Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on June 20, 2023.
On the northern end of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is a wonderful village full of history, wild horses, beautiful scenery, and plenty of other attractions to experience. While it’s not as commercialized as other OBX towns, we’ve discovered plenty of fun things to do in Corolla, for every type of traveler!
Surrounded by the Currituck Sound on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, you’ll pristine beaches and places to swim, but what else is there to do? Where are the best places to go?
That’s what we plan to cover in this guide to Corolla and how you can enjoy it as we have.
Of course, we want to prepare you for the trip, too, so we’ve included details about Corolla’s location and tips before you go. Here’s how we’ve organized the guide:
- Where is Corolla?
- What is There to Do in Corolla? (+ Who Should Visit?)
- Annual Events in Corolla
- (Mostly) Year-Round Things to Do in Corolla (Historic Corolla Village and Beyond)
- Places to Eat
- Things to Do Nearby
- More Things to Do in the Outer Banks (Related Posts)
If you already know how to prepare for an Outer Banks trip, you can skip ahead to those things to do in Corolla. Otherwise, keep reading for our tips and how to find Corolla.
Whether you’re a new resident, a frequent visitor, or a local, we’re leaving no detail behind. If you live in the Corolla area and are wondering, “What are the best things to do near me?” we think this NC travel guide will help you out!
Where is Corolla?
Before we dig into the best things to do in Corolla, it’s important to share its location and how to get there.
- Corolla is in Currituck County and classified as part of the Outer Banks. The county is separated by Currituck Sound, with Corolla on the barrier island side.
- There are multiple other islands in the county, including Knotts Island. You can ferry to Knotts Island from Currituck or drive there on NC-615 from the Virginia border.
- On the mainland, you’ll find county seat Currituck and multiple other towns along or near NC-168 and US-158, the latter connecting travelers to the barrier islands via Wright Memorial Bridge.
- Across the sound are Corolla and a variety of protected lands, including Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge (mostly on Knotts Island) and Currituck National Wildlife Refuge.
- We think Corolla is the perfect base to set up and relax or explore its surroundings in Currituck County and the Outer Banks.
What is There to Do in Corolla? (+ Who Should Visit?)
Corolla is known for its quiet and unspoiled nature. It is a popular vacation spot for those who enjoy outdoor sports such as fishing, kayaking, and surfing.
However, Corolla is also a wonderful retreat for families looking to relax in quiet.
Many attractions in town are open throughout the year, but others are seasonally open from May to September. This varies according to the business, so please check hours and/or call ahead before you head out.
Our most important tip for visiting Corolla is to expect traffic on Saturdays. Saturdays are check-in/check-out day for vacationers, and it is not uncommon for the road to be backed up past Southern Shores and the Wright Memorial Bridge.
Read More: Weekend Getaways in North Carolina
Annual Events in Corolla
These annual events are among the best free things to do in Corolla, so get ready to add them to your calendar!
- Under the Oaks Festival (June): One of many events held at Historic Corolla Park, Under the Oaks is a wonderful arts showcase of local craftspeople.
- Yoga in the Park (Thursdays, June to September): Free yoga classes start on Thursday mornings in Historic Corolla Park and all levels of yogis are welcome!
- Independence Day Celebration (July): Also held at Historic Corolla Park, Corolla’s Independence Day Celebration offers live music and fireworks.
- Christmas Craft Village (November): This event is typically held on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Festive arts and crafts, carriage rides, and Santa and Mrs. Claus await!
- Whalehead’s Candlelight Christmas (Late November through the Third Week of December): Tours of the Whalehead Mansion are even more special during the holiday season. Decorations, music, and treats are just a part of the festive fun.
Do you know of any other fun annual events in Corolla? We’d love to know about them. Please feel free to share in the comments below or by email!
(Mostly) Year-Round Things to Do in Corolla
If you think you fit the bill, here are the best things to do in Corolla throughout most of the year. We start with Historic Corolla Park.
Historic Corolla Park
1100 Hunt Club Dr
Many people think of wild horses when “things to do in Corolla” come to mind, but we think you should start with Historic Corolla Park. You may have already noticed some of the town’s biggest events happen here, but there’s even more to the place.
The park is free to enter and includes 39 acres of lush, beautiful space. It is an excellent place to walk, bike, or attend an event while vacationing in Corolla.
Historic Corolla Park is also packed with attractions that everyone will appreciate:
- Corolla Wild Horse Museum
- Currituck Beach Lighthouse
- Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
Not only can you see these Corolla NC attractions, but many retail shops reside inside the village’s restored historic buildings.
