When it comes to planning out an adventurous family vacation comprised of nature and exciting programs, look no further than Currituck County and its Outer Banks in North Carolina. The county has 20 miles of pristine beaches, protected parks and plenty of kid-friendly attractions like go-karts and bumper cars. Plus there are a few surprising attractions that await small travelers. Here are the best things to do with your kids in Currituck County, North Carolina.
- Mini Golf
Tucked away in historic Corolla, families can play a kid-friendly game of miniature golf at Adventure Golf and Bumper Cars. On the mini-golf course, families will find funny Corolla themes such as a miniature model of Whalehead and statues of wild horses. The venue has an extended bumper car area for families to chase each other under the blacklights. The bumper cars are designed to be kid-friendly, providing more cushion and less jolt upon collision. The golf course accommodates kids of all ages and is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Corolla Raceway
Those with the need for speed will want to check out Corolla Raceway by Sanders Bay where both kids and adults can enjoy driving a super fast go-kart. The raceway features a large and spacious track for families to compete. Smaller children will be given a junior kart to play with other age-appropriate children. A bumper car rink is included at the raceway along with video arcades, a game room and a concession stand.
- Kite Flying
Currituck County’s open beaches and Outer Banks make it ideal for kite flying. On Austin Street in Corolla, a popular Flying Smiles Kite shop sells high quality and limited edition kites in the shape of animals (some designed by store owners). Kitty Hawk Kites is an outdoor recreation area with adventurous attractions like hang-gliding and flyboarding. However, Kitty Hawk Kites specializes in kite flying, where experts will assist your family in this activity. Thrill-seeking families with older children may want to amp up their experience by kiteboarding instead.
- Educational Programs
Children can enroll in several educational programs at the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. The center has various lessons and activities targeted to children of different age groups, like Fish Sticks, where experts will teach young children the basics of fishing. Sound Sampler is a 1.25-hour program for kids to explore the marshland for insects and fish. Sea Turtle Activities invites children of all ages to dress up as sea turtles and play various turtle-themed games.
- Wild Horses of Corolla
One of the biggest perks of Currituck County is its famous wild mustang horses that have inhabited the area for more than 500 years. The horses are believed to be descendants of Spanish explorers that had to abandon them due to a shipwreck in the 1500s. On the beach of Corolla, the horses roam freely and are easy to find, making for splendid photo opportunities. Families cannot pet or approach the horses, but they can join an off-road tour to see the horses up close. To learn more about the horses or buy a souvenir, Corolla Wild Horses Museum is within walking distance from its beach, where kids can ride on a tamed mustang at the museum.
- Dennis Anderson’s Muddy Motor Sports
At Dennis Anderson’s Muddy Motor Sports, families can watch hair-raising shows of monster trucks, including the world famous Grave Digger that pummels smaller cars with ease. The venue hosts monthly and annual mud bogging events for thousands of fans to enjoy and root for.
- Crabbing in the Currituck Sound
Children of all ages can participate in crabbing along the Outer Banks. Currituck Sound is an easily accessible place to catch your family’s dinner with a few key items that can be purchased at a local bait and tackle shop. Families can opt to go to Knott’s Island, which is only 45 minutes away by ferry. Despite the time and distance, the island is known to be a treasure trove of delectable crabs.
- Kayak Tours
The best way to explore the Outer Banks is by kayak. In Currituck County, Kitty Hawk Kayaks & Surf School can give lessons to both kids and adults and take them through scenic routes to see wildlife like ospreys, turtles and fish. Families can also rent fishing supplies at Kitty Hawk. Plan ahead to reserve a late afternoon tour to catch the sunset as you and your family paddle back to the shore.
- Family Photo Opportunities
Whether your family is exploring estuarine reserves, kayaking along the Outer Banks or viewing wild horses in Corolla, Currituck County is full of memorable photo opportunities. Purchase disposable cameras to allow your children to get creative and snap shots throughout trips at the beach, parks or historic villages. Another place for scenic views is Carova, where it’s common to see families of red foxes romping around the dunes.
- The S.E.A.L. Program
S.E.A.L. is a program to immerse your kids into beachside nature while teaching them the basic safety rules. The program stands for Safety Education and Aquatic Learning and the program is geared toward children age 7-14. Biologists and instructors will give lessons on the ocean’s wildlife and safety protocols like first aid, CPR and mock lifeguard rescues. The programs are held at Corolla beach so families are welcome to stick around for more beach fun.
