Traveling with Dogs to the Indiana Dunes National Park
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. However, I will always offer my readers an unbiased and honest account of my experiences. Your trust is very appreciated, and never taken for granted. ~Tonya, Dexter and Angel Nutter
Dexter and his BFF Levi are no strangers to the Indiana Dunes area. Dexter and I have been visiting the dunes since 2015 and, for the last three years, Levi and Chris have been accompanying us since it’s always more fun to travel with friends.
This dog-friendly road trip to the Indiana Dunes was extra special. For the last 100 years, the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore has been trying to get national park status. The Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore is considered one of the most biodiverse areas in the country and is known as the birthplace of the science of ecology in America. In February, it was granted national park status and is Indiana’s first national park!
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When we arrived, our first stop was the Indian Dunes Visitor Center. Visitor centers are a great first stop when traveling to a new destination. The Indiana Dunes Tourism staff at the Visitor Center are always a wealth of information and can help plan the trip.
The first brochure I picked up was the Pet Guide. I also grabbed their Activities Guide, which has a pet section. What is great about having access to the dunes area Pet Guide is that the guide lists lots of fun dog-friendly attractions, stores, and restaurants! This dog-friendly guide helps when planning the best dog-friendly weekend possible.
We decided the Porter Beach area would be a great place to start. This beach and the surrounding park area are located on Lake Michigan, surrounded by the Indiana Dunes National Park. Chris and I walked the dogs on a nice, wooded trail before hitting the beach. But it didn’t take Dexter long to sniff out the fresh lake air, and he was ready for some sand between his toes.
Porter Beach was an excellent dog-friendly (on leash) beach. Dexter and Levi enjoyed strolling the lakeshore, and sniffing the bird feathers, shells, and lake breeze. We walked the scenic shoreline, and we all dipped our toes into Lake Michigan. We visited a bit early in the season, and brr! The lake was still pretty cold, but it typically warms up by mid-summer. It’s always so relaxing to walk along Lake Michigan. Families were frolicking in the sand and enjoying the great day we were all having.
Dexter was hinting that it was time for lunch, so we packed up and drove to El Salto Mexican Restaurant. I’m always up for good Mexican, and they even offer a partially covered outdoor patio that is dog-friendly. The patio was not up and running yet, as we were visiting just a little before patio season, so we ordered our food to go and headed to Coffee Creek Park, just down the road.
True to form, I ordered the chicken fajitas. The fajitas were grilled just right with tomatoes, onions, and bell peppers. It came with rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, and tortillas. The scrumptious fajitas were fresh and full of flavor.
Chris ordered the beef chimichanga. A flour tortilla filled with beef topped with red sauce, cheese sauce, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and guacamole and served with rice and beans. It was a hit and chock full of flavor.
After lunch, I browsed through the Pet Guide and saw that Chesterton Feed & Garden Center was a dog-friendly store. So, off we went. Dexter and Levi really enjoyed browsing up and down the pet aisles, and Dexter really enjoyed all the attention from the staff members and the dog treats. I bought a couple of chicken feet chews for the boys and a new monkey Lupine dog leash for Dexter. After all, he is my little monkey.
By this time, we were ready to call it a day and head to our dog-friendly hotel, Baymont Inn and Suites in Portage, a local dunes community. Upon checking in, I was thoroughly impressed with the staff. The front desk clerk was very nice and helpful with my check-in process and choosing the best room for our stay. Even the hotel’s cleaning crew were very kind, and lots of them stopped to say hello to Dexter.
This stay was going to be a bit different, in that we had a large King Bed Studio Suite vs. our typical two bed stay. But the bed was huge, and I was confident that there was plenty of room for all of us. The room and the rest of the hotel was very clean, smelled good, and looked to be updated.
Our room had all the amenities we needed, including a coffeemaker and mini refrigerator. Since Dexter and Levi are on a fresh-food diet, a refrigerator is always nice. The room also included bathroom amenities, large flat screen TV, desk, hair dryer, iron and microwave. A free continental breakfast was also included with our stay.
Outside, the dogs had plenty of green grass close to the hotel to potty. The Baymont also had a fitness center, indoor pool, free parking, RV parking, and, of course, is pet-friendly. The dogs were eager to get to bed so they could rest up for their next adventure.
After a restful night’s sleep, Chris and I headed to the free continental breakfast. The breakfast bar had something to offer every traveler. There were a selection of juices, cereals, breads, pastries, and fruits. There was even a do-it-yourself waffle maker that offered not only basic waffles, but blueberry waffles, too. Hot eggs, sausage, and biscuits and gravy also made the menu. It was a great way to fuel up for our big day ahead.
