June 2010

Dog Days On Hilton Head

Author: Abby Bird (aka Alphadog)

It’s not only human visitors and those who have chosen to live in the Lowcountry who find excitement, fun, beauty and interest wherever we go. Our four-legged doggie friends also think living here and visiting with their owners is pretty special!

We are an amazingly dog friendly community with more than our share of pet and rescue groups. As a result, you are likely to see dogs accompanying us on our daily rounds to many different places. Whether it is shopping at Shelter Cove Mall (dog friendly in the mall area—check with each individual shop as to their policy) or relaxing outside at Starbuck’s on Palmetto Bay Rd., dogs are everywhere!

Many restaurants with outside patios are accepting of well-behaved dogs. Check with each individual restaurant, but if dogs are on leash and well-mannered, they can accompany owners for a drink or meal. (Remember that not all the other guests are dog friendly, so keep your dogs under close control.)

In Sea Pines, a favorite doggie hang out is The Wreck of the Salty Dog at South Beach. While the courtyard is dog friendly, The Salty Dog Café itself is not. Languorous afternoons can be whiled away watching the boats come in or tennis being played. Dining is casual, and no one complains about the dogs since the owner’s Flat-Coated Retrievers are there as well. Breakfast or lunch is the best time to bring your dog. They will happily provide your dog with water in the heat of the day.

In Coligny Plaza, Steamers, situated on the large outdoor deck overlooking the duck pond, provides comfort and entertainment for your canine. After a walk around the shops in the plaza, stop for dinner at Steamers. In the cool of the evening, with a breeze blowing and under umbrella-covered tables, your dogs can relax from a hard day of play on the beach while you have fabulous seafood fare. After dinner, go to The Ice Cream Cone, Hilton Head’s favorite ice cream shop in Coligny, and treat your favorite pooch to a cup of homemade vanilla ice cream.

The Black Marlin on Palmetto Bay Rd. in the Palmetto Bay Marina allows your pet outside for casual dining dockside and is extremely pet friendly as is Capt. Woody’s nearby. Sit outside at either of these locations, and your dogs are bound to find some other four legged socialites there. Both places are serious local favorite dog hangouts and attract many singles and couples of the human variety.

On Squire Pope Rd., Skull Creek Boathouse accepts pets for outdoor dining as well. You can enjoy one of the best sunsets on Hilton Head Island from their outside patio; and while your dogs may not care about the view, they sure will be happy to catch some of your leftovers!

In Shelter Cove, on Harbourside Lane, Bistro 17 goes the extra mile, providing a special menu for dogs, serving Lucky Dog Cuisine, a natural dog food made by a local resident. Sit outside for lunch or dinner and enjoy an elegant meal while you and your dog watch the boats and sea birds come in and out of the harbor.

A group can rent a pontoon boat at Palmetto Bay Watersports and take the dogs for a spin on Calibogue Sound. Don’t forget a life jacket for your dog. Say hello to the other dogs also dining or barking through the waves on the water. If you are so inclined and your dog is trained accordingly (nails trimmed and doesn’t chew), rent a double kayak, secure your dog inside and get close to nature—dolphins, egrets, otters and the like—on our sparkling waterways. You can rent double kayaks at H2O Sports at Harbour Town Yacht Basin, at Outside Hilton Head at Shelter Cove Marina or at Kayak Hilton Head at Simmons Landing next door to Broad Creek Marina.

If you happen to live in or are renting a home with a swimming pool, make sure you teach your dog how to get in and out of the pool safely. Even if your dog is not a water dog, but accidentally falls in and hasn’t been taught the way out, it may panic as it tries to climb out over the edge. Teaching your dog entrances and exits is essential to a safe vacation or home life.

What could be a better dog day than a romp on South Forest Beach, in and out of the waves, chasing balls and Frisbees? Your dogs are welcome here, from the end of September until the end of May, all day long under leash or voice control. In the busy summer period, dogs are limited to before 9a.m. or after 5 p.m., which presents no problem for the dogs or their owners since it is the coolest and least busy part of the day. One of the most fun things to do is to swim with your dog. Bring a floating retrieving dummy, and your dog will not only fetch, but some will pull you in to shore, “rescuing” you, if you hold onto the rope end of the toy. Water rescue and a swim with your dog is a perfect thing to do on Hilton Head.

Another favorite beach spot enjoyed by locals is on the north end of the island at Mitchelville Beach. Better for dogs than people, it is on Port Royal Sound rather than on the Atlantic, and is very shallow but is an almost deserted stretch perfect for jogging, biking and rowdy dog play. Plan to picnic; bring an umbrella and play gear for the dogs. There is a restroom in the parking lot but no other facilities.

Many private communities such as Palmetto Dunes, Port Royal, and Hilton Head Plantation have beach access for residents or guests. One of my favorite spots is Dolphin Head Beach in Hilton Head Plantation—right on the sound, no facilities and open only to residents, it remains an unspoiled jewel, perfect for dog walks and water play.


TAIL WAGGER BAKERY in Coligny Plaza for Tuesday evening doggie play and fabulous doggie edible goodies all the time.

COLIGNY TRUE VALUE, the hardware store in the plaza also welcomes your best friend on a leash.

BEST FRIENDS DOG PARK at Chaplin Park, mid-island provides both a fenced in area for small and large dogs to sniff and chase. If your dog is tired of being on leash or just needs some social interaction, this is THE spot.

CROSSINGS PARK on the South End, although not fenced in, attracts many of the area’s local dog owners for a romp and walk. Great for human meet and greets also.

JASPER PARK on the North End is an enchanting setting to enjoy the Lowcountry views of marshes, long walks with dogs, kids and friends.

RENT A BICYCLE in the cool of the day and run your dog alongside on the beach or on our many bicycle paths. Residents can, of course, do this in their own communities at any time.

Please bring water for the dog and yourself, and don’t overdo it in the heat. If you have a long-haired, small dog or black dog, their ability to sustain heat is limited and they overheat easily. If your dog is out in the sun, be sure to pack water, dog goggles, sunscreen and a cool wrap for the neck to keep your dog safe and healthy.

Personally, I end every dog day jaunt with a critical stop at some ice cream spot, whether in Harbour Town, Coligny or Marley’s in Park Plaza. Sit outside, get a small vanilla ice cream (or yogurt for the health conscious), and give small plastic spoonfuls to your dog. They will love you for it and it rounds out a perfect dog day on Hilton Head. Gotta go, here comes Turi, the most spoiled dog in the Lowcountry, wanting to know what we have planned today!

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