A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

    What We Love About Moore County Near the heart of our state, along the northern perimeter of the Sandhills, Moore County is known by most North Carolinians for

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

    What We Love About Moore County Near the heart of our state, along the northern perimeter of the Sandhills, Moore County is known by most North Carolinians for

Your Guide to Moore County



What We Love About Moore County

Near the heart of our state, along the northern perimeter of the Sandhills, Moore County is known by most North Carolinians for Pinehurst’s golf courses. But people who’ve spent time here contend Moore County’s hidden secret lies in the undeniable sense of place they feel throughout its smaller towns. Like in Carthage, which was home to a booming industry in the late 1800s and into the 20th century thanks to the Tyson & Jones Buggy Factory. Today, the county seat’s annual Carthage Buggy Festival celebrates that rich history each spring. Or in Seagrove, where potters share their talents from a treasure trove of galleries and studios tucked along “Pottery Highway,” also known as NC Highway 705. In Aberdeen, the Union Station Railroad Museum commemorates an era pivotal to the town’s development into a major center of commerce during the late 1800s. This collection of small towns connected by picturesque country roads offers an irresistible slice of small-town America. Here’s your guide for savoring it.


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Where to Explore the Outdoors

Aberdeen Lake Park: At this serene park, enjoy views of Pages Lake as you walk or run along Cedar Trail, a 1.5-mile gravel loop. The red, train-themed playground’s monkey bars and swings attract the younger set, and the lakeside gazebo makes a great photo spot. You can also take in a family film at town-sponsored movie nights.

Bear Creek Trail System: In Robbins, more than six miles of narrow footpaths, wide gravel walks, and paved stretches wind through shaded woodlands and slope down to Bear and Cabin creeks, meandering through a striking stand of bamboo, past a reservoir, and over train tracks. Mountain bikes zip over trails, kayaks glide down Bear Creek from boat accesses, and flying discs clang into baskets on an 18-hole disc-golf course.

Take a peaceful walk around Pages Lake at Aberdeen Lake Park. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

Digital Mural Trail: Wander through downtown Carthage to view the new Digital Mural Trail, with five scenes that harken back to earlier times, depicting the people, places, and events significant to the town’s past. A bronze-plated plaque mounted on each mural displays a QR code that links to short online videos. Just a scan of a smartphone provides depth and historical context to the images on the trail. Two of these painted panoramas include hidden pictures to find within them.




Where to Shop

Eloise Trading Company: Bright green doors invite shoppers inside this Aberdeen shop to peruse custom furniture, gifts, and home goods. Housed within the old Aberdeen Hardware Store, built in 1912, the store’s original built-in shelves hold an assortment of decor, from bold and vibrant to elegant and timeless. Browse throw pillows, vases, planters, local artwork, trays, and candles to find the finishing touches for your home.

Shop for gifts and furniture at Love You More – Home Decor (left), and for a great bottle of wine at The Watering Can. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

The Tyson Sinclair: Built as a home for T.B. Tyson of the Tyson and Jones Buggy Company, The Tyson Sinclair building’s storefront façade was added later, hiding the building’s original character. Enter the shops along McReynolds Street in Carthage, where remnants of the mansion’s glory days shine through. Within the unique, historic galleria you’ll notice ornate fireplaces, columns, and arched doorways while browsing gifts, refurbished furniture, and holiday decor at Love You More – Home Decor. You’ll see more touches of the original home among the yarn and needlepoint supplies at Creative Fibers Carthage. Other locally owned gems here include The Market 107 offering gifts and vintage finds, Practical POSH, where you’ll find gently used and new home furnishings, art, and gifts, and The Watering Can, a boutique wine and gift basket shop.

Lisa’s Boutique: For distinctive women’s clothing and accessories with personalized service, visit Lisa’s in Carthage. Select an ensemble that suits your taste and lifestyle from this shop’s fun and fashionable selection. Swingy dresses, flowy dress tops, and casual denim line the store’s walls, and a bevy of drapey scarves, wraps, and vests are available to add pizzazz to any outfit.



Where to Find World-Class Pottery

North Carolina Pottery Center: For more than 250 years, the Seagrove area has been the country’s epicenter for pottery, with the largest concentration of working potters in the United States. Early Native Americans began forming the area’s abundant natural clay into everyday and ceremonial items. Later, European immigrants sold pottery they created to supplement farm incomes. To learn more about this rich tradition, visit the North Carolina Pottery Center.

