Camera-worthy spots and opportunities abound on the Outer Banks. However, one town’s singular and well-preserved history and landscape practically beg that you have your camera ready at all times. Welcome to Corolla – the village shaped by herds of wild horses, a restored 1920s Art Nouveau house and museum, stretches of soft sandy beach and the literal end of the road on the Outer Banks. Whether you’re staying in Corolla or day tripping, don’t miss these picture-perfect destinations to capture memories of this magical place.
The generous berth of sugar-sandy beaches, the cerulean waters … it’s no wonder why so many families and couples stage family pictures and engagement photos on the Corolla beaches! Make it a top spot to document your time in Corolla. For enhanced beach photos, read on to learn about the sunrise scene.
Corolla Wild Horses
Many travel to Corolla exclusively to see the wild horses. This strain of Spanish Banker Mustangs roam free throughout the island’s 4x4 beach, and there’s the frequent chance of spotting them playing in the surf, grazing through the vegetation in the maritime woods or curiously poking around people’s yards. The wild horse tours around Corolla’s dunes and beaches present one of the surest ways to spot the famed creatures. Not only do the knowledgeable guides know where to find the horses, but they also pepper the tour with their savvy for the surrounding environment.
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse
North Carolina hosts an amazing collection of lighthouses, but my favorite is in Corolla. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse rises above Historic Corolla Village, and the view at the top rewards you with a vista of the narrow barrier island dividing the ocean and the sound. Directly below, you have a birds-eye view of the Whalehead Estate, Historic Corolla Park and the Village. The red-brick lighthouse itself deserves a snapshot or three. Inside, an elegant wrought iron staircase spirals upward from the black-and-white marble floor. The lighthouse’s home in the Historic Corolla Park feels a bit like a time capsule with the natural vegetation webbed around the lighthouse and the collection of New England-style cottages.
Historic Corolla Park
The grounds surrounding the lighthouse and Whalehead make up Historic Corolla Park. As hinted above, the picturesque and restored double keepers’ house, the keeper’s cottage that now houses a gift shop and the lighthouse are all sights to behold. Add in a backdrop of the pond with a footbridge, the boat basin and a veil of foliage, and your biggest challenge will be putting down the camera.
Historic Corolla Village
Whalehead and Historic Corolla Park connect seamlessly with Historic Corolla Village. There, a gallery of potential photo opportunities awaits within this fully functioning community that doubles as a historic attraction. Follow the dirt road leading out of Corolla Park, but revel in the lingering feelings of yesteryear as you pass the old Currituck Boathouse, the Historic Corolla Schoolhouse (still in operation), the Corolla Church, quaint shops and cottages. While in the Village, why not stop and shop, or have lunch at the famous Corolla BBQ?
Sunrise – Oceanfront
The sun breaking over the horizon deserves a moment of reverence. However, it’s unmatched to the magic of seeing it rise over the ocean. As it crests the Atlantic, its light ignites the waters with shades of blush, ochre and gold. From a sandy perch on the beach, you feel privy to this special world where it’s just you, the tranquil dawn and a thermos of coffee.
Sunset – Whalehead
Ahhh, the sunset – the Outer Banks’ golden hour that makes everyone pause and pull out their phones to capture the moment. People from all around the island go out of their way to catch a sunset in Corolla. The town’s generous soundside stretch promises plentiful views as the orb sinks below the horizon, the Currituck Sound mirroring its peach, gold and fuchsia hues. To add a signature Corolla touch to your sunset experience, catch it from the Whalehead estate, the distinguished 1920s home that put the village on the map for Northern sophisticates. Explore the plentiful photo opps from the estate’s grounds.
Speaking of, did you know that the restored yellow home is one of Corolla’s – and the Outer Banks’ – top attractions? Sunset or sunrise, rain or shine, the historic estate is a sight to behold. Its grounds are complete with views of a period boathouse, an architectural masterpiece of a bridge, the Currituck Lighthouse, a boardwalk along the sound and a pond.
4 x 4 Area
On the Outer Banks, you quite literally find the end of the road in Corolla … but not the end of adventures. The end of NC Highway 12 opens onto the four-wheel-drive beach. Shoulder your camera, let a little air out of your tires (assuming you have a four-wheel-drive, sand-worthy vehicle!) and cruise onto the sand for unobstructed beach and wildlife views. Head north to reach Carova – still off-road territory – and stay alert to see the wild horses, waterfowl or dolphins playing in the waves. Permits are required Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
This is, in no way, an all-inclusive list of photo-worthy destinations in Corolla. Rent a boat and venture out onto the Currituck Sound for a family adventure, or paddle around the marsh on a guided kayaking trip. Seek out the endless photogenic nooks and crannies created by Corolla’s lush natural environment. It seems like anywhere you venture, a new subject, change of scenery or fresh perspective await.