Duncan at Dexter's Deli in Del Mar
Duncan at Dexter’s Deli

As my yellow lab Duncan and I discovered, Del Mar goes out of its way to make its four-legged friends feel at home. Most importantly, Del Mar allows dogs beach access nine months of the year along a two-mile stretch, one of the most generous policies around.

There are some rules to follow; you can find more information at the City of Del Mar website. North Beach aka “Dog Beach” lets well-behaved dogs run leash-free nine months of the year, making it Del Mar’s most popular dog destination. Located on the Del Mar/Solano Beach border just north of the intersection of Camino Del Mar and 29th Street, North Beach is easy to find and offers plenty of parking a short distance from the sea.

Then there are all those sidewalks and paths where dogs and their owners can stroll leisurely or pick up the pace and run. Duncan and I particularly liked Seagrove Park, a grassy landscaped park on a bluff overlooking the railroad tracks and the ocean. We entered at Fifteenth and Coast and easily found street parking when we visited early one morning. (Given its proximity to the business district, parking likely gets more difficult as the day progresses.) The park has two other features of note – lots of benches for ocean watching and lots of plastic bag dispensers for dog duties.

Dog owners well know the Murphy’s Law of dog walking – whenever you need a bag, you discover you have forgotten it. Del Mar makes sure that this never becomes a problem by having numerous, well-placed bag dispensers all throughout the commercial district. Retailers embrace this dog-friendly ethos, too. A staggeringly large number of businesses have water bowls outside their doors and welcome leashed pets inside to shop with their owners. Good thing – Del Mar offers excellent shopping opportunities for those interested in upscale goods.

Del Mar’s commercial district likewise has a goodly number of restaurants with outdoor seating for people with dogs. I made a point to visit the Stratford Court Café, scene of one of the scripts I wrote for Dog Whisperer. The owners of this uber-dog friendly neighborhood hangout had a problem with their bulldog and could not bring it to the restaurant until Cesar Millan helped them out.

Another must-visit for dog lovers is Dexter’s Deli, a store that offers health food for dogs and cats – more different pet foods than I have ever seen in one place – and much more pet-friendly gear. The shop also has various herbal remedies that the knowledgeable staff can recommend depending on your pet’s particular issue. I liked Dexter’s so much that Duncan and I visited twice.

Just north of Del Mar, Solana Beach offers more dog-friendly exploring opportunities. (No dogs on the beach however.) Five minutes by car, the Cedros Design District has lots of home and garden design stores (natch) but it also features an eclectic assortment of clothing stores. At Muttopolis, I found an amazing assortment of dog collars and purchased the collar you see Duncan wearing featuring an assortment of pastries, a nod to her nickname “Cake and Donuts”. Make a beeline to Muttopolis, too, if you need a Halloween costume for your dog.

No visit to Solana Beach would be complete without picking up a pound of the Zinc Café’s homemade granola. The Cedros location offers diners a greenery-shaded outdoor dining spot offers rocking vegetarian fare with an emphasis on home baked pastries and French cheeses. Before heading north to LA, I enjoyed a breakfast bar and a latte, my dog at my side. No better way to end our vacation.

More on Del Mar: Ten Reasons to Stay at the Hotel Indigo Del Mar 

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