Corolla NC Town Vacation Information and History

corolla nc soundside outer banks nc

Situated at the northern-most portion of the Outer Banks, Corolla, North Carolina, is a vacationer favorite for many reasons: beautiful beachfront cottages, charming local shops and restaurants, plenty of area attractions (like Currituck Beach Lighthouse), and course, the wild mustang horses found roaming the beaches near the North Carolina and Virginia border.

Touted as one of the most secluded and upscale towns on the OBX, many visitors travel to Corolla for a week-long vacation and never leave the town until departure.

If you’re a vacationer looking to get away from it while still enjoying some of the best accommodations, water sports, dining, and shopping attractions that the Outer Banks offers, consider staying in Corolla, North Carolina.

Like every other town on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Corolla is a narrow barrier island bordered by the Currituck Sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. There are only approximately 500 residents that live in the town year-round.

There are quite a few subdivision developments listed below – filled with mostly vacation rental homes ranging in size from cozy three-bedroom cottages to large mansions with more than ten bedrooms and an excess of 10,000 square feet.

Many Corolla vacation rental homes have luxurious amenities such as private heated pools, spacious outdoor hot tubs, direct beach access, recreation rooms, and theater rooms.

Vacationers will enjoy the town’s clusters of shopping complexes such as the TimBuck II, Monterey Plaza, Corolla Light Town Center, and The Shoppes at the Currituck Club, to name a few. Shops in these developments vary from delightful mom and pop shops to chain retail stores you’ll find elsewhere in the country. In addition, vacationers can stock up on grocery necessities at one of the town’s Harris Teeter or Food Lion supermarkets.

Vacationers who’d prefer to have someone else do the cooking and cleaning will have no trouble finding an appropriate Corolla restaurant. Whether you’re looking for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, casual or intimate dining, you’ll be able to find the perfect place for a meal in Corolla quickly. 

corolla nc wild horses outer banks nc

Wild Horses of Corolla, North Carolina

One of the town’s claims to fame (besides the red-brick lighthouse) is the over 100 feral horses spotted roaming the area's beaches, roads, and backyards. Highly guarded and protected by several local organizations, including the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, area natives and local law enforcement often inform visitors that being within 100 feet of the horses is illegal.

Although a bustling vacation town, Corolla also serves as a permanent sanctuary for the horses, considered a “cultural treasure” by the State of North Carolina.

Many Outer Banks visitors consider seeing the wild horses found in Corolla on their “bucket list” of things to do while on vacation. As a result, there is no shortage of local businesses specializing in regularly giving “wild horse tours” during the summer months.

Vacationers can choose between guided and self-guided tours that last about 20 miles round trip, with most of the distance spent driving on the 4×4 only beaches of Carova – the northern-most portion of Corolla that’s only accessible by four-wheel drive.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse in Corolla, North Carolina

Major Attractions in Corolla, North Carolina

The former residence of Edward Collings Kinight Jr. and his wife Marine Louise LeBel in the 1920s, the Whalehead Club is one of the largest homes on the Outer Banks. The Whalehead, boasting over 21,000 square feet of living space, the structure cost a staggering $385,000 (a considerable sum of money at the time) and took three years to build. Visitors can now tour the residence and take a walk back in time to see how the ultra-rich lived over 100 years ago.

Easily the tallest structure on the Outer Banks north of Bodie Island Lighthouse, thousands of Corolla visitors stop by the 162-foot-tall, all red-brick Currituck Beach Lighthouse during their vacation each year. The structure first opened in December of 1875, and its bright lens is responsible for saving countless sailors' lives over the years. Vacationers can climb the over 200 stairs to the top during the summertime and enjoy panoramic views of the Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean that are unparalleled from any other vantage point on the Outer Banks.

The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education offers visitors an array of exciting wildlife displays and exhibits and is a highly kid-friendly place. Visitors can tour the building, feed the fish, and view the rotating short films free of charge—a perfect stop between visiting the neighboring red-brick lighthouse or on a rainy day.

