Part VI: Off the Beaten Path

We are still recovering from the cold weather blahs up here, but a couple of sunny afternoons have done wonders to lift the spirits. I’ll continue with my pursuit of warmer places in today’s featured stop. For the second week in a row, I am going to talk about the beach. In contrast to Hana, HI, Corolla, NC’s beaches are white and soft.

Corolla is at the end of the paved road and located at the Northern tip of North Carolina’s Outer Banks. One can drive farther north into Virginia from Corolla, but it requires a four-wheel drive vehicle with traction on sand.

I believe the popular amenities advertised to Corolla visitors are not its true jewel. The view from Corolla is nice but probably is similar to that of many small ocean communities on land between water—-one side a calm picturesque bay while the other features the dark murky blue color of the Atlantic Ocean. This Southern town has lots of large rental homes for vacationers—-I think a quarter of New Jersey’s population must descend on the Outer Banks during June and July. Several golf courses are also located in the area.

Corolla even has a wonderfully unique red brick lighthouse and an expansive restored historic home (called the Whalehead Club) that includes acres of ponds, boat docks, and manicured grounds open to the public--truly a sight to see (grounds are pictured directly below).

For beach-walkers, Corolla even offers groups of dolphins sometimes swimming less than forty yards from shore and plainly visible for those looking dreamily out to sea.

No, I think the biggest but not most popular reason to visit Corolla is something that has been there for more than four centuries: wild horses. Corolla’s beaches are the stomping grounds of several herds of wild equines thought to be descendants of Spanish Mustangs. The original horses were stranded on the Outer Banks after surviving shipwrecks, and were first documented in the area in the 1500s.

They eat vegetation on the dunes, and can be seen on occasion prancing in the shallow surf.

A few years ago, the horses had the run of Corolla’s beaches, but the increasing human population led to more horses being killed in car accidents. As a result, the community had a fence built that extends from the ocean to the road that functions to keep the herds north of much of the traffic.

In any event, at least once per visit, we will see a local police officer playing herdsman and rounding-up (or standing by and waiting for one of local volunteers to do it) a horse that bypassed the fence barrier—directing the animal back into the protected areas.

Walking on the beach in an early morning fog, hearing the crashing of the waves, and then to be suddenly surrounded by these ancient beasts is simply a spectacular experience—making all of the extra beach fun simply just icing on a fantastic vacation cake.

If you are in the area to see horses, don’t forget to get some real Carolina Barbecue (vinegar based); a welcome sight for me after listening to the folks up north call their barbecue what I describe as a “sloppy-joe.”

Previous tour stops in this Off the Beaten Path Series are:

--Lynchburg, TN

--Centralia, PA

-- Murfreesboro, AR

--Washington, DC

--Hana, HI


mrs. fuzz said...

What?! more unheard of places. . .

that's amazing! I would love to see that. It looks picturesque, but the sight of those horses would be thrilling. I'm wondering though if they are mean and would trample you, or if they would be approachable, used to humans.

Slamdunk said...

Good point--I should have made that clarification in the post. The herds are quite used to being around people, but obviously they don't want to be touched and are protective of their young.

They have local laws regarding the distance a persons should be from the horse as well as not to feed them.

They had a problem a few years ago with someone shooting them (apparently for fun), but we have not seen the horses be bothered much except for the tourist wanting to get too close for pictures.

copswife said...

I so want to go there!!

J. J. in Phila said...

It is quite beautiful, though before I moved to Philadelphia, I vacationed in, you guessed it, Philadelphia. :)

Is there a good time to visit. I'm thinking of weather conditions and the "tourist season?"

Slamdunk said...

Good question JJ.

I have only visited in the summer so I am not the best person to compare seasons. Before the older kid started school, we were able to visit before Memorial Day in May and that was great--warm temps and very little crowds. I have also heard the same thing applies to September and October trips there.

We now go in the summer and even though it takes some effort for tourists to get to Corolla (northern most stop on the OBX highway), it is still crowded.

ocmist said...

What an amazingly wonderful place to be able to visit AND see wild horses! Thanks for sharing this with us! Grammy from Corgi Country