The Whalehead Club Historic House Museum
Whalehead is a historic house museum that’s beautiful from a distance and even better up close. With 21,000 square feet of luxurious interior and exterior looking out on the Currituck Sound, the Art Nouveau-style home is strikingly yellow and surrounded by large oaks.
Used as a winter home and hunting retreat for Edward Collings Knight and his wife Marie-Louise LeBel Knight, the house has been restored to its original 1920s luxury.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse
1101 Corolla Village Rd
If you don’t have much time for all these things to do in Corolla, we think you should at least climb Currituck Beach Lighthouse! This is the northernmost lighthouse in North Carolina.
Completed in 1875, it is marked by an unpainted brick finish and a spiral staircase inside. Climb the 214 stairs to the top and enjoy a magical view of Whalehead and the rest of the Outer Banks.
Admission to climb requires a ticket and the lighthouse is open from early spring through Thanksgiving weekend.
Corolla Wild Horse Museum
1130 E Corolla Village Rd
Looking for the best things to do in Corolla NC when it rains? Whether its a rainy day or you want some respite from the heat, head to the Corolla Wild Horse Museum. It’s one of the best indoor activities in Corolla NC.
The museum details the history of the Colonial Spanish Mustangs inhabiting the islands for nearly 500 years.
Donations fund the museum, and all of the proceeds go to the Corolla Wild Horse Fund. This fund helps to care for the horses in the event of medical intervention and so much more!
Note that the Corolla Wild Horse Fund is the only official and non-profit designated to protect the wild horses of the Outer Banks. If you want to support the wild horses, feel free to donate or inquire for more educational material and wild horse tours on their website.
The Corolla Wild Horse Fund also offers special programming during the summer. One example is “Meet a Mustang,” where visitors can interact with a tamed mustang.
These programs are a special way to commemorate your time in the Outer Banks and are among our favorite things to do in Corolla!
Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
1160 Village Lane
The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education recognizes the area’s wildlife and its relationship with duck hunting, which was a popular activity at Whalehead for many years. They have a collection of 200-plus antique waterfowl decoys on display.
There is also a duck blind display that is set up in a simulated salt marsh. This will take you back to an era when Whalehead was one of the most exclusive hunting clubs.
Things to Do in Corolla Beyond the Historic Village
Beyond the wonderful village park, there are some amazing outdoor things to do in Corolla beyond the historic village!
Hit the Beach!
Time at the beach is why most people come to the Outer Banks and Corolla is home to some of the best patches of sand.
There are some private beach accesses in Corolla but also, 15 public beach accesses. Six of the following public accesses have lifeguards:
- Corolla Village Road (Also a shower and bathhouse, along with parking)
- Shad Street (Only parking)
- Sturgeon Walkway (Only parking)
- Bonito Street (Only parking)
- Sailfish Walkway (Only parking)
- Yaupon Lane (A shower, bathhouse, and parking)
Even if there is no lifeguard on duty, please obey flags and do not swim when a red flag is flying.
You can also visit the beaches (Swan Beach and Carova Beach) that are north of the paved road. However, you’ll need to prepare the following before doing so:
- A 4WD vehicle with tires aired down.
- A permit for parking. A permit isn’t necessary for driving the 4WD Beach.
See the Wild Horses
One of the really cool things to do at Corolla Beach is seize the opportunity to see wild horses in Corolla, especially north of the paved road. Shipwrecked from the Spanish in the 1500s, these Spanish Mustangs have shorter legs and stockier bodies than domesticated horses.
They roam wherever they like, which sometimes means in your backyard!
We saw wild horses with Bob’s Wild Horse Tours and enjoyed our morning with them. Note that this was not a sponsored trip!
Here are some more companies that will take you to see Outer Banks wild horses:
- Back Beach Wild Horse Tours (Monterey Plaza, 817 B Ocean Trail)
- Back Country Safari Tours (1159 Austin St)
- Corolla Wild Horse Tours (1159 F Austin St)
- Wild Horse Adventure Tours (610 Currituck Clubhouse Dr)
NOTE: Do not approach the horses and always leave 50 feet between you and them. This is imperative not only for your safety but also to protect the herd.
The wild horses of the Outer Banks are extremely territorial, and any contact with humans could be deadly. It is also vital not to feed the horses or leave any trash. In 2020 a yearling tragically choked and died on an apple, and another was killed by a car in 2021.
Also, please do not venture onto private property when viewing the horses. Locals and those staying in the area will appreciate your cooperation.
One of the best things to do in Corolla is to get out on the water. You can see it all from above by parasailing.
