Top 10 Pet Friendly Master Planned Communities in the South

Pet Friendly Master Planned Communities

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When it comes finding the best places to live in the South, pet owners now have excellent choices for their 4-legged family members.  Dog parks have become the 'norm' in trend setting new developments. Boomers are finding there are many “pet friendly” retirement communities that provide a safe and fun place where pets can run and play. Not only do pets get to exercise and socialize, but pet owners can enjoy a lifestyle that includes their dearly loved furry friends.

Pets are therapeutic and are always considered a part of the family.  They can be especially beneficial for longevity… companionship, protection, and exercise. Exercise is an unspoken benefit of pet ownership. And let's face it, dogs walk us. Getting out for a good walk and socializing at a dog park is a great way to stay active and interact with fellow pet enthusiasts in the neighborhood.

“From sitters to spas, massages and antidepressants, people spare no expense when it comes to their pets — even during tough economic times. Americans will spend $47.7 billion on their pets this year, up from $45.5 billion last year, the American Pet Product Association estimates. Almost two-thirds of U.S. households, 62%, have a pet, according to the most recent National Pet Owners Survey. That's some 71.4 million homes — and about 45% of the pets are dogs, the survey finds.”   Dog park amenities are growing in demand and real estate agents across the country have taken note.

Everyone who owns a pet understands the value and importance of keeping their animals happy and healthy, and so do discerning home builders who have added “dog parks” to their communities.  Now considered a “must” for pet owners, these neighborhoods scattered throughout the country are offering this amenity as part of the package when seeking the ideal location to settle.  Baby Boomers and families value this asset as it allows them to insure that their “loved ones” are included as part of the community and it is a key to enhancing lifestyle choices.  After reviewing some of the dog parks offered the following are the 10 “Best” pet friendly communities.

#1 RARITY BAY - Vonore, Tennessee

Number one on the list for “dog park amenities” is Rarity Bay, an Eastern Tennessee Lake Tellico community.  In this captive yet serene environment pets run free at the community dog park.  The Dog Park of Rarity Bay is a true asset for the community and is one of the key elements in advancing home sales in this spectacular region. Socializing with neighbors has become very popular and is the place to be on Friday nights at 5pm during 'yappy hour'. 

Dog owners in the Rarity Bay Community anticipated the need for a dog park back in 2008. Soon residents with dogs created a plan to build one for the purposes of safety, convenience, and a neighborhood park-like setting for social use. Volunteers not only constructed this private park, but also raised over $40,000 to build what is now a premier dog park designed to match American Kennel Club standards for dog socialization and safety. Members subsequently determined they wanted more than a simple dog park so added features such as covered patios, handicap access, in-ground irrigation, golf cart parking, and landscaping that aligned with the design requirements of the residential community were added. It’s become a convenient, inviting location for residents to gather for events and neighbor conversations. The dog park’s common name is “Rusty’s Place” in memory of a benefactor’s beloved late Rottweiler. 

#2 PALMETTO BLUFF – Bluffton, South Carolina

Another great “pet friendly retirement community is the "natural" amenities found in the pristine development of Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina.  This neighborhood includes lakes and trail networks, which are exploding in popularity. Walking is the most popular form of exercise, and a dog goes hand-in-hand with that.  The most common of the "purposeful" dog-friendly amenities is a dog park, a fenced area where dogs can run, play and sometimes swim. 

Palmetto Bluff set on more than 20,000 acres of spectacular real estate, has 13 miles of picture-perfect trails and dogs are free to ride in golf carts or take boat tours in this “highly sought after” region.  Dogs here can also enjoy the benefits of premium travel and accommodations right alongside their owners. “Pets are just as important as any member of the family,” says Marcus Jackson, general manager at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff, a Montage Resort in Bluffton, S.C. “Our bell team knows their names and their likes and dislikes.”

Dogs are considered VIPS at The Inn at Palmetto Bluff where staff members accommodate pets with the ultimate in bedding geared to their size as well as homemade dog treats to welcome canine visitors.  Palmetto Bluff is considered one of the best places to live for retirement.

