Established in 1939, Carolina Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge (23734 U.S. 1, 843/335-8401, www.fws.gov/carolinasandhills , dawn–dusk, free) is one of the last, best places to find the once-ubiquitous longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat, home of the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker. In eons long past, bison and Florida panther roamed here as well.
Several well-maintained hiking trails allow you to fully explore and observe this rare ecosystem, and a handful of lakes are available for fishing (state license required). One lake, Lake Bee, bisects the refuge. Two observation towers are available for bird and nature watching, and there’s even a dedicated photographer’s blind on Martins Lake.
A great way to enjoy the refuge is on bicycle, since there are plenty of bike trails; but keep in mind that bikes are not allowed on the foot trails. Don’t be surprised to come across a wild turkey or two, and note that hunting is allowed on the refuge in season.