Johnston County, North Carolina is home to a range of great outdoors activities, small towns, friendly people, moonshine, wine and most importantly, delicious southern food. The most popular cities in the county are Smithfield, Clayton, Benson, and Selma.
There are many dog friendly things to do in Johnston County so make sure to bring your pup along. As always, when traveling when a dog, some dog friendly restaurants and attractions only allow furry friends on patios or in certain areas. Always make sure to ask the staff and respect any pet policy changes.
Benson is just a 30 minute drive south of Raleigh and 1 hour drive from Durham, making Johnston Country the prefect day trip from the Triangle or weekend getaway to enjoy a diverse list of things to do and beautiful small towns. Benson is most well known for its 4-day Benson Mule Days festival and rodeo at the end of September, but is an amazing destination to visit year round.
We started the morning off in Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center hiking through the forest with our dog. You can also see a handful of rescued birds, turtles, snakes, and other wildlife and learn more about the local flora and fauna.
Howell Woods also offers several cabins and camping spots available for rent if you would like to spend some more time out in the beautiful nature of Johnston County.
The Cornerstone Café located in downtown Benson is the perfect place to enjoy a cup of fresh coffee, its famous made to order waffles and fresh sandwiches. There are a handful of dog friendly outdoor tables on the main street and along the side road. We enjoyed the cinnamon roll waffle, overflowing with warm icing and a homemade chicken salad sandwich along with a side of creamy mac and cheese.
Floyd had to give each one a taste test and couldn’t decide which he liked most, as he kept trying to sneak another bite off of our plates!
The cafe is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 8pm and Saturday from 8am to 2pm.
Fainting Goat Brewery
Just one block down the road is the veteran and woman owned Fainting Goat Brewery. With a dog friendly patio, the brewery actually prides itself on being Wi-Fi free as the perfect spot to disconnect and enjoy the company of those around you enjoying a beer.
Shop Downtown Benson
Main Street in downtown Benson is only a few blocks long, so super easy to explore on foot. We explored a few local shops in Benson including Salvaged Heirlooms, Morgan’s On Main, and Edmond’s/Libby’s Department Store. There is also the Benson Museum of Local History with an interesting collection highlighting the history of the city.
Next up visit Broadslab Distillery, North Carolina’s first farm distillery run by Jeremy Norris and his family’s generations of moonshine and distilling in the region. Our favorite is their most popular Legacy Appleshine made with pure apple juice. Don’t forget to taste the iconic Legacy Shine and Carolina Coast Spiced Rum, inspired by traditional Jamaican rum. If you are feeling adventurous, bring home a jar of moonshine pickles, jams or jellies.
Guided tours are available Fridays and Saturdays at 12PM, 2PM and 4PM. Tours cost $12 per person and include a tasting and a shot glass souvenir. There is seating available inside and outside, making it the perfect dog friendly bar in Johnston County.
Hinnant Farms Vineyard & Winery
A short drive away in the small city of Pine Level, NC is the Hinnant Family Vineyards and Winery. Sit out on the front or back porch and enjoy a wine flight with your dog or a delicious wine slushy on a warm day. They also offer a more educational wine tasting if you would like more information and background about each wine.
During the late summer and early fall months Hinnant Vineyard offers You Pick Muscadine grapes and the opportunity to get out and enjoy the 100 acre vineyard. As a note, dogs are not allowed into this part of the vineyard, but you can let some of your group pick grapes while the rest relax on the porch tasting wines with your pup.
Redneck BBQ Lab
No visit to North Carolina or Johnston County is complete without trying some award winning Southern bar-b-que. The mouth watering BBQ at Redneck BBQ Lab is not to be missed. Enjoy a plate of smoked brisket, chopped chicken or slow roasted turkey and don’t forget a side of fresh cornbread and some creamy jalapeno mac and cheese.
Redneck BBQ Lab offers several outdoor picnic tables to enjoy a delicious meal with plenty of opportunities to give your dog a taste.
With that comes the end of our dog friendly visit to Johnston County. There are always so many more places to visit and explore, just remember when traveling with a dog to bring water and a bowl, bags to pick up after them, and ask the staff at each location to ensure you are following the most up to date pet policies.