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Corolla adds a touch of modern class to the classic Outer Banks vacation. Prized for both its seclusion and its abundance of upscale but funky shops and dining options, Corolla is the ideal vacation destination for families who are just as happy lounging on the beach in flip flops as they are indulging in an afternoon at the spa.

The small-town beach community combines all the best elements of a five star resort vacation, while still encompassing that laid-back Outer Banks style that embraces the beach life. With minimal development but lots of amenities, Corolla is perfect for those who want to get away from it all, but still enjoy all the best dining, shopping, water sports, and amenities that the Outer Banks has to offer.

Beachfront homes in Corolla

Where to stay in Corolla

Corolla is a unique destination that borders both the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound, allowing visitors to access to the salty ocean waves, the calm kayak-worthy sound waters, and the idyllic maritime forests that lie in between. The outskirts of the village are dominated by an assortment of rental home communities, with vacation homes ranging from the modest 3 bedroom beach cottages to luxury oceanfront vacation homes with private pools and unlimited amenities.

Most vacationers book a vacation rental home, which is rented in 1 week increments, and can vary from 2-18 bedrooms. Due to the growing upscale reputation of the area, many of these homes offer a variety of luxury amenities such as private heated pools, hot tubs, game rooms, plush theater rooms, internet access, and easy beach access. A number of reputable vacation rental management companies service the area, so there is generally a wide selection to choose from. The grandiose nature of these vacation homes make them ideal for special events as well, such as Outer Banks weddings, or corporate retreats. The following are companies offering vacation rentals in Corolla.

Vacation Rental Companies

Currituck Heritage Park from the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Corolla Attractions

Corolla's wild Horses - Roaming the Northern beaches of Corolla and Carova, this herd of Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs is perhaps more popular than the Currituck Beach Lighthouse or Whalehead Club. Visitors can find the horses along the beach and within the community of Carova. A 4x4 vehicle is required to access this rather remote area. Guided tours are available in specialized vehicles.

Corolla's Wild Spanish Mustangs

The Corolla Wild Horses have been a draw to vacationers for decades, as their mystique and centuries old legacy is simply unmatched on the local OBX coastline. Added to this is the romantic idea of a beach vacation that's truly wild, with mustangs who travel up and down the Carova beaches with ease and absolute abandon. It's no wonder that popular fiction and movies, such as the recent release of "Nights In Rodanthe" has romanticized their presence, and why so many vacationers fall in love with the wild horses and make a visit to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund every year to find out how they can help.

It is important to remember that the Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs are, infact, wild. Do not approach within 50 feet of the horses, or feed them. Wild horses cannot digest fruits and vegetables like domesticated breeds. Close interaction is dangerous to both humans and horses.

Whalehead Club - Completed in 1925, the sprawling lemon yellow Whalehead Club has served a number of purposes during its decades of operation, including housing a private school for boys and acting as a rocket fuel-testing base. Today, the Whalehead Club is one of Corolla's best attractions, offering seasonal guided tours, 39 acres of picturesque landscape for picnic baskets, and special facilities for weddings and special events. Seasonally, you'll find a number of the area's best events on the premises, like the weekly Wednesday wine festival, where visitors are encouraged to sample North Carolina's best wines and local foods while listening to a little live outdoor music.

Currituck Beach Light at dusk

Currituck Beach Lighthouse: Vacationers with stamina are welcome to trek up the 214 steps to the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse for unparalleled 360 degree views of the Outer Banks. The historic and distinctive red lighthouse is open seasonally to visitors from 9a.m. to 5p.m., and the wooded grounds, which include the original light keepers home, is idyllic for a bike ride or a stroll through the live oaks. As one of the last testaments to Corolla's early roots as a local seaside community and guardian for sailors travelling past the Outer Banks, the lighthouse is a must on every visitor's list.

Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

Center for Wildlife Education - Located i Currituck Heritage Park, the center is an impressive and marvelous 22,000 square foot interpretive center for young and old alike to explore the history and vast diversity of North Carolina's wildlife. One of the key displays is a massive living aquatic ephemera of fish, native to the region, housed in an 8,000 gallon aquarium where families can get up close and personal with a rich variety of finned swimmers. "You have to remember we have a variety of marine eco-systems here. The ocean, the sound and an estuary so it is pretty diverse.