Other Attractions Found in Corolla, NC

Although the 200-mile stretch of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks has numerous attractions and ongoing events, the beach is the biggest draw for most people who choose the area for a family vacation. And like most towns on the coast north of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, many people travel to Corolla to enjoy the area’s pristine, unspoiled beaches.

There are far fewer public beach accesses located in Corolla that make their wide-open patches of sand typically less crowded than nearby Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills towns.

Vacationers frequently boast about how easy it is to find a spot away from other beachgoers and set up their beach umbrellas. Then, they relax in the sand a reasonable distance away from the nearest person. This seclusion, along with the town’s abnormally wide beaches compared to other OBX towns, is one of the biggest draws that keep vacationers repeatedly choosing Corolla.

Although there are fewer beach accesses than in other OBX towns, the shoreline and the Atlantic Ocean entrance are highly accessible to visitors in Corolla vacation rental homes. In addition, area visitors can rest assured that instructions on how and where the nearest beach access that’s specifically accessible to them is available – most of the time, it’s well within walking distance.

Visitors looking for more excitement beyond relaxing on the beach or swimming in the Atlantic Ocean should look into the town’s various water sport rental options available at locally-owned companies like Kitty Hawk Kites and Ocean Atlantic Rentals. You can rent anything from stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, surfboards, sailboats, and jet skis. There are also guided kayak tours offered at several local businesses that take participants through the backwaters of the Currituck Sound.

For activities that don’t involve a bathing suit, visitors can check out the 18-hole Currituck Club golf course, considered one of the best. In addition, outdoor lovers should consider visiting the Estuarine Nature Walk found near the 4×4 beaches of Carova.

Don’t want to spend a lot of dough but still want to have fun during your vacation? Then, check out our list of 8 free and cheap things to do in Corolla, NC.

Where to Eat

Urban Kitchen
It is a small, intimate farm-to-table eatery with culinary experts who care about the quality of what leaves the kitchen—featuring a seasonal menu that’s ever-changing with seafood entrees. Unlike many other restaurants on the Outer Banks, Urban Kitchen does not accept reservations.

603B Currituck Clubhouse Drive
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-4453

La Dolce Vita
In an authentic Italian restaurant located on a barrier island – enjoy hand-tossed pizzas, homemade sauces, carb-heavy pieces of bread, and a tempting offering of desserts. Restaurant favorites include mussels, crab and shrimp penne vodka, seafood diablo, bone-in veal Parmesan and house-made lasagna. Their dining room has many tables overlooking the Currituck Sound with picturesque sunsets nightly. Open for lunch and dinner, with a full-service bar featuring an extensive wine list, craft beers, and specialty cocktails.

798 C Sunset Blvd.
TimBuck II Shopping Village
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-0069

Lighthouse Bagels
This no-frills breakfast and lunch joint specializes in homemade bagels, donuts, deli sandwiches, and salads. Their apple cakes and French toast are delicious. This local-owned establishment has been successful for nearly two decades. Enjoy artisan New York/New Jersey bagels delivered by a friendly employee.

807 Ocean Trail
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-9998

There are more restaurants than just the ones listed above in Corolla. These are just a few of our favorites!

Corolla History Facts

  • Native Americans that lived on the mainland hunted and fished on what is now known as Corolla.
  • Some believe European settlers resided in the area by the late 1600s and early 1700s.
  • During the early 1800s, Corolla was separated from Virginia and the neighboring town of Duck by inlets and was only accessible by boat.
  • Several communities appeared on the northern Outer Banks by the mid-1800s, with early inhabitants hunting, fishing, raising livestock, serving as guides for visiting athletes, tending gardens, and salvaging shipwrecks to make a living.
  • The U.S. Lifesaving Service established what would later become the Currituck Beach Life Saving Station in 1874.
  • Construction on Currituck Beach Lighthouse, one of the seven North Carolina coastal lighthouses, was completed in 1875.
  • According to legend, Corolla was named in 1895 when the community’s newly established post office was seeking a name. One of the submissions was “Corolla,” the inner part of a flower.
  • During WWII, residents were asked to darken the windows of their homes and prohibited from using headlights to avoid detection by German u-boats near shore.