January is a great time to look ahead and start planning some fun family vacations! If you’re looking for a fun family friendly destination, I suggest checking out the Outer Banks, in particular Corolla North Carolina. Review my Family Vacation Guide below of our trip from this past August!
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Long time followers know that my family has enjoyed the beaches of North Carolina for the past 5 years with the kids and both my parents. The rental houses tend to have plenty of space, the ocean water is pretty warm by the end of August when we go, and the family friendly atmosphere of these beach towns are unparalleled.
After enjoying many years in the more southern Outer banks areas of Nags head and Kitty Hawk, we opted to go north of this Outer Banks section of the state and ventured up to Corolla. First lesson: to say it like the locals, call it “core-a-la” not “core-o-la”.
Where we stayed in Corolla, NC
Rent a house – Corolla, like much of the Outer Banks, is known for their large multi level homes that have all different sorts of configurations and layouts. Our group of 6 tends to enjoy homes with 3 levels, with the playroom/handout space on the bottom level, the majority of the bedrooms in the middle, and often a separate master on the top floor, along with the living room and kitchen space. This has always worked for us as it allows us to easily put the kids to bed and still have a hangout space to watch tv, play games or snack while they’re sleeping. We also prefer a private pool and hot tub area, which was included in this home named Windswept. We rented this home the last week of August 2023 for under $3K. We have no complaints over this space, which was plenty furnished, an easy walk to the beach, and had lots of space for everyone to be together or apart as needed.
Where we ate in Corolla, NC
While this is a vacation for all of us, we do include a mix of homecooked meals and take out. Here are a few places we enjoyed during our week in Corolla and through local drives to towns like Duck, NC
- Sooeys BBQ and Rib Shack – We enjoyed Sooeys BBQ during our previous trips to Nags Heads in the Outer Banks and were happy to see they had a northern location in Corolla. We typically have enjoyed the Pulled Pork, but this time also tried the Brisket. Heads up: it does have a little kick and it’s not “pulled” as one might expect. Make sure you order sauce with your meals!
- Bluewater Seafood Market – Our family loves blue claw crabs when on vacation so we were happy to find them here with the right amount of seasoning at this seafood market. We ordered ahead and picked them up after being freshly steamed, along with steamed shrimp.
- Uncle Ikes Sandbar and Grill – We enjoyed a lunch out at this family friendly restaurant. It’s in a popular town center filled with lots of other things to do, including mini golf, shopping and an arcade.
What to do In Corolla, NC
The big draw of the Outer Banks and Corolla are the beaches! Much of our vacation time is spent enjoying the waves, looking for seashells, watching ghost crabs wander on the sand and being outside. But we also make room for small excursions and kid friendly activities. There’s plenty of places for go karting, arcades, and mini golf there but here are the things our family visited:
- Wild Horse Adventure Tours – Taking a tour of the wild horse areas of Corolla should be on the top of your to do list while vacationing here! We chose this particular touring company after reading reviews online and a recommendation from a friend who took it.
- Our group of 12 was able to book a 11am jeep hummer tour in their comfy open air vehicle.
- Everyone gets a great view no matter where you sit and we were easily able to install car seats for all 5 of the kids in our group.
- To get to the back rows you do need to climb over seats so the 2 grandpas in our group sit in the front next to the driver and in the first non climbing row.
- The jeep doesn’t have any windows but if there were to be any rain, they do provide rain ponchos. We luckily didn’t experience any of that.
- The ride is BUMPY! You do drive right onto the sand at high speed so you are going over sand dunes and the ride can be bumpy during those times. But everyone loved the bumpiness of it and we never felt unsafe.
- You do see lots of horses! We saw adults and younger ones, most of which the drivers have named. We even got to a baby turtle being guided to the water after hatching by a protected nest! It was the first time our experienced driver ever saw that (so he claims).
- I HIGHLY recommend this tour as everyone had a great time and said it was the best thing about the trip.
- Historic Corolla Park– This large park has plenty of walking and biking paths, fishing holes, and areas where people were picnicking and flying kites. There’s also the Currituck Beach Lighthouse you can climb for $12 per person. We didn’t but it was pretty to see from the outside!
- Wildlife Education Center – Within the Historic Corolla Park was this wildlife education center that was free to enter during daytime hours. Inside it shares history of this part of the Outer Banks and the wildlife that occupies it. Besides checking out the standard museum style displays, the kids enjoyed the scavenger hunt to find stuffed bird characters throughout the halls.
- Drive to Duck – One not-as-great weather day we took a drive over to neighboring town, Duck, where we did a little shopping to get our traditional Christmas ornament from our travels and look at all the beach themed decor.