Any pet lover knows that having a dog makes your life a little brighter. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) have both conducted studies of pet owners, which reveal the many benefits — both physical and mental — of having a fury companion. According to these organizations, owning a pet can lower your risk of future heart attack by decreasing blood pressure, and levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Owning a pet can also lessen feelings of loneliness and ward off the development of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression. As one of NC’s most dog friendly cities, it’s no wonder why Wilmington natives are a cheerful bunch. Of course, the beautiful weather and coastal location may have something to do with those happy dispositions.
Most people who live here already know all the greatest places to go with your pup, but if you’re new to the area, or just here for a visit, here is a list of all our favorite dog friendly corners of the area.
1. The Beaches
Obviously, the best place for you and your dog to both have a great time! If we’re being honest with ourselves, we all like to role around in the sand and dig holes every once in a while. Whether you visit in July or December, you can’t come to the coast without a visit to the beach. Luckily for dog owners, most of our beaches are dog friendly. There are some rules and regulations, so, read on to find out when and where to take your pup for a beach day.
Fort Fisher Recreation Area: This is one of three beaches in the area that is dog friendly all year round! Just past Kure Beach, Fort Fisher is a great place to bring the whole family. With community picnic tables and grills, and the nearby Basin Trail, there’s tons of fun to be had with your family and your pet. Take your dog for a hike on the Basin trail which showcases beautiful views of the intracoastal waterways. The trail goes by an old WWII bunker where Kure Beach’s very own hermit, Robert E. Harrill, lived in the solitude of the salt marshes for 17 years. The 2.2 mile trail ends at a quiet observation deck where you and your pet can enjoy breathtaking views of the water. Dogs must be on a lease at all times.
Carolina Beach: Leashed dogs are allowed on this beach from November 1st – February 28th.
Kure Beach: Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach strand from October 1st – March 31st. Just a little ways past the hustle of Carolina Beach, Kure Beach is a quiet little beach town with sweet, welcoming locals and free parking all year round. Kure Beach also offers a boardwalk along the oceanfront with plenty of places to sit and enjoy the view.
Wrightsville Beach: The area’s most pristine beach, allows leashed pets on the beach strand from October 1st – to March 31st. If you’re here during the summer there are plenty of dog friendly hotels, bars and restaurants. Also, run the Wrightsville Beach Loop with your pet. There are plenty of places for you and your pet to stop for a drink along the way. Near Johnnie Mercer’s Pier, there is even a “Doggy Bath and Bar.”
Surf City: Dogs must be kept on a leash, but they are welcome all year round!
Topsail Beach : A little off the beaten path, but probably the most dog friendly beach nearby. Dogs are allowed all year round and only need to be on a leash during the busy season. The rest of the year, October 1st – May 14th, your dog is free to roam the beach unleashed as long as he/she is under voice command. Note that North Topsail Beach has different regulations. Dogs are allowed all year round, but must always be on a leash, no longer than 25 feet long.
2. Carolina Beach State Park
The Carolina Beach State Park offers 761 acres of natural beauty, featuring campgrounds, several hiking trails and an easily accessible marina for boaters and fishers. Admission to the park is free if you’re just coming for the day. Bring your pet and hike one of the many marked trails that wind through the marsh. Pets must be on a leash.
3. Hugh MacRae Park
Along with many other amenities, Hugh MacRae Park in Wilmington offers a fenced in leash free dog park! There are two sides to the park, one for small breed dogs and puppies and one for large breed dogs. This place is the best way to wear out high energy dogs or dogs that just need a little extra exercise. There is also a water pump and community water bowls for everyone to share. For your own dog’s safety and the safety of others, please don’t bring sick or injured dogs to this area of the park and adhere to the size segregation. Acts of aggression by dogs or owners will not tolerated.
Remember there are many communicable diseases that can harm your unvaccinated pet. Be sure that your vet has administered all immunizations before bringing your dog around others.
4. Cross City Trail
The Cross City Trail is an excellent place for you and your pet to get some fresh air and exercise. The trail spreads throughout the entire city, making most of the city accessible by bike or foot. Keep in mind there are two places on the trail that have yet to be completed, one near Randall Parkway and another near the Wrightsville Beach bridge. The trail offers a great alternative to driving!