Beach, a 29-acre park that welcomes dogs from October to March. Bathrooms and lockers are available onsite, and there is a pavilion, concession stand, volleyball courts, playground, and boardwalk in this handicapped-accessible park. Best of all, parking is free during the off-season months when dogs are allowed (compared to the steep $45 daily fee imposed May 1 through September 30).
If you do visit with your dog between October and March, pay close attention to the signage as they are only allowed in designated areas and have to be leashed or remain close to the owner.
This is a busy recreation area year-round, with multi-purpose sports fields and a skate park, so kids are often playing in many areas of the park, and dog owners must be vigilant about staying with their animals.
The Ned Dimes Marina at Compo beach is also a great place to walk your dog, and it has restrooms, boat launches, and parking available.
Another fun spot to visit while in this area is Taylor Farm Dog Park, which is just a 15-minute drive from Compo Beach.
3. Hammonasett Beach State Park in Madison
This park boasts the largest shoreline of all Connecticut parks and is the perfect place to spend the day with your pooch. Dog rules in the park allow for leased dogs in the picnic areas year-round and leashed dogs on the beach from September 30 to April 1.
Park amenities include nature trails, bike paths, sports fields, and picnic areas, making it a great site for active families along with their dogs. The picnic shelter may be rented out for special events, and visitors should also check out the Meigs Point Nature Center while at the park.
During the off-season, the park gates are unlocked from 8 am through sunset; there are also campsites at the park, and pets are allowed from Columbus Day until May 1.
4. Jennings Dog Beach in Fairfield
One of Connecticut’s most animal-friendly beach parks, Jennings Dog Beach allows both dogs and horses from October 1 to March 31. Parking is free during the off-season, and the park offers restrooms, sailboat racks, volleyball poles, and access to the neighboring Henry Rowland Memorial Playground, a great spot for kids to play.
Dog owners love this 27-acre park because it is a place where dogs can play off-leash (under close supervision), and it is also just minutes away from plenty of dining options in Fairfield. Stop by Bud’s Deli, just two miles from the park, to pick up everything you need for the perfect beach picnic.
5. Mixville Recreation Area in Cheshire
This wonderful park is open to dogs year-round, with specific guidelines that owners must follow. For example, a specific swimming area is marked off for dogs.
In addition to time spent playing on the sandy beach and swimming, visitors can also fish (with a permit) in the upper pond and hike trails through the woods.
The pavilions and picnic areas can be rented for family gatherings, and parking is also free in the off-season and affordable during the summer months ($10/daily for residents and $20/daily for non-residents).
The Notch Store, less than two miles from the park, is the perfect spot to pick up deli specialties to take with you for a beach day picnic in the sand.
6. Sherwood Island State Park
Bring your canine family members to Sherwood State Park from October 1 through April 14 to enjoy Connecticut’s first state park.
Amenities at the park include concessions, restrooms, showers, and picnic areas. Visitors are advised to wear water shoes as this is a rocky beach with some sharp shells and rocks that could cut your feet. Take great care with your dogs to watch where they are stepping, too!
There are no parking fees for residents for this dog friendly beach, but non-residents will pay between $15 and $22 for parking.
Megan Jones leads the editorial staff of Seaside Planet. They are a multidisciplinary team of outdoor adventurers, water sports lovers, and passionate beach goers. You can learn more about Meg and the rest of the editorial team here.