When summer comes to an end, it’s the perfect time — contrary to popular belief — to pack up the car and head to the beach.
Fall vacations to North Carolina’s coast are the best: Temperatures are cooler, crowds are smaller, rates are lower, and there are still plenty of amazing things to do, from eating oysters, sipping wine, and picking pumpkins to visiting historic sites and watching the iconic wild ponies.
After a day of exploring Currituck County, curl up in front of the fire with s’mores (or a glass of North Carolina wine or fresh-pressed apple cider) and watch the moon rise over the ocean, resting up for another day of exciting autumn adventures on the coast.
Enjoy fall on the farm
Fall is one of the busiest times on the farm — and one of the best times to visit. Stop at Grandy Greenhouse & Farm Market to pick a pumpkin for a spooky jack-o-lantern or sweet pumpkin pie. The pumpkins are displayed in a haystack maze, turning pumpkin picking into an adventure. The farm also offers hayrides into the pumpkin patch and cider-making demonstrations for a true fall farm experience.
September is also peak season for harvesting grapes: Spend an afternoon among the grapevines at Sanctuary Vineyards, where seventh-generation farmers turn muscadine grapes into award-winning wines, including The Lightkeeper Rose, Sweet Serenity white muscadine wine, and Coastal Collage red blend. Winery tours are hosted on weekdays. On September weekends, you can pick grapes and enjoy “Harvest Hayrides” through the vineyard.
Grapes go from vine to glass at Sanctuary Vineyards. photograph by Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
Take a bite out of the season
Fresh produce — like cabbage, butterbeans, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts — is at its peak in the fall. Morris Farm Market sells a huge selection of just-picked produce along with fresh baked fruit breads and pies made in their on-site bakery. Stock up on North Carolina-grown fruits and vegetables, baked goods, cheeses, and locally-made pickles, jams, relishes, and pack a picnic for the beach.
Take your pick from fresh produce at local farm stands. photograph by Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
Climb to new heights
With its red brick exterior designed to distinguish it from other lighthouses on the Outer Banks, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse is the most iconic landmark in Corolla Village.
Enjoy a view of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse from the marsh. photograph by Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
The original first order Fresnel lens, which still flashes at 20-second intervals and can be seen for 18 nautical miles, has served as a beacon to ships on the Atlantic Ocean since 1875. A total of 220 steps lead to the observation deck, which is the ideal spot to take in the kaleidoscope of fall colors and 360-degree views of Currituck Sound and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Archives Room, located at the base of Currituck Beach Lighthouse, is filled with photos, letters, and other historic artifacts that highlight the lives of the lighthouse keepers who dedicated their lives to ensuring ships had safe passage.
Corolla is known for its wild mustangs. The horses, believed to be the descendants of Spanish mustangs, have galloped along the sandy shores of the Outer Banks for more than 600 years. The wild mustangs roam free and are such a fixture on local beaches, including Carova Beach, that North Carolina named them the official state horse in 2010.
See wild mustangs roaming the beach. photograph by Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
In the fall, when the weather is cooler, the mustangs start growing out their shaggy winter coats. You’ll see “harems” of wild horses grazing in the dunes or racing on the beach where they seem to appreciate the changing seasons and the almost-deserted beaches.
Companies like Bob’s Wild Horse Tours, Corolla Jeep Adventures, Corolla Wild Horse Tours, Corolla Outback Adventures, and Wild Horse Adventure Tours offer guided adventures to see the mustangs while telling wild stories about their history on the Outer Banks.
Search for seashells
When throngs of beachgoers pack up their blankets, frisbees, and coolers, it’s much easier to spot seashells on the beach.
Currituck’s northern beaches of Corolla and Carova are regarded as a prime place to search for seashells, and the cooler temperatures make fall an ideal time to search for the knobbed whelks, olive shells, oyster drillers, and periwinkles that are commonly found along this stretch of coastline. Lucky beachcombers may even find a Scotch Bonnet, the official North Carolina state shell.
Search for shells at sunset. photograph by Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
Hunting for sea glass is another popular pastime in Currituck County: The pretty pieces of glass are created when bottles and other manmade objects are exposed to saltwater, currents, and sand, resulting in smooth, frosted pieces of glass that collectors adore. Local gift shops even sell jewelry made from pieces of sea glass found on the beach.
Go to the beach at low tide to search for shells and sea glass and remember to take a basket or bag to hold your favorite finds.
Play a round
Hit the links in the fall when rates are lower and the temperate weather is ideal for playing 18 holes of golf.
Currituck County is home to several world class courses, including The Currituck Club, The Pointe Golf Club, The Carolina Club, Eagle Creek Golf Club, Holly Ridge Golf Club, and Kilmarlic Golf Club. Book a tee time online, practice your swing on the driving range, or master the short game on practice putting greens.
New to golf? Sign up for lessons. Less crowded courses in the fall mean plenty of practice time.
Instead of waiting until next summer to feel the sand between your toes, plan a trip and discover all of the reasons to “fall” in love with Currituck County during autumn.