Corolla, NC on the Outer Banks is also known as the “gold coast” of Currituck County. This popular destination is situated at the Northern end of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The main attraction of Corolla, NC is the expansive beaches of finely textured sand and clean rolling surf, something visitors to the Outer Banks are always looking forward to enjoying. With its quiet neighborhoods, remarkable beaches, easy access to shopping, day-time adventures and historical sites, Corolla makes for the perfect vacation spot on the beaches of the Outer Banks.
- Where To Stay In Corolla
- Corolla Attractions
- History of Corolla, NC
- Where Is Corolla?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Where to Stay on the Outer Banks in Corolla, NC
Attractions in Corolla
There are many activities to partake in during your Outer Banks stay in Corolla, NC, the list almost feels endless. Here are some of our favorite things to do in Corolla that we think you will enjoy during your vacation.
Wild Horses: The northernmost beaches are home to many free-roaming wild mustangs, sometimes referred to as “Banker horses”. Corolla is one of the few places in the United States where you can witness these majestic animals in their natural element. You can book a Wild Horse Adventure Tour and be shuttled around the 4×4 beach in an open-air, safari-style Hummer to see the horses along the dunes.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse: Standing 162’ tall for over 140 years, the red-brick lighthouse, known as the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, lights the northernmost stretch of the Outer Banks. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse was left unpainted to differentiate itself from the other lighthouses along the barrier islands. Climb 220 stairs to the top and enjoy spectacular views of the Ocean to the Sound.
Whalehead Club: Not far from the aforementioned Lighthouse, sits The Whalehead Club. The Whalehead Club is the largest and most ornate of the hunting clubs of the Currituck Sound. Its history is fascinating, convoluted and filled with tidbits of gossip and lifestyles of the rich, famous, and powerful. After its three-year renovation, it was opened to the public in 2002 and has remained an Outer Banks icon ever since. The Whalehead Club is open for tours, and special events throughout the year.
The Currituck Golf Club: The Currituck Club consistently ranks as one of the top 25 golf courses in North Carolina. Designed by Rees Jones, the 6,885-yard, par 72 course follows the natural contours of the region. A beautiful setting that provides sweeping vistas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound, the course is challenging, yet fun, and has become one of the most popular courses on the Outer Banks. The Club has seven tennis courts, basketball, and volleyball courts, a playground, a fitness center and bike trails throughout.
North Beach Watersports: Let us not forget one of the best things about the Outer Banks—being so close to the water! Whether you’re looking to spend some time on the beach, or out on the Sound, you’re never far from either. North Beach Watersports is your one stop shop in Corolla for all thing’s watersports. They have what you need for parasailing, jetskiing, kayaking, paddleboarding, pontooning, tubing, and even just soaking in a sunset cruise.
Brief History of Corolla, NC
The Currituck Banks, what is now known as Corolla, had always been somewhat remote and was actually one of the last places to be populated on the North Carolina coast by English colonists. Although remote, Corolla was not as isolated as it may appear. By the 1870’s the U.S. Lifesaving Service, the predecessor to the Coast Guard, had a number of stations along the Outer Banks. Initially only operated seasonally from April through October, two horrific shipwrecks off the Outer Banks highlighted the need for year-round service.
The USS Huron ran aground in late November of 1877 just off Nags Head and two months later, on January 31, 1878, the Metropolis wrecked within sight of Corolla. In both cases, a lifesaving station was in close proximity but was closed and locked up for the season. By 1880, the Lifesaving Service had become a year-round job and there were four stations in Corolla.
By the early 20th century, the Village of Corolla was so well-established that the county agreed to staff a school. No one is quite sure when the school building was built, but it is known in 1905, a teacher and curriculum were provided for the school. The school was in operation as a public school until 1958. Restored by the community, the school is still in use today as the Water’s Edge Charter School.
As the rest of the Outer Banks developed, it became increasingly apparent that Corolla’s economic future was developing as a summer resort. Throughout most of the 20th century, there was no paved road leading to Corolla — you could get there through a ride on the beach or by the use of a dirt path along the Sound. In 1988, the state of North Carolina extended the paved section of Route 12 to its current end at the 4-wheel drive terminus at Carova. Heightened development of Corolla as a vacation rental destination soon followed.
Where on the Outer Banks is Corolla?
Corolla is the northernmost town of the Outer Banks, spanning less than 30 miles along the coast of North Carolina’s barrier islands. Corolla is a one way in, one way out town — Ocean Trail, more commonly known as NC Hwy. 12, will take you from one end of Corolla to the other. The southern end of Corolla lands you in the next town (Duck), and the northern end leads you straight onto the 4-wheel drive only, N. Beach Access Road.
