7 Reasons to Visit Corolla, North Carolina in the Outer Banks
My family has visited the Outer Banks (OBX) in North Carolina for around 24 years. We’ve stayed in different houses and in both Duck and Corolla. This year would be the 25th year, but we had to make some adjustments to our plans, and hope to possibly visit in the fall this year instead! Truthfully, I feel homesick about it. This has always been a sort of sanctuary for me. A place I can get away from everything else back home and just relax and recharge. What do I love so much about this place? I’ll tell you! Here are my 7 reasons why you should visit Corolla in OBX!
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The Beach in Corolla
This is one of the obvious reasons to visit Corolla, at least it should be. I absolutely love the beach here. I’m not huge on going out into the water, but the beach is my happy place. Yes, sometimes the beaches can get busier, like on a holiday weekend, but this area is rather difficult to get to so it doesn’t see a lot of day-trippers. The people on the beach are usually staying somewhere in the area. The houses we rent are always right on the beach, so we’ve got a prime beach setup. Being so close to the water is great for people like me. People who, no matter how much we love the beach, our skin doesn’t do well in the sun, even with all the sunblock in the world.
There is something so refreshing about sitting in the sand, or on the patio, and listening to the waves crash. Watching the water come in and go out. Breathing in the saltwater. Enjoy watching those crabs running back and forth across the beach. And dolphins! Every trip we see dolphins swimming passed along the coast. While you’re on vacation and not many people equate a relaxing trip to getting up early in the morning, but you absolutely should get up at least one morning to watch the sunrise. I usually live-stream it so my friends stuck back in Iowa can see it. Excuse me while I go imagine myself there right now……ah happy place.
Food is Just One of the Reasons to Visit Corolla
Who doesn’t love good food? There are so many great places to eat, from fancy to casual, but these are some of our favorites.
- Corolla Village Bar-b-Que. This is amazing! Everyone in our family loves it! It’s such a small place that it is easy to miss, but you definitely shouldn’t!
- Ned’s Ice Cream. This is a MUST for us! The servings are HUGE! They’ve also added frozen yogurt and a toppings bar over the years. It is the hit of our stay; we usually visit a couple of times.
- Northern Lights Bakery. Donuts. Muffins. Cinnamon Rolls. It’s all drool-worthy! We love visiting this bakery. They also have coffees, pies, breakfast sandwiches, and so much more!
- Mike Dianna’s Grill Room. As you can imagine from the name, they have great steaks. I don’t get steak personally, but others in our group do. I’ve had the pasta, chicken, and scallops before. All great, and good drinks too 😉
- The Blue Point (in Duck). I’ll be honest, I can’t for sure tell you what I’ve personally eaten there over the years, but it’s always good and it’s a family favorite. Plus it’s a great place to watch the sunset.
- Paper Canoe (in Duck). I love their woodfire pizza! So good!
- Tommy’s Market. This isn’t a restaurant, but we love visiting it and they have a great meat selection, so if you’re going to grill out, go here first!
- Corolla Pizza. Okay, there’s nothing special about this pizza, but for me, it’s a traditions thing. Getting it makes me feel like we’re really on vacation.
There are SO many other great restaurants in the area! You can get groceries and cook at home, or you could find a different restaurant for every night you’re there!
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Relaxation is Easy in Corolla
Okay, there’s the beach, and chilling at your house, but there are also spa treatments and massages! I don’t know about you, but I could use a good massage every other week (if my purse allowed). We used to always go down to the Spa at Sanderling Resort. It’s nice because it can accommodate a good amount of people, so you can go with your whole group. There’s a locker room, steam room, relaxing/quiet room, and individual treatment rooms. We’ve always had a good experience here. However, a few years ago I started looking around to see if there was something a little closer to the house.