Sunset at Currituck heritage Park

Watersports and Outdoor Activities - For those who crave a little more outdoor excitement, there are a number of water sport rental and instruction companies that cater to Corolla. Specialty shops offer rentals and lessons for corolla-surfing, ocean kayaking, SUP (stand up paddle boarding), and kiteboarding for vacationers who want an adventure on the water. For a relaxing outdoor excursion, take in a guided kayak tour of the Currituck Sound for a lazy sunset and an evening surrounded by egrets and Blue Herons.

Shopping - The heart of Corolla is a mini shoppers' paradise with a small number of shopping complexes, such as The Shoppes at the Currituck Club, TimBuck II, Monteray Plaza and Corolla Light Town Center, which offer both chic boutiques for souvenirs, and national chain grocery or staple stores for necessities. There are a couple hotels in the area for short stays, but most of the accommodations in Corolla are vacation rental homes which generally rent on a weekly basis, and are scattered throughout the area. Essentially, Corolla vacationers have the option to stay close to the shopping, dining, and activities of Corolla, or relax on the outskirts of the more developed center, in relative privacy.

Dining - After dark, there's a wide variety of restaurants to take in a quick North Carolina BBQ platter, have a pizza delivered to your vacation rental home, or enjoy a five course waterfront meal. Entertainment from karaoke to local bands is seasonably available, and provides an outlet for Corolla night owls.

Golf and Amusements - Out of the water, Corolla offers an 18-hole golf course, a skate park, putt-putt courses, and soundside nature trails to keep vacationers entertained.

The Beach - Like all Outer Banks vacation destinations, the beach is the main attraction, and with miles of unspoiled beaches without the development of commercial boardwalks, businesses, or 4WD traffic, Corolla is ideal for families who want a large patch of sand to play on. Still a relatively small vacation destination, vacationers will have no problem finding a spot to put their beach blanket, and the seclusion of Corolla is one of its many draws as a beach vacation hotspot. Here are some things to know about Duck beach policies:

  • Dogs are allowed on Currituck County beaches all year. They must remain on a leash. There is no leash length requirement.
  • Fireworks and beach bonfires are not permitted in Corolla.
  • Beer is allowed on the beach. Wine and liquor are not officially permitted. Please drink responsibly.
  • Metal detecting is allowed.
  • Red flags = no swimming. When you see red flags flying, dangerous conditions are present and swimming is prohibited.
  • It is illegal to walk on the dunes, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
  • Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard.
  • Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
  • No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Alcohol is allowed on all beaches, but if at all possible, stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
  • Surf fishing is allowed. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
  • 4x4 vehicles can access the beach at the Northern end of NC 12 where the paved road ends. 4x4 access North of this point is permitted year round. 4x4 access South of this point is permitted between October 1 and April 30. Driving at night is allowed. Overnight parking is allowed if the occupant is actively fishing. ATV's allowed for residents with permit.

 

Corolla Events

Under the Oaks Art Festival - Late June each year in Currituck Heritage Park, this outdoor art show offers over 100 quality artists , food, an art auction and children's activities. Admission is free, but a modest parking donation is requested to benefit the Whalehead Preservation Trust.

Festival of Fireworks - July 3 at Currituck Heritage Park, this evening event offers live music, food vendors, family fun activities, cornhole, and games. And of course, a fireworks display at dusk. Free admission and parking.

Outer Banks Music Festival - Late May each year at The Whalehead Club, this festival offers a day of live music and performances. An admission fee applies. Beer and wine are available on site, but picnics and coolers are also welcome.

Mustang Music Festival - Early October each year, come see several bands perform live for the benefit of Corolla's Wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs. Childrens activities and vendors will attend. Tickets required.

A footbridge over an inlet at Currituck Heritage Park

Some Corolla History

Corolla wasn't always the vacation hotspot it is today. The village was discovered, along with its neighbors Duck, Carova, and the Currituck mainland, in the late 1600s by a handful or European settlers, who stayed on the island to carve out a community by the sea. Corolla became official town name when the local post office took root in the late 1800s. For several centuries, Corolla remained an undisturbed home to a few hardy locals, and in the late 1800s, the population grew slightly as lifesaving stations, like the Jones Hill Life Saving Station, were constructed to help sailors navigate the oftentimes treacherous waters off the North Carolina coast. In 1873, construction began on the distinctive red brick Currituck lighthouse. Completed and in operation just two years later, the lighthouse literally served as a beacon to countless sailors cruising the dangerous northern stretch of Diamond Shoals.

