Directionally Challenged … in Corolla

October 19, 2021

by Pamela Drager

While it’s common knowledge that the beaches of the Outer Banks are incredible, sometimes we can get bored at the beach. Endless waves crashing on the pristine white sand while the sun warms can get a bit overdone after a few days. I am one of those people who can’t sit on a beach for hours and days on end. Luckily, there are plenty of other things to do in Currituck that can satisfy your taste buds, intrigue you, or get your heart racing! 

Start your day with some fresh donuts from Duck Donuts. Named after the neighboring town, the local business is now spreading across the country. Made-to-order donuts are the perfect sweet treat for vacation! If you’re visiting in the busy season, place your order the day before on their website.

In the heart of Corolla is the iconic Historic Corolla Park. It’s more than just a park with grass – it’s home to a number of hidden gems. 

Photo courtesy of Pamela Drager

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse stands tall among the trees. Climb over 200 steps to get a close-up look at the original first-order Fresnel lens. There are only 39 first-order lenses left in the country. They’re more powerful than other types and can shine up to 21 miles. The view from the top of the lighthouse shows the beauty of the area. The lighthouse is open from mid-March through December 1st and costs $10 to climb up (4+).

Next to the lighthouse is the brand new Currituck Maritime Museum. The immersive museum is a glimpse into the rich waterside history of the area. There are several full boats in the museum to learn about the form and function of various styles of boats. From hunting and fishing to leisure activities, the water has been a crucial part of the Outer Banks.

The iconic yellow Whalehead mansion stands out across the park, but the real beauty is inside. The restored Art Nouveau house-turned-museum is home to the Outer Banks’ first bidet and its first elevator. A tour of the museum costs between $5-7 and is available Mon-Fri 10 am- 4 pm. 

While the house was built as a vacation home and hunting club, it played a critical role throughout history. In the early 1960s, it was used as a boys’ summer school then leased by Atlantic Research Corporation in 1962 for the testing of Poseidon rockets! My favorite part of the museum was seeing the character of the Knights come to life throughout the house. It doesn’t follow the traditional 1920’s decor, but rather what brought the couple joy. 

After you’re done exploring Historic Corolla Park, head to Timbuk II for lunch and some shopping. With nine restaurants to choose from, you won’t be disappointed. Walk around the shops for some great souvenirs – from beef jerky to wine – and everything in between!  Get a dessert from Corolla Cup Cakes (remember, calories don’t count on vacation). Once you’ve had your fill of food and shopping it is time to get that heart racing!

Corolla Water Sports is the place to go if you really enjoy being out on the water instead of just near it. From kayaking to jetskis, paddleboarding to parasailing, there are so many ways to get your adrenaline pumping. I decided to try a jet ski tour – part sightseeing and part adventure. Let me preface, it has been over a decade since I have been on a jet ski, and my husband Spencer, had never been on one. The staff at Corolla Water Sports walked us through how to be safe on the jet ski before guiding us out on the water. The group consisted of five guest jet skis with two staff as guides – one at the front of the group and one at the back. This was peace of mind in case someone fell off their jet ski or got separated from the group. 

Photo courtesy of Pamela Drager

The tour was about 90 minutes long and visited a number of places in Currituck. From the popular Currituck lighthouse to historic duck hunting clubs, there are plenty of sights to see on the way. The jet ski tour was a perfect way to take a break from the beach while still enjoying the water. The staff at Corolla Water Sports are very friendly.

For a delicious dinner with a twist head to Off the Wall Tap House! You can sit with your friends or make new ones at the communal tables. The name of the restaurant comes from the wall of self-serve beer taps. It allows you to try a variety of beers before having a full glass. Don’t worry if you’re not a beer drinker, there are wine, cocktails, and non-alcoholic beverages available. Our tap house pretzel appetizer was crunchy yet soft with just the right amount of salt. My main meal was the grilled chicken and brie sandwich with a side of fries. It was so good I didn’t even get a chance to snap a photo! 

No matter what you decide to do in Currituck, you won’t be disappointed! From history to adrenaline, there are plenty of things to do other than relaxing on the beach.


Pamela Drager is the power behind the Directionally Challenged Traveler, a blog that discusses all things travel: the good, the bad and the ugly. Pamela has been getting lost around the world for over ten years – traveling to all seven continents and to 36 countries. She is excited to share her experiences from those incredible trips, including her recent time in our quaint coastal town of Corolla, NC.