Local Studios: Today, more than 50 shops and studios can be found in Seagrove and in the surrounding countryside. Some potters here, like Ben Owen, carry on a generations-old family tradition. Others, like Anne Pärtna and Adam Landman of Blue Hen Pottery, found their way to the community of potters from other places.

Inside Crystal King Pottery, ceramic creatures, like zebras and hippos, mingle among vases and bowls. The child of Seagrove-area potters, Crystal grew up creating with clay, developing unique hand-building and colorful glazing techniques. By the time she reached high school, Crystal had landed on the radar of folk-art collectors.

From playful animal sculptures and jars made from wild North Carolina clay at Johnston & Gentithes Studios to the face jugs and utilitarian stoneware at Luck’s Ware, take a self-guided driving tour of the area to see the varied pottery styles — including functional, sculptural, contemporary, traditional, and folk art.

Starworks: This gallery, a creative work community within an old sock factory and schoolhouse, sells the works of more than 100 ceramic and glass artists, many of whom were artists in residence at one time. For a glimpse of artist demonstrations, plan to attend a monthly “Hot Glass Cold Beer” evening or the annual Firefest event. You can also take glass or metal fabrication classes to hone your skills. At Starworks’ Café and Taproom, you can sip an oat milk latte or quench your thirst with a Malty by Nature ale from Southern Pines Brewing Company. And check out the café’s live music and artist talks.




Where to Eat

Mason’s Restaurant & Grocery: For a tasty, modern Southern breakfast, lunch, or weekend brunch, you’ll feel right at home at Mason’s in Aberdeen. Take time to munch on made-from-scratch biscuits smothered with sausage gravy, or savor a juicy smash burger while seated on the comfy yellow banquette. Be sure to add one of their inventive cocktails to your order. For a tasty memento, select some homemade pickles from the market.

Pizzeria Grazia: Right next door to Mason’s, Grazia makes wood-fired pizzas, salads, and paninis. After fermenting the dough for 24 hours, the pizzas emerge from the oven with a slight char, true to Neapolitan tradition. Dig into the restaurant’s spicy Diavola pizza or the Lil’ Anthony smoked ham and provolone paninis for a tasty and satisfying meal.

Try a wood-fired pizza at Pizzeria Grazia and a mac ’n’ cheese bowl at The Workshop Tavern. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

The Workshop Tavern: Located within the old Aberdeen Hotel Annex, this tavern specializes in macaroni and cheese and sandwiches with ingredients prepared daily, like slow-roasted pulled pork. Enjoy a Bourbon Bee cocktail — with plum bitters, lemon juice, honey, and herbal liqueur — in the amber glow of the whiskey bottles lined up behind the bar. Or slide into a table and dig into a cheesy bowl of mac piled with chicken and topped with pickled jalapeños and hot sauce.

Pik-N-Pig: In 2023, this beloved Carthage barbecue restaurant re-opened nearly two years after it burned down in a devastating fire. Out on the large, covered patio facing the Gilliam-McConnell Airfield, you can watch small aircraft land as you savor their barbecue, ribs, and award-winning smoked chicken. Regulars recommend the BBQ Sundae, a jar layered with baked beans, barbecue, and slaw, garnished with hush puppies. Pik-N-Pig originally created this savory concoction to serve at the North Carolina State Fair.

Enjoy classic ’cue at Pik-N-Pig and a warming lunch at The Soup Company. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

Limitless Meal Supply: Stop into Limitless in Carthage for a coffee or kombucha and baked goodies. You can choose from a selection of snacks, like Monster Cookie power bites and chocolate cheesecake overnight oats. While you’re there, peek into the grab-and-go fridge to find meals like blueberry vanilla waffles, or balsamic glazed pork chops with rainbow chard and mashed potatoes to take with you.

The Soup Company: Visit this cozy, family-owned restaurant in Carthage’s Marion Building for a fabulous lunch of soup, salad, and sandwiches. Tomato bisque and red pepper soup make frequent appearances on the menu, while specials include the tropical chicken salad served on a wedge of pineapple.

Indulge in a sweet post-meal treat at The Bakehouse. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

Cagle’s Diner: The mouthwatering cheeseburgers at this diner draw folks from near and far, but this is more than a burger joint. During weekly Fish Fry Fridays, plates are piled with fish, baked potatoes, slaw, and hush puppies. Daily specials include homey favorites like chicken and dumplings, vegetable beef soup, or hamburger steak with mashed potatoes and gravy.