I found Outer Banks Massage Therapy right in our backyard at the Timbuck II shopping center. MUCH closer to the house. There aren’t as many therapists or perks here, but the massages have been amazing! The entire staff has been great too. Plus, when we’re done we can go shopping 😉
Wild Horses in the Outer Banks
When you’re talking about the beach, you may not automatically think that horses would be one of the reasons to visit Corolla. However, one of the awesome things about this area is the wild horses on the beach. If you take a little drive up to the 4-wheel area up towards Carova, you’ll come across some beautiful horses. They are wild, and you do need to stay a bit away from them, but they’re great to watch. The best time to see them is more towards the middle of the day when it’s warmer. During this time the bugs come out where the horses typically are on the other side of the dunes, so the horses come closer to the beach to get away from them.
The Corolla Wild Horse Fund used to have tours that would go up to the area to spot horses. They no longer do that to allow more time and energy to be spent on helping to protect the horses. However, there are plenty of other tour groups that go up there so it’s not difficult to find someone. Or, if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle, you can head up yourself (or walk if that’s your thing). Just make sure to let some air out of your tires (there are fill stations for when you get back).
Water Sports Are One of the Most Fun Reasons to Visit Corolla
If you are looking for a more active trip instead of just being lazy on the beach, you have options! On the sound side, you can rent jet skis or you can go parasailing. I’ve done both of those, and enjoyed them both! The parasailing is awesome because you can see the OBX from a different view. You can see the mainland, the sound, OBX, and the ocean. It’s just breathtaking. (I was absolutely terrified my first time going up, but it was worth it!)
You can also rent things like kayaks or paddleboards that you can take out with you on the ocean side. I think we’ve rented a kayak once or twice and a couple of the guys have played around with it, but we’re more the lazy type. You can also get a charter and head out for some fishing. For this, you have to go down towards Nags Head. We did this once. You have to be there really early (like 5 am or something) so with the drive we had to get there, it was a long day. But if you’re into fishing, I’d say it’s worth it.
Also, if you ask my brothers, there’s decent golfing too. I don’t golf in the slightest, but my uncle, cousin, and brothers do just about every time.
In Corolla, we have the Currituck Beach Lighthouse where you can climb up the inside and look out over the area. However, if you are afraid of heights, this might not be for you. I’m just a little, but usually don’t have an issue. It’s just in those situations where there’s no wall, window, or railing protecting you…like out on a cliff with nothing around you. I did have some issues with this though. As I was climbing it I started getting really dizzy and had to keep my eyes just on the step right in front of me. Once up top, I was practically suction cupped to the wall of the lighthouse. I did break away for a selfie or two to prove I did it, but then it was right back to the wall. With all of that though, it was totally worth it!
Shopping Isn’t One of the Top Reasons to Visit Corolla, but it’s a great bonus!
Shopping may not be one of the main reasons why you should visit Corolla, but it’s definitely a perk on the trip. Now, after doing nothing and getting massages, shopping is a favorite for me! One big store that beach lovers should visit is Nags Head Hammocks so they can take some beach relaxation back home with them. I got an awesome chair hammock swing that I can curl up in. It’s so comfortable and very durable!
The shopping center, Timmbuck II, is where I like to go for other shopping. There are stores for things like home decor, clothing, beach goodies, souvenirs, cigars, and food. Plus there are restaurants and activities. In fact, the Mike Dianna’s restaurant I mentioned earlier is in this area along with many other great options!
Mustang Sally’s has some wonderful clothes. My mother, aunt and I always go in to add some new essentials to our everyday wardrobe that we can take back home. My favorite store is The Cottage Shop. They have such adorable house decor. I dream of my house being filled with things from this store. Gray’s and Parrot Bay are great places to look for souvenirs to take back home for everyone. One family favorite is Try My Nuts and their Dirty White Trash mix. It’s very delicious and scary how much of it our family can eat.
In this center, they even have go-karts, miniature golf, paddleboats, kayaks, wave runners, and parasailing. Did I mention they have a Brew Thru? You can drive-thru and get some wine, beer, snacks, and more! I mean, how fun is that!
Don’t Forget Those Souvenirs!
