Corolla is a cute beach town in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, and is totally worth a visit!
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Tucked on the northern coast of North Carolina are a series of barrier islands known as the Outer Banks. These small islands are thin enough to usually only have one road north to south and have the bare minimum of commercial development. They’re beautiful and tucked away from the normal tourist hustle of beach cities.
This is the kind of beach I grew up going to: mostly residential with wide stretches of white sand. Days spent alternating between reading and swimming on uncrowned beaches. In the early morning, it’s entirely possible to have the place to yourself.
There are a ton of things to do in Corolla, even while being a secluded spot to get away!
Things to do in Corolla
Visit the Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Lighthouses are SO cool. Putting aside the symbolism of what they do, they’re a fascinating piece of history that we can feel and touch – and climb. North Carolina has quite a few of them, and I’m slowly trying to see them all.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse stands about halfway between the ocean and the sound. It’s not overly tall, but in this part of the landscape it didn’t have to be. The red brick is an unexpected look for a lighthouse, and striking.
You can climb it most days, although it closes when there’s lightning. There’s also festivals on summer weekends in the adjacent park, so it’s worth exploring!
See the wild horses
Back in the day, wild horses roamed the island. Introduced by the first European colonists, they wandered loose until the 90’s, when the government created protected land for them.
Nowadays you can drive on the undeveloped lands to spot the. You’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle, or go with an organized group. Even if you don’t spot the horses, the views are beautiful!
Grill fresh seafood
Is it really a beach trip if you don’t eat seafood??? There’s quite a few restaurants in town, but we opted to grill our own. You can buy fish that’s been caught that same day, and it’s so fresh that it doesn’t even need much in terms of seasoning.
Eating grilled seafood and vegetables after a day in the sunshine = perfection.
Catch some waves
No, not with a surfboard. While it’s not great for surfing, Corolla is a fantastic beach for boogie boarding, body surfing, paddle boarding and skim boarding! The gradual incline of the shore means that perfect flat areas for skim boarding pop up everywhere. I spent most of my time in the ocean teaching my cousins to body surf, and these waves are big enough to ride all the way in but small enough that you don’t get bashed around.
Chase the crabs
Corolla’s beaches are full of tiny ghost crabs! They won’t bother you if you’re on the beach – sunbathers, you’re safe! – but they’re fun to watch. They’re also hilarious to chase around, especially with dogs or toddlers!
In the late afternoon and evening, you can also catch a different kind of crabs at the water’s edge – they’re tiny crabs that look more like giant roly-polys. We called them “sand crabs” growing up, but technically they’re mole crabs. They don’t have pincers so there’s nothing to worry about, even with kids. They burrow into the wet sand so it’s always a race to catch them before they’re out of sight! We used to do this as kids all time and see who could find the biggest and the smallest ones.
Eat the original Duck Donuts
Duck Donuts has become a phenomenon up and down the east coast, and for good reason. If you head to Corolla, you should definitely hit up the original spot!
I typically favor yeast donuts over cake donuts, but these babies are so good that I don’t even care! Definitely the best cake donuts I’ve ever tasted. Get a dozen to share so you can have bites of everything. But don’t wait too late in the day, they close when they run out!
Bust out the beach games
Beach games are the best! My favorite is Spikeball, where you and a partner bounce a ball off the trampoline in a sort of horizontal volleyball match. I am TERRIBLE at it and I love it.
Spend a morning at Kill Devil Hills
Corolla is only about 30 miles north of Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk is famous for being the town where the Wright brothers’ historic first flight back in 1903. Go check out Jockey’s Ridge State Park for hiking on dunes, hang gliding, and other fun!!
Anywhere along the outer banks is beautiful, but Corolla is worth exploring! What’s your favorite thing to do at the beach?