The Bakehouse: This sixth-generation family bakery in Aberdeen serves breakfast and lunch in addition to artisan bread, croissants, cupcakes, and other confections. True to its slogan “Where European tradition meets Southern charm,” the café serves Barcelona burgers and fried flounder sandwiches in addition to salads, omelets, and quiches.




Where to Sip & Snack

Buggy Town Coffee: This spot in Carthage roasts its coffee in-house before brewing it for lattes, café au lait, and other specialty drinks. While you enjoy a cup of joe, your little ones can play at the child-size coffee counter and keep track of orders on the chalkboard. If you’re hungry, order a French toast panini with raspberry cream, or a bacon, egg, and cheese melt on sourdough.

Kitten Around Cat Lounge: Come for the locally roasted coffee, stay for the cats at this Carthage café. Complement your steaming cup of java with a fudgy brownie from G. Charles Bakery in Aberdeen. While you’re there, watch through the playroom window as resident cats, like Taco the grey tabby, pounce and play. And, although reservations aren’t required to visit with the kitties in the cat room, they do eliminate waits during busy times.

Get your caffeine — and dessert — fix at Buggy Town Coffee. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

Wishflower Lane: Satisfy your sweet tooth at this ice cream shop on Courthouse Square in Carthage. In addition to cones stacked with scoops like chocolate Reese’s ice cream, the shop sells “flavor burst soft serve” — creamy vanilla ice cream striped with colorful flavors, like pineapple delight. Check out the shelf with Zagnut bars, candy necklaces, and other throwback candies, as well as the selection of handmade goods, like purses from Salty Frog Studio.

High Octane: The bold orange sign on this 1930s Pure gas station contrasts with the building’s sherbet green exterior, promising something a little different inside. This coffee shop hosts events like its summer Fourth Friday Markets showcasing artists, artisans, and local produce. Some days, the open garage door reveals bright yellow tables surrounded by coffee drinkers listening as songwriters such as Faith Bardill sing and strum. And every day, you can stop by for a specialty drink, like the South & Sycamore latte, flavored with a combination of decadent chocolate, caramel, and peanut butter.

Railhouse Brewery: The spirit of military service shines through at this veteran-owned brewery in Aberdeen. An American flag hangs from the ceiling, a memorial plaque displays the names of service members, and emblems of military branches decorate the bar. Old Glory adorns the bottle caps, and the brewery’s beer names also reflect this theme. For example, the seasonal Knights Golden Ale is a nod to the Army’s Golden Knights parachute team.



Where to Stay

Solomon’s Inn: This new inn, located on Middleton Street in Robbins, lies within the town’s small business district. Enter through the storefront side of the circa-1940s building where deep shop windows create a sunny sitting space. Get a restful night’s sleep during your stay in Moore County in the freshly renovated rooms. You can walk a few doors down from the unique three-room inn to both a locally owned coffee shop and a bakery. And renowned Seagrove pottery shops are a short drive up the road.

Solomon’s Inn is located inside a 1940s-era shop building. Photography courtesy of Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area CVB

Old Buggy Inn: Within the former home of W.T. Jones, president of the Tyson and Jones Buggy Company, the ornate entryway to the Old Buggy Inn welcomes you to a relaxing getaway. Antique furnishings in the restored white Victorian date to the 1880s, when the home was built as a gift for Jones’s wife. Elegant touches add to your visit — white wicker furniture among the ferns on the large porch, a full breakfast served in the dining room each morning, and a gazebo to visit during strolls in the garden.




Explore More in Moore County

A First Timers’ Guide to Pinehurst & Southern Pines

A Triangle couple explores the Sandhills for the first time — and shares their itinerary for a perfect spring getaway.

Beyond Pinehurst: Your Guide to Exploring Moore County

In four small towns in the Sandhills, you’ll find that history and artistry have deep roots in the Carolina clay. Discover one-of-a-kind pottery, murals, artwork, and antiques — and some delicious spots to fuel up in between stops.

3 Perfect Days in the Sandhills

There’s much more to charming Pinehurst and Southern Pines than just hitting the greens. Here’s where to stay, what to do, and where to eat on a relaxing weekend getaway.



This story was published on Aug 10, 2023

Lara Ivanitch

Lara Ivanitch is a freelance writer who resides in Raleigh.