Southport is a traditional ‘British seaside town’ in Merseyside, that has a lot to offer for dogs and their owners alike. It is easy to reach by bus, train and car; there is a train station right in the centre of town, which is regularly served by trains from Manchester and Liverpool.
Being about an hour away from home, for us on the Wirral, we usually travel by car. There is lots of parking in and around Southport, some has to be paid for and in other places it is free. We decided to park at Ocean Plaza, where you can park for up to 3 hours free. There are a number of shops and chain restaurants here, it has steps leading right up to the pier, and is just across the road from the expansive beach. In the summer, it is actually possible to park directly on the beach.
Seve is quite literally addicted to the beach so the minute we arrived and he smelled the scent of the sea in the air he knew exactly where he wanted to be. Crossing over the road from Ocean Plaza, we were presented with miles and miles (22 to be precise!) of sandy beach. On a clear day, you can see Blackpool Tower to the north and the Welsh hills to the south. Once Seve had had his fill of sand between his paws we set off along the pier.
Southport Pier is the oldest iron pier in the country, and at 1km long, it is the second longest in the UK. The walkway along is well maintained and makes for an easy walk. In the summer, there is a land train which you can use to get from either end if you prefer, dogs are happily accepted on board. On the day we visited, it was especially windy so after battling our way along we were pleased to have made it to the pier pavilion at the end.
The traditional penny arcade here is well worth a visit. You can swap your money for traditional pennies (£1 for 10 pennies) which are then used to play a variety of arcade games. Seve loved the lights and sounds, and even got to sit in a ride-on Mr Men car! The café has the most amazing views across the beach and serves a range of hot and cold drinks, including alcohol, food and ice-creams.
Visiting Marine Lake
We then headed back towards the town, stopping for a walk around the Marine Lake on the way. It is a man-made lake that, with a circumference of 3km, makes for the perfect way to stretch your legs and paws. There are lots of different activities going on the water e.g. pedaloes, rowing boats, swan boats and even a power boat ride but not all of these are dog friendly. Around the lake, there are several attractions e.g. Marine Lake café, which often has live music and warmly welcomes dogs to stop in with their owners for a drink or bite to eat.
A ‘must do’ on any walk around the Marine Lake is a stop-off at The Lakeside Inn, which is officially Britain’s smallest pub. Despite being tiny inside, dogs are warmly welcomed, there is also plenty of outside seating when the weather is more favourable.
Visiting Southport Market
Carrying on into town, we were really excited to visit the newly opened Southport Market.
The Market has a huge carousel themed bar in the middle, which serves hot and cold drinks, local ales, cocktails etc. After a bracing walk, we were in need of a hot drink, and the hot chocolates we were presented with did not disappoint.
Around the outside, there were at least ten different street food style stalls selling food from all around the world e.g. pizza, Mexican, sushi, steak, burgers, cakes and ice-cream. Seve was made really welcome with a water bowl right by the entrance door. There were no limitations to where we could sit with a dog and all of the staff seemed really pleased to meet him. Throughout the week, the market has different events including a weekly market, craft events etc.
We then headed back to the car and drove about ten minutes out of town to a small village called Churchtown. There is plenty of on-street parking, which allows you an opportunity to visit the independent shops and cafes here.
We had a lovely walk around the Botanic Gardens, which were originally opened in 1874, and provide a really tranquil place to explore, away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre and promenade. Seve enjoyed some off-lead time playing on the fields, and then back on his lead, took great interest in the ducks and swans on the lake, as well as in the parrots and birds in the aviary. In the gardens, there is a café which specialises in homemade food, public toilets, a garden centre, ice-cream stand and crazy golf.
The main reason for making our way to Churchtown though was to visit the Wagging Tail Café. The whole venue has a dog theme, from the wallpaper, to the tablecloths and décor everything celebrates our love of our four-legged friends. Dogs and humans are equally catered for with an extensive menu for both. On this occasion, I went for the all-day breakfast, while Seve’s Daddy, Gordon, tried out the sausages and mash. On the dog menu, there are things like woofles, pupcakes and doggy doughnuts right up to a full doggy afternoon tea! As you would imagine this café can get very busy so it is definitely worth booking, especially if you are planning to visit at the weekend.
Visiting Southport & Churchtown
Southport and Churchtown have so many dog-friendly eateries and attractions that you could easily fill a day or weekend. However if you are visiting Southport for longer we would definitely recommend a visit to Formby Red Squirrel Reserve, where you can also make your way across the dunes to another expanse of beautiful beach. Or a visit to Anthony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ to see the 100 life-sized iron men spread out along the three-kilometre beach.
Avril, Gordon and Seve