Albemarle-Chesapeake Canal


    In October 1855, construction began on one of the most important artificial waterways, the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal. Today, the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal is maintained and operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is part of the well-traveled Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. It consists of a sea level water connection between Chesapeake Bay and the Albemarle Sound.

    The Canal has the distinction of having been one of the earliest of all American canals, suggested and actually surveyed and mapped in 1772. Construction of the canal could not begin until technology had advanced to allow steam power to operate mechanical dredges. In 1856, nine “Iron Titans” were obtained and went to work chopping out living and petrified trunks.

    The “line of navigation” of the canal measures some 70 miles, with only 14 miles of land excavation. The North Carolina cut is five miles long and slices across the Currituck Peninsula at the village of Coinjock to enter the North River, flowing south into the Albemarle Sound.

    Norfolk, Virginia merchant and ship owner, Marshall Parks, was the person responsible for reviving the 18th century canal-building plan. Parks worked to get bills passed through both the Virginia and North Carolina legislatures simultaneously.

    The New York engineering firm Courtright, Barton and Company contracted to dig the canal. The dredging of the two land cuts at a depth of six feet was finally accomplished in 1858. On January 9, 1859, the company’s little dispatch boat, the Calypso – a “pony” side wheel steamer 50 feet long by 9 feet wide – made the first transit of the canal, towing the 110-foot barge Enterprise of Roanoke.

    In 1912, the canal company, now in financial straits and unable to meet mortgage payments, was purchased by the United States government. During World War II, enormous quantities of military cargo used the Intracoastal Waterway, safe from the submarine active off the Atlantic.

    Today, virtually all commercial traffic, plus sail and motor cruisers, make their annual seasonal trek from north to South by way of the quicker Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal route.

    This beautiful Carolina canal has served the nation well for 150 years and is a monument to the ingenuity of American’s civil engineers.

    Source: Alexander Brown. Juniper Waterway. Mariners Museum, 1981.

    You might also be interested in:  Beaches | Knotts Island | History

    Audubon Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island

    The 2,600-acre Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Audubon Sanctuary and Center at Pine Island was the first Audubon center in the State of North Carolina. It protects a mosaic of marsh, sound, and forest in a region that was famed for waterfowl hunting and bass fishing and is now a popular vacation destination. The Center came to fruition when the National Audubon Society, through the generosity of Mr. Earl Slick and his family, received ownership of parcels of land on the Northern Outer Banks that now comprise more than 2,600 acres of marshes and uplands within a 5,000-acre area of the Currituck Sound.

    Named for Audubon’s legendary board chair Donal C. O’Brien, Jr., the sanctuary protects marshes along Currituck Sound, bottomland areas, and dry sandy areas and upland maritime forests. Audubon is working closely with community leaders to develop a vision for this sanctuary and educational center that will offer visitors an array of environmental experiences, from exploring the vast expanse of Currituck Sound to studying the smaller wonders of nature.

    Walking Trail – Open dawn to dusk.

    Tours of the Center are by appointment only.


    Robbie Fearn, Director
    Chandler Sawyer, Habitat and Resource Manager

    Currituck Banks National Estuarine Reserve

    A great activity for nature lovers and hikers, the Reserve Access Trail takes visitors into the marshy areas of Currituck County. Identify the various types of flora indigenous to the area; the trail is ideal for birdwatchers, too.

    As this is protected land, no hunting or fishing is allowed, but it is worth the visit to see a part of the Outer Banks in its natural beauty.

    Currituck Beach Lighthouse

    Climb the 220 steps to the top of the majestic, red brick lighthouse. First lit on December 1, 1875, the beacon filled the remaining “dark spot” on the North Carolina coast between Cape Henry and Bodie Island lighthouses.

    It is one of the only lighthouses in America that still houses its original first-order Fresnel lens. The light continues to flash today at 20-second intervals, serving as a navigational aid. The beacon, which can be seen for 18 nautical miles, comes on at dusk and ceases at dawn.

    The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is a member of Historic Corolla and the Historic Albemarle Tour.

    The admission cost to climb the lighthouse is $10.00 for anyone 8 years of age or older, youth 7 and under are admitted free of charge with an adult (cash and checks only). Children 12 and younger may climb only if accompanied by an adult. Parents or guardians must sign a waiver for unaccompanied climbers ages 13-17.  The Currituck Beach Lighthouse is open to the public mid-March through December 1st every year.

