Carova is the northernmost Outer Banks community, and is only accessible by the unpaved beach. Although we call Carova a "town", a better description is that it is a few neighborhoods North of NC 12 in Corolla, accessable only by 4x4 vehicles.

Arguably the Outer Banks' last frontier, Carova is renowned for its miles of privacy, including clean white beaches, a scattering of rental homes, and wild mustangs that roam freely from the ocean to Carova's small residential neighborhoods. Carova's seclusion is easy to explain, as there are no paved roads leading to this vacation spot, just miles of sand tracks that border the Atlantic Ocean. Vacationers who love the beach and don't need all the extra fuss flock to the area in small crowds, soaking up private stretches of beaches, and enjoying the peace and quiet.

Carova from the air

Where to Stay in Carova

There are no hotels or motels in Carova. Visitors to Carova stay at vacation rental homes (4x4 access only, mind you). Homes are generally rented on a weekly basis, with last minute partials sometimes accepted, and are offered by a number of Outer Banks vacation rental management companies.

Carova vacation homes range from affordable 2-3 bedroom cottages with the basics, to huge mansions and 24-bedroom event homes perfect for weddings and family reunions. The latter properties are sprawling beach homes with private pools, hot tubs, game rooms, deluxe home theater rooms, and multiple dining areas, allowing everyone in a large group to find a little off-the-beach entertainment.

Because the number of properties in Carova is limited, and because Carova's reputation of being one of the last true deserted beach vacation destinations is one of the Outer Banks' worst kept secrets, vacation homes can go fast. It's generally recommended that you reserve your beach vacation home a few months to a year in advance to be sure you have your pick of the best selection.

Rental homes are occasionally visited by wild horses

Things to Do in Carova

Anyone up for a day at the beach? With 11 miles of secluded shoreline, it's safe to assume that a lot of your vacation time will be spent seaside.

Popular Carova beach activities include:

  • Lounge under an umbrella or canopy, catch up with friends and family
  • Sip a beverage and watch the kids play
  • Throw frisbees, play bocce ball
  • Wade, swim, surf and body board
  • Surf fish
  • Pick up seashells
  • Take a relaxing walk along the shore
  • Spot and photograph wild horses

The ocean temperature stays consistently warm throughout the summer months and into the fall season, so body boarding, surfing, stand up paddle boarding, and ocean kayaking are certainly worth a try during your beach vacation. Many vacationers keep their camera ready for wild horse sightings, and the Carova wild mustangs can often be seen wandering along the oceanfront. Take plenty of pictures, but be sure and keep your distance - these wild horses may look and act docile, but they are feral and can be spooked by approaching humans.

4x4 beach access to Carova's neighborhoods

On cloudy days, vacationers can easily take an excursion a few miles off the sand to Corolla and Duck and enjoy an afternoon of shopping, sightseeing at the Currituck Lighthouse and Whalehead Club, and an evening of dining and drinks before heading back home to Carova.

For Carova day-trippers without 4WD access, guided tours are available seasonally to ride along the beaches and look for wild mustangs. Seasonal Jeep tours and rentals are also available.

The Landscape

When NC Highway 12 ends, a ramp to the beach begins which runs parallel to the ocean and accesses the communities of Seagull, Penny's Hill, Swan Beach, North Swan Beach and Carova. The 11 mile stretch of shoreline is virtually deserted, except for passing 4WD trucks and families camped out on the shoreline.

Just past the high tide line, you'll start to see a scattering of oceanfront sandcastles peaking over the dune line adjacent to simple, sandy roads leading from the beach to small residential communities. Down these sandy lanes, you'll find a range of modern beach homes and sturdy beach boxes tucked in between dense clusters of Live Oaks, Pampas Grass and Cedars. This is the area's only form of civilization, as there are no grocery stores, shopping centers, gas stations, or commercial businesses of any kind - just small clusters of vacation homes.

A sunrise view where NC 12 ends and beach access begins

The population is generally seasonal, with a handful of hardy year-round residents thrown in, so it's not unusual to have a quiet neighborhood all to yourself during an off-season stay. Visitors who stay a week or more often spot a few wild horses during their stay, wandering through the neighborhood towards the beach, or grazing in their backyard. Most all communities are within walking distance to the beach, and with no busy roads to cross - just the sandy tracks for 4WD vehicles - accessing the beach is a breeze.

