recreation - Beach Driving
N.C. Highway 12 ends abruptly just past Corolla Village, but that doesn't mean you have to stop there. Beyond the highway there are 10 more miles of beach.
The easiest way to explore this area is to take a guided four-wheel-drive tour (see the Wild Horses and 4WD Nature Tours section below). If you’d rather explore the area on your own, vehicles are allowed to drive on the beach year round. It is lawful to drive north/south on the beach. The property on the west side behind the dunes is private, and non-property owners should stay out of that area.
Tips for off-roading
- Do not attempt to drive on the beach unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
- Let all four tires’ air pressure down to at least 20 psi or less. If you get stuck, don’t spin your tires until you’re buried and just let more air out. Add weight to the back of the vehicle.
- Try to stay in the ruts that were made by cars traveling before you. Avoid any washed up wood, what natives call “nail boards.” Be sure to bring a jack, a block of wood for the jack to rest on, spare tire, shovel and tow rope or strap.
- Stay off the dunes and away from wildlife.
- All laws that apply to the roads apply to beach. Drivers must be licensed, safe and sober, and vehicles must be legal. The maximum speed limit is 35 m.p.h., or 15 m.p.h. when within 300 feet of beachgoers, swimmers or anglers.
- If you do get totally stuck in the sand, call A-1 Towing at (252) 453-4002.
- *ATVs can be used only by Currituck County property owners, and the operators must get a permit from the Currituck County Satellite Office, (252) 453-8555. Non-property owners are not allowed to operate ATVs in this area.
- 1159 H Austin Street, Corolla Light Town Center
- (252) 453-6141
Beach Jeeps of Corolla is a great way to see the northern beaches of Corolla and the area’s famous wild horses. The Jeep Safari is a self-driven tour that allows you to follow a guide and experience driving off road for yourself. They also now offer guided tours, and whether guided or self-guided, you’ll see wild Spanish horses, Penny’s Hill, Swan Beach and the canals of Carova Beach. In addition to the wild horses, you may see deer, red fox and dolphins. Tours traverse 26-miles of beach and last about two hours. They are a great way to explore the secluded northern beaches and see local wildlife in their natural habitat.
- 1210 Ocean Trail
- (252) 207-0511
Corolla Wild Horse Tours has been guiding tours to Corolla’s horse country — the four-wheel-drive-only beaches north of Corolla — since 1996. With these experienced and knowledgeable guides, you can sit back and enjoy a comfortable, family-oriented tour. This company uses 15-passenger open-air safari-style trucks that are safe for any age, including kids in car seats. Along the trip, your guide will tell you about the history of Corolla and the horses as well as point out all the wonders of nature. The guides have been certified by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund and have a reputation of being quite entertaining. The two-hour tours, which cover about 25 miles of off-road area, run all day long until sunset. They’re so sure about where to find the horses that all tours come with a money back guarantee. They also offer guided Jeep wild horse sightseeing tours at Beach Jeeps of Corolla. Bring your appetite because Beach Road Pizza is on site as well.
- 3000 N. Croatan Highway, The Bypass, MP 5.5, Kill Devil Hills
- (252) 441-1146, (855) 459-6555
Much of the Outer Banks can be reached without ever leaving the pavement. But if you want to see the descendants of shipwrecked Spanish mustangs or visit the sparsely developed and substantially less populated northern beaches of Corolla and beyond, you’ll need a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get there. Outer Banks Jeep, conveniently located at Outer Banks Chrysler Dodge Jeep at milepost 5.5 on The Bypass in Kill Devil Hills, offers everything necessary to be your off-road headquarters during your Outer Banks stay. Open 7 days a week during the in-season, they feature a variety of family-friendly 4-wheel drive Jeep Wranglers for exploring the unpaved areas of the Outer Banks. Leave the beaten path behind and try something new. Embark on your own Outer Banks nature adventure and see these beautiful barrier islands in an entirely new way. Whether your goal is to see the wild horses of Corolla, visit a home in Carova or simply enjoy a picnic lunch on a pristine beach, Outer Banks Jeeps has the vehicle to get you safely there and back again.
- 610 Clubhouse Drive, Shoppes at Currituck Club
- (252) 489-4878
Lots of folks love to rent a Jeep and take off on their own tour. But if you’re more into having a guide, this business lets you combine the best of both worlds. Here, you rent either a two-door or four-door beach optimized Jeep then follow along behind one of the guided tours led by Wild Horse Adventure Tours. Rick’s Jeep Adventures is the only rental company on the Outer Banks that allows you to customize the Jeep the way you like. These options include the choice to put the top down, take the doors off, avoid direct sunlight with a mesh SPF50 bikini top and a complimentary use of a iced cooler. All Jeeps are customized for beach driving, with top of the line AEV lifts from three to five inches and 17 inch alloy wheels with 35 inch Kevlar side-walled tires. These additions not only look great but offer superior handling, ground clearance and traction on the beach. You’ll see wild horses (money back guarantee!), frolicking dolphins, deer and occasionally a wild fox or pig. In addition, you’ll be exploring some of the most beautiful, wild beach environments on the East Coast. An added benefit of following an experienced guide is that their knowledge of where to drive — and, more importantly, where not to — helps preserve this fragile coastal area.
- 610 Currituck Clubhouse Road
- (252) 489-2020, (800) 460-4136
There was a time when you could look out your rental cottage window and see wild horses traveling in herds and maybe eating your grass, but, for the good of the horses, that is no longer so. The wild horses were relocated to the four-wheel-drive area north of Corolla, so you must have an off-road vehicle if you want to see them. Wild Horse Adventure Tours can be your guide! They have three ways to get you into horse country. First is an enclosed 4x4 mini coach with A/C driven by one of their seasoned guides, the second is in a custom open-top vehicle also driven by one of their guides, the third is to rent one of their Jeeps and drive yourself following one of their guides. The guides at Wild Horse Adventure Tours know exactly where to look for the horses, they know how to drive in the sand and they know a lot about the history of the area, making for a much more enlightening trip on your part. They’ll also point out snakes, shore birds, plants and interesting natural aspects of this ocean-side environment. They run many scheduled trips per day and operate year round, so call to get all the details and make a reservation. Horse sightings are guaranteed or they will refund your money.
Corolla Jeep Adventures and Wild Horse Tours
- 1070 Ocean Trail, Whalehead Bay Shoppes
- (252) 453-6899
Corolla Jeep Adventures offers guided tours of the off-road area, including their own private 400-acre Hunt Club. Guided tours are two hours long and conducted in comfy 15-passenger vans or Suburbans. You can also rent a soft-top Jeep and drive yourself following your guide. These tours last two-and-a-half hours and the guide will take you on a course where wild horses are usually spotted. You’ll see beautiful, remote beaches and wildlife. Corolla Jeeps Adventures is open year round, and they say they can pretty much find horses for you every day! New this year they are offering 4x4 kayak combination tours, and their tours access acres of private trails where you’ll see historic sites and learn of local ecology including the second-largest living dune on the property. What great views!
The company also offers a variety of fishing charters, held in either the sound or the ocean, for a half, three-quarter or full day. Depending upon which trip you choose, you can catch mackerel, marlin, tuna and dolphin. The boats carry up to six passengers, and if you don’t have a group of six ready to go, they can accommodate you with a make-up charter. All fishing tackle is included, so all you need to bring is lunch.