A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

Hunt for Scotch bonnet shells and fulgurite in the sand Searching for shells is a quintessential beach pastime that can be enjoyed by all ages, all year long. However, off-season

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

Hunt for Scotch bonnet shells and fulgurite in the sand Searching for shells is a quintessential beach pastime that can be enjoyed by all ages, all year long. However, off-season

6 Ways to Explore Currituck County During the Off-Season

6 Ways to Explore Currituck County During Off-Season

Hunt for Scotch bonnet shells and fulgurite in the sand

Searching for shells is a quintessential beach pastime that can be enjoyed by all ages, all year long. However, off-season storms yield exceptionally great shelling, thanks to the tumultuous waves that carry shells from the depths of the ocean to the shoreline. You’re most likely to find quahog and oyster shells, but if you have your heart set on bringing home a rare whelk or Scotch bonnet, North Carolina’s official state seashell, the odds are most in your favor during the off-season, when fewer tourists are combing the beaches. Also prized and prevalent after storms: fulgurite. Although they may look like lumps of concrete in the sand, each piece of fulgurite is the result of lightning striking the beach, melting and fusing sand into a hardened rock. Fulgurite is usually found in pockets, and to spot this phenomenon in Currituck County, we recommend starting near the Persimmon Road beach access point in Corolla.

Enjoy complimentary wine and beer tastings

Sanctuary Vineyards is not the only vineyard in northeastern North Carolina — “you’ve got Vineyards on the Scuppernong (in Columbia), they grow the muscadines,” tasting room manager Elton Singletary says. “[But] for your Old World grapes like this, we’re pretty much it for this region.” Surrounding the tasting room are more than 20 acres of vines, where chardonnay, pinot gris, cabernet franc, and 10 other familiar Old World European grape varietals grow. The tasting room also carries a few muscadine wines — referred to as the “true local wine” — made with fruit sourced from local farmers.

Each free tasting starts with Singletary asking the same question — “so do you like a dry wine?” — before pouring nine wines that build in dryness and end on the sweet muscadine note. The vineyard serves wine by the glass, by the bottle, and also as part of a membership club, where two packages of six bottles of wine are mailed to your home in May and December, curated based on your preference of “bold and adventurous,” “sweet and sassy,” or “surprise me.” If you find yourself in town on a Wednesday, the vineyard also offers free tours at 1 p.m.

For those who know their grains better than their grapes, less than a mile down the road, Weeping Radish Farm Brewery specializes in Bavarian-style brews. The microbrewery, butchery, and pub is the second incarnation of North Carolina’s first-ever microbrewery, and was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in 2013.

Sanctuary Vineyards
7005 Caratoke Highway
Jarvisburg, NC 27947
(252) 491-2387

Weeping Radish Farm Brewery
6810 Caratoke Highway
Grandy, NC 27939
(252) 491-5205

Sightsee by bike in Corolla

Kickstands up! The miles of paved sidewalk and attractions along NC Highway 12 make Corolla the perfect beachfront community to explore by bike. Sights along the way:

TimBuck II Shopping Village

When they’re not at the beach, vacationers flock to Timbuck II to peruse the more than 60 shopping, entertainment, and dining options at this strip mall. Some businesses close for the off-season, but wandering around the outdoor shopping center and visiting the shops that stay open can uncover noteworthy finds.

Historic Corolla Park

For a glimpse into Corolla’s lavish history, park your bike outside of the Whalehead Club. The canary yellow 1920s former hunting lodge is open for tours daily, year-round. Across the parking lot, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is closed to climbers from December through mid-March; however, the grounds are open to visitors seeking postcard-perfect lighthouse pictures. The third attraction within the park, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, is open weekdays and promotes the history, heritage and wildlife of coastal North Carolina.

Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve

The reserve stretches 965 acres, but the easiest way to explore the grounds, and the wildlife that lives there, is by locking up your bike and following one of the two walking trails. The first features a boardwalk that runs a little more than a quarter of a mile through the maritime forest, ending at a viewing platform that extends into Currituck Sound. The second, a forest trail, is a longer and more rugged experience for visitors interested in walking among the flora and fauna that the reserve prides itself on protecting. During the off-season, the reserve is home to a variety of migrating birds, including species such as Canada geese and swans.

Several hundred feet past the reserve, NC Highway 12’s pavement gives way to the stretch of packed sand used to access North Swan, Swan Beach, and Carova. The sand is compact enough to bike along the beach, for those looking to extend their scenic ride.

Timbuck II
785 Sunset Boulevard
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-9888

Whalehead Club
1100 Club Road
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-9030

Currituck Beach Lighthouse
1101 Corolla Village Road
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-4939

Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve
1265 North Beach Access Road
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 838-0890

Visit the wild horses of Currituck County

If you want to see Corolla’s famed wild horses — and help the animals, too —The Corolla Wild Horse Fund offers the only nonprofit tour where all proceeds benefit the horses, and each purchase of a ticket includes a membership. In addition to the open-air, safari-style vehicles they use during the summer, the organization also has a fleet of SUVs to keep you warm as you look for wild horses in cooler weather. In the winter, fewer visitors in Currituck County means less congestion on the routes to the northern beaches, so tour participants have more time to spot the more than 70 Spanish colonial mustangs roaming about. Also, visitors have more opportunities to photograph the horses in unexpected scenes during offseason, like wandering the county roads, eating persimmons off of trees, and standing on front porches. A bonus: When driving along the beach during January and February tours, you might even spot seals off the coast.

Corolla Wild Horse Fund
1129 Corolla Village Road
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-8002

Ferry to Currituck County’s best-kept secret: Knotts Island

A pre-dawn journey across Currituck Sound to Knotts Island begins at 6 a.m. with twinkling stars stretching across the black sky above as the car ferry slowly churns toward its destination. As the ferry pulls into the dock, the sun is just beginning to peek above the horizon, a view best enjoyed from the comfort and warmth of the car on chilly mornings. If you’re wondering where the locals hang out t this time of day — or at any time of day, really — the answer is always Knotts Island Market. The market, open since 1855, serves as both a community center and a breakfast spot for homemade biscuit sandwiches, baked goods, and a collection of side dishes. When the deli opens for lunch and dinner, locals and visitors alike feast on made-to-order sandwiches and pizzas.

On Tuesdays and Fridays, early breakfasts are followed by morning yoga — and a complimentary Knotts Island history and current events lesson — at IslandLotus Yoga. While many yoga studios stress silence and meditation during practice, here, lively discussions on topics ranging from duck blinds to the new recycling center are welcomed between poses. The classes have year-round indoor access to views of the sound; in the fall and spring, classes meet outside on the grass in front of the sound or in the Zen garden. In town on a Monday or Thursday morning? Willowgait Farm teaches a three-hour adult acrylic painting class beginning at 10 a.m., with art materials and a smock included in the $20 fee.

Knotts Island Market
395 Knotts Island Road
Knotts Island, NC 27950
(252) 429-3305

IslandLotus Yoga
204 Parker Lane
Knotts Island, NC 27950
(252) 722-1690

Willowgait Farm
135 Lands End Road
Knotts Island, NC 17959
(757) 718-8993

Try a little bit of everything at Metropolis

Most of the restaurants in Corolla close their doors until Easter, but Metropolis turns up its thermostat and unveils its off-season menu. Lighter tapas options include Asian-inspired seafood dishes, while the heavier tapas dishes include familiar favorites such as sea scallops, fried rice, and quail. In addition to tapas, the restaurant has a seemingly endless list of martinis, and is designed and decorated with a funky, artistic vibe. Metropolis is closed during the month of January, and reopens in February for Thursday through Saturday dinner service.

520 Old Stoney Road
Corolla, NC 27927
(252) 453-6167

This story was published on Nov 01, 2017

K McKay

K McKay was the digital content writer at Our State. She is a graduate of Elon University, and was the spring 2017 digital intern at Our State.