One of the more enduring weekly events available to visitors and residents of Corolla during the summer months is the Whalehead Wednesday’s Wine & Beer tastings. Taking advantage of the historic Whalehead Club, Currituck County’s Department of Trade & Tourism provides an afternoon of live music, fun, food, wines from regional vineyards, craft beers from regional breweries, and the natural beauty of the northern reaches of the Outer Banks.
Having relocated from out of state and being a working musician, I’d heard about the weekly event, but didn’t know much more than “It’s a cool gig!”
I was also intrigued about this “Whalehead Club” I’d heard so much about. I dug a little deeper and found Sierra Williams, promotion and events coordinator for Currituck Travel & Tourism.
Williams was kind enough to not only answer my questions, she also booked me for the opening slot of the 2019 season, so I can experience the event firsthand.
Q: The Whalehead Club is one of the main attractions of Corolla. Can you give us a short history?
A: Edward Collings Knight Jr., a Philadelphia railroad executive, 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 as their winter retreat. Discovering this hidden gem in the Outer Banks, Mr. Knight purchased the former Lighthouse Hunt Club along with four and a half miles of land on the Currituck Sound. Their vision included five stories of Art Nouveau luxury filled with modern conveniences such as electricity, running hot and cold water, indoor bathrooms and even a refrigerator. Completed in 1925, the Knights renamed the property “Corolla Island”. Today, the home stands as one of the nation’s most important examples of Art Nouveau ornamentation, with its curved rooflines, paint color choices, ornamental chimneys, Tiffany lighting and distinctive porches and friezes. New owners renamed the property The Whalehead Club in 1939. In 1992, Currituck County purchased the property to ensure public Sound access. Restoration began in 1999. By 2002, the property had been restored to a near-identical state, as it existed in the 1920s.
Q: How long has Currituck County been hosting Whalehead Wednesdays wine and beer tastings?
A: Whalehead in Historic Corolla began a wine tasting event over 10 years ago as a fundraiser to continue restoring the mansion to its original grandeur. Over the years, the fundraiser developed into a weekly summer fundraiser beginning after Memorial Day and continuing through mid-September. Now, Whalehead Wednesdays feature both wine and beer tastings from local wineries and breweries, such as Sanctuary Vineyards, Vineyards on the Scuppernong, Weeping Radish Brewery, and Ghost Harbor Brewery.
Q: Besides live music, what else can visitors expect?
A: Guests can expect a beautiful sunset over the Currituck Sound and wide open space at Historic Corolla Park to enjoy a family picnic, as we also sell charcuterie-style refreshments to complement your wine and beer tastings. OBX Sunset Slush offers Italian ice for the children, and you can expect local artisan pop-ups from our friends at Corolla Village Market and other goodies, like homemade jams and jellies from Outer Banks Gluten Free Bakery.
We also have the Currituck Cornhole Tournament. This is a 16 team, double elimination tournament. Entry per team is $20, and each week’s winner is entered into a drawing to win a free vacation, sponsored by Brindley Beach Vacations and Sales. Advance registration is recommended. Call (252) 453-9040 to register.
Q: What happens if there’s inclement weather?
A: In the event of inclement weather, the tasting will be cancelled. To ensure the safety of our guests, the event will be temporarily suspended for 30 minutes in the event of thunder or lightning. Guests can monitor the Whalehead in Historic Corolla Facebook page or call (252) 453-9040 for cancellations.
Q: Is there a cost to attend the wine tasting?
A: There is a $20 entrance fee for adults, (21 and older), which includes a signature Whalehead wine glass to take home as a keepsake. You’ll need your ID for entrance. There is no cost for non-drinking adults and children to enter and enjoy the live music and other vendors on site. Water and charcuterie tickets can be purchased for $1. Water costs two tickets; a large charcuterie box including quality salami, cheese, grapes and crackers is only four tickets; and a kid's box costs two tickets. The kid's boxes include a juice box, cheese stick, and fruit. Don't forget to prepare for some of our wonderful local vendors on site.
For those who purchase a ticket to tour the Whalehead Club, you’ll receive a discounted admission price of $3, excluding specialty tours. General admission prices are $5-$7 per person, and ages 5 and younger are free. The Legends & Lore's Ghost Tours begin at 7 p.m. every Wednesday and costs $15. Advance registration is highly recommended. Tours are limited.
Q: This is a “family friendly” event. What do you have going for the kids?
A: Lawn games are set up for the children and we encourage you to bring your fishing poles and crabbing nets. There is a variety of wildlife in our boat basin and crabbing is always a family favorite. We also should definitely include that we have special guests at various Whalehead Wednesdays: a Corolla mustang! Weather dependent and based on the Corolla Wild Horse Fund's schedule, we also host “Meet A Mustang” at Whalehead Wednesday. Corolla Wild Horse Fund also does a “Paint a Mustang” craft with the children. We encourage guests to check for the Facebook event "Meet a Mustang at Whalehead Wednesdays" on the CWHF Facebook page for dates and any cancellations due to weather.