Frequently Asked Questions
How far is Corolla from the other towns of the Outer Banks?
North To South:
- Corolla to Duck — about 20 minutes
- Corolla to Southern Shores — about 30 minutes
- Corolla to Kitty Hawk — about 35 minutes
- Corolla to Kill Devil Hills — about 40 minutes
- Corolla to Nags Head — about 50 minutes.
Please note: These times are estimations and could be longer based on seasonal traffic.
Can you drive on the beach in Corolla, NC?
You can drive on the beach in Corolla, NC, in the designated areas where it is permissible to do so. In order to park on the beach between the last Saturday in April through the first Saturday in October, you must purchase a Beach Parking Permit from Currituck County, which are limited in supply. We recommend purchasing your permit in advance and only driving on the beach with a 4-wheel drive or an all-wheel drive vehicle. There are a few things you can do to better prepare yourself to drive safely on the beach:
- Lower your tire pressure to around 20 psi.
- Stay near the other tire tracks; more than likely they will be near the water where the sand is more packed down.
- Have a folding shovel, traction mats, and tow straps with you (just in case!).
- Only drive on the beach if you feel comfortable doing so.
- Watch for horses and other wildlife.
- Familiarize yourself with Currituck County’s beach parking rules.
Do you need a permit to park on the beach in Corolla, NC?
Beach parking permits are required between the last Saturday of April through the first Saturday in October. These permits are limited in supply and are issued by Currituck County.
Is there a boardwalk in Corolla, NC?
There is not a boardwalk in Corolla. The nearest boardwalk to Corolla is in its neighboring town, Duck, and runs along the sound.
Can you see wild horses in Corolla, NC without going on a tour?
The wild horses roam freely so it’s hard to tell when and where they can be seen. The best bet to see them without going on a tour is to drive along the 4×4 beach. They can often be seen hanging out on the dunes or down by the water. An important thing to keep in mind when you come across a herd of wild horses is to not go too close, and absolutely do not feed them! It is illegal to get within 50 feet of the horses. Equally against the law is feeding them. People think the horses will enjoy a special treat (apples or carrots), but it can seriously injure and even kill the horses, as their bodies are not meant to digest those types of foods.
Why is it called Corolla?
When describing the history of Corolla, the Post Office is a good place to start because it was the U.S. Postal Service that gave the town its name, or more properly, rejected all other name options. By 1895, the Postal Service recognized the need for a permanent post office at the village and asked residents what name they wanted. Jones Hill and Currituck Beach were submitted but rejected. Supposedly, in an effort to make the area more appealing, someone suggested the name for the petals of a flower, corolla, and the name was accepted.
What is the Best Time to Visit Corolla, NC?
While many would say “there is no bad time to visit the beach”, we understand there are better times than others. Keeping in mind that everyone is different, we will just go through each season starting with the most popular — summer! Summertime on the Outer Banks is exactly how you’d expect a beach destination to be in the warmest months of the year. It is a bit more crowded than the rest of the year, but you’re nearly guaranteed the best beach days, the sunniest skies, and the warmest weather (remember, there are no guarantees when it comes to Mother Nature). Spring and fall, the shoulder seasons, are not to be overlooked though. They also offer up some epic beach days, fall more so than spring. The beauty of these seasons is that the beaches and roads are less crowded than the summer. Winter on the OBX is, again, how you’d expect a beach destination to be in the coldest months of the year. A lot of locations have closed for a couple months to get some R&R after a busy season and to gear up for another year. Winter nearly empties the beaches (with the exception of that one-off slightly warmer, sunshine-filled winter day).
How do I get to Corolla?
Getting to Corolla is pretty direct. Most visitors cross the Wright Memorial Bridge from the Currituck mainland. If that is your route to the Outer Banks, be sure to bear left at the fourth stoplight, about a mile after leaving the bridge. It’s a large and well-marked intersection that shouldn’t be missed. Drivers arriving from the west and entering the Outer Banks through Manteo, should bear left at the Nags Head intersection of US 64 and 158. Then follow Highway 158 and bear to the right onto Route 12 (Walgreens Pharmacy will be on your right). From there, simply follow Route 12 north until you reach Corolla. There are no highway intersections and no alternative routes. The road goes through the towns of Southern Shores and Duck before a sign for the Currituck County line marks the beginning of Corolla.