#3 THE CLIFFS AT MOUNTAIN PARK – Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina

The Cliffs at Mountain Park is a 5,000-acre playground with rolling ridgelines that extend in every direction.  Proud pet owners can explore the “Supertrail” system.  From the “Supertrail” system to The Cliffs' Organic Farm, home owners can discover that this is the ideal balance of nature and civilization. With its temperate climate and four distinct seasons, this majestic landscape stands at the heart of the Southeast’s most spectacular region.  With Greenville and Asheville nearby The Cliffs at Mountain Park has easy access to cultural outlets, entertainment venues, shopping, and over 10 academic facilities and medical resources located nearby.  Pets are welcome residents here and can enjoy the massive green space that this community has to offer as well as the incredible social life found in the neighborhood.

The Cliffs at Mountain Park is surrounded by literally hundreds of hiking, biking and walking trails and 13 state parks, three national forests and one national park just outside of the community, and more than 1,300 acres of protected parks inside.  The Cliffs at Mountain Park offers an expansive system of trails with a myriad of landscape options from streams to captivating mountain views and assures an adventure around every corner.

# 4 BRUNSWICK FOREST – Wilmington, North Carolina

Surrounded by lush forests, this pet friendly retirement community offers an incredible space and opportunity to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle.  Brunswick Forest has “pocket parks” throughout the neighborhood with a multitude of walking, biking and nature trails as well as “off-leash” dog parks for pet lovers.  In this “Walden Pond” serene setting, homeowners are found readily walking their dogs or reading peacefully in Meadow Park.  The “Bark Park” at Brunswick Forest is where family pets can enjoy the “rain garden” and picnic area for socializing.  This family and pet friendly retirement community is sure to satisfy the need to “kick back and relax”  and enjoy the finer things in life.  For active Boomers, the Annsdale Park is enriched with walking and biking paths to ensure that leisure leads to well-being.

#5 BURLINGAME COUNTRY CLUB – Sapphire, North Carolina

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains folks will find Burlingame at Sapphire Lakes.  With astonishing mountain views and sparkling streams flowing throughout this community at an elevation reaching 3,500 feet, amenities abound.  Golf, lawn sports, Har-Tu tennis courts, and a 17,000-square foot fitness arena with a multitude of fitness classes offered ensure a healthy lifestyle for all who choose this place to call home.  With the Horsepasture River as a backdrop, “dog-walkers” will find Burlingame Dog Park where a leisurely stroll can lead to a great spot for some excellent trout fishing.  Perhaps pets would like to indulge in the clear mountain water after a healthy jog along this magnificent path while their owners indulge in the “Burlingame’s Hiking and Fishing Club” that ensures that anglers get the most of what this region has to offer.  With over 3 miles of scenic hiking trails and 11 waterfalls, stops along the Mills River Park can be enjoyed by all with an outdoor pavilion and children’s playground.  A short journey across the bridge leads to the dog park where “furry friends” can also enjoy this majestic setting.  With a very busy social calendar, fine dining, and an exhilarating outdoor setting, “white water rafters” can partake in some of the adventures found here and enjoy some incredible cuisine afterwards as well as the dog part amenities.  Another “thumbs-up” for pet lovers.

#6 BIG CANOE – Jasper, Georgia

From daybreak to gorgeous sunset, nature colors everyday life at Big Canoe. With approximately 30% of our total 8,000 acres set aside as usable green space, residents live, work and play in a gorgeous mountaintop retreat.   Voted as the “2011 Community of the Year”, this incredible piece of real estate is not only a great choice for “human-kind” but for pets as well.  The Big Canoe Dog Park is an “off-leash” exercise area located in McDaniel Meadows.  Set aside by the developer as an environmental trust, in 2003 this open space of one-half acre was allowed to be fenced to accommodate pets.  The park is a collaboration of efforts by the POA board, the developer, property owners and the dog owners of Big Canoe.  Equipped with donated benches, picturesque landscaping and a plaque honoring dogs of the donors, this “dog’s paradise” makes every pet owner recognize and appreciate the value of “man’s best friend”.  With too many amenities to mention, residents here will be able to appreciate the finer things life has to offer with the ultimate surroundings and also rest assured that the family pet is not left out of the picture.

