Currituck County offers a treasure trove of spots that should not be missed. Visitors to the Outer Banks should not miss the opportunity to check out some of the highlights. Following is a sampling of what awaits happy wanderers.
Construction of the lighthouse, which began in 1873, was the result of eight vessels that ran aground on Currituck Beach the same night in 1852. The incident helped convince Congress to appropriate money for the Currituck Beach Lighthouse in 1854.
At a height of 158 feet above sea level, the red brick lighthouse has 220 steps, and visitors are invited to climb to the top — weather permitting — from early-spring through Thanksgiving weekend. Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with the exception of one night in late-October, when the site remains open after dark for Historic Corolla Village’s annual Halloween event, Creepy in Corolla. currituckbeachlight.com
The small rural hunting and fishing community, surrounded by the waters of Knotts Island Bay and the Currituck Sound, is home to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. Established in 1960 to provide habitat for migratory waterfowl, the Refuge is a great place for bird watching, as well as biking, hiking, camping, boating, fishing and hunting. There are numerous duck hunting blinds located in the bay, as well as on land. It also is home to the Swan Island Hunting Club, a guided duck-hunting club located across the bay on Swan Island. Knotts Island is only accessible by a free ferry, which makes six daily round-trips between Knotts Island and Currituck on the mainland from a dock near the Historic Courthouse. fws.gov/refuge/mackay_island, 1-800-BY-FERRY
Audubon Sanctuary and Center at
Named for Audubon’s legendary board chair Donal C. O’Brien, Jr., the 2,600-acre site was the first Audubon center in the State of North Carolina. One of the last pieces of untouched property on the northeastern portion of the Outer Banks, the sanctuary protects marshes along Currituck Sound, bottomland areas, and dry sandy areas and upland maritime forests. The public is invited to enjoy the area through Kayak tours, public programs and a 2.5 mile nature trail that is open from dawn to dusk. pineisland.audubon.org
Beautiful, unspoiled beaches and the iconic wild Colonial Spanish Mustangs herd that has roamed free on the beach for more than 400 years make this a site Outer Banks treasure not to be missed. There are numerous tours available that give visitors a chance to see the majestic horses up close — in an open-air safari style vehicle from a distance of 50 feet away — but no feeding of the horses is permitted. The wild horses eat a specialized diet of sea oats, coarse grasses, persimmons, acorns and other native vegetation. corollawildhorses.com
A landmark on the Currituck Outer Banks, the opulent mansion, called Whalehead, was built in the mid-1920s by railroad executive Edward Collings and Marie Louise Knight. The couple primarily lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, but used Corolla Island as their winter residence from 1925-34. The home boasts art nouveau architectural styling and accented with Tiffany lamps, five chimneys, cork-tiled floors, brass duck head and water lily hardware. The mansion stood isolated for years on these remote barrier islands and has been fully restored. Located just off Highway 12. It is open year-round. Hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 252-453-9040, whaleheadwedding.com
Currituck Heritage Park, which is located at the Whalehead, is a great place to take a stroll. Its winding walkways lead visitors to the original boathouse and pedestrian footbridge, both listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 252-453-4939, outerbanks.com/currituck-heritage-park1.htm
The charming Corolla Chapel, which was built in 1885, is one of Corolla’s most-treasured historic buildings. Located behind the Currituck Beach Lighthouse sound side of old Corolla Village, interdenominational services are held at 10 a.m. Sundays, year round, and an additional 8 a.m. service is held at 8 a.m. Sundays June 12-September 4. Special services are held at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and at 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Easter Sunday. corollachapel.com
The century-old white clapboard schoolhouse, which was completely restored in 1999, is located in the heart of the Historic Village the Corolla. The school was built in the late-1890s for the Currituck Beach Lighthouse \keepers’ children and established as the first unified Corolla school in 1905. The school accepted children of all grade levels and provided a teacher, textbooks and standardized grading. watersedgevillageschool.com
Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education
The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education offers programs through which the general public and educators can learn about wildlife, natural history and outdoor skills. The center is located off of Highway 12 in Currituck Heritage Park, between the Whalehead Club and Currituck Beach Lighthouse. ncwildlife.org
The Currituck Banks Coastal
The 965-acres Currituck Banks Coastal Reserve stretches from sea to sound and provides an opportunity for visitors to explore unspoiled, natural maritime habitat. Trails, which wind through the area, lead to some of the Northern Outer Banks’ best fishing, hunting, hiking, birding and photo opportunities. There is a handicap-accessible elevated boardwalk through the maritime forest that makes the Reserve accessible to everyone. http://portal.ncdenr.org