For the last few years, my husband and I have headed south in January, taking a mini vacation to check out different areas of Florida as potential spots for future snowbirding. I definitely like the milder temperatures and I sure don’t miss the snow and ice, but I’m not sure Florida is where I belong.

Previously, we’ve stayed on the beach but since we travel with our dog, that hasn’t worked well for us. Unless you are a property owner with a fee based permit, dogs are not allowed on most of the beaches. I’m beyond the age of swimming in the ocean and while I love walking on the beach, I want to walk with my dog.

This year, we opted for a waterfront cottage on the intracoastal waterway. Our Airbnb host had kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards available and we had a fenced in patio for the dog. The cottage was in a small residential community and there were several state parks nearby.

Our little “beach” had crystal clear water. It wasn’t as cold as I thought it would be.

My favorite park, Grayton Beach State Park, has one of the prettiest beaches I’ve ever visited but dogs aren’t allowed on it either. It has a really nice nature trail through the dunes where dogs are permitted, but all Florida trails that are sandy have sand spurs. These hideous little monsters are very painful and inevitably, my dog picks up one, or more, in his paws. He immediately starts limping, then bites on his foot which makes the problem worse. The spurs get so wrapped with fur that they are impossible to pull off. They are so sharp you can hardly touch them. I’ve started hiking with a small pair of scissors just so I can snip the spurs off. It’s not my idea of fun.

I’m not sure what we’ll end up doing. As soon as we got back to West Virginia and a 36° temperature with wind and spitting snow, Florida sounded good all over again! I’d love to camp in the Florida state parks but reservations are tough to get. With a two week limit per campground, it takes a lot of luck to coordinate a longer stay. Privately owned campgrounds are almost as expensive as a house rental. I think I’d like to try staying by a lake, more toward the middle of the state. Being just a few steps beyond normal, who knows where I might end up?

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