Last Updated on August 3, 2021
Last Updated on August 3, 2021
If you plan to visit Western NC, please check beforehand to see if the area is safe following the recent flooding. Officials have closed some sections of Pisgah National Forest (including Forest Heritage Scenic Byway and Blue Ridge Parkway stops) to keep visitors out of danger. Please respect signage and local guidance.
Seeing Outer Banks wild horses as they freely roam near the shores of Corolla and Carova Beach should be on everyone’s North Carolina Bucket List, including yours. If you want to know how to see them, our guide is here to help.
We also share the history of these feral Spanish Mustangs, important tips to keep them (and you) safe, and our experience joining a wild horse tour in Corolla.
If you’re looking for something specific, here’s how we’ve organized the guide:
- History of the Outer Banks Wild Horses
- Things to Know Before Seeing the Horses (50 Feet and No Feeding!)
- How to See Outer Banks Wild Horses
- Joining a Wild Horse Tour in Corolla
- Outer Banks Wild Horse Tours (Plus Our Recommendation)
- Horse Tour Tips
- More Things to Do in Corolla
History of the Outer Banks Wild Horses
While we’ll interchangeably refer to them as “Outer Banks wild horses” or “wild horses,” These animals are technically feral Spanish mustangs. They’re believed to be the descendants of a Spanish shipwreck in the 1500s, but nobody really knows their origin.
The original horses swam ashore and made the Outer Banks their new home. You can find similar horses on Ocracoke Island, the Rachel Carson Reserve near Beaufort, and in the Shackelford Banks near Beaufort, Harkers Island, and across from Cape Lookout Lighthouse.
The Corolla Wild Horse Fund works to “protect, conserve, and responsibly manage” these particular horses and the land where they roam in Corolla and Carova Beach.
One thing you’ll notice about the Outer Banks wild horses is that they are built differently from domesticated horses. Their legs are shorter, their bodies stocky, and they have thick, coarse fur.
Any kind of human contact with these horses can be lethal for them and possibly you. While they may appear docile, they are incredibly territorial and fiercely protective.
Things to Know Before Seeing the Horses (50 Feet and No Feeding!)
The most important thing to remember once you find the wild horses is that you must remain 50 feet away from the horses at all times. Note that we took all of these photos from our vehicle with a zoom lens.
DO NOT attempt to feed them. Tragically one of the Outer Banks wild horses choked and died in 2020 from an apple.
Another horse nearly died in 2021 on a piece of trash and unfortunately now cannot return to the wild after having medical intervention.
Please remember to keep your distance and don’t feed the horses, so they (and you!) can stay safe.
How to See Outer Banks Wild Horses
The easiest way to see the horses is to live or stay in Corolla or Carova Beach, in the areas past the 4X4 beach access. The horses will not roam into the main part of town, so keep that in mind when booking.
If you do stay in the area that requires a 4X4 to access, you’ll see them strolling through neighborhoods, yards, or chomping on the grass in the mornings before heading to the beach to beat the afternoon heat.
If you have a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, you can also drive along the beach to find them.
You will also need to air down your tires to 15 to 20 psi before entering the 4×4 Beach.
Note that All-Wheel-Drive (AWD) might not be good enough to drive through the soft sand. If you get stuck, you’ll need to call one of the beach rescue crews, and it is VERY expensive.
Do not attempt to take your Prius or any other unqualified vehicle, or you will end up on one of Carl’s favorite Facebook groups—Corolla Beach Idiots.
Wild Horse Tours in Corolla (Plus Our Recommendation)
Several tour operators in Corolla will take you in an open-air jeep to see the horses. One of the reasons we recommend taking a tour is because the tour guides talk to each other and give each other tips on where the horses will be.
Not only is that helpful, but they also give great background information on the horses, including their ages, names, and stories.
We took our tour with Bob’s Wild Horse Tours. Family-owned and operated, they’ve been giving tours since 1996. Bob White and his crew are incredible at providing local history during your tour.
Here are a few more companies that will take you to see Outer Banks wild horses:
- Back Beach Wild Horse Tours
- Back Country Safari Tours
- Corolla Wild Horse Tours
- Wild Horse Adventure Tours
Outer Banks Horse Tour Tips
- North Carolina State Law requires children weighing under 80 pounds to be in a car seat or booster seat, and this is enforced on the tour. The tour operators will ask you to put the child’s car seat in the middle of the row. It is fast and easy to install the car seat forward-facing with the seatbelt.
- Pick an early time for your tour, but not too early. As the day gets hotter in the day, you’re probably less likely to see the horses roaming around. So go early in the morning or late evening.
- We also wouldn’t recommend taking the first tour of the day. Why? Because on the first tour of the day you are searching for the horses. Subsequent tours get a heads up from the first tour of where the horses are hanging out.
- It’s a bumpy ride, so we recommend not eating a large meal beforehand and also emptying your bladder before embarking on your adventure.
- Speaking of the ride, the best seats are toward the front of the jeep. However, the last row of the vehicle will be the bumpiest, so the operators will recommend that if you have a bad back or small children, to not ride in the back.
- Keep your eyes peeled toward the water! During our tour, we saw countless dolphins swimming close to shore. It was absolutely magical and something that we didn’t expect to see during this trip.
Ready to See Outer Banks Wild Horses?
We hope you’re able to make it to Corolla for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Personally, we’ll never forget seeing those wild horses roaming around.
Of course, we’ll always look forward to the next time we can safely view them from a distance.
Have you ever seen these Outer Banks wild horses? We’d love to know what you thought of the experience. Also, if you’re to willing to share, what tour company did you go through?
If you haven’t seen them yet, please share your first experience here or in our Facebook Group.
More Things to Do in Corolla
Beyond seeing the Outer Banks wild horses, there are plenty of fun things to do in Corolla! You should at least check out Historic Corolla Village, where Whalehead and 39 acres of beautiful sound-side views await.
Spend some time perusing the village’s shops. You can see it all from above by climbing Currituck Lighthouse.
If you are interested in exploring more Outer Banks towns, we welcome you to try some more of our favorite things to do in the Outer Banks. We also have an excellent hiking guide that might surprise you!