Doggin’ the Carolina Coasts – 10 Cool Things to See With Your Dog on Coastal Carolina Trails

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“If your dog is fat,” the old saying goes, “you aren’t getting enough exercise.” But walking the dog need not be just about a little exercise. Here are 10 cool things you can see on the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts while out walking the dog.


Wilmington is often called “Hollywood East” and movie productions have made extensive use of the Carolina coastal scenery. The Vietnam scenes from Forest Gump were filmed in Hunting Beach State Park. The trees come right down to the beach and the lush, tropical feel of the vegetation indeed give off the aura of a jungle. A trail leads along the length of an inland lagoon where Forrest saved Lieutenant Dan. A few years later, Hunting Island doubled for Quang Tri Province in Vietnam when Samuel Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones showed up for Rules of Engagement. In 1982, Louis Jordan was a mad scientist trying to create new species at Magnolia Plantation’s Swamp Garden in Swamp Thing. And if you hike with your dog along the Sugarloaf Trail in Carolina Beach State Park you might recognize some spots where corpse Terry Kiser did some water skiing in Weekend at Bernie’s.


One of the most unique destinations of any trail on the Carolina coasts is the 12-foot high pile of oyster shells in Edisto Beach State Park on the Spanish Mount Trail. The oyster pile, known as a shell midden, is typical of American Indian rings found throughout the coastal islands. The Spanish Mount is estimated to be 4,000 years old, the second oldest known in South Carolina. These piles of bleached shells might have been built for ceremonies or possibly they are just ancient trash heaps.


It is one giant sandbox for your dog at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks, whose 90-foot dunes are the highest along the East Coast. Trails are laid out across the sand. On the mainland the Sugarloaf Trail in Carolina Beach State Park leads to a 50-foot sandpile that was often used as navigational aid in years gone by.


Archer Huntington designed his Moorish castle, Atalaya, in Murrells Inlet from memory after a trip to Spain. It can be seen today in Huntington State Park. The most spectacular home ever built on the Outer Banks was Edward Kinght’s Corolla Island. He spent $400,000 on the Beaux Arts showcase in 1925 and it has been restored to its original splendor in Currituck Heritage Park. But the most-visited home on the Carolina coasts may be a World War II bunker in the dunes of Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. For 17 years the “Fort Fisher Hermit,” Robert Herrill lived here. When word got out about Herrill’s lifestyle, so many people came to hear his philosophies of life that North Carolina officials called him the state’s second largest tourist attraction behind only the battleship North Carolina.


The extremely dog-friendly Magnolia Plantation gives your dog a rare chance to hike through a formal garden, one of America’s oldest. Besides the 900 varieties of camellias on display the Charleston garden is planted with over 250 types of azaleas.


Over the years 29 prehistoric Algonquian Indian canoes have been uncovered in Pettigrew State Park’s Lake Phelps, preserved in the shallow waters. The canoes were fashioned by burning straight cypress logs over a slow fire and scraping away the charred sections. They were stored for the winter in the muds of the lake. Two are on display in the park – one from 380 A.D. and the other 1440 A.D.


There are five lighthouses on the Outer Banks your dog can visit – three in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The oldest operating lighthouse in North Carolina is the 75-foot tower on Ocracoke Island and the 150-foot Bodie Island Lighthouse dates to 1872. The most famous, and America’s tallest at 208 feet, is the black-and-white swirl-striped Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. In South Carolina your dog can trot around the only public light in the Palmetto State at Hunting Island State Park.


At several locations along the Carolina coasts your dog can hike through the unique habitats of pocosins, boglands called by the Indian term for “swamp on a hill.” Plants living in these nutrient-poor soilshave evolved to trap insects and digest them in lethal juices. Such killers as Venus’ Fly Traps, blatterworts and sundews can be seen in North Carolina in Carolina Beach State Park and in South Carolina in the Audubon-Newhall Preserve, among others.


Starting with the first English earthworks in the New World at Fort Raleigh, the defense of coastal Carolina has always been a military priority. Your dog can examine the defensive earthworks at Moores Creek, site of a critical American victory during the Revolution, and hike through the Civil War masonry bastion at Fort Macon. Or the more primitive Civil War earthworks at Fort Lamar. For a look at modern fortification, take the dog to Battery Jasper at Fort Moultrie – but don’t be disappointed if he’s more interested in the beach.


The lowcountry was once an ancient seabed, a vast graveyard for millions of years of sea creatures. These marine deposits near the soil surface contain phosphate and calcium, minerals valuable in cement making and for fertilizing fields. The minerals were enthusiastically mined in the 1800s and phosphate mines brought prosperity to towns devastated by the Civil War. The Edisto Nature Trail leads to an old mining site and processing plant where phosphate was loaded on barges and shipped down-river to Charleston.

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