Across the street are the Food Lion and more shops. Even though it’s gotten to be such a big store, I like shopping in Super Wings. They have everything, and I always find great things to take back to my nieces, nephew, friends, and co-workers. Who are we kidding, and for myself! I never go home without a new shirt, sweatpants, or sweatshirt that I can sport and represent OBX. (I may be wearing some OBX sweat pants right now…in fact, I have a Corolla fire department shirt on too.) Just for the Beach is next door and they have lots of great things too, but Wings just has a larger variety.
So these are just a few of the reasons you should visit Corolla in the Outer Banks, North Carolina. There really is so much more! I mean, would we keep going there for 24+ years if it wasn’t a wonderful place? You can drive south and find plenty more to do as well throughout the rest of the Outer Banks! Finding a place to stay can sometimes be a little costly. Most of the houses through the larger rental groups rent out by the week. However, I do know that there are some Facebook groups, and I’m sure Air BnB that you could try as well. It’s definitely worth it!
What are your favorite reasons to visit Corolla or the OBX? Or, do you have another favorite beach vacation spot? I’d love to hear about it!
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I’m looking to travel here hopefully *fingers crossed* in the next year! This posting was so helpful! Loved the food spots to check out and the recommendations! I can’t wait to visit this beautiful place!
Oh you’ll enjoy it so much! I consider it a second home because it feels so great to be there!
Linda (LD Holland)
I really do need to add the Outer Banks to our U.S. travel plans. The beach would certainly be a big draw for me to visit Coralla. And lighthouses always are a fun find at the beach. It would be fascinating to see wild horses on the beach as we walked along. Sounds like a great relaxing spot to visit. Especially if we can add in a spa day or two!
You absolutely should! There are so many other things to do as well that I didn’t even get to, or just lay around and chill!
There’s something so soothing about listening to the sound of the waves. It’s almost meditative. We were in a pebble beach in Greece, and the sound that the waves made when the tides retreated and dragged the tiny pebbles over each other, sounded like a huge exhale. I found myself breathing in and out with the tides, and when I walked away, I felt restored!
Absolutely! I’ll listen to a sound machine when I’m working simply so I can breathe along with the sound of the waves. Of course, nothing to compares to being there in person!
Lia, this pot brings me back to my childhood. My family always visited OBX for years and we usually stayed in Nags Head and sometimes Duck and Pine Island – such a beautiful part of America. I had no idea there were wild horses in Corolla, I guess we didn’t explore enough, but you know how the traffic can be in the Outer Banks haha 🙂
We’ve stayed in the Pine Island and Duck area before too. And yes, the traffic is a pain, we had to evacuate one year and that was a nightmare!
Wow there are so many things to do! The views look stunning. The idea of having a bbq and relaxing on the beach sounds like the dream right now! I think i want to visit just for the food ahah! How amazing are the horses! Love the photos of them on the beach! Looks like a fantastic place to visit!
I have been craving some of the delicious BBQ from our favorite place there. Luckily we at least stocked up on their sauces last year so we can kind of have it even if we’re not there.
Wow I would love to visit! I’m from NC and never made it to the OBX, clearly missing out!
I had no idea that Corolla is such an exciting place. I am a fan of lighthouses. So I would like to see Currituck Beach Lighthouse and climb up the inside and look out over the area. I like your restaurant recommendations most; it is so useful for travelers! It’s also great to know that the Corolla Wild Horse Fund offered such exciting tours. I would like to spot these amazing horses.
Noooooooooooo. No Lia, no… I’m sitting in the middle of a city and with all the restrictions, its been ages since I visited a beach. You made me miss it too much now. Yes, everything about a beach is magical, relaxing and awesome! Sitting on the sand and watching the waves crash is just a happy place! Watching sunrise in the beach is great! With hardly any people around, I prefer that more than sunsets which are usually crowded.
You’re absolutely right about the sunrises. There’s something so special about seeing something that many never do!
Wow, I was never aware of this place before. I can see there are a lot of activities to do in Corolla. I am really interested in enjoying the watersports, relax in the spas, and explore the lighthouses, and soak myself in the nature of Corolla. I will surely visit the place soon if I get a chance.
Parasailing in the sound is so awesome because of how much you’re able to see and gives you such a different view of everything around you! Plus it’s a little thrilling floating in the air!