In 1895, Boston philanthropist James Walker Tufts purchased 600 acres in central North Carolina to build a “health resort.” Tufts wanted to create a place that people of all means could afford to visit. The “pasture” — as some called it — was centrally located for access to the major North Carolina cities of Charlotte, Raleigh-Durham, Greensboro, and Wilmington. The premier features of Tufts’s health resort included riding, hunting, polo, lawn bowling, tennis, bicycling, and archery, and many remain so today.
If you’ve heard of Pinehurst, North Carolina, chances are golf was associated with it. In the Sandhills region, there are over 42 golf courses with 11 courses in Pinehurst alone. The first three courses were designed between 1901 and 1910 by the legendary Ronald Ross, champion golfer and famed golf architect of the most-famous Pinehurst course — No 2.
While most people think of Pinehurst being an iconic golf destination, there is so much more to see and do in Moore County. The area is also known for horses and hounds. In the early 20th century, the first hound club was established. Equestrian events, including hunts, Harness Track Racing, and hound shows, are still held today. Pinehurst is also known for a world-class Spa, antiquing, hiking, biking, and walking, plus fantastic restaurants, wine bars, and breweries.
1. Stay At Historic Resort Hotels
The history of Pinehurst Village and its resort hotels is intriguing. The hotels are beautiful and immaculately restored. Each hotel has a fine restaurant and bar. Even if you don’t have the pleasure of staying in one of these establishments, they are all worth exploring.
The Holly Inn
The Holly Inn (c.1895) is Mr. Tufts’s first resort hotel. Located in the center of the village, The Holly Inn was the beginning of a dream and what is known today as “The Home of American Golf.”
The Magnolia Inn
The Magnolia Inn (c.1896) was once a five-story hotel, but as the story goes, it was blocking Mr. Tufts’s view from the Holly Inn, so they cut off the top floors. Inside still lays the staircase to nowhere. The onsite Villaggio Ristorante & Bar is an option for dining.
The Carolina Hotel
The majestic, century-old Carolina Hotel (c.1901), with its signature copper cupola and sweeping verandas, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time to an era when elegance defined grand hotels and resorts. Dubbed the “Queen of the South,” The Carolina is the largest Pinehurst resort.
Note: Due in part to the June 2024 U.S. Open held in Pinehurst, the Carolina Hotel is undergoing renovation (as of this writing). Although we did not stay here, we thoroughly enjoyed the newly renovated lobby, coffee shop, and Ryder Cup Lounge.
The Manor Inn
The Manor Inn (c.1923) has been elegantly transformed yet keeps its historic and charming feel. The North & South Bar serves a wide selection of whiskeys, cocktails, wine, and craft beer.
2. Carriage Rides
A carriage ride with Frank and Shiloh (his horse) is the best and most fun way to explore the winding streets of Pinehurst Village and learn about the historic homes and buildings that line them. Did you know that Annie Oakley lived in Pinehurst?
The village was created with all the feels of a New England-style village complete with winding paths that encourage exploration. Carriage rides are available by appointment by calling Carriage Tours of Pinehurst Village, Inc. Brochures are available at the Resort Services desk.
3. The Tufts Archives At Given Memorial Library
The Tufts Archives are located within the Given Memorial Library across from The Holly Inn. The expansive back room of the library displays the rich heritage and history of Pinehurst and how it became what it is today. On exhibit are original maps of Donald Ross’s courses, historic photos, antique golf clubs, and various other artifacts. Visitors will also find James Tufts’s marble and silver 19th-century soda fountain machine.
4. Shop In The Village
Housed in the historic, century-old brick buildings of the village are many eclectic and unique shops all within walking distance of each other. The Purple Thistle Kitchen & Co. was our first stop for gifts and souvenirs. Across the street, we enjoyed perusing The Pinehurst Olive Oil Co. Our favorite stop was Old Sport & Gallery which occupies the historical Harvard Hotel Building founded in 1898. Old Sport is one of the largest stores in the world specializing in golf art.
5. Eat And Drink In “The Home Of American Golf”
Besides the restaurants associated with the aforementioned resorts, there are quite a few wonderful establishments around Pinehurst to eat, drink, and have a good time. Some top spots include the “Authentic American Tavern,” The Drum & Quill; Dugan’s Pub, casual Italian in the Theater building; Lisi Italian; The Village Deli; and one of our favorite stops, Pinehurst Brewing Company, housed in the historic 1895 steam plant.
