Corolla, North Carolina Oceanfront | Great Escapes OBX

Corolla, North Carolina

It’s hard to believe that just a few decades ago, Corolla was practically a deserted island. In the 1970’s it had a population of only 15 people!

Today, Corolla is truly a premier vacation destination especially suited to large family getaways or reunions with friends.

Consisting of mostly vacation rentals, this upscale resort community offers something for everyone.

History buffs will love learning about shipwrecks and lighthouses. Design enthusiasts will be enchanted by the Great Gatsby-era charm of The Whalehead Club. Shoppers will find unique, delightful boutiques. And foodies are always impressed with the fresh, local options available for every palate and budget.


The beach is obviously the main attraction in Corolla. Known for being clean, safe, and tons of fun, you can access the water from your Great Escapes OBX rental property or from a public beach access. If you aren't up for a beach day, many of our Great Escapes rentals have private pools, too!

Read here for great information about beach access, lifeguards and beach rules & regulations.


whalehead club in corolla, nc | Great Escapes OBX

Corolla History

Native Americans first used the island for hunting and fishing, and in the early 1700’s Europeans began to settle the mainland.

By the mid-1800’s several small towns popped up in Currituck County, but the only one to stick around was Corolla.

More jobs arrived with the construction of a massive house on Corolla Island (renamed The Whalehead Club in the 1940’s). The Whalehead, originally intended as a hunting retreat, was used as a home base for the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, making it a bustling hub of activity.


After the war, however, the population dwindled to practically nothing. People left for jobs on the mainland and the buildings fell into disrepair. One of the largest hurdles was the fact that there was no easy way to get on or off the island. In 1984, the State gained control of the main road to Corolla and it became the N.C. Highway 12 we know today.

This new road prompted enormous growth in Corolla, as you can imagine! The 1990’s brought home building and development to Corolla that was unprecedented. Today, most of the homes are used as rental or vacation homes and are some of the most beautiful and impressive on the Outer Banks (more than half of these homes are over 5,000 square feet!).

That being said, the town of Corolla has done a fantastic job maintaining the small town feel of the village and they maintain the puzzle pieces of their history with integrity. Check the boxes below to get a true feel for this island’s heritage and beauty.


Things to do in Corolla, NC


The Whalehead Historic Museum | Great Escapes OBX

The Whalehead Historic Museum

Constructed in 1925 as a hunting retreat for the wealthy Knight family, this lavish mansion boasts a staggering 21,000 square feet of art-nouveau inspired design. It was ahead of its time and featured many impressive attributes, including cork floors, hot and cold running water and electricity!

Originally named "Corolla Island” by the Knights, it was renamed Whalehead in 1939 and after a careful restoration, Whalehead Museum was open to the public in 2002.

The estate has several tours available, including a Christmas Candlelight tour, ghost tour, and even one specifically for children called "Joan’s Way”. Click here for details and tickets.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse | Great Escapes OBX

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Climb the 220 steps to the top of this unassuming lighthouse and be rewarded with awesome views of the ocean and sound. With a light that shines 18 nautical miles, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse has been guiding sailors home since 1875.

From the grounds, gaze up and try to wrap your head around the fact that it took one million bricks to build this lighthouse! Enjoy the museum on site. Visit the grounds, museum shop and park for free.

Tickets are $10 to climb (kids 7 and under are free and there is no minimum height). Children 12 and under must climb with an adult. Tickets can be purchased on site.

wild horses on the obx | Great Escapes OBX

See the Wild Ponies

Corolla is famous for its herd of wild Mustangs and for good reason! These hardy little ponies descend from the Colonial Spanish Mustangs that swam ashore from shipwrecks back in the 1500’s. They live in a protected area on the northern end of the island called Carova, which is only accessible by 4x4.

The best way to see the horses is by taking a guided tour, because you will also learn more about their fascinating history, diet, and how they have survived and thrived.

Historic Corolla Park | Great Escapes OBX

Historic Corolla Park

No Corolla visitor should miss spending a day at the Historic Corolla Park. In addition to Whalehead and the Lighthouse, here you can also find the Center for Wildlife Education. Visitors will enjoy the 8,000 gallon aquarium and interact with plenty of interesting displays. Admission is free!

With scenic walking paths and beautiful lawns on which to play, this is a nice spot to picnic and enjoy nature. It's also a great place to launch a kayak into the sound, catch a fish, or let the kids wade in the quiet and safe sound-side waters.

More things to do:

Visit the Currituck County Events page to find festivals, concerts and other events happening all year long.

Also, check out our Things to Do webpage for a more comprehensive list of our favorite Outer Banks activities!


Interesting Facts about Corolla

Not a Toyota!

This Outer Banks community is pronounced Kuh-RAH-Luh by the locals, not Kah-roh-lah like the car.

There are no white horses here

Because they are isolated, the Corolla Wild Horse are purebred Spanish Colonial Mustangs and are only black or brown. There is no white or gray in the bloodline.

Flower Power

Together, all of the petals of a flower are called a corolla. The town comes together in an equally beautiful way!


View of Corolla, NC from Lighthouse | Great Escapes OBX


Corolla: An amazing vacation awaits!

Corolla is the perfect spot for your next vacation. Where else in the world can you find exciting water sports, a pristine beach, great shopping and awesome restaurants without big, touristy crowds? Corolla delivers all this and more.