Travelling with a dog can be difficult. There are limits on places you can stay, extra fees, and often little to no dining options – at least not if you want to taste something outside the offerings at the local supermarket or the drive through. But for many people, including us, the pup is part of the family, and we want him to be part of the family road trip.
Here on the East Coast, there are frustratingly few dog-friendly cities. Truly dog-friendly cities, anyway, where you can easily find affordable and comfortable dog-friendly hotels, a walkable downtown with shade and water, and dining options that allow, and even embrace, pets.
Portsmouth is one of the exceptions.
From brunch spots to boutique shops to craft beer bars, there are tons of places you can bring your best friend. Here are 13 places, experiences, and reasons your dog wants you to take your next family vacation to Portsmouth.
1. A Dense, Walkable Core:
Downtown Portsmouth is home to a dense and eclectic downtown area. Most places can be reached on foot in less than 10 minutes, and most of what you’d need on vacation can be found in the town. There’s lots of variety, from restaurants, to gift shops, to second hand boutiques, locally owned millinery and artisan glass shops, spas, barbershops, and beauty boutiques. It’s a pretty place to walk, too. The shops are made of a mix of brick and pops of siding in dusty pink, burnt orange, pleasant blues, lilac, and mossy greens, and there’s lots of knick-knacks and sandwich boards with cute messages for impromptu games of I Spy.
2. Dog Friendly Shopping:
Many of those shops are dog friendly. We saw lots of signs, and stopped into lots of stores, that let you shop with your dog. Some even had their own dogs working there as greeters. You can’t go more than a few feet without finding a shop with a water dish out front. It was fun to see the range of dishes, from simple, traditional bowls to hand made, ornate pottery.
3. And Shops FOR Your Dog:
There are a few shops in Portsmouth specifically for pets. The original, and Charlie’s favourite, is the Canine Cupboard. In addition to adorable, organic treats made daily on-site, they sell all kinds of fun accessories. Many of those accessories are made in New England, so your pup can pick out some souvenirs, too.
4. Green Spaces, Rest Stops, and Pedestrian Walkways:
Not only is Portsmouth walkable, but there are so many green spaces and rest spots scattered around the city. Almost every shop has a bevy of greens, grasses, and flowers out front. There are darling public walkways with shade, benches, small gardens and public art. There are some pedestrian-and-pet only streets, too. Some of the rest stops will even teach you a little history about the town. And there’s lots of history mixed into the cityscape.
5. Dog Friendly History Tours:
And while we noticed bits of history all around us as we walked, there was a lot more that we missed. The Portsmouth Harbour Trail helps fill in those gaps with guided walking tours that take guests through 400 years of history. The “Highlights” tour is offered between late June and early October at 1 pm on Thursday and Saturday. They have additional guided tours on request. All tours are dog friendly!
6. Peirce Island:
A mini-paradise for people and pets, Peirce Island is home to one of the most impressive municipal pools I’ve seen on my travels. There are a few areas where pets aren’t allowed here (like right on the pool deck and in the playground) but much of this area is off leash. There’s trails and dog-sized fountains, and even a place for them to splash around. It’s a great spot to walk or read while your buddy makes new friends, and is only about ten minutes walk from the core.
7. Barkworthy Brewery:
Okay, so your dog may not want to visit a brewery, but you might. And in Portsmouth, you can. Not all breweries (there are quite a few) will let you bring your pup, but Redhook Brewery, about 15 minutes from the core, will. They have a large outdoor seating area, and big water bowls for pups. The food at Redhook is really good and really affordable, with some surprisingly healthy options. Plus, they offer a large range of beer brewed on-site.
And speaking of food and drinks, Portsmouth has lots of options. The list below isn’t all the dog friendly spots, just a selection of our favourites…
8. The Gaslight Restaurant:
The Gaslight has a large sheltered patio in the summer. Torches, twinkle lights, good happy hour deals and a great craft beer line up are reasons in themselves to visit, but their outdoor venue is also dog friendly. This is a really fun, relaxing atmosphere for lunch or dinner, and the food is great.
9. Popovers on the Square:
I ate here a lot on our trip. The food is awesome, and dogs are welcome on the patio. We went for breakfast, but Popovers is open all day and is also licensed. Read more about it here.
10. British Beer Company:
This restaurant is part of a small chain, and while not all restaurants in this chain allow dogs, the Portsmouth location does. We enjoyed sitting out on the patio with the pup and enjoying some of the wide range of craft beer, cider, and appetizers available. Our meals were huge – more than we could finish – and staff were all really friendly to us and our dog. We went earlier in the evening, taking in happy hour, as this location will sometimes refuse pets if it is really packed on the patio.
11. WHYM Craft Beer Cafe:
This one isn’t right in the core, but is worth the trip if you’re interested in craft beer (and have a DD). Dogs are welcome, water dishes are provided, the atmosphere is really relaxed, and the food is great. We loved this spot and covered it extensively HERE.
Street celebrates street foods from around the globe. The menu here is really fun, and includes things like falafel, phở, burgers and bánh mì. Dogs are welcome on the patio. They also have a great line-up of cocktails to pair with your food if you’re so inclined.
13. A Hotel That Loves Dogs (and doesn’t charge extra for their stay):
There are quite a few dog-friendly options in Portsmouth, but The Sheraton Portsmouth Harbourside Hotel truly stands out. There are no extra fees for bringing your pet, the staff pamper the pups just as much (if not better) than their humans, and even though there are no extra fees, the dog rooms still come equipped with dream beds and dishes. And it’s a beautiful property. Sweet sleeper beds, clean, comfortable, modern rooms, a gym and pool for the humans, and fun little extras, like the sugar cookie decorating station that greeted us upon arrival.
The Sheraton Portsmouth Harbourside Hotel is also within walking distance of everything in the core, and they gave our pup his own itinerary upon arrival so that he’d know about all the cool doggy spots he should visit during his stay. The restaurant was under renovation during our trip (it’s now reopened) but we did check out their wine list, all ranked between 80-90 points by Wine Spectator.
My parents stayed at the Sheraton Portsmouth Harbourside Hotel last summer on a whim and insisted I bring Charlie, convinced he would love it. They were right, I didn’t think I was going to be able to get him to leave. Special shout out to the front door staff, who gave Charlie cuddles and kisses every time we entered or exited the building, and to the restaurant staff who snuck him a whole piece of bacon. You spoiled him. He loved it.
Thanks to the Sheraton Portsmouth for hosting us on this dog fuelled itinerary, and to all the friendly people (two and four legged) we met in Portsmouth during our two-day stay.
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