When you’re seeking a destination with pet-friendly beaches, look no further than Virginia. Several of these beaches are situated on the Atlantic Coast and Chesapeake Bay, as well as on inland lakes and rivers. While many pet-friendly oceanfront beaches have strict leash laws, other shorelines on lakes and rivers offer a little more leniency. Book a stay at one of many waterside Virginia vacation rentals. That said, here are the best dog-friendly beaches in Virginia.

Source: Flickr/Virginia State Parks

1. First Landing State Park Beach

Imagine standing in the same spot a distant ancestor might have stood over 400 years ago; now imagine doing that with your best four-legged friend beside you. Virginia’s First Landing State Park Beach, located on the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, allows pets year-round on the beach as long as they are leashed. Make sure to bring documentation of your dog’s rabies vaccination, and clean up after him. There are many pet-friendly vacation options available right on the beach with nearly 3,000 miles of forests and woodlands available where you and your dog can hike and roam (as long as you keep him on a leash no longer than 6 feet). The bald cypress trail is especially scenic. If your pet needs more running time, head a few miles west to Bayville Farms Park, a dog park with a fenced-in off-leash area. While Fido’s napping, tuckered out from all the excitement, take yourself off to a few of the historic attractions such as the Cape Henry Lighthouse, First Landing Cross, and batteries Cramer and Ketcham.

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2. Virginia Beach Public Beaches

If you head south from First Land State Park Beach, you hit Virginia Beach and the public beaches, all of which pet-friendly. This means year-round pet access with a 6-foot leash and clean-up duty, but there are some provisos. For instance, between Memorial Day and Labor Day, pets can only be on the beach from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. to accommodate the large vacationing crowd. Also during the summer, the beach from 42nd Street to Sandbridge is strictly no pets. There are plenty of beachside and inland rentals in the pet-friendly zones that accept pets, so you can step out of your back door to the beach and go on a jog with your dog. For some midday romping, head to the Woodstock Dog Park or Red Wing Dog Park, both of which provide off-leash 1-acre enclosures from sun-up to sunset. A small fee is required for access for a year. Take your pet with you out to eat at Bella Pizzeria, Citrus Breakfast and Lunch, and Abbey Road Pub and Restaurant. These eateries offer patio dining with your dog.

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3. Chris Greene Lake Park

Chris Greene Lake Park, located in north-central Virginia, is one of the few lakes in Virginia with a dog-friendly beach and permits off-leash fun. Along with a one-acre, fenced-in area of the beach, there’s also roped water access so your dog can go swimming, lie on the beach, and enjoy the great outdoors along with his human. The park rules do stipulate that dogs must be leashed upon entering and leaving the fenced-in area. Also, children younger than eight are not allowed in the dog park portion of the park. Naturally, owners need to clean up after their dogs. While there are no vacation rentals on the lake, there are some within an easy drive.

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4. Ocean View Beach Park

Ocean View Beach Park is located in Norfolk on the Chesapeake Bay right across from Hampton. This beach park allows dogs year-round on a leash (with a maximum length of 8 feet), but there are restrictions during the summer season. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, dogs can only be on the beach from 6 p.m. to 10 a.m. There are many pet-friendly vacation rentals on the beach both north and south of Ocean View Beach Park. During doggy downtime, go fishing and dining at the Ocean View Fishing Pier, and spend some time in the water. Or head out on the water on a boat tour with Bay Dreaming, Victory Rover Naval Base Cruises, or Chesapeake Bay Tour Co. Finish with dinner at the pet-friendly Kincaid Fish, Chop and Steak House.

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5. James River Park

In the heart of Richmond is James River Park, a greenway that runs on both sides of the river for a few miles just west of downtown. If you want to explore the capital of Virginia and still bring along the family dog, then this dog-friendly beach gives your dog space to stretch his legs, and there are several pet-friendly vacation rentals within a walk of the park. Make sure to keep your dog on a leash as you explore the walking trails, splash along the shallows, and watch the sun sink beneath the horizon from one of the rocky outcroppings. Off the beach is William Byrd Park which boasts walking trails, the Virginia War Memorial Carillon, and the Barker Field dog park for some off-leash fun. East along the river in the downtown area are several pet-friendly restaurants with patio dining for leashed dogs such as The Hard Shell, Urban Farmhouse Market and Cafe, and Shockoe Espresso and Roastery.

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