The little towns of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen beckon those who seek a luxurious escape.
Folks have come to these posh North Carolina towns in pursuit of top-notch golf since the early 1900s. But time has only improved the beauty of these piney woods and the gently rolling terrain. Nowadays, the area appeals to a wider range of interests and pocketbooks.
Friday: Relax and Unwind
Drive up the approach road to The Carolina in Pinehurst, even if you're not staying here. Talk about a grand entrance: Towering 40-foot-high columns of trees stand at attention as you motor down the narrow lane leading to the cupola-capped inn, which dates back to 1901. It's easy to imagine yourself as a visiting dignitary (the British ambassador, perhaps?) as you pull up to the porte-cochère of this beautiful and classy but comfortable hotel.
Rooms are sold on package plans; rates start at $395 per person for three days and two nights and include breakfast and dinner. Special golf packages are also available. You would also spoil yourself by rooming at the smaller but equally elegant Holly Inn, which reopened in 1999 after major renovations. The package plans here start at $435; call 1-800-487-4653, or visit www.pinehurst.com for either facility, both of which are parts of Pinehurst Resort.
Now for dinner. A first-class resort area has to have first-class cuisine, and there's quite an array of choices to tempt the visitor. Tonight, go casual and enjoy the Mediterranean and Greek specialties at Theos Taverna, tucked into a little nook in downtown Pinehurst.
Saturday: Putter Around
You can't talk about Pinehurst and Southern Pines without mentioning golf--okay, without raving about the world-class golf. No player, no matter how highly handicapped or laden with winner's trophies, considers life complete until he or she has played Pinehurst, which may rival Wimbledon for instant name recognition. Just mention Pinehurst at any 19th hole in the world, and it's followed by a moment of silence--a golfer's genuflection. (Pinehurst is set to host The United States Open Championship in 2005, and Pine Needles Lodge & Golf Club in Southern Pines will host The United States Women's Open Championship in 2007.)
However, there's a whole lot to do here without ever hitting the links. In fact, it's safe to say that you could thoroughly enjoy yourself without setting foot on a single fairway (although many might consider that irreverent). Let's assume you plan on spending your weekend off the golf course.
The Village of Pinehurst looks as if it came straight out of a movie set. Brick sidewalks, sometimes digressing into sandy paths, lead past cozy shops and boutiques. (Someone else noticed how special this town is and bestowed upon it National Landmark status in 1996.) Favorite shops to browse include Pinehurst Provence (home furnishings and accessories) and Cabbages & Kings, an antiques and home-accessories shop in the old Aberdeen Hardware building. Each of the three towns--Pinehurst, Aberdeen, and Southern Pines--has its own personality, so you can't say you've done shopping justice by visiting just one.
Make Saturday night's dinner special at The Holly Inn's restaurant, The 1895 Room (jackets are requested for men). Slip into the Tavern, the inn's cozy little bar, for cocktails before or after dinner. Deep, dark wood paneling and soft lighting conjure up romantic atmospheres in both places.
The surrounding area holds plenty of historic, cultural, and natural treasures. The Seagrove area, known for outstanding ceramics, boasts more than 90 area potteries within a 15-mile radius. You can get a good sampling of their handiwork at the North Carolina Pottery Center, which spotlights local artists with changing exhibits and shows.
Visit the Pinehurst Harness Track, a beautiful 111-acre property consisting of a circa 1915 track, surrounded by lovely old barns and stables. Enjoy a trackside breakfast, and then take a free guided tour. Horseshows are held throughout the year.
If it's a nice day, saunter through the 32 acres of gorgeous flowers at Sandhills Horticultural Gardens. You'll see roses in bloom, patterned English gardens, and a native wetland trail at this outstanding botanical paradise. Or you could just indulge yourself at Pinehurst's new spa, which opened this spring.
So, you've got golf, horses, gardens, shops, pottery, history, fine dining, and comfort, all within a relatively small (about 35 miles or less) area. Just how do Pinehurst and friends pull it off? With panache, that's for sure.
For more information: Contact the Convention and Visitors Bureau for the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, and Aberdeen Area; call 1-800-346-5362, or visit www.homeofgolf.com.
This article is from the May 2002 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.