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

“If your dog is fat,” goes the old saying, “you’re not getting enough exercise.” But walking the dog doesn’t have to be just a little exercise. Here are 10 beautiful things to see on the North Carolina and South Carolina coasts while walking the dog.

1. PLACES YOU’VE SEEN ON THE SILVER SCREEN

Wilmington is often called “Hollywood East” and film productions have made extensive use of the Carolina coastal landscape. The Vietnam scenes from Forest Gump were filmed at Hunting Beach State Park. The trees come right down to the beach and the lush, tropical feel of the vegetation really gives off the aura of a jungle. A path leads along an inland lagoon where Forrest rescued Lt. Dunn. A few years later, Hunting Island doubled for Quang Tri Province in Vietnam when Samuel Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones appeared in Rules of Engagement. In 1982, Louis Jordan was a mad scientist trying to create new species in the Swamp Garden of Magnolia Plantation in Swamp Thing. And if you hike your dog along the Sugarloaf Trail in Carolina Beach State Park, you might recognize a few spots where the late Terry Kiser water-skied over the weekend at Bernie’s.

2. MYSTERIOUS OYSTERS

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

3. HIGHEST SAND BANDS ON THE EAST COAST

It’s a giant sandbox for your dog at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Outer Banks, whose 90-foot sand dunes are the tallest along the East Coast. The paths stretch across the sand. On the mainland, the Sugarloaf Trail at Carolina Beach State Park leads to a 50-foot dune that was often used as a navigational aid in years past.

4. FAMOUS RESIDENCES

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

5. 900 DIFFERENT CAMELIES

The ultra-dog-friendly Magnolia Plantation gives your pooch a rare opportunity to stroll through a formal garden, one of America’s oldest. In addition to the 900 varieties of camellias on display, the Charleston garden is planted with over 250 species of azaleas.

6. PREHISTORIC CANOES

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 created by burning straight cypress logs over a slow fire and scraping off the charred sections. They were stored for the winter in the mud of the lake. Two are on display in the park – one from 380 AD. and the other in 1440 AD

7. SPECTACULAR LIGHTHOUSES

There are five lighthouses on the Outer Banks that your dog can visit – three at 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 back to 1872. The most famous, and America’s tallest at 208 feet, is the black-and-white cape with swirling stripes Hatteras Lighthouse. In South Carolina your dog can roam around the only public light in the Palmetto State at Hunting Island State Park.

8. FODDER PLANTS

At several locations along the Carolina coast your dog can walk through the unique habitats of pocozines, swamps called the Indian term for “hill swamp.” Plants living in these nutrient-poor soils evolved to trap insects and digest them in deadly juices. Such killers as Venus flytraps, blatterworts, and sundews can be seen in North Carolina at Carolina Beach State Park and in South Carolina at the Audubon-Newhall Preserve, among others.

9. FORTS, FORTS AND MORE LOADS

Beginning 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, the site of a critical American victory during the Revolution, and walk the Civil War masonry bastion at Fort Macon. Or the more primitive Civil War earthworks at Fort Lamar. For a look at the modern fortification, take the dog to Battery Jasper in Fort Moultrie – but don’t be disappointed if he’s more interested in the beach.

10. OLD MINES

The lowcountry was once an ancient seabed, a vast graveyard for millions of years of sea creatures. These near-surface marine deposits contain phosphates and calcium, minerals valuable for cement production and for fertilizing fields. Minerals were mined enthusiastically 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 onto barges and shipped downriver to Charleston.

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