How often can you stay in one area and watch the sun both rise and set over water? For visitors to the Currituck Outer Banks, the answer is “daily.” Water is an integral part of life here — from exploring on it to playing in it to simply enjoying being near it.
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It takes winding through a marsh alley to get a good glimpse of the grand dock. But once the view opens up, that’s when folks stop. “They’ll freeze and then spin around. With the lighthouse behind them and this big, beautiful marsh in front, they’re in love right away,” says Hadley Twiddy, owner of the Corolla ecotourism company Coastal Explorations.
Other visitors’ aha moments involve conquering fear: “They might be afraid of what wildlife they’ll encounter or whether they’ll be able to paddle,” Twiddy says. “For those people, the time comes when they realize, ‘I can do this.’”
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For still others, the pleasure is found in the escape. “Maybe their lives are ‘go, go, go,’ and all they really need is 90 minutes without distractions to help their shoulders relax and worries slip away,” Twiddy says. “Ultimately, there’s just something magical about being on the water.”
In the Currituck Outer Banks, water is everywhere. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, the Currituck Sound, and the North River, this barrier island region boasts beach and sound-side water activities, attractions, and adventures, ensuring that visitors of all kinds can get their fill.
Explore Currituck Sound (and test your balance!) on a paddleboarding tour with Coastal Explorations. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
Sound of Silence
Since opening her business in Historic Corolla Village in 2008, Outer Banks native Twiddy has seen countless vacationers become Currituck explorers as they’ve embarked on small-group kayak and paddleboard tours. “The oceanfront is, hands-down, the more popular water venue here, but I grew up on the sound side, and my goal with Coastal Explorations is to give people a view of this beautiful, quiet, low-traffic body of water.”
Select from among a variety of Coastal Explorations excursions — the sunset tour is most popular, while families love the kids’ kayaking tour catered to young adventurers. Along the way, groups learn a little bit about local history and ecology while spotting wildlife like great blue herons, bald eagles, egrets, gar, and jumping mullet. “The beach is great for well-known reasons,” Twiddy says, “but Currituck Sound is a hidden gem worth exploring.”
Want a dose of adrenaline? Reserve an outing with one of the region’s many watersports purveyors, which offer options like parasailing, surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, tubing, and jet skiing. At North Beach Watersports, passengers can soar sky-high on parasail lines up to 800 feet, climb aboard a Yamaha wave runner, or ride a Banana Boat pulled by an experienced captain.
Since 1996, Corolla Surf Shop has been teaching lessons with the goal of making the sport of surfing fun, safe, and easy to learn. The Corolla area is known for friendly waves — the New York Times has even recognized it as great for beginners — and visitors can sign up for private or group courses. For folks ready to go it alone, the shop rents surfboards, skim boards, wet suits, and more.
Hang ten! Take a surfing lesson with Corolla Surf Shop. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
For self-guided entertainment, businesses like Ocean Atlantic Rentals and Kitty Hawk Watersports have boards, kayaks, life jackets, and other recreation equipment available for daily or weekly rentals, and many will offer easy delivery to your Currituck-area home rental.
When darkness falls, whole families will take to the beach for a different kind of rush — a rollicking tradition dubbed ‘ghost crabbing.’ Start your search at the water’s edge, then shine your flashlight and hustle to spy tiny sand crabs as they skitter around. Area shops sell lighted nets to make the thrill of the catch (and release) almost a sure thing.
In Corolla, you can catch a sunrise over the ocean and a sunset over the sound. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
Pick up a North Carolina fishing license — as well as gear and plenty of advice — at OBX Bait & Tackle in Corolla. While you’re there, sign up for a chartered trip aboard the Carolina Girl or one of the other ships in the company’s fleet.
Options also abound with Corolla Bait & Tackle, a full-service shop with a variety of charter excursions, including a 25-foot pontoon perfect for family or friend group fishing trips in the sound. Backwater Adventures is a full-time, year-round guide service led by Capt. David Ward. Spend a day fishing for largemouth bass, or catch and release up to 10 different species on a light tackle adventure.
For five centuries, the famed wild horses of Corolla have thrived in the dunes and waves. Today, you can catch a glimpse on the beach. Photography courtesy of Currituck County Department of Travel and Tourism
Just a short drive inland and lauded as one of the top family outings in the area, H2OBX Waterpark is a themed destination with more than 30 rides, slides, and attractions across its 20 acres in Powells Point. Thrills include the five-story Riptide, free-falling Plank, and endless-wave Flowrider, but there’s always the opportunity to relax in a shaded, resort-style cabana or kick back in the wave pools and lazy river. Throughout, the park integrates local history and beloved lore, including nods to the Wright brothers, pirate quests, and wild horses.
Wendy Coulson Murray, director of sales and marketing, says that one of the highlights of her day happens at 10 a.m. “Park opening is always a thrill: We play the National Anthem, open the doors, and then watch as guests scurry in, all bursting with excitement.” Go ahead — dive in!
On a trip to the northern Outer Banks, no matter where you book your stay, you’ll find yourself near calming waters — but whether that’s closer to the crash of the ocean waves or to the quiet lapping of the sound is up to you. Just like the iconic wild horses that roam the shores of Corolla, playing in the waves, you’ll find that on these shores, the water calls you home.
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