An elevated walking path in Currituck Banks  Estuarine Reserve

A few decades after the Currituck lighthouse was constructed, Corolla received a minor population boost in the form of two of Philadelphia's wealthiest residents, Edward and Marie Louise Knight. In 1922, the couple began work on their luxurious seaside home, known today as the "Whalehead Club," and invited and hosted their friends on local hunting and fishing exhibitions. Despite the popularity within the Knight's inner circle, Corolla was still relatively unknown for the next 50 years, frequented only by daring vacationers who were willing to drive miles past the more popular areas of Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk down clay and sand trails that were unpredictable and barely functional as roads.

In fact, there wasn't a legitimate road to Corolla until 1984 when NC Highway 12 was finally extended to the village, and development finally began to boom. The growth was slow at first, with a handful of communities like Ocean Sands and Whalehead popping up along the beaches, but by the late 80s, more and more developers had discovered the area. Over the next three decades, construction in Corolla surged, and the town became home to several hotels, resorts, grocery stores, restaurants, and shopping centers. Yet despite the developing interest, and thanks to a vocal local community, Corolla was able to maintain its status as a small town beach community, without the grander development of other North Carolina beach towns.

Wedding venue at Currituck Heritage Park

 

What to know before you go to Corolla

Because Corolla accommodations are both limited and popular, it's important to book your stay well in advance. Search local vacation rental companies early to ensure the best selection. Traffic on the two-lane NC Highway 12 can be busy on summer weekends, so be prepared for minor delays when traveling, The reward is a vacation stocked with gorgeous beach days and plenty to do off the sand. Restaurant reservations are generally not be required, but might be recommended a few days in advance during the summer months.

With grocery and beach supply stores within a couple miles, it is not necessary to pack a lot of extras, and concierge services are available to have your beach necessities waiting for you when you arrive. Be sure and ask your rental company about guidelines for special vehicles, such as RVs and campers, as these may not be allowed in your beach community. Above all else, for vacationers on a budget, don't discount the off-season - the temperate beaches of North Carolina in the Fall and Spring shoulder seasons offer lots of secluded beaches, plenty of local attractions, and lots of open businesses at a better rate.

Corolla may have gained national attention as one of America's best secluded beaches with upscale amenities and luxurious accommodations, but thankfully, Corolla still retains its small beach-town charm that attracted Outer Banks visitors in the first place. For vacationing families who want plenty of sand to spread out, but would like to still enjoy the amenities of a resort beach community, Corolla is an ideal vacation destination.

Corolla Photos

Sunset view from the Whalehead Club in Corolla NC A new rental home neighborhood with 10+ bedroom homes in Corolla A bike path winds along NC 12 in Corolla NC An interior view of the beautiful Currituck Beach Lighthouse  The lightkeeper's house at Currituck Beach Lighthouse  4x4 Beach access at the North end of NC 12 in Corolla NC   Sunset over Currituck Sound    Corolla view from Currituck Beach Light Large homes in Corolla Fantastic biking/walking path along NC-12 in Corolla  

Mike Dianna's Grill Room

Mike Dianna's Grill Room

Mike Dianna’s is a family-owned and operated restaurant built on the love of food and entertaining. They invite diners from the beachy casual to formally dressed to enjoy a host of delectable favorites including lunch, dinner and kid’s menu choices. This includes seafood such as crab cakes, local tuna, wahoo with a nightly changing menu that is based on the freshest local ingredients available.

Top 10 Things to do on the Outer Banks

Top 10 Things to do on the Outer Banks

Every vacation destination has its own unique draw to potential visitors, whether it's a national monument, a fantastic shopping or dining scene, or an exotic locale that's meant for total relaxation. Many newcomers to the Outer Banks are surprised to learn that this destination has all of these attributes and more, and it can be hard to narrow down the overflowing list of "must-sees" or "must-dos" that have to be squeezed into a 1-2 week OBX vacation.

Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter

Harris Teeter is a large supermarket with all the groceries you’ll need for your stay in the Outer Banks. Harris Teeter has meat, seafood, produce, deli and bakery, beer and wine, pharmacy, baby care, pet care and gift center departments. Harris Teeter is a popular spot for locals to pick up made-to-order sub sandwiches. If you need a lunch to pack for the beach, the sandwiches and sushi available at the deli/bakery section are the perfect choice.