    During periods of high winds or extreme weather the outside gallery or the entire lighthouse tower may be closed to climbers.

    Take an Interactive Panoramic Tour!

    Experience the Currituck Beach Lighthouse by clicking below!  (Links open in a new window.)

    The Lantern Room

    The Spiral Staircase to the Top

    Spherical Panorama Photography by Laddie Crisp, Jr. MD

    Currituck County Historic Jail & Courthouse

    Currituck County Historic Jail & Courthouse

    Currituck County’s original courthouse was constructed in the early 1700s. The building was replaced in 1840 and remodeled in 1898. Today, the Historic Courthouse houses the County’s governmental administrative offices. Next to the Courthouse sits the original Currituck Jail. This jail was built after receiving legislative permission in 1767, burned down in 1808, then was rebuilt in 1857 and is one of the four oldest jails in North Carolina.

    Historic Corolla Village

    Visit Historic Corolla Village, a popular attraction for visitors to Currituck’s Outer Banks. Stroll down sandy streets lined with wooden signs for restored shops hosted by friendly merchants and visit a simpler time. Tour the historic Whalehead mansion while you’re in town, and snap a photo of the view from the top of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

    The village is home to many unique businesses, including the Wild Horse Museum. Although most of the isolated villages that existed on this stretch of coast in the past have disappeared, the Historic Corolla Village remains intact, providing insight into times long past.

    The focus of the Village has been on the restoration and re-purposing of the existing historic homes into retail shops and office spaces. Visitors can walk the paths and visit the carefully restored homes: The Parker House, Parker Outbuilding, Gray-Lewark House, Gray-Lewark Outbuilding, The Gard House, and A Village Garden.

    Twiddy & Company has been instrumental in efforts to restore the many buildings in the Village and is housed in the historic Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station, which they have relocated to the Village. They have also restored the Wash Woods US Coast Guard Station #166, which is situated on the four-wheel-drive beaches of Corolla.

    With it’s unpaved roads and historic setting, staying in Corolla Village in Corolla, NC provides a unique way to experience the beauty, history, and scenery that the secluded northern Outer Banks beaches have to offer. Located near the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, Whalehead Club, and Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, Corolla Village is home to restored residences that are now home to numerous quaint shops, stores, and museums.

    Visitors enjoy strolling through Corolla Village because it’s like taking a trip back in times to when life was much simpler…with it’s unpaved sand roads, live oaks, scrub pines, and relaxing pace. From Corolla Village, it’s only a short walk or bike ride to the ocean and several of the most popular things to do in Corolla, NC. It’s difficult to image that this area was home to only two-hundred people at the turn of the century, and most of the residents were families of those working at the Currituck Beach Lifesaving Station.

    Take a step back in time, visit the Historic Corolla Village.

    Historic Jarvisburg Colored School

    The Historic Jarvisburg Colored School is listed on the National Register of Historic Places due to its black ethnic heritage, architectural features and a rare example of a pre-Rosenwald African American school in North Carolina.

    The outside of the building has been recently restored and a full interior restoration has been completed.

    The HJCS Museum, is a historical and cultural link to all of Currituck’s schools for African American children, beginning in 1868 through the 1950’s. The phone number at the Museum is 252-435-2947.

    The HJCS Museum is temporarily Closed in response to recommendations from the state of NC due to covid19.  We look forward to seeing you when we re-open.

     2020 Hours: 

    Admission is FREE

    Click here to learn more about the school

    Lewark-Gray House

    Lewark-Gray House

    Built in 1895, this restored house is now a shop that displays a timeless array of style and elegance. Curtis and Blanche Gray built this house before 1918, possibly as early as 1896. Some say that Mrs. Gray, who, for a while was the Corolla schoolteacher, designed the house herself. Historians believe it is more likely that the plans for the house were purchased from a catalog of house designs, which was done quite often in the early 20th century.

