When James Walker Tufts purchased 5,000 acres of the North Carolina Sandhills for $1 an acre, no one could see the potential he saw: a place where all could find rest and relaxation and breathe the clean air of the longleaf pine forests. More than a century later, the area has welcomed thousands of people seeking to do exactly that.
“Being out in nature was where it all started,” says Lara Beth Jones, an occupational therapist and certified forest therapy guide who leads “forest bathing” walks in the area.
And while it’s long been a destination for golf and equine enthusiasts, Pinehurst and its environs have so much more to offer those looking to get away, whether for a few hours or a few days. From walks in the woods to luxurious spa treatments to fine locavore dining, you’ll find what you need to rest and recharge — and you won’t need a caddie for your journey.
In the Village of Pinehurst, the original Pinehurst Resort offers six different lodging options, from a grand Southern hotel to villas. But look farther afield, and you’ll find a diverse selection of accommodations to suit practically any taste and budget. The Old Church in the Heart of Pinehurst Village, built in 1919, was a place of worship for the Catholics of Pinehurst for decades, but it’s now a place for rest and relaxation: The church has been converted into a five-bedroom rental residence complete with a home theater system, a pool table, and custom furniture from area craftsmen.
Just outside downtown Southern Pines is Duncraig Manor and Gardens, a Tudor-style home built in the 1920s by the chairman of the Quaker Oats Company as a vacation home for his family. Completely restored to its early 20th-century splendor, the house is now an inn and events space, playing host to weddings and parties in the expansive gardens.
For quieter surroundings, head north to the town of Carthage to the Old Buggy Inn, a renovated Victorian with four intimate guest rooms and a large wrap-around porch, perfect for sipping your morning coffee. Or if being in town is just not your thing, visit Tanglewood Farm Bed and Breakfast, a working equestrian farm and inn. Watch horse riders train, visit with the farm’s resident chickens, and partake in sumptuous weekend breakfasts — then hike it off with a walk around the farm.
Of course, Pinehurst is the ultimate golfing destination. But the area offers many other ways to unwind, none of which involve a golf cart. If you’re at the resort, try a soothing treatment at its renowned spa, which offers massage therapies, facials, and laps in their saline pool. The Donna Lane Spa in Southern Pines has been voted the best in Moore County and features laser treatments and light treatments for the face and body. After that, it’s time to get outside.
First, take a walk in the woods — or a forest bath, if you will — with Lara Beth Jones. “Being outside offers so many therapeutic benefits,” she says of her sessions, which are held monthly. “Forest bathing is really about bathing our senses in the forest environment. You’re bathing in the air and the atmosphere.”
The sessions offer guided mindfulness meditation techniques — a chance to sit in nature and contemplate the quiet. “It’s a way to unplug and really foster a connection with the longleaf pine and Sandhills ecosystems,” Jones says. Contact her for a private session or reach out to the Village of Pinehurst or the Town of Southern Pines for more information on their public sessions.
From state Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green to the late Randall Kenan to, of course, Thomas Wolfe, great writers have always called North Carolina home. Many of them — Green, Kenan, and Wolfe included — have been inducted into the state’s Literary Hall of Fame, housed at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities in Southern Pines. The formal gardens and longleaf pine forest are open for walks, and the hall of fame, located inside the Boyd House, is open Monday through Friday.
By now, you might be hungry. Luckily, you’ll find a tight-knit restaurant community with a diverse offering of cuisine.
At Ashten’s in Southern Pines, which opened its doors 26 years ago, the dishes are based on locally sourced wares. “Our food isn’t going very far — our farmers are bringing it to us,” says owner Ashley Van Camp says. A four-course chef’s tasting menu is now offered on Fridays and Saturdays, with optional wine pairings sourced from organic or sustainable vineyards. “You just sit down and there’s a beautiful, thoughtful, creative meal that’s all North Carolina.”
Also downtown is Chef Warren’s, a French-inspired bistro with a select menu that changes frequently. Take a seat at the bar and watch your meal being made through the open kitchen. Be sure to order Chef Warren Lewis’s pecan pie, a house specialty.
If you’re in Pinehurst, make a reservation at Elliotts on Linden, where the menu relies on local ingredients, including goat cheese from Paradox Farms. Inventive dishes currently on offer include duck egg poutine and lamb ragu pappardelle pasta. If you’re looking for lunch, stop in next door at Elliotts Provision Company for sandwiches, salads, and other takeaway items.
And for a truly original meal, stop by the Weymouth Center in the spring for their yearly Sunday Jazz Brunch.