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The Ultimate Outer Banks Guide to a Vacation in Corolla

It’s not a long shot to say that for most people, life gets busy from time to time. Between work, family, responsibilities, and daily demands, stress has a way of accumulating–sometimes without us even realizing it. Part of achieving an important work/life balance starts with finding time to get away from the daily grind and enjoy yourself somewhere scenic, fun, and inspiring! Making a great getaway a vital part of your calendar lineup isn’t just about time away, but a chance to renew perspective, learn something new, and perhaps spend quality time with those you love too! Check out our ultimate Outer Banks guide!

For travelers ready to hit the road or skies in pursuit of unforgettable vacation moments, picking a place that pairs scenic beauty with options for fun is vital to the overall experience. Whether you’re in need of some serious rest and relaxation or can’t wait to take on an adventure at its finest, the Outer Banks of North Carolina promises to be a place that has something wonderful for everyone.

If the idea of indulging in a space that hosts over 100 miles of scenic shoreline is your idea of a good experience, the Outer Banks is sure to please. This area is known and loved by travelers from near and far for its collection of beautiful and historic lighthouses, sensational seafood stops, wildlife refuges, and pristine parks that features fantastic and thriving ecosystems to discover.

While there’s much to see and do across these barrier islands altogether, the fact that the Outer Banks is made up of a collection of charming communities to explore makes it that much more intriguing! While each community has its own long list of reasons for visiting, there’s something particularly special about a vacation planned to Corolla. Nestled comfortably between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound, Corolla is a captivating destination that’s practically brimming over with a combination of historical stops, amazing wildlife encounters, and of course, some unsurpassed sea and sand views too. Whether you’re here for the flavor, fun, fantastic vistas, or amazing animals—Corolla has a way of pulling visitors back time and again in the name of further exploration and discovery. While your itinerary is sure to already be overflowing with activities and attractions before you even step foot in Corolla, the following are a few things to make sure you don’t miss along the way!

Things to Do While You’re Here: From Sandy Beaches to Wild Horse Encounters

One of the most inviting activities to enjoy while you’re visiting a barrier island of any type is to take to the sand and soak up the sun in true island style! That said, a vacation to Corolla and the Outer Banks is absolutely no exception to the rule. Corolla offers up a plethora of sandy places to settle in for the day and either work on your tan or take a dip in the water and even spend some quality time snorkeling. Many who head towards the shoreline in pursuit of fun find that pairing their time on the beach with renting a beach bike is a good way to mix and match a day of fun! If you don’t have all of your beach-going essentials with you while you’re in town—not to worry. Just for the Beach Rentals is a local company that caters to both Corolla and nearby Nags Head for those interested in renting beach bicycles, boogie boards, beach chairs, canopies, grills, surfboards, and more! They offer convenient drop-off and pick-up options upon request making your day at a Corolla-based beach not only inviting, but endlessly convenient too. Their Corolla headquarters can be found at the Ocean Club Center situated at 520 B Old Stoney Road and is open daily from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm making options easily accessible no matter when that beach-going mood happens to hit!

While beach hopping is sure to thrill, no trip to Corolla, North Carolina is truly considered complete without some time admiring the destination’s most alluring creatures—the wild horses. You read that right: This area is home to a stunning population of wild horses that freely roam the beaches, particularly around an area known as Carova. Among the sand dunes, coastal grasses, and backdrop of blue waves, these horses thrive out in nature, but can be viewed in their natural habitat by booking a Corolla horse tour while you’re in the area. Unlike domestic horses, wild horses should never be approached, making a formal horse tour the safest option for both visitors and animals alike. Both Wild Horse Adventure Tours and the local Corolla Wild Horse Fund sponsor guided excursions out to the dunes where the wild horses dwell so guests can see them in action, take photos and learn more about these magnificent animals along the way—all while not disrupting an incredible and natural scene. These tours are generally hosted in a beach-ready 4×4 off-road vehicle and if you happen to be traveling to Corolla in June, July, or August, you’ll want to be sure to book your place in advance as tours fill up quickly.

While you’re making your way to the wild horse hot spots, admiring the surrounding scenery, and contemplating you’re the enormity of such an exceptional experience is worth your time. These wild horses are thought to be the descendent of horses that either survived shipwrecks hundreds of years ago off the shores of Corolla or were left behind by early explorers. Either way, they’re a true testament to the area’s story and a link to the past that’s really one-of-a-kind!

If you happen to be in Corolla with the entire family in tow, or you’re a traveler that loves to dig into the meaningful industries and stories that define a new place—a visit to the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is a must. This 22,000 square foot interpretive center first opened in 2006 and was designed to inspire visitors to learn more about the wildlife and nautical past that makes up the greater Corolla story. Situated in Historic Corolla Park, this wildlife center sits surrounded by towering oak trees so it’s not uncommon for guests to pair their visit with a scenic picnic before or after exploring the center. From film presentations and displays to exhibits that highlight the wildlife that calls Corolla and the entire Outer Banks home—it’s a stop that promises to be as engaging and fun as it is education for everyone!