    This charming structure is the only example of an early Colonial Revival frame bungalow in the village, with Neoclassical Revival and Craftsman style exterior details. The main structure’s original molded weatherboarding is in tact, and the one-story rear ell wears its original German siding. In 1925, the kitchen and dining room were added, and the original exterior siding still covers the walls. The unusual front dormer balcony still wears its original hexagonal gable shingles, plain rail balustrade and weather-boarded “cheeks”, which lent protection against harsh winds. Curiously, there is no door leading to the balcony, leaving residents to crawl out a window should they want to access the space. The home still enjoys some of its original interior structural features, as well. Bead board ceilings and walls and simple door and window surrounds add to its interest and charm. A mix of interior wood and trim exemplifies the villagers’ knack for creatively using salvaged materials in their constructions.

    This home was restored in 1998 by the Twiddys and is now Lovie’s Kitchen Table, a specialty foods shop. Lovie’s is a sweet place to find refreshment. Come in for coffee or tea, homemade baked goods, fine cheeses, chocolates, beer, wine & other tasty morsels. Relax on their screened porch with a cold beer or glass of wine, or let them help you make a selection to enjoy at your home. Their table is always full of good things, and you are always welcome!

    Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education

    ‘Life by Water’s Rhythm’s’ is the theme of this educational facility dedicated to exploring coastal North Carolina’s wildlife, natural history and heritage. Part of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education is located in Corolla, at Currituck Heritage Park. The Center offers both indoor and outdoor attractions for visitors to enjoy.

    Parker House (Lighthouse Garden)

    Parker House (Lighthouse Garden)

    The Parker House is a restored village house in the Historic Corolla Village, which was built in 1900 and relocated to this site in 1920.

    Carolina Carriages

    Carolina Carriages

    Take a historic tour of Corolla Village by Horse Drawn Carriage. Learn about the history of the area including the Whalehead Club, the Currituck Lighthouse, and Corolla Chapel and Schoolhouse from a knowledgeable guide while enjoying the relaxing pace of a horse drawn carriage. 30-minute tours are offered Thursday and Friday evenings in July and August. Reservations are required.

    Whalehead in Historic Corolla


    Step off the beach and step back in time.

    Set on 39 pristine acres along the Currituck Sound in Historic Corolla, the Whalehead is a beautifully restored 1920s-era Art Nouveau-style mansion listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

    With its bold yellow paint, copper roof, and mahogany doors, the Whalehead invites you to explore a fascinating period in Outer Banks history. Nearly every inch of the home has been carefully restored to the way it looked when Edward Collings Knight Jr. and his wife, Marie Louise, first opened the doors as a lavish hunting retreat in 1925.

    The wealthy Knights spent their winters here hunting, relaxing and entertaining. Today, stepping inside is to step back into another time and place. Restored in 1992 to its original glory, the Whalehead is now open year-round for tours.

    Click here to read more about the Whalehead’s history and mysteries.

    The Knights come to Corolla

    Edward Collings Knight Jr. and his wife Marie Louise shared a passion for hunting waterfowl. But in those days, Mrs. Knight wasn’t welcomed in the all-male hunt clubs. Mr. Knight’s answer was to build a 21,000-square-foot “mansion by the sea” just for his bride.

    Click to read more about the Knights and their mansion retreat.

    Is the Whalehead haunted?

    These walls can talk … or at least some who have visited say they do. Over the years, some say they smelled cigar smoke in a smoke-free room, heard the wails of a little girl who wasn’t there and watched the elevator head to the basement all by itself. Is the Whalehead haunted? You’ll have to decide for yourself. There are even special ghost tours. Click the link below to learn more.

    Click here to read more about the paranormal mysteries of the Whalehead.

    Special events for the ages.

    The Whalehead in Historic Corolla is an ideal location for wedding ceremonies, receptions, rehearsal dinners, family reunions, anniversaries, corporate gatherings, birthday and other celebrations! Getting married or have another celebration planned?  The Whalehead is the perfect venue.

     Click here to plan your event.

    Tours and Pricing

    The Whalehead in Historic Corolla is open for tours from 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday. Prices and tour options vary. Come uncover the mystery of a by-gone era on the Outer Banks, when waterfowl outnumbered the people, and a once flourishing family built a mansion retreat for the ages.  Please note, there are no refunds on specialty guided tours.

    Click here for tours and pricing information.

    Operating Hours

    Sunday11:00 am – 4:00 pm (May 27 thru November 25)
    Monday10:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Tuesday10:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Wednesday10:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Thursday10:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Friday10:00 am – 4:00 pm
    Saturday10:00 am – 4:00 pm