6. Sandhills Horticultural Gardens
Located just 4 miles north of Pinehurst Village is Sandhills Horticultural Gardens. With 12 beautifully landscaped gardens covering 32 acres, there is sure to be something in bloom any time of year. What I especially enjoyed were the many whimsical bronze statues throughout the gardens. My favorites are the children playing ring-around-the-rosy and the little girl crossing a creek.
7. Explore Nearby Towns And Attractions
History buffs will enjoy walking the grounds of Old Bethesda Church and Cemetery. The classic white-steeple church has been in continual use since the 1700s. At the back of the cemetery across the street, there are remnants of the original church and headstones dating back to the 18th century.
The artist in you will enjoy visiting the Artists League of the Sandhills. The city of Aberdeen provided an old railroad storage terminal for studio space where artists gather, socialize, and work. There are also rooms for classes and workshops, a library, and two galleries for hosting shows. I’m not an artist but I loved the vibe of this place. I talked with local artists and I even found a few “pieces” that I liked.
A fun place with great coffee and morning treats is High Octane, housed in a brightly-colored gas station. The Workshop Tavern surprised us with great food, signature craft cocktails, and a nicely-stocked whiskey bar.
The Southern Pines Welcome Center is housed in the historic railroad station. A small museum inside the railroad station is worth the stop. Paying tribute to the area’s rich equestrian and horse history, painted ponies adorn sidewalks and street corners.
The charming, walkable downtown is filled with historic buildings and lots of local shops such as Against the Grain. The Christian Bookstore is filled with books of all kinds, fudge, gifts, puzzles, and lots of other things. Did I mention the larger-than-life suit of armor?
There are some delicious restaurants in Southern Pines, as well. We enjoyed Chapman’s Food & Spirits and the British-themed Sly Fox Gastropub. For a fun and casual vibe, try Red’s Corner Trucks & Taps.
The history of the old Boyd House, now Weymouth Center for the Arts and Humanities, is fascinating. The elegant 9,000-square-foot Georgian house is the former estate of author James Boyd and his wife, Katharine Lamont Boyd. It is currently part museum, part working writer’s workspace, and part NC Literary Hall of Fame honoring North Carolinian writers and poets.
Visitors can take a self-guided tour of the two-story mansion. See the dining room with its original Franklin stove, as well as the library, Boyd’s study — now the NC Literary Hall of Fame — and other rooms filled with historic memorabilia and artifacts from an era gone by.
The surrounding 26-acre grounds and gardens of the estate are open to the public for use as a natural preserve and park. Weymouth Center is host to many events throughout the year, including performing arts, dinner and wine nights, and equestrian events.
Once part of the 2,000-acre Boyd estate, Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve is 403 acres of long-leaf pine forest donated to the state by Katharine Boyd. Mrs. Boyd wanted the woods, that her own son used to play in, to be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Over 7 miles of easy-rated hiking and birding trails wind through the tall pines. At the visitor center, there is a knowledgeable staff to answer questions, a learning center, maps, scheduled activities, restrooms, and a small gift shop.
Note: While the trails are not fully accessible, the parking area, restrooms, and visitor center are ADA-accessible.
Carthage, Cameron, And Vass
Art lovers will find plenty to see and do in Moore County. Colorful wall murals are adorned all across the county in almost every town and village. Take a short drive from Pinehurst and spend the day along the “Mural Trail” through Vass, Cameron, and Carthage. Downtown Carthage alone has five fabulous murals all within walking distance of each other.
Historic downtown Cameron is known for its Antique District. Antique “festivals” are held throughout the year. The Old Hardware store, now a mega antique store, is filled with vintage treasures of all sorts.
While in Cameron, wet your whistle at James Creek Cider House, offering premium, harvest-based ciders from southern heirloom and cider apple varieties grown right in Moore County.
You can’t miss Dunrovin on Highway 1 in Vass. This smorgasbord country store is a one-of-a-kind shopping experience. Grab an ice cream and walk around back through the exotic animal sanctuary. It is open to the public with free parking.
Note: Plan to spend at least an hour or two at this unique stop.
Art Works Vass is a quaint storefront with a unique collection of many different local artisans’ works — pottery, glasswork, jewelry, paintings, etc. I loved this bright, cheerful shop. They also offer a variety of classes and workshops.
Have lunch or dinner at Homegrown. It’s where the locals all go. You’ll be glad you did.
As you can see, there is a variety of things to do and see in Pinehurst, North Carolina. If you do want to plan a golf trip, read about what you should know before planning a golf trip to Pinehurst.