Not your typical suburban street

What to Know Before you Go

Because Carova is literally off the beaten path, it's important to stock up on your beach essentials before you check into your vacation home. Neighboring Corolla features several chain grocery stores for food and beach supplies, and there are even several grocery delivery services that cater to the 4WD areas for vacationers who want to truly relax.

You must have a 4WD vehicle to access Carova. There are no taxi services available. Before getting on the beach ramp, be sure to air down your tires to around 20 psi for optimal beach driving, and while driving stay on the "road," or the sand tracks that lead down the beach above the tide line. It's generally a good idea to bring along a shovel and several boards in case you get stuck, however there are several local towing companies that service the area and can assist in case of an emergency.

While it may seem that a Carova vacation is literally being stranded on a dessert island, remember that many of the modern vacation homes offer a world of amenities to keep vacationers in touch with civilization. Cable, Wi-Fi and internet access, heated pools, game rooms, and theater rooms are all available in a number of rental homes, and many vacation rental websites offer detailed searches so it's easy to find a rental home that fits your criteria.

Whether you decide to take a day trip for exploration purposes, or spend a week or two soaking in the quiet privacy, Carova is a vacation haven for die-hard beach lovers. Folks who truly want to get away from it all, and care more about soaking up the sun than the busier off-the-beach attractions of the Northern Outer Banks will consider Carova a paradise, complete with cool ocean breezes, good shelling, uncrowded beaches, and quiet, star-filled night skies. With so much privacy, it's no wonder that the Outer Banks wild mustangs have hung around these parts for hundreds of years.

A Little History

Currituck County, as well as the barrier island communities of Duck, Corolla and Carova that border the mainland, we all discovered and settled around the late 1660s. A very small community of local settlers and Spanish mustangs, supposed descendants of shipwrecks, laid claim to the area and lived in solitude for a couple of centuries. As the population gradually grew after the initial settlement, and borders became necessary, the people of Currituck and Virginia began a heated debate on where to draw the North Carolina / Virginia state line. In 1728, they settled on a veritable line in the sand just north of Carova, and the state border has remained ever since.

A pony grazes in a Carova neighborhood

Over the decades, the Currituck beach population grew at a snail's pace, with very few new residents moving to the area, but lifesaving stations at Wash Woods, Penny's Hill, Whale Head, Poyner Hill, and Seagull were developed to assist passing sailors. The famous Currituck Beach Lighthouse was also constructed in Corolla in 1875, further assisting ships off the Carolina coastline.

By the 1960s and 1970s, tourism was starting to heat up on the southern Outer Banks towns of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk, and developers began to realize that it wouldn't be long before family vacationers discovered the Currituck beaches as well. Up until that point, the only folks who traveled to these desolate beaches were the occasional adventurous fishermen or duck hunter, or members of the prestigious Whalehead Club in Corolla. With its Virginia border, it was assumed that eventually Carova and the northern beaches would be a vacation hot spot for Virginia and DC area city folks, and the population and development would explode.

More horses in Carova's neighborhoods

But by the time NC Highway 12 was completed all the way to Corolla in 1984, the government as well as private investors had already laid claim to much of the undeveloped land, forming refuges, parks and reserves, and a paved road through the area became impossible. A few homes were built, and continue to be developed for beach lovers, but it seems that Carova will always enjoy the distinction of being separate from the paved and popular southern towns of Corolla, Duck and Southern Shores, and worlds away from the traditional vacation.

Sundogs

Sundogs

Sundogs is a happening spot open year round in Corolla. Along with good food, they feature a nightlife that includes live music, karaoke and a DJ dance party. They have a full bar and a menu suited to a host of tastes. Starters include nachos, crab dip, wings and oysters on the half shell. Steamers include lobster, crawfish, crab legs, oysters, mussels and shrimp. Order up a shrimp basket or a fresh fish dish – grilled or fried. Sundogs is very proud of their hamburgers, and while they will top it with all the fixings, you don’t need a thing atop one of these babies to enjoy it.

