The Outer Banks (OBX) is a 130-mile stretch of barrier islands just off the coast of North Carolina. Made up of quaint towns and sleepy fishing villages, it’s a very popular beach getaway and home rental spot for families. There are a number of fun things to do in Corolla, NC in the north end.
Young, scruffy-haired lifeguards cruise past us in ATV’s with the day’s warnings written on a board bolted to the back. Storms can blow through here and change as frequently with the tides, good thing they use an erasable marker. “No Swimming” flags flap in the wind as the rip currents from far-off tropical storms make swimming and splashing about a bit more of a dangerous undertaking.
We drove down the eastern coast of the United States from New Jersey to North Carolina in about six hours and then over the only bridge connecting this skinny strip of land to the mainland.
Visiting the Outer Banks
If you live on the east coast of the United States, you’ve probably either vacationed in the Outer Banks or know someone who has. This narrow string of barrier islands curving alongside North Carolina in the Atlantic has long been a vacation haven for families and couples looking for an easy-going getaway. Because of the weather, it’s also a great place for a little tennis or golf. If you are looking for the ‘woop-woop’ and fist-pumping parties of Daytona Beach or Myrtle Beach, this isn’t the spot for you.
Corolla Beach, NC
I was fortunate enough to be spending a week in Corolla Beach (on the north end) the first week of September — the perfect time if you ask me. The big summer season had just ended and being that it’s a major ‘family’ vacation area, most kids were back in school so it was still warm and a bit more of an all adult-resort at the moment. Plus there was the added benefit that the ocean water was still a comfortable temperature having been warmed up all season.
The north end of the Outer Banks is less commercial than the south – making it even less of a party, spring break spot. It’s a much more residential-scene with gargantuan wood-shingled beach homes that board several families and friends who come down here to enjoy a week of family-time or alone-time like us.
Rent a Home in Corolla, NC
We are staying at, St. Nicks (most houses have names, just like you find on boats, this one happens to be named for my nephew, Nicholas!), a great house just a block from the beach in a small community called Pine Island. There are 350+ homes for rent from Corolla in the north to Nags Head in the south, including pet-friendly and oceanfront options.
The Harris Teeter supermarket is just a mile away and everything else we need is at our ‘home’ for the week – a pool, a hot tub, several decks with plenty of spots to sit and chill in the afternoon sun, and a grill (nothing says American vacation like the smell of a grill), plus tennis and basketball courts nearby.
Things to Do in Corolla, NC and the Outer Banks
Our chill trip was wonderful. But if you are looking for a little bit more than ‘nothing’ there are all the standard water sports – kayaking, jet-skiing, wind surfing. And of course, the beach itself is a lovely. The clean, wide beaches are spacious and uncrowded, especially in the off-season.
You can also check out the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, which, like the other lighthouses on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, still serves as an aid to navigation. The beacon comes on automatically every evening at dusk and ceases at dawn. If you’re down on the south end, you can climb the tallest brick lighthouse in America at Cape Hatteras. The iconic black and white spiral landmark has served as a warning to generations of mariners.
They recently built a new bridge over Oregon Inlet which spans nearly 2.8 miles-long with a roadway height of 90 feet above the water.
Visit the newly remodeled visitor’s center at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. There are interactive activities and exhibits on aviation and the lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright, who made the first successful airplane flight on December 17, 1903.
Looking for something a bit more adventurous? Check out Brianna’s post about hang gliding in the Outer Banks!
For dining, there are over 100+ locally-owned restaurants at which you can savor some locally harvested seafood. There’s something for everyone. From seafood specialties to steak, pizza to beach barbecue, it’s very family friendly.
Check out the Corolla Beer Garden in Corolla Village with its expansive collection of 60+ craft beers and wine, plus their huge outdoor patio.
At the north end of the Outer Banks, Highway 12 comes to quite a cool and abrupt end without much warning. Flashing signs right at the very end let you know it has ended just as you start to feel sand under your tires. The road ends, but you can keep going driving on the 14-mile-long beach where wild horses and small ‘sand’ communities of big beach homes hide among sand dunes, as long as your vehicle has four-wheel drive. The horses are apparently descendants of wild Spanish mustangs that were shipwrecked or abandoned by European explorers in the more than 400 years ago.
I snap some shots of the horses and we drive a bit more until the sand gets a bit too soft and too high for us to not worry about getting stuck. So we turn around and head back to our home for the week and return to snacking and being lay-abouts. Perfect.