#7 SPRING ISLAND – Spring Island, South Carolina

With 3,000-acres of lush natural greenery, another pet friendly retirement community is Spring Island.  This “Lowcountry” lifestyle is full of history and culture and Spring Island is the ultimate offering for discerning retirees looking for a perfect location to call home.  Complete with an award-winning golf course, an equestrian complex spanning 31 acres and over 300 trails, this southeastern seaboard town is also pet friendly.  The Spring Island Clubhouse is the centerpiece of the community and offers a 13,000 square foot sports complex, tennis courts, swimming pool and croquet lawn for all members of the family.  Waterfall Farm is also a place where residents can plant a crop of corn or green beans to share with others in the community.  Pet owners can enjoy the freedom of walking their dogs and enjoying the beautiful scenery found here.  With unspoiled islands, hidden inlets and stunning water views, this region is considered one of the best places to live.

#8 ST. JAMES PLANTATION – Southport, North Carolina

People are drawn to the historic hometown by the sea at St. James Plantation.  Quaint shops, grand old homes and streets lined with enormous live oaks blend with fresh, new options for shopping and dining and movie-set charm.  Rich in atmosphere and tradition, it's a community defined by tidal creeks and salt marshes that team with shore birds and wildlife and is considered as one of the best places to live in the region.

Designed around the natural beauty of the land, the community offers a multitude of resort-style amenities including four signature golf clubs, a private beach club, state-of-the-art fitness facilities and a world-class marina & marketplace.   St. James Plantation is located on the Intracoastal Waterway near the Atlantic Ocean and Cape Fear River and while it “celebrates” four seasons, the average winter temperature is very mild and serves as a great playground for Baby Boomers who love seafood.  With the culture of Wilmington nearby, retirees can enjoy the “best of land and sea”.

#9 LAKEWOOD RANCH – Lakewood Ranch, Florida

Heading down south, this pet friendly retirement community is located on Florida’s Gulf Coast at Lakewood Ranch.  This 17,500 acre master-planned community preserved half of its land for “open” and recreational space.  With over 150 miles of trails, 36 holes of private golf, 18 tennis courts, polo, cricket and over 80 clubs to choose from, it’s no wonder this destination has made the list on the top ten.  Nine villages establish this community where families bond and neighbors socialize while enjoying the dramatic landscape filled with forests and wetland preserves as a backdrop.  This “award-winning” piece of property draws pet lovers as well.   Here, the dog park amenities include “The Paw Park” found at the east end of Greenbrook Adventure Park where the hours of operation are dawn to dusk.  While no staff is on duty here, registration is required of pet owners and rules apply for smooth operation of this “leash-free” environment.  Surrounded by gourmet restaurants, A-rated schools and hospitals plus fabulous boutiques any retiree seeking a pet friendly retirement community should definitely give Lakewood Ranch a look.

#10 COMPASS POINTE –Leland, North Carolina

Ever think about kayaking with your pet in one of the best kept secrets in the country? Then maybe consider visiting Compass Pointe where relaxing at the Resort Oasis Pool or cocktails at the Grand Lanai are common place here. Also there is the Compass Dog Park that accommodates dogs with two separate areas for both mild-tempered and more active dog personalities.  This community offers a list of fun amenities including a new 18-hole Rick Robbins designed Championship Golf Course planned for 2015.  

What a great way to keep everyone in the household happy with splendid indoor and outdoor activities as well as the Pointe Wellness Center to insure that living healthy is indeed the choice for active retirees. There is even a basketball court for the teens.  Definitely “fido” will feel at home here and meeting new friends is easy at this well-planned master development.

We're also seeing a growing trend of dog related events within a city. For example, on January 17, 2015 in Vero Beach, Bark in the Park attracted 7,500 people and 800 dogs. Attendees enjoyed performances, explored pet related vendors and the dogs playfully challenged the agility courses. The event raised over $48,000 for the Humane Society of Vero Beach & Indian River County.

With so many options available for pet owners, Baby Boomers can rest assured they will not have to leave their 4-legged loved ones at home when choosing that perfect retirement option. If we left a pet friendly community off our list, we hope you'll let us know who you think belongs on our Top 10 List by leaving a comment.

Request Free Real Estate Information

Timeframe for Purchase*
General Price Range*

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