No question, a trip to the Outer Banks is a great idea. In particular, there’s nothing quite like a week-long getaway to a place as breathtaking as Corolla, North Carolina one of the northernmost towns that make up the OBX.
The only downside to visiting Corolla (and any other part of the barrier islands) is that your trip will likely be at a hefty cost. Tens of thousands of people from across the United States flock to the Outer Banks during the bustling summer months, and money spent on lodging, gas, food, and activities can add up quickly.
You can’t skip the cost of lodging. After all, you have to have a place to sleep. And you can’t altogether skip out on the cost of dining out and grocery shopping either - everyone has to eat! So where you can save some cheddar is your cost of activities.
We’ve compiled a list of eight things to do while visiting Corolla that are either free or cheap. With the money saved, we hope you’ll have the financial freedom to visit the area more often and enjoy some of the fantastic entrees available at the plethora of locally-owned restaurants! The seafood you order will undoubtedly be the freshest your tastebuds will ever touch.
1.) See the wild horses of Corolla. Okay, your best bet at seeing these horses is, in fact, on a wild horse tour, but tours typically cost about $50 per person. If you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle (no, not a minivan or a Civic!), you can go on your wild horse tour; it's easy! Just follow the instructions in this informative post we put together. And if your vehicle doesn't have 4-wheel drive capability, don't you dare try to drive in the sand because you'll get stuck, and someone will have to pull you out.
2.) Check out the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. Located near Currituck Beach Lighthouse and The Whalehead, this educational facility allows visitors to explore and learn about the wildlife found in coastal North Carolina. Managed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the site features indoor and outdoor attractions, with an array of exhibits inside the building with 22,000 square feet of space. Admission is FREE!
3.) Snag a photo next to Currituck Beach Lighthouse. There is a small fee to climb to the top of the lighthouse, but you can walk around the grounds, explore the visitor center, speak with the groundskeepers, and take as many photos as you want without spending a dime. This all-brick lighthouse is difficult to miss when driving north on NC 12!
4.) Explore Historic Corolla Village. After you’re finished with #2 and #3 on this list, walk on over to this village that’s home to many unique businesses, including the Wild Horse Museum. Many of the isolated villages that existed on this stretch of the coast have disappeared. However, historic Corolla Village remains intact, providing insight into times long past. The focus of the Historic Corolla Village has been on the restoration and re-purposing of the existing historic homes into retail shops and office spaces. Visitors can walk the paths and visit the carefully restored homes: The Parker House, Parker Outbuilding, Gray-Lewark House, Gray-Lewark Outbuilding, The Gard House, and A Village Garden.
5.) Build a castle made of sand. So you’ve probably already thought about this one, but we had to include it! Constructing the perfect sandcastle takes both skill and patience. The only cost required for this activity may be the cost of a decent pale and shovel!
6.) Ride some waves on your stomach. If you don't want to fork over the money for a bodyboard or surfboard rental, you can always ride waves using just your body! Wade, swim out to where the waves are just starting to break and swim like hell when a wave gets close to you. Goggles are a good idea but optional. This activity burns many calories, which is excellent because #7 on our list probably isn't part of your diet.
7.) Demolish a treat or two at Duck Donuts in Corolla. If you haven't had one of their delectable offerings before, you are in for a treat. Located at 603D Currituck Clubhouse Drive in Corolla, Duck Donuts makes your order fresh right in front of you. Tell them you want to try the maple bacon doughnut or the chocolate and coconut. The cost is slightly over a dollar per treat so it won't break the bank.
8.) Enjoy the great outdoors at the Currituck Banks North Carolina National Estuarine Research Reserve. Located close to where the paved road ends in northern Corolla, this often overlooked attraction was once described in the Boston Globe as among the East Coast's most beautiful nature preserves. Home to many birds and fish, including commercial and game fish species. It is not uncommon to spot a bald eagle as you stroll down the boardwalk. The Reserve is approximately 1000 acres of natural maritime habitat. A very peaceful place to spend 30 minutes or so of your vacation!
That's our list of eight budget-friendly activities to plan for your next Corolla getaway.