Located on the northernmost stretch of the North Carolina barrier island chain, Corolla features some of the most preserved and least populated beaches you can explore without boarding a boat or ferry. This once-desolate beach was largely inaccessible until the 1980s, when Highway 12 was extended beyond the town of Duck and all the way to Corolla. But, that's only half the trip; the rest may require four-wheel drive.
Once the pavement turns to deep sand and the horizon is nothing but deep-blue sea, visitors can drive north up the beach. You'll be fine in a car if you can make it past the entryway to the packed-down sand below the high-tide line, so check the tide times and plan your trip accordingly.
A wild foal on Corolla Beach — Photo courtesy of Flashy Soup Can
The farther north you drive, the more you can escape the crowds who have discovered Corolla Beach. Once you find a quiet spot, you can park right on the beach (it's really convenient for loading and unloading your surfboards, beach chairs and toys.)
The only intruders you may encounter are herds of wild horses that call this beach home, and the people who come to see them. The descendants of the original horses introduced to North America from Europe, these ponies still roam the coastline and don't mind being photographed from a safe distance.
For those who prefer to stay on firmer ground, the Currituck Lighthouse is open for tours and offers breath-taking views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding maritime forest. Also worth mentioning is the historic Whalehead Club, which was home to millionaire waterfowl hunters in the 1920s and is now open to the general public.