Destination Dog Heaven — Carmel By-the-Sea

Considering a road trip with your pooch to California this summer? Carmel, a small, enchanting village on the sea with white sandy beaches and a leash-free dog beach might be just the ticket.

Located about six hours north of Los Angeles and 2½ hours south of San Francisco, Carmel By-the-Sea, is known as a “top dog destination.”

With pet-friendly inns, restaurants and patios catering to your pooch complete with a menu of his or her own, this beautiful area boasts wineries, upscale shopping and restaurants, golfing, (Pebble Beach and the world famous 17-mile drive are right next door),  and more. Rated the #6 travel destination in the US, Carmel has something for everyone.

Actress Doris Day, known for her huge passion for animal welfare, co-owns and operates the Cypress Inn. When she joined the venture in the ‘80s she insisted that four-legged friends be welcome, and one of the first pet-friendly boutique hotels was born. Since then, more than 20 hotels and B & Bs welcome pets to Carmel, as do many rental properties and campsites.

Dogs run revel in the sand and frolic in the surf on the public off-leash beach, and many enjoy on-leash outings with their peeps to art galleries, boutiques, and restaurants. There are 22 restaurants in Carmel that welcome dogs to their outdoor tables. One of the most popular is The Forge in the Forest, which offers dog biscuits, water dishes and even meals. The Canine Cuisine Menu is inexpensive and a fun way to include the pup in your al fresco dining. Hot dogs, hamburger patties, chicken strips and even a New York steak are all on the menu for dogs on the town. “Milk bones” in a bucket are available for a tail-wag.

Families like the Cliffords from Rocklin, California and their dog Spike, a rescue, visit Carmel every year as their three young boys love spending time on the white sandy beach with their dog.

Along the cobblestone streets water bowls appear in front of nearly every business. For a dog treat? Just step inside.

“I love that I can bring my dog into the Coach store while I shop,” laughs mom, Dana Clifford.

Melinda Thompson is a freelance writer with a degree in Speech Communications and a coveted "Ducktorate" from the Walt Disney World Company. She has been featured in many local magazines and newspapers.  She lives in Vancouver USA with her husband, son and daughter.