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Dillon, SC is just a few miles from the North Carolina border and less than 90 minutes from Myrtle Beach. With the coast so close, your water dogs might beg for a beach trip every weekend.
You'll find great places to stretch your paws in Dillon, too. The brick-storefront historic downtown is classic Americana, perfect for a walk-and-talk to meet your neighbors. There are good sidewalks along Main Street between 9th and 22nd Avenues and on many cross-streets, and the city’s simple grid pattern — rare in Southern towns — makes it impossible to get lost.
Harmon Field at 10th Ave at East Jefferson has a paved loop path that circles the field, playground, and picnic area. The Dillon Recreation Center off Highway 34 has room to roam, with paths and grassy areas weaving among the athletic fields. (Keep your pups on-leash at all times in town; a pair of recent tragedies has left residents wary of unsupervised animals.)
Given its petite size, Dillon has plenty of canine amenities, including a locally-owned pet supply store. There's an animal hospital located right in town, in addition to the county animal shelter. (If Spot seems lonely, maybe your new BFF is waiting there to meet you!) For dog-friendly fine dining, try Shuler's BBQ in nearby Latta. Mr. and Mrs. Shuler are pet lovers who will make sure your pups get water, a bone or two, and some belly rubs in this carnivore's paradise.
Let's face it: dogs are silly. Take them someplace as goofy as they are with a visit to the iconic South of the Border truck stop and resort six miles north of Downtown Dillon. This deeply weird landmark on I-95 welcomes pets. There's a fenced dog run next to the public human restrooms (convenient!) with a great view of the sombrero-shaped observation tower, part of the campy Mexican theme. The pet-friendly motel and campground mean you can extend your stay to enjoy the restaurants and shops, plus a reptile park and a mini-golf course with fairground rides. Built in the 1950's, South of the Border keeps a retro decor that makes it ideal for a doggy photo shoot; Spot would look awesome in a sombrero.
Little Pee Dee State Park is on the eastern edge of Dillon, 12 miles from downtown. If your fur family needs to cool off on the water but can't make it to the beach, you can enjoy Lake Dillon and the Little Pee Dee River. Bring your small boat, or rent a Jon boat or canoe to paddle around the park. Your pup can even try his paw at dock diving from the 75-foot pier. The Beaver Dam Nature Trail will delight landlubbing pups who'd rather sniff out local wildlife. If you forget to pack a picnic, you can grab a burger or sandwich to share at Morton's Grocery and Grill in the community of Fork just south of the park.
Downtown Marion, SC is pretty as a picture, and only 18 miles from Dillon. The old-fashioned downtown shopping district is just a couple of blocks from wooded Harmon Park. With no public parking or facilities, Harmon is all about the peace and quiet. You can reach Harmon in an easy two-block walk from the parking at Withlacoochie Park. If you're with-la-poochies, check out the loop walking trail there, as well. Best of all is the Marion Hike and Bike Trail, a 1.1-mile converted railway with a trailhead on Henry Street. Pups must stay on-leash at both the parks and trail, and bring plenty of water to keep them cool in the SC sunshine.
Across the border and 26 miles from Dillon, North Carolina's Lumber River State Park is worth the trip. Since it's over 11,000 acres, you may need several trips to explore the whole park. Preserved as a national "wild and scenic river," the blackwater Lumber River is both beautiful and remote. Pups can join you for a boating expedition: the park has 24 mapped "float trips" to consider. The hiking trails offer a dryer wilderness experience. The easy half-mile Lumber River Track Trail makes a loop past an observation deck and interpretive signs. The more challenging Chalk Banks Trail takes a three-mile journey along the river, wetlands, and forest.
The Great Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve in Darlington County is almost 3,000 acres of true wilderness, 27 miles northwest of Dillon. The dirt roads and trail system are lightly used; you and your pack might have the preserve all to yourselves. Keep a grip on that leash, though, as you're likely to encounter local wildlife. Beavers, otters, bobcats, foxes, and many species of waterfowl make their home in or near the river. No facilities are available, so bring your own water, snacks, and supplies, and download a map at the SCDNR website even if Spot has a nose for direction. Exercise caution during deer season as well, as the preserve is popular with local hunters.
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