Iowa is tucked away in the landlocked central portion of the country. Although the state is far from the ocean, it boasts numerous sandy beaches situated along beautiful lakes and rivers. Many of these waterside attractions are dog-friendly. Nearby most Iowa vacation rentals are seemingly endless opportunities for swimming, sunbathing, water sports, and hiking with your dog. Take a look at the top pet-friendly beaches in the state.

Source: Flickr/Joe Passe

1. Big Creek State Park, Polk City

Located just a few miles northwest of vacation rentals in Des Moines in central Iowa, Big Creek State Park at Polk City has a beautiful sandy beach along its shoreline. Leashed dogs are welcome in all areas of the park. Amenities at the park include picnic shelters, a playground, sports fields, boat ramps, and a 26-mile walking and cycling trail. Dogs are allowed on the watercraft available from Big Creek Boat Rental. Dogs are also welcome at the picnic areas and walking trails of nearby Walnut Woods State Park along the Raccoon River in West Des Moines. If you want to give your dog some time to run free, head for 10-acre Raccoon River Dog Park.

Scenic area hiking trails that allow dogs include the Clive Greenbelt Trail in Clive and the Four-Mile Greenway Trail and Great Western Trail in Des Moines. Living History Farms in Urbandale, a living history museum that recreates pioneer and Native American life in historic Iowa allows dogs on site. You can also explore the grounds of the magnificent Salisbury House and Gardens in Des Moines with your canine companion. When you get the urge to shop, check out dog-friendly Historic Valley Junction in West Des Moines, which features numerous boutiques, antique shops, galleries, restaurants, and entertainment venues. Take your dog with you to the Des Moines Farmers Market, which offers fresh produce, baked goods, arts and crafts, and live entertainment.

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2. Buffalo Shores Beach, Buffalo

Buffalo Shores Beach is part of 25-acre Buffalo Shores Recreation Area, which lies on the southwestern edge of the city of Davenport along the lovely Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. Enjoy the free beach, picnic areas, and boat ramps at the recreation area with your leashed canine friend. Crow Creek Dog Park in Bettendorf gives your dog a chance to exercise without a leash. The facility includes dog drinking fountains, benches, and a special area for smaller dogs. Your leashed canine companion can also join you on the River Action Trail, which includes 65 miles of riverfront walking and cycling paths on both sides of the Mississippi River.

Enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the trees, flowers, and themed gardens at Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport with your dog. Your canine companion is also welcome at Dan Nagle Walnut Grove Pioneer Village in Long Grove, which highlights Iowa’s pioneer past through an extensive collection of historic buildings. Visit the Buffalo Bill Cody Homestead in Princeton, the boyhood home of famous Buffalo Bill where live buffaloes graze in nearby fields, with your dog. When you’re hungry, have some steak or seafood at Thunder Bay Grille in Davenport, where dogs are welcome at the outdoor tables.

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3. George Wyth State Park, Waterloo

George Wyth Beach, on its namesake lake at George Wyth State Park, is on the northwestern side of Waterloo in northeastern Iowa. Leashed dogs are allowed throughout the park, which features several beautiful lakes, extensive scenic walking trails, and comfortable picnic shelters. On your walks, watch for wildlife, such as white-tailed deer and many species of birds. The Pat Bowlsby Off-Leash Dog Park in Waterloo gives your dog a chance to run freely. The facility includes plenty of large shade trees, drinking fountains for dogs and owners, picnic tables and benches, and separate spaces for large and small dogs. The Cedar Falls Paw Park is another great place that gives your dog room to run.

The dog-friendly Hartman Reserve Nature Center in Cedar Falls provides extensive nature trails through a number of habitats for you and your leashed canine friend to explore. Culver’s in Waterloo, which serves delicious burgers, steaks, and other dishes, welcomes dogs at the outdoor dining tables. For dessert, try some cupcakes or cookies at the dog-friendly outdoor tables at the Scratch Cupcakery in Cedar Falls.

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4. McIntosh Woods State Park, Ventura

McIntosh Woods State Park lies on the north side of Clear Lake in north-central Iowa. Enjoy romping at the beach, playing by the lakeside and following the trails through the woods and along the lakeshore with your canine friend. The park offers picnic areas, restrooms, a playground, and a boat ramp. Give your dog a chance to play off-leash at the Clear Lake Dog Park. Dogs are also welcome on the beautiful and extensive nature trails at Lime Creek Nature Center.

The Iowa Trolley Park in Clear Lake is a dog-friendly interactive railroad museum that allows you to run a diesel locomotive and ride an old-fashioned hand car. The Kinney Pioneer Museum has numerous outdoor historic buildings and displays, and leashed dogs are allowed to roam the grounds with their owners.

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5. Lake MacBride State Park, Solon

Lake MacBride State Park is just north of Iowa City on the west side of Solon in east-central Iowa. This scenic dog-friendly park offers a lovely beach area, great fishing, boat ramps, and boat rentals. Explore the five-mile scenic trail from Solon to the lakeside with your canine companion. Thornberry Off-Leash Dog Park in Iowa City offers 12 acres of free running space for your dog. Dogs are allowed at Devonian Fossil Gorge, where you can get up close to fossils exposed in ancient bedrock.

Dogs are welcome on the extensive historic grounds and walking trails of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library, Museum, and Birthplace Cottage in West Branch. Visit the North Liberty Farmers Market with your dog to shop for fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade food products, and arts and crafts. The Atlas Restaurant in Iowa City, which features fine dining with organic ingredients, welcomes dogs at the outside tables.

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