We headed to Woodland Park in Portage, Indiana. Woodland Park is a 64-acre regional park that is home to a community center, gymnasium, meeting rooms, and even a dog park. We checked out the dog park, where some local residents and their pooches were romping around having a good ol’ time.
Dexter and Levi were ready for their morning walk, so we walked around the park and were struck by the picturesque wooded area. We also found a fun rock sculpture and a rich natural oak savanna habitat ecosystem. The birds were chirping, and the pups were sniffing all the great scents along the path.
After the park, we decided it was time for another Bass Pro Shop outing. Dexter and Levi really seem to enjoy visiting Bass Pro Shops. Maybe it’s because of all the fun smells and sights inside, or maybe it’s because the greeter always has dog treats! Either way, it’s always a great indoor store for the dogs.
We barely get inside the door, when Dexter is pulling me to get to the greeter for his snacks. After Dexter receives ample treats and petting, we walked around the store. Bass Pro Shops is a great place for outdoor gear, clothing, food, and pet supplies. This location even has a restaurant that is dog-friendly during the summer.
Lunch was calling our name, and since the patio was not open yet, we decided to pick up takeout at Smokey’s Southern Barbeque (cash only). Thanks to the Pet Guide, we knew that they were dog-friendly. Because we were early in the season, the outside patio was not set up either, so we ordered takeout and took it to Lake View Picnic Area at Kemil Beach.
I haven’t ordered many pulled pork sandwiches in my life, but if they are anything like the one I had from Smokey’s Southern Barbecue, I will from now on. The pork was so tender, not fatty, and the sweet barbecue was on the side so the sandwich was not messy. The pork and beans were nice and sweet, just like I like them.
After lunch, we strolled down to the rocky area of the beach. The views were stunning. Dexter has a fascination with walking on large rocks. These rocks, or boulders, were quite impressive and steep. I had to keep a short leash on him, or I think he would have worked his way down the rocks, landing in Lake Michigan.
Since we were right by the Century of Progress homes, we strolled along and read all about these historic homes. These houses were built for the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair to demonstrate modern architecture and new technologies such as central air conditioning and dishwashers. We have come a long way since then, that’s for sure. These modern homes were brought to the dunes by real estate developer Robert Bartlett in 1935. Some of the homes are in the process of restoration. It’s a pretty awesome sight.
After a power nap and a little fast food, we thought it would be nice to see the sunset along Lake Michigan. Porter Beach would be the ideal spot. There’s definitely something special about sitting on the beach watching families frolic in the sand as the sun sets. By this time, Dexter and Levi were crashed out and were ready to go back to the hotel and call it a night.
After a hearty breakfast, we loaded up the car and headed to Valparaiso. First up, Fluid Coffeebar. Fluid Coffeebar isn’t your run-of-the-mill coffee shop. They serve handcrafted, true artisan drinks. Chris and I both decided to order hot mocha lattes. There is something special about handcrafted coffee that just gets my taste buds worked up. It was rich, with just the right sweetness. The patio was dog-friendly and had water and biscuits for the dogs. Dexter was happy with that!
Healthi Paws was just around the corner, so we thought we should take a peek. Healthi Paws offers a nice variety of natural foods, treats, chews, and fun toys. They also have a full-service pet-grooming salon, but Dexter wasn’t in the mood for a bath. 😉
Our last stop before heading back to Ohio was Figure Eight Brewing. This dog-friendly restaurant features a large patio and even hosts dog adoption nights. They craft a variety of beers and their famous Foothills Root Beer. With a focus on good health, their sandwiches are served on bread made from spent grain, and they also feature house-made soups and wholesome salads.
I ordered a flatbread-artichoke pizza, and Chris chose the Swiss mushroom burger. The food was seriously good! Chris’s burger was cooked to perfection and was loaded with fresh mushrooms. My pizza had such a delightful flavor, I’m considering a road trip just to eat another one! The boys were treated like royalty with homemade treats, water, and pets. It was a way to end our weekend at the dunes and beyond.
If you are planning a road trip with your dog and you enjoy scenic stretches of sand dunes, wooded parks, and beaches, I suggest you check out the Indiana Dunes area and beyond.
When planning your pet-friendly Indiana Dunes vacation, visit the Indiana Dunes Visitor Center for your Pet Guide. The Indiana Dunes Visitor Center offers helpful advice, brochures, and coupons you won’t want to miss.
Do you travel with your dog? Tell me in the comments.
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