Of course, you could see it all from the same level in a kayak or motorboat. Here are a few businesses in Corolla that offer guided tours and equipment rentals:
- North Beach Watersports (1066 Ocean Trail)
- Corolla Surf Shop (807 Ocean Trail)
- Corolla Watersports (798K Sunset Blvd)
- Coastal Explorations (1118 Corolla Village Road)
- Kitty Hawk Kites (819 Ocean Trail and 794 Sunset Blvd)
- Kitty Hawk Surf Co (Timbuck II)
Do you know of any other rental/tour companies based in Corolla? Let us know about them!
Corolla Adventure Park
1215 Ponton Ln
Before we talk about how to fill your belly, there’s one last fun activity in Corolla to discuss.
Fly high during your Corolla vacation at Corolla Adventure Park! With climbing activities for all skill levels and ages, you are bound to have an exciting time!
The park features 66 different instances and 8 zip lines. Chose one of 11 different circuits for your 2-hour climb and save some energy for ax throwing!
796 Sunset Drive
The seasonally open Corolla Raceway (typically May to September) is home to your next go-kart adventure. Kids and adults are welcome to hop in a kart or try one of their bumper cars.
In between races, check out their arcade that’s packed with games galore!
300 Audubon Dr
Near the southern edge of Corolla is the Donal C. O’Brien Sanctuary and Audubon Center at Pine Island. The Pine Island Audubon Center works hard to educate the public about preservation efforts.
If you’re interested in romantic things to do in Corolla, you can also join an eco-friendly kayak tour or walk along the preserve’s 2.5-mile nature trail.
If the weather doesn’t cooperate or you’d like to find something to take home, Corolla has some shopping options that will help.
- Malls and Shopping Centers
- Corolla Village (Corolla Village Rd): The Island Bookstore, Spry Creek, and a Greener Shade of You
- Monterey Plaza (807 Ocean Trail): Corolla Surf Shop, Farmer’s Daughter, Lighthouse Bagels, and Sundogs Raw Bar & Grill.
- Timbuck II Shopping Village (785 Sunset Blvd): Kitty Hawk Kites, First Light Breakfast and Burgers, and Corolla Raceway
One of the easiest things to do in Corolla is escape. We mentioned Yoga in the Park in our Annual Events section but want to also share Corolla Yoga (1206 Pacific Ave).
You can join a group tour on the beach or reach out to Chelsea for a private lesson at a location of your choice.
The Currituck Club (620 Currituck Clubhouse Dr) is a semi-private golf course that was designed by Rees Jones. Book a tee-time with friends or host your own tournament in one of the world’s most beautiful golf settings.
Where to Eat in Corolla
Like most of our favorite Outer Banks restaurants, Corolla has some incredible places to eat.
- Grab the best bagels of your Outer Banks Vacation (or your entire life) at Lighthouse Bagels (807 Ocean Trail)!
- Enjoy the pet-friendly patio for lunch and the delicious options from the Baja-inspired menu at Corolla Cantina (1159 Austin St).
- If seafood is what you’re craving check out North Banks Restaurant and Raw Bar (794-G Sunset Blvd) for a delicious dinner.
- Or if you don’t feel like cooking, definitely order a to-go pot from Outer Banks Boil Company (Timbuck II Shopping Center, 785 Sunset Blvd)!
Ready for these Fun Things to Do in Corolla?
With more than 100 miles of coastline, North Carolina’s Outer Banks are among the nation’s most popular beach vacation spots. We think these things to do in Corolla cement the Currituck County village’s place near the top of our favorite OBX spots.
If you’re familiar with Corolla, we’d love to know what you think about it. Let us know in the comments below or by email.
For anyone who plans to visit for the first time, please feel free to chime in, too. Don’t forget to join our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group and share your experiences and photos from the trip!
Things to Do Nearby (Currituck County and the Outer Banks)
If you’d like to space out these things to do in Corolla and branch out a bit, there are plenty of places to go nearby.
Here’s a breakdown of places and things to do in each within an hour of Corolla:
- Duck (16 miles, 22 minutes from Corolla): Private beaches, a great boardwalk, Sanderling Resort, and an overall residential feel.
- Southern Shores (18 miles, 28 minutes from Corolla): Residential and home to Duck Woods Country Club.
- Kitty Hawk (25 miles, 37 minutes from Corolla): Public beaches, Kitty Hawk Woods, and Sea Scape Golf Course.
- Kill Devil Hills (27 miles, 40 minutes from Corolla): The Wright Brothers Memorial, Public Beaches, and Nags Head Woods Ecological Preserve.
- Nags Head (32 miles, 47 minutes from Corolla): Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Public Beaches, and Jennette’s Pier.
Travel times can vary when traveling during busy days and peak vacation seasons.