Lawton Stables in Sea Pines Resort offers one-hour Western-style horseback riding excursions on bridle trails winding through the 605-acre forest. Led by an experienced guide, riders walk at a leisurely pace under a canopy of moss-covered oaks and Palmettos, passing some of the preserve's beautiful lakes and wildflower meadow.
This time of year, you're likely to see alligators basking on the banks of the lakes and great flocks of herons and egrets nesting in the trees on Rookery Island in Lake Mary.
"Everyone wants to see the alligators," Lawton Stables guide Jason Harton said as he led us past Lake Joe, a favorite gator hangout. "There are plenty of them out here and they're not bashful."
The one-hour ride is just enough to get a taste of the preserve, but you'll want to come back and explore the rice fields, swamps and Indian shell ring found along the miles of trails carved out of the forest. (I'll be writing more about the Sea Pines Forest Preserve later this week.)
Back at the barn, we couldn't resist walking through Lawton Stables' Small Animal Farm. Meeting us at the gate was the official greeter - a friendly fawn with big Bambi eyes. This free attraction also features sheep, rabbits, pigs, chickens, a miniature donkey, llama and a goat en garde atop his coop.
Lawton Stables also offers Shetland pony rides for children 7 and younger weighing no more than 55 pounds, and for an equestrian adventure the whole family can enjoy, try a carriage ride through the Forest Preserve.
Click here to make reservations or learn more about Lawton Stables, or call (843) 671-2586.