Dog Friendly

Finding dog friendly Cape Fear venues is a challenge, but not a daunting one. There are a number of dog-friendly restaurants, dog parks, and nature trails for you to enjoy with your best friend. So put a leash on your dog, grab some poop bags, and head out to any of these destinations:

Restaurants are unique environments for pets, because the high volume of people and number of temptations test their social skills and obedience. There are a number of pet-friendly restaurants located in Wilmington. The George, located on the Riverwalk in Historic Downtown Wilmington, features Southern coastal cuisine and a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. At The George, dogs are welcome on the outdoor deck. Front Street Brewery, which is also located in Historic Downtown Wilmington, offers fresh modern American cuisine and dog-friendly outdoor tables during the summer. Java Dog Coffee House, in the Cotton Exchange downtown, allows customers to enjoy a cup of coffee with the family pooch – dogs are welcome both inside and outside. Rucker Johns, at 5564 Carolina Beach Rd, provides customers with fresh food and comfortable, dog-friendly patio seating in the front and on the side.

Dog parks provide dogs with the freedom to exercise and interact with other dogs. The Wilmington Dog Park at Empie was the first functional off-leash dog park in Wilmington. Located on a 2-acre site within Empie Park, this space is completely fenced with two play areas — one for large dogs and another for dogs under 20 pounds. There are water and pet waste stations, and lots of shade available at this park. The dog park at Hugh MacRae features separate areas for small and big dogs, is free to the general public, and is open from dawn until dusk. Ogden Dog Park allows pets to get some off-leash exercise in the grassy, fenced play area.

Freeman Park at Carolina Beach (cost: $10.00) is one of the dog friendly Cape Fear beaches on the NC coast. Dogs must be on leash from April 1 to September 30, but can be off leash between October 1 and March 31. Admission with dogs is $10 and owners must carry a minimum of two suitable plastic or paper waste containers – which must be disposed of in an appropriate receptacle. At Fort Fisher State Park, dogs are allowed on leash year-round from dusk until dawn; this park is free to the general public. Topsail Beach has an off leash dog beach where dogs must be on a leash from May 15 through September 30, and at other times the dog is required to be under voice command of a responsible person, but does not have to be on a leash.

Dog-friendly trails are great for getting in those miles, socializing and enjoying the local scenery. The River to the Sea Bikeway is one of 1600 rail-trails supported by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that is working to create a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. Previously an unused railroad corridor, this “rail-trail” is now a great place to walk Fido in Wilmington. The 67-acre Abbey Nature Preserve has a 2.4-mile nature trail winding through woods and crossing over the mill pond. Dogs must be on a leash, and owners are expected to clean up after their dogs. Check out the online map here. Pets on leashes are welcome at Carolina Beach State Park, and they are able to join their owners both on the beach and at campsites.

This summer will include numerous outdoor events for dog owners to explore more of the Cape Fear area, think ahead and check festival and city websites for rules about bringing your dog. And remember – never be disappointed and opt to leave your dog in your parked car, which can be a deadly option in a matter of minutes during the summer.