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Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

The Roanoke Marshes lighthouse is often one of the most overlooked of the Outer Banks lighthouses, simply because of its small stature, limited visibility and remote location tucked away at the quiet east end of the Manteo waterfront.

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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Ocracoke, NC

Ocracoke, NC

The Ocracoke Harbor is easily the busiest quarter mile stretch of Ocracoke Island. Consisting of a small, lagoon-like section of saltwater, and lined by a semi-circle of docks, restaurants, shops, marinas and motels, visitors will find that any and all of the activities on Ocracoke Island can most certainly be found harbor front.

Just for the Beach Rentals

Just for the Beach Rentals

Just for the Beach Rentals (not to be confused with the similarly-named "Just for the Beach") offers rentals to accommodate your stay. Equipment includes linens, baby gates, cribs, monitors, seats, joggers, bikes, kayaks, skim boards, surf boards, and SUP. Free delivery is available with a modest rental order, from Corolla to Nags Head (not including 4x4 areas). Just for the Beach offers two convenient locations in Corolla and Kill Devil Hills.

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Scenic Spots on the Outer Banks

Scenic Spots on the Outer Banks

There's a reason why so many aspiring and professional photographers flock to the Outer Banks. Ocean sunrises, sound sunsets, and miles of quiet wildlife in between create some breathtaking landscapes, ideal for photographers, painters, or plain-old vacationers who love an astounding view.

Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar and Wine Bar Cafe'

Coastal Provisions Oyster Bar and Wine Bar Cafe'

What began in 2006 as a gourmet market has evolved into one of the area’s top restaurants featuring an indoor and outdoor Oyster Bar, and Wine Bar with over twenty wines available by the glass. The lunch menu showcases their amazing sandwich creations of house roasted deli meats on fresh baked ciabatta bread and creative condiments, a variety of seafood tacos, and a selection of steamed or crispy fried seafood.  For dinner, choose from a great selection of small plates, fresh local seafood, prime and natural steaks, and of course their famous award-winning crabcakes.  The dining room is surrounded by their extensive wine shop selections, available at regular retail prices with no corkage fee.

Outer Banks Beach Guidelines

Outer Banks Beach Guidelines

The Outer Banks has its fair share of attractions for vacationers, including the Wright Brothers Memorial, 4 famous North Carolina lighthouses, the NC Aquarium, the Lost Colony, and enough shopping and dining to keep any family entertained for a week-long vacation. But the biggest attraction that draws seasoned Outer Banks vacationers back every year are the miles and miles of pristine beaches.

Sharky's Bait, Tackle, and Charters

Sharky's Bait, Tackle, and Charters

If you are looking for a more engaging activity than sitting on the beach, why not try fishing in the world renowned waters off the Outer Banks? Sharky’s Fishing Charters offers offshore, inshore, and sound fishing so that you can catch the fish of your dreams. Sharky’s has five different charter boats to choose from. You can also chose offshore fishing for a more intense and wavy experience, inshore fishing for an experience closer to shore, or sound fishing for a calm lake-like experience. If you do chose to go offshore fishing expect to spot some very cool sea life in the Gulf Stream. 

Frisco, NC

Frisco, NC

The small town of Frisco located at the southern end of Hatteras Island, is a paradise for beach lovers who want to relax away from all the activity and noise of the mainland, and settle into coastal life. The town is small, and the northern end covers a wide section of Buxton and Frisco Woods, while the southern end is a thin stretch of Barrier Island where from a breezy deck, it's possible to enjoy an ocean sunrise and a sound sunset. With a few well-loved restaurants, convenience stores, and a variety of inviting yet secluded accommodations, Frisco may be the perfect destination for Outer Banks vacationers who want to leave all the clutter behind, and simply enjoy a vacation on the beach.

Sound Feet Shoes

Sound Feet Shoes

Sound Feet Shoes is family owned and operated.  Sound Feet has been in the retail shoe business for over 60 years, opening their first store in 1954. They provide the best customer service and are the only Outer Banks’ area full service shoe store since 1987. Now, the family owned business boasts eight stores in the region, including two outlets.  Their shoe specialists can help you find the right fit and comfort for your family’s needs.

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Educational Activities

Educational Activities

On the Outer Banks, it's easy to throw in a little education in with a vacation filled with fun, adventures, and new explorations.