Dog Friendly Travel

Road Trip Day 3: Scoping out Belle Isle in Richmond, VA

Written by Rachael Sando

After a day of rest, we were eager to get out and explore more of our beautiful country. Ahead of us was the longest drive of the trip: Baltimore, MD to Myrtle Beach, SC.

With no stops the drive was expected to take a little under 8 hours. Knowing that we needed to stretch legs (ours and the dogs), refuel, and feed the baby every few hours, we estimated that it would take us a minimum of 12. Our plan was to get up bright and early and hit the road. Funny how babies, dogs, and family change those plans – we weren’t on the road, in earnest, until nearly 12pm.

First Things First

Little known fact, Kev and I basically don’t function until we have had some coffee. Unlike our trip last year, one thing that we have really enjoyed is being able to get some Dunkin Donuts coffee regularly! We were so shocked last year when traveling out west that coffee shops basically don’t exist. Now, I know what you are thinking, we live in New York – of course there are coffee shops everywhere but we live in Western New York – basically about as far as you can get from New York City in the state and much closer to Canada, Eh!

We were thrilled to find Dunkin' Donuts all along our route - unlike last years road trip out West!

Regardless – we are loving the ability to fuel up with a big iced coffee before the day starts!

On the Road to Richmond, VA

We cannot be nearly as spontaneous with our traveling these days. So before getting on the road we had decided that our first planned stop would be in Richmond, VA. Specifically, Kev had planned for us to stop at Belle Isle.

Having learned our lesson from Day 1, we researched this park and found out that the island was a popular spot for locals to hang out, sunbathe, and float in small estuaries created from rock formations. Consisting primarily of a 1.8 mile loop and pedestrian bridge, we knew this walk wouldn’t be too challenging for Harley and that a soak in the water would be an excellent payoff for their efforts.

Checking out the trail map before heading out on Belle Isle in Richmond, VA

Belle Isle – Part of the James River Park System

With temperatures in the high 90’s , Kev and I were concerned that the dogs and the baby would be too hot to enjoy this trip, however knowing we needed a stop for everyone we decided to play it by ear – stopping for only a couple of minutes if the situation called for greater caution.

We arrived to the park a little after 3 pm which was perfect because we missed the intensity of the afternoon sun. It was hot but also very breezy, so the air temperature was comfortable. The fates seemed to align for us and we located the main parking area and found a shaded spot to park the van. After crossing our fingers that the heat wouldn’t melt the snacks in our car, we sprayed the dogs down with natural flea spray, put on their paw protection booties (keep in mind that paved surfaces get much hotter than the air temperature), and ventured out!

Walking the suspended pedestrian bridge over to Belle Isle

The first part of this walk to Belle Isle was over a pedestrian bridge that crosses the James River. We were pleasantly surprised to see that the bridge was covered by a motor vehicle bridge leaving it shaded from the sun.

View of the Richmond, VA Skyline from the pedestrian bridge to Belle Isle

View of Richmond, VA from pedestrian bridge

The boys were so excited to cross and loved seeing all of the people. Harley had some trouble passing over the bridge and we weren’t sure whether he was uncomfortable with the subtle movement of the bridge (which Charlie and I were oblivious to) or if it was his vision that was making him nervous. Regardless, with a little encouragement and taking it slow, he successfully crossed.

Exploring Belle Isle with dogs

We walked around the 1.8 mile loop checking out the various estuaries and people who were hanging out. Once we found an area that was well blocked from the rapids, the boys took a dip!

I'm good here…why don't you guys just go ahead without me… #mydoglikesamerica

A post shared by Kevin, Rach, Har & Char (@my_dog_likes) on

Not only was it refreshing, but it helped the boys to calm down since they had been pulling toward the water the whole time! As you can see, Harley did not want to leave…You just can’t keep these guys out of the water!

Harley cooling off in the James River at Belle Isle

After a swim and some exploration, we found a shady spot to eat an early dinner that we had packed and let the baby stretch his legs after being in the car seat or carrier for much of the day.

Stopping for a picnic on Belle Isle

With tired pups we loaded back into the car and got on the road around 6pm. After a couple of stops to refuel and stretch our legs, we arrived in Myrtle Beach around 1am to check into the hotel we would be staying at for Blogpaws!

The boys were very excited to see they had a room on the top floor 🙂 and were going to meet up with their blogging friends over the next few days! 

What We Learned on Day 3

  • Don’t rule out an adventure simply based on the thermometer. Proximity to water and a nice breeze can work wonders in keeping you (and your dogs) comfortable.
  • Take a deep breath and relax. Early in our drive we accepted the fact that it would be a late night regardless, so why rush? We took our time and stopped when we needed to, and enjoyed the both the sights and the journey.

Quick Stats

  • Miles traveled: 481
  • States passed through: MD, VA, NC, SC
  • Gas fill-ups: 1

Stay tuned for our next post where we will detail our experience at the 2017 BlogPaws Conference – where we connect with other pet bloggers and learn how to create more useful content and reach more readers!

Visit our Road Trip Home Page

About the author

Rachael Sando

Rachael is a School Psychologist with degrees from the University of Rochester and RIT. Though a lifelong dog lover, this passion has taken on a new direction through the utilization of therapy animals in her day job. Charlie, our Golden Retriever, works with Rachael as a school therapy dog in a local primary school where he brings comfort and support to students and staff on a daily basis.


  • That bridge looks high! Glad you made it to SC! you should take a detour and come see me in Charleston! Wooferoo! Hope you’re enjoying BlogPaws!

    • Didn’t realize you were there! We passed relatively near to Charleston yesterday ?

  • Richmond is a nice area. i used to go there all of the time in college. i dont like the new roads, very confusing now at least to me. reminds me more of the dc area. they have paytolls. i used to go to horse shows in up state ny. i was so surprised the first time i went. the rolling hills, green pastures, so unlike what i was used to seeing around ny city. glad you made it safely. a really long drive from Richmond to Myrtle beach. guess you did not get to see the other sights you were planning to see on your way.

    • We actually hadn’t planned anything for this part of the drive since we had to make it to the BlogPaws conference. We will be hitting most of our stops on the way back North! Yes, your description of NY is basically where we live and are from!

  • We hope to do some sailing on the James River. Not yet sure if it’s navigable for us all the way to Richmond. But I’ll add Belle Isle to our visit list if we can.

    • I’ve only ever seen three sailboats as far upriver as me, and they were replica tallships from Jamestown for a big anniversary celebration of a historic settlement and landmark nearby. That’s not to say you couldn’t do it, though. I’ve often wondered why there aren’t sailboats on the river, at least in the counties south of Richmond. Too rocky in the city.

      Belle Isle is a GREAT city park, though!

    • Yes, we have the worst of the drives over with now! From here on out it will be mostly 1-2 hour stretches all the way home!

  • I wish I could have made it to BP this year but family obligations nixed it. And, as it turned out, Ducky wasn’t feeling over the weekend so it’s best I was home after all. I would have loved to give your boys and Jen’s Leroy a big hug and kiss!

  • Shoot, I live 13 miles downriver from Belle Isle! We have a couple James River parks near us, too, and they are all dog friendly. Richmond is a great place to live if you’re a dog (or a person). ☺ Glad you enjoyed Belle Isle and so glad to visit with you at BlogPaws! Hope your return journey is as good as coming!