The historic Sandhills region of North Carolina is widely known for many things, including its world-class golf and other majestic outdoor spaces, equestrian offerings, pottery and more. Despite the area’s history, however, there may be a few surprising elements still to be uncovered around Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen. Here are a few of our favorite suggestions and recommendations for your fact-finding mission:
1. NC's Oldest Longleaf Pine
North Carolina’s oldest longleaf pine can be found at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve. In addition, the red-cockaded woodpecker, which became an endangered species in 1970, is a native of the longleaf pine forest at this popular Sandhills state park, which covers more than 900 acres. James Creek, which bisects the preserve, is home to the rare mud sunfish and the sandhills chub, a fish native only to the Sandhills region. Finally, the fox squirrels found in the preserve are the state’s largest squirrels.
2. Tufts Archives
The magnificent Tufts Archives in Pinehurst includes the only collection in the world of a pin flag from every Donald Ross-designed golf course. Putting that in perspective, Ross is credited with designing more than 400 layouts around the globe.
3. Dornoch Cottage
Speaking of Donald Ross, you can view the “Architect Extraordinaire’s” longtime homestead, Dornoch Cottage — named after Ross’ hometown in Scotland. Although you cannot tour his former home, which Ross himself designed, you can see Dornoch Cottage from the third hole of Pinehurst No. 2 and from Midland Road. Architect Gil Hanse and his wife lived in Dornoch Cottage, when Hanse was building The Cradle for the resort and renovating Pinehurst No. 4.
4. Donald Ross, Golfer
Oh, and one other note about Donald Ross. Not surprisingly, he was also an outstanding golfer, having captured a trio of North & South Amateur Championships (1903, 1905 & 1906). The North & South Men’s Amateur Championship is the longest consecutive-running amateur golf championship in the United States.
There is an Ostrich Farm right here in the Sandhills. Misty Morning Ranch is a 60-acre, family owned operation in Robbins. The Ostrich meat produced on the ranch is a red meat that is low in fat and can be used in any traditional red meat recipes to produce great tasting dishes. Even though Ostrich meat tastes like beef, the Ostrich does not have fat marbling in the meat like beef. The ranch also produces Ostrich leather goods like wallets and belts, along with cosmetics and raw pet food.
6. Blessing of the Hounds
The “Blessing of the Hounds” in Southern Pines is one of the most unforgettable ceremonies you will ever witness. In a ritual originated by famed author James Boyd in 1913, hunters and foxhounds take to the pine woods each Thanksgiving Day morning to begin fox hunting season (though the foxes are not actually harmed). An Anglican priest gets things started by blessing the hunt.
7. Carolinas Hall of Fame
The Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame is located in Southern Pines. Founded in 1981 under the care of the Carolinas Golf Association, this Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have contributed to the game of golf and have a connection to the Carolinas. The plaques commemorating all of the inductees are housed in the convention hall of the Carolina Hotel at the Pinehurst Resort.
8. Taxidermy Museum
There is a Taxidermy Museum in downtown Southern Pines. This quirky museum’s full name is the Taxidermy Hall of Fame of North Carolina, Creation Museum, and Antique Tool Museum. It is located in the Christian Book Store, on Broad Street, and showcases everything from taxidermy to antique tools and sports memorabilia. On exhibition is every kind of taxidermied North Carolina wildlife (within the law), state and national taxidermy ribbon winners and the oldest rock on earth. As a bonus, the book store sells homemade fudge!
9. Aloha Safari Zoo
The Aloha Safari Zoo (also pictured in the header image) in Cameron is a family run zoo featuring a wide array of animals, most of which have been rescued. The zoo’s mission is to create a loving home for unwanted, mistreated, and injured animals. One of their animals’ favorite enrichment activities is painting – using non-toxic, water-based tempera paint, of course. You can see and feed Titus the giraffe and animals such as bison, zebra, ostriches, antelope, donkeys, llamas, water buffalo, camels — and even some animals you’ve never heard of!
10. Native Pollinator Garden
There is a Native Pollinator Garden at the Village Arboretum. This project of the Village Heritage Foundation showcases a variety of native plants and grasses, with something blooming during the spring, summer and fall months that attract all kinds of “pollinators,” from butterflies and moths to bees and birds. The garden plays a vital ecological role in support of pollinator populations, which have been in decline due to loss of habitat and overuse of pesticides and herbicides.