Corolla is the northernmost of the developed towns (meaning paved roads) in the Outer Banks. The town of today is a fairly recent phenomenon. As recently as the 1970s there were only about 15 people living in the village. The sudden growth from the sleepy town began in 1975, when developers built the developments of Ocean Sands and Whalehead. From 1975 to 1984, there was a private road that one of the developers built that required you to pass through a guard house. In 1984, with the State of North Carolina taking over responsibility for this road, and making it an extension of Route 12, the development began in earnest. As a result, much of what you see today as Corolla is a result of development over the past 20+ years. The newness is palpable.
The town is primarily a summer vacation town, with about 500 year round residents living there. Don’t forget the fall (as with all of the Outer Banks), when the crowds have subsided and the weather is perhaps the most pleasant, it may be worth a visit if your family situation permits it. To give you an idea of the rapid growth of the vacation industry in this area, in 1984 there were only abut 422 Outer Banks rental homes where in 2000 there were over 2,750. More than 50% of the houses are over 5,000 square feet, with some of the most amazing OBX vacation rentals being in the Pine Island development. As a result, every modern vacation "necessity" is available here. For example, all of the homes have central air conditioning. By the way, Corolla is pronounced cor-AH-la, not to be confused with the car by Toyota by the same name (spelling anyway).
Despite this "abundance" of newness, it does have a rich history and sights you will want to see. Perhaps the most famous are the Corolla horses, which are descendants of the Spanish mustangs, who swam ashore after one of the many Spanish Galleons fell victim to the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" off the coast of the Outer Banks. Once these magnificent horses roamed free throughout the town, but recently have been relocated further north into the four wheel drive territory for their protection. Today there are guided tours that will take you on horse discovery tours. When we first started going to the Outer Banks in the early 1990s we were fortunate to see these horses roaming in some of the shopping centers.
The Currituck Lighthouse, which opened in 1875, is the northernmost of the North Carolina lighthouses. Its distinctive red brick exterior makes it stand out amongst the other lighthouses.
The Whalehead Club, originally called Corolla Island, was completed in 1925 by Edward and Marie-Louise LeBel Knight. The club was opened to entertain northern guest interested in waterfowl hunting. Today, the Whalehead Club and the Currituck Lighthouses have been converted into museums.