It’s not often that a kid’s birthday party will change your life. But for Monica Olsen, who hosted her son’s fourth fête at Serenbe, a wellness community 32 miles from her then-home in Atlanta, it was a transformative experience. “We had a pony party at the gorgeous stables which were designed by architect Peter Block and it was this magical day,” she recalls. “We thought, ‘Maybe we should just stop at the real estate office while we’re here…’ They pointed out a house, we bought it and basically never left!”
Founded in 2005, Serenbe is tailor- made to help residents live their best lives. It’s outfitted with a new 3,000-square- foot spa, yoga studio, swim club, artist in residence program, lush hiking trails and many more wellness-geared elements that make it idyllic to say the least. And, it’s gaining traction: The community had around 100 residents when Olsen purchased her home in 2009, and boasts 1,000 today. All properties there—including townhouses, cottages and estates, most of which look more like they’re in Scandinavia than Georgia— are EarthCraft certified. (Translation: they’re energy and water efficient, saving 30 percent of the energy costs of a typical home.)
And Serenbe is not the only Southern community that epitomizes the notion that health is wealth. “Agrihood”—planned developments that mingle sustainably- built real estate and farm-to-your-own- table amenities—is booming. Just miles from downtown Asheville, North Carolina, 346-acre community Olivette Riverside Community & Farm sits perched along the French Broad River and features a four-acre organic farm. Every home here is required to use a geothermal heating and cooling system, which comes with a hidden perk in the sweltering Southern summers: no HVAC noise buzzing. Broker and owner Allison Smith notes, “Pandemic migration has taken property sales through the roof as major lifestyle changes allow people to now work from anywhere.” Meanwhile, at Tennessee’s 5,200-acre hotel and residence Blackberry Mountain, sister property to the iconic Blackberry Farm, the lucky few private homeowners on premises have access to wellness offerings that range from sound bathing to an aerial yoga platform. And yes—the untrammeled wilderness is a huge part of the allure too.
Only 20 miles from Charleston is the new Kiawah River, where half of the 2,000-acre waterfront community will remain entirely wild and untouched. Protecting the natural world here is vitally important to this agrihood, which includes The Goatery—a farm dedicatedto artisanal goat milk products—beehives and pasture-raised cattle as well as myriad farms for produce. Residents can also enjoy maritime forest trails where everything from bald eagle pairings to migrating monarch butterflies are frequently spotted. “We love the community and people,” Kiawah River homeowner Megan Hendricks says. “But most of all, we love the wildlife we get to see every day while walking on the paths by the river.”
Olivette Riverside Community & Farm near Asheville, North Carolina, features an abundance of walking trails. (Photo Courtesy: Olivette Riverside Community & Farm)