Wanchese, NC

Wanchese, NC

Wanchese, located well off the beaten path of the typical Outer Banks beach towns, has a charm all its own with quiet residential side streets, local grocery stores and small dives that serve up the freshest seafood, and one of the busiest marinas on the islands. Wanchese has a long history of being a fishing village, and the residents take pride in that heritage. A brief tour of the town will present a collection of local homes and businesses with impeccable maritime gardens, and crab pots and painted wooden boats serving as coastal yard decor. While located miles away from the oceanfront, Wanchese can easily be considered as home to the true character of the Outer Banks. Salty, rustic, and scenic, a trip through Wanchese allows visitors to have an up-close-and-personal view of everyday Outer Banks life.

Kitty Hawk Kites

Kitty Hawk Kites

Experience more adventure, fun, and style with Kitty Hawk Kites. For over 40 years – and with locations from Corolla to Ocracoke – Kitty Hawk Kites is proud to provide the most unique shopping experience with unmatched quality and service, as well as the most dynamic adventure offerings on the Outer Banks.

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Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge

Explore Hatteras Island at its natural best with a visit to the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Covering 13 miles of Cape Hatteras National Seashore land, this attraction is hard to miss, although there aren't many giant signs, hotels or businesses to point the way. Instead, visitors will find a completely undeveloped parcel of land, that's well-stocked with gorgeous views and serene nature trails that are ideal for off-the-beaten path excursions.

Sandbars Raw Bar and Grill

Sandbars Raw Bar and Grill

Welcome to Sandbar’s Raw Bar & Grill! Sandbar’s is a new seafood restaurant conveniently located in the heart of Kill Devil Hills in the Dare Center (next to Food Lion).
Sandbars offers a fantastic selection of fresh shrimp, oysters, clams & combo plates as well as burgers and steaks, sandwiches, chicken, salads and more for both lunch and dinner.Visit our website to view our menus…http://sandbarsobx.com.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund

Corolla Wild Horse Fund

We are the nonprofit charity that is responsible for the care and protection of the wild horses. Do you want to see and learn about the horses and help them at the same time? When you go to see the horses with the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, you automatically become a member and will experience a two hour Trip of a Lifetime with one of our Sanctuary Patrol Officers. Also check our website for our fun children’s activities, Meet a Mustang, and Ride a Rescued Mustang at our two locations in Corolla and Duck; shop at our Museum Stores; learn about the history and future of the horses. Like us on Facebook. All proceeds go back to the care and protection of the wild horses.

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Outer Banks Real Estate

Outer Banks Real Estate

After a few days of sunny beach afternoons, fantastic local attractions, and all the amenities that attract people to the Outer Banks, many visitors find themselves daydreaming about a more permanent vacation. Whether your ultimate goal is to own an investment property, a retirement or vacation home, or simply a year-round home on the beach, the Outer Banks is filled with incredible opportunities and a variety of properties for sale.

Slice Pizzeria

Slice Pizzeria

Sometimes you want a whole pizza, sometimes you just want a slice. Thankfully with Slice Pizzeria, you’ve got plenty of options. This popular dine in and take out restaurant serves up some of the tastiest pizzas you can experience on the beach, all made with fresh ingredients so that you can taste the quality.

Top Attractions

Top Attractions

It might seem tricky to fit in all the attractions, historical sites, and fun activities off the beach into an Outer Banks vacation, and still have plenty of time left over to just lounge on the sand. That said, there are a number of attractions up and down the North Carolina coastline that any new visitor would be remiss to miss.

Beachwoods Resort

Beachwoods Resort

Beachwoods Resort, formerly Barrier Island Station, offers perhaps the most unique vacation experience on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The Beachwoods property is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound in the middle of a 100 acre Maritime Forest surrounded by lakes, woodlands, rolling dunes and wildlife, and lies adjacent to a 700-acre nature preserve. This sprawling Destination Resort is undergoing a $1oo Million Dollar Gold Key transformation into an exceptional four-seasons vacation experience. Today the resort has almost 3,500 owners who call Beachwoods their home away from home for their Outer Banks Adventure.