By Cele & Lynn Seldon
Although many know Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen as the “Home of American Golf” for good reason, the village of Pinehurst was actually founded in 1895 as a winter health and wellness retreat. That’s when Bostonian philanthropist James Walker Tufts bought almost 6,000 acres of land in the Sandhills of North Carolina, envisioning a Mecca for middle-class Americans suffering from respiratory illnesses and other ailments.
Tufts correctly believed that the area’s sparkling clear water, abundant sunshine and oxygen-producing pine trees were recuperative and restorative for many maladies of the day. That vision became Pinehurst and spawned a focus on health and wellbeing.
This concept of “wellness” is alive and well today, with outdoor and natural activities and experiences that would make Tufts proud to know his legacy lives on. The Sandhills region is a hotbed of hiking and biking, yoga, body wellness, farm-to-fork dining and more, thanks to a wide variety of preserves, trails, parks, gardens, spas, studios, restaurants and other healthy offerings.
Stretch your legs and breath in the fresh pine air at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, a 900-acre state park filled with sandy ridges and longleaf pine forests and eight varied trails ranging from just .10 miles to 2.6 miles. Learn about the ecology of the Sandhills and be rewarded with indigenous birding and wildlife viewing while immersing yourself in the natural environment.
For a bit more of a physical challenge, the All-American Trail is a rugged, yet simple, 10- to 15-foot-wide unpaved trail that runs 21 miles along the southern border of Fort Bragg. With four trailheads throughout Moore County, it’s easy to access the trail for hiking, running, biking and birding (the trail is a designated site on the North Carolina Birding Trail) on flat to hilly terrain.
The region also plays host to dozens of other places to catch your breath while walking, hiking and biking including: a two-mile lake trail at Aberdeen Lake Park; four miles of hard-packed gravel and sand trails at Nick’s Creek Trail; six meandering miles through Pinehurst and its historic business district on the Pinehurst Greenway; miles of paved walking and biking trails, as well as a 33-acre arboretum, at Rassie Wicker Park; wooded path frisbee golf at Reservoir Park; and more than 11 miles of walking and biking trails in and around town on the Southern Pines Greenway.
For a dose of history with your exercise, pick up a copy of the Village of Pinehurst’s Historic Walking Tour and see historic homes and properties along four different walking trails that bring Pinehurst’s illustrious past to life. If you prefer to stop and smell the roses, head to Sandhills Horticultural Gardens. Featuring a holly garden (with the largest collection of hollies on the East Coast), rose garden, conifer garden, fruit and vegetable garden, Japanese garden, native wetland trail garden and more covering over 30 acres, it’s a beautiful way to rack up your 10,000 steps.
But wellness isn’t just about exercise. It’s also about your overall physical, mental and emotional health. And the communities of Pinehurst, Southern Pines and Aberdeen cater to those fundamentals as well.
Get in touch with your spiritual side with Nature & Forest Therapy. Led by a certified nature and forest therapy guide, “forest bathing” connects participants’ senses to the richness of the natural world in various locations throughout the area, including the Boyd Tract of Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve, the bamboo forest of Campbell Park and the Village of Pinehurst Arboretum. Helping to improve health conditions and eliciting a greater sense of relaxation and mental clarity, nature and forest therapy can be a remedy for the stresses and anxieties of everyday life during these uncertain times. View the Explore Moore Forest Bathing video.
Another unique way to de-stress in the Sandhills is Halotherapy — also known as salt therapy — at Southern Salt Room. Offered since the 12th century in Europe, and more recently in the United States, salt therapy involves breathing in air laden with tiny salt particles that travel deep into the respiratory system to help improve breathing. Halotherapy is a holistic treatment for a host of respiratory conditions, as well as an antidote to a variety of skin conditions.
Southern Salt Room in downtown Southern Pines features three spa-like salt rooms, as well as relaxing infrared saunas to enjoy prior to your salt treatment. They also host a Kombucha bar — a fermented beverage known for its gut and liver health benefits — with a variety of craft Kombucha flavors on tap for pre- or post-therapy hydration.
Other holistic wellness options can be found at Thyrve Wellness Center, including whole body cryotherapy for pain management and regulating metabolism, muscle relaxing sensory deprivation float tanks, deep tissue relief with full spectrum infrared saunas, immune-boosting IV Therapy from the folks at Infuzen IV Hydration Pro, and massage therapies.
And, of course, there is the ultimate wellness program at the Pinehurst Spa. Opened in 2002 and a natural addition to the health resort amenities that Tufts envisioned, many of which remain today, the Pinehurst Spa contributes to health and well-being with 31,000 square feet of massage therapies, facials, body scrubs and wraps, nail care, maternity wellness, and men-only offerings. Many of the signature treatments incorporate the scents of the region — holly berry, peach, magnolia and pine — and spa packages also include use of their saline lap pool, saunas, eucalyptus steam rooms, whirlpools and tranquility areas to help soothe the mind, body and soul.
Sustaining wellness through diet is as important as through exercise and physical health. And there is no shortage of healthy farm-to-table dining options in the Sandhills. The Moore County Farmer’s Market is a great place to start for local and fresh produce (there are typically more than a dozen produce vendors), herbs, meats (be sure to try some of the ostrich from Misty Morning Ranch), dairy and eggs, honey, baked goods and flowers. The market runs year-round on Thursdays and on Saturdays from spring to fall.
For a healthful Mediterranean diet, many recipes start with olive oil. More than 40 olive oils, along with varied flavors and balsamic vinegars, can be found at the Pinehurst Olive Oil Co. Owned and operated by food and cooking enthusiasts, they can help curate appropriate oils and vinegars, as well as recipes, for healthy eating.
If dining out is another step on the path to wellness in the area, the Sandhills region has plenty of restaurants that focus on farm-to-fork dining, including Ashten’s, Elliott’s on Linden, Chef Warren’s and Scott’s Table. However, for an even deeper dive into purposeful dining, Rooted Café & Market in downtown Southern Pines is a great place to head. Co-owned by a nurse practitioner and registered yoga teacher, and with a goal of sourcing the highest quality food directly from the earth, this plant-based café nourishes the soul with food that is as delicious to eat as it is artistry on the plate. Serving from morning until night, expect to find toasts, bowls, veggie and fruit platters, wraps, elixirs, juices, smoothies and so much more. They also have plenty of “grab ’n go” options, as well as wellness nutrition books, cookbooks and healthy cooking utensils and tools.
To make it even easier to achieve a total sense of zen, Rooted Café & Market is situated in the same building as Hot Asana Yoga studios, where they offer a diverse lineup of classes for all experience levels, as well as al fresco yoga on their rooftop when weather permits. They also have a fitness boutique with lots of fitness and yoga gear.
Other plant-based dining can be found at local franchise operations of Clean Juice and Clean Eatz. Along with so many other options, they’re both great places to pursue wellness in the Pines.
Read more about all of the Farm-to-Table Fare in the Sandhills by Cele & Lynn Seldon
Cele and Lynn Seldon make up the team that is Seldon Ink, and they have spent more than 30 years covering all aspects of travel. With a keen focus on the Southeast and a particular love of the Carolinas, they have written dozens of magazine and newspaper articles about the area, as well as their best-selling book 100 Things to Do in Charleston Before You Die (Reedy Press) and have become experts along the way. Follow along on their adventures at www.seldonink.com or @seldonink.