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Bring Your Pup! Dog Friendly Living in Southeastern Coastal North Carolina

Wednesday, August 7, 2019   /   by Anne Rose

Bring Your Pup! Dog Friendly Living in Southeastern Coastal North Carolina

Wilmington and the beaches are decidedly dog-friendly, with great walking trails, outdoor dining at restaurants that welcome four-legged friends, and a slew of dog parks and pup-oriented recreational activities.

In a community that embraces both your family and your pets, there are plenty of options when deciding what do for the day or evening - options that include your dog, too!

Dog-Friendly Breweries

Starting in September 2019, there is a new law in North Carolina that will allow dogs (and cats) inside breweries, as long as the brewery doesn't prepare food on the premises.

Here are some of our favorite spots to grab a beer and chill with our four-legged buddies:

Front Street Brewery
Waterline Brewery
Waterman's Brewing Company
Goat & Compass
Good Hops Brewing
Edward Teach Brewing
Good Hops
Wrightsville Brewing
Flytrap Brewing
Burnt Mill Tavern

Dog-Friendly Dining

Generally, the rule for finding a restaurant that doesn't mind if you bring your dog along is to choose one that has outdoor dining. Seating and food service outdoors can range from super casual, to white tablecloth, and there are some of each that cater to dog-lovers. A great option for dining with your dog is to head to one of the great local breweries, almost all of which have plenty of outdoor seating, and order from one of the many food trucks that have regular nights at the breweries. Check schedules on the food truck or brewery Facebook pages so that you are sure to find the type of cuisine you love.

Although most restaurants that have outdoor dining welcome your dog, there are a few notable exceptions. On Wilmington's Riverwalk, Elijah's and neighboring Pilot House are wonderful riverfront dining for humans, but no dogs allowed. Before you spot a cool outdoor restaurant, we would suggest calling ahead, just to make sure.

Java Dog
Flaming Amy's
South Beach Grill
Fish House Grill
Stalk and Vine
The George
Ale House
On The Border
Mellow Mushroom
Blue Surf Cafe

Walking Trails

Walking trails in the Cape Fear area are great exercise opportunities for both you and your dog, but remember that dogs must be kept on leash. Trails are shared with other walkers, bicycles, and joggers. Carry pet waste bags, too, because even though most trails and park paths have waste bag dispensers, they are often empty at the end of the month. Some trails, like the one that goes around Greenfield Lake, have dog-level fountains, but many of the trails do not, so bring water for your dog.

Wrightsville Beach John Nesbitt "Loop"
Carolina Beach State Park
Wilmington Downtown Riverwalk
Halyburton Park
Abbey Nature Trail
Smith Creek 
Greenfield Lake Park


Dog access to our local beaches is seasonal, and a mix of on- and off-leash policies. Check the "Rules and Regulations" posted at each beach access point to make sure that you and your pup are in compliance with local statutes. Again, make sure that you have waste bags, clean up after your pet, and carry plenty of fresh water. There are no dog-drinking stations on the beaches.

Wrightsville Beach (on-leash on the beach from October 1 to March 31)
Freeman Park, Carolina Beach (on-leash April 1 to September 30, off-leash other months)
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area (on-leash only)
Kure Beach (on-leash from October 1 through March 31)
Bald Head Island (off-leash year round, but must be leashed from sunset to sunrise during sea turtle nesting season)

WARNING: Do not allow your dog to swim in standing water, small ponds, or lakes, especially when the weather is hot. During the summer, tragic dog deaths have been caused by DEADLY TOXIC blue green algae. Some water spots may have warning signs, others may not. Be safe, not sorry!

Dog Parks

Most of these dog parks have separate small- and large-dog enclosures, watering stations, and waste bag dispensers. Parking is easy and adjacent to the parks. Many locals have made long-standing friendships with other regular dog-park goers, and there is a welcoming group of people who make a daily habit of stopping by the dog park at standing times. Check on Meetup.com for breed-specific Meetups, where dogs and owners often set a time to connect at one of the dog parks. Have you ever seen 30 pugs on a group date? 

Empie Park
Hugh MacRae Park
Odgen Park
Mike Chappell Park, Carolina Beach
Gurney Hood Barking Lot, Kure Beach

Recreational Activities

Lots of the things that you love to do with your family can also include your dog. From boat rentals to ferry rides, Farmers' Markets, and Ghost Walks, there are plenty of activities that you will find entertaining, and your dog will be welcomed. If your favorite past-time is shopping, you will also find a number of stores that welcome well-behaved dogs. Of course, the local and big-brand pet stores are dog-friendly, as are some of our favorite mom-and-pop retailers. Call ahead and check to see if your dog is welcome to accompany you.

Entropy Boat Rentals

Balk Head Island Ferry
Southport Ferry
Wilmington Ghost Tours
Poplar Grove Farmers' Market
New Hanover County Arboretum

Dog Training Facilities

Want to get out and around with your dog? It takes work to make sure that your four-legged friend has the manners and training that make him or her a pleasure and not a public nuisance.

Off Leash K9 Training
Clever K9 Dog Training
Wilmington Dog Wizard
Pawsitive Pup Training
Dogtrain, Inc.

Our best advice for enjoying Wilmington and the beaches with your dog? Call ahead to make sure that dog-friendly rules haven't changed or are seasonal-only. Bring your own water and bowl, carry a supply of waste bags (you could be subject to a hefty $250 fine if you don't have one on hand), and adhere to local leash laws. 

And, never leave your dog your car unattended. Wilmington weather is both hot and humid for most of the year, which is a deadly combination for dogs.

Enjoy our dog-friendly city, restaurants, and attractions. Say "thank you" to establishment owners for welcoming your dog, and be a great neighbor by cleaning up after your pet and being respectful of lawns. We all love our dog-friendly venues, and we want to keep all our great Wilmington dog-friendly options open for everyone.

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