Attractions to Check Out – Outer Banks Guide

Visiting a beautiful and historic lighthouse is practically a right of passage for a visitor to the Outer Banks and when you find yourself in Corolla, a stop at the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is certain to be at the top of your to-do list with good reason. Towering 162 feet into the air, this lighthouse is still in working order and sends out a beam of light that can be seen from 18 nautical miles away. The red brick exterior makes the Currituck Beach Lighthouse easy to spot and a statement of contrast to other nearby lighthouses which tend to be finished in a stark black, white, or combination of stripes. The lighthouse’s construction dates back to 1875 and it was built in an effort to reduce the number of shipwrecks that were occurring off the coast in what were known to be treacherous waters at times. Today, the lighthouse and grounds are open to the public for exploration and if you’re up to the task, you can book a ticket to climb up to the observation deck. Make sure to bring your camera if you do because you’re in for some stunning views that are sure to inspire.

One of the most highly anticipated stops that many vacationers make when their travel sights are set on Corolla is to the Whalehead Club. This historic point of interest was once a vibrant hunting haunch for the wealthy, but today provides an opportunity for guests to travel back in time and step into life in Corolla in the 1920s! The Whalehead Club is located within the parameters of Historic Corolla Park and encompasses 21,000 square feet of space to tour that provides insight into the opulence of a bygone era. The club was fully renovated in 2002 in order to be returned to its original glory and today, visitors often marvel not only at the dimensions of this destination but the meticulous attention to ornate detail that they can observe inside!

On the Water Fun

The waters that surround Corolla and lap at the sandy shoreline are well worth admiring from a vantage point earned from a cozy beach chair. Of course, if the urge to jump in and explore the waves up close happens to hit while you’re visiting—there’s no reason to resist. While some travelers are comfortable taking to the waves independently during a stay, there are plenty of options for more Outer Banks guided experiences on the water while you’re here. Consider partnering up with the professional outdoor experts at Coastal Explorations located at 1118 Corolla Village Road when you’re looking for a unique way to enjoy time on the water alongside a knowledgeable and friendly guide.

This outdoor touring company has long been a Corolla favorite for not only making the most of outdoor adventure but pairing it with education and entertainment too. The team at Coastal Explorations is happy to help guests set up guided kayak tours of the sound where participants not only get the full kayaking experience but have the privilege of following their guide to hidden away areas that might otherwise be overlooked when exploring! Those interested in giving stand-up paddleboarding a try while they’re in town can also book this type of tour upon request. You don’t have to be experienced on a board to make the most of the fun as guides give a thorough introduction to balance and control before heading out with the group. Daily on-site kayak rentals are readily available for those interested in taking to the waters at a more leisurely pace. However, if you know you’re going to spending the majority of your time exploring these pristine waves, consider booking their weekly kayak rentals at a reduced and reasonable rate.

For the traveler that is looking to pair their on-the-water-fun with some adrenaline-pumping sky-high views, Coastal Explorations has partnered up with Lighthouse Parasail to offer some spectacular options that give you a bird’s eye perspective on Corolla and the surrounding areas. This is a family-friendly option that’s sure to be a highlight of the trip for anyone with a heart for an outdoor adventure of the unique and heart-pounding variety!
For those with an innate passion for high-speed fun on the waves, Corolla is a place where you can easily indulge those vacation interests as well by partnering up with Corolla Water Sports. Located at the Timbuck II Shopping Center, Corolla Water Sports makes it simple to rent the gear you need for on-the-water fun. Guests are invited to rent everything from pontoon boats and jet skis to wave runners and pull-behind tubes. Corolla Water Sports also offers fishing charters for those more interested in spending some time casting a line and seeing what bites!

Restaurants to Savor

For so many travelers, heading somewhere new means the opportunity to treat your tastebuds and a trip to Corolla is no exception to the rule. While you’re in town, be sure to take time to enjoy a meal at the Urban Kitchen. This inviting new American restaurant is located within The Whalehead Club and offers up an elegant, rustic chic, yet welcoming ambiance to enjoy that’s paired with a savory selection of menu options too. Farm to table fare is showcased at the Urban Kitchen making for exceptionally fresh, sustainable, and locally supportive options to choose from on an ever-changing seasonal menu.

Places to Stay in Corolla

Knowing you have accommodations booked that are comfortable, luxurious, and conveniently located near those destinations you want to explore is made simple when you partner with the team at Shoreline OBX. Hosting a vast portfolio of rental property options, visitors to Corolla can pick and choose between cozy abodes or sprawling multi-level residences complete with pools, hot tubs, fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, and more! Be sure to inquire about rentals that include full kitchens when you’re looking to mix and match your dining plans during a stay. Reach out today to learn more!