During fall, the beachside gem of Currituck County, North Carolina, becomes a popular place for visitors to enjoy the ocean and its autumn colors. Its 20 miles of beaches are accompanied by rich wildlife, historic homes and quaint villages. Here are the top things to do in the fall in Currituck on North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Watch the sunset over the Currituck Sound
Currituck Sound is an inlet on the western side of the shore, making it an excellent location to watch the sunset. The sound has long docks with gazebos perfect for watching the sun melt into the ocean. Along the sound, visitors can see sleepy sea grasses, towering pine trees, Spanish moss-covered oak trees, and a wealth of ducks and geese. Bring a picnic to enjoy at a seaside table as you watch the sky turn into brilliant shades of pink, orange and purple. Early risers will want to head over to the Atlantic Ocean on the other side of Currituck Sound to see the sunrise. There are many beaches on this 20-mile strip with a “small town” feel like Corolla Village and Crown Point, so it’s easy to grab breakfast after waking up with the sunrise.
Climb the Currituck Beach Lighthouse
Hike 220 steps up to the top of Currituck Beach Lighthouse for a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean, Currituck Sound and the Outer Banks. The lighthouse was built in 1875; inside it today is a spiraling Victorian wrought-iron staircase, historic stone walls and large windows. At the top, visitors will see a rare Fresnel lens (only seven left in existence) invented by a French physicist, Augustin-Jean Fresnel. The lenses are known for capturing and reflecting lights at greater distances. A historic Victorian house next to the lighthouse was previously home to generations of lightkeepers. The Keeper’s House is now a museum and gift shop filled with lighthouse figurines and information on the history of area lightkeepers. The lighthouse is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from spring through Thanksgiving weekend. Parking and admission are free.
Learn to Surf
Both seasoned and amateur surfers can ride the waves on the Outer Banks even well into the fall season. In Corolla, a surf shop gives daily lessons on techniques and safety on surfing. Courses run from 1.5 to 2 hours long and an instructor works with small groups of no more than five people. The Outer Banks is known for its smaller waves that make it ideal for amateur surfers. The banks have sandbars that are convenient for surfers to practice and walk to with their surfboards. Experienced surfers can rent surfing boards and equipment from the shop and check in with its website for current or upcoming weather reports.
Tour Whalehead in Historic Corolla
Overlooking the Currituck Sound in historic Corolla, Whalehead is a 1920s home that currently operates as a museum filled with Tiffany light fixtures, Steinway pianos and troves of restored antiques. Lore has it that the original owner, Edward Collins Knight Jr. and his wife shared a love for hunting. When his wife was denied admission into an all-male hunting club, he retaliated by building this 21,000-sq.-ft. nouveau-inspired, yellow mansion to please her. During fall, the mansion turns into a popular Halloween destination because of local rumors of a haunting there. Ghost tours are available throughout the fall season from 3 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. On Thursday evenings, the mansion has an additional Moonlight, Legend, Lore and Ghost tour that is spookier and may not be appropriate for small children.
Visit Historic Corolla Village
In autumn, the historic village of Corolla becomes an idyllic seaside community and is the most popular destination to visit in Currituck County. Known for its laid-back Southern vibe, the town makes a relaxing place to stroll through boutique shops, upscale restaurants and historic homes. The Outer Bank strip by the village is home to wild horses that are descendants from mustangs that Spanish explorers left behind in the 1500s. For over 500 years, the wild horses have roamed freely in Corolla and continue to be appreciated by locals and tourists. Corolla is famous for its designated 4WD beach area where guests can rent the vehicles and cruise along the coast.
Autumn is the time where birds start flying south for warmer climates. The 965-acre Currituck Banks National Estuarine Reserve is just a mile north of Corolla and is populated by hundreds of bird species, both local and migratory. Visitors can look for tree swallows, common loons, ospreys and piping plovers that are known to inhabit the area in the season. While there, look for various species of fish in its nearby waters. The Reserve has an additional estuarine research center (the third largest in the country) full of dedicated biologists working to preserve the fragile land.
Eat Your Way Through Currituck County
Dine on fresh local seafood in various seashore restaurants in Currituck County. Frog Island Seafood Inc. in Barco has been feeding visitors for over 20 years and serves soft shell crabs, crab cakes, scallops and shrimp. Its mom-and-pop vibe is a favorite among locals to dine at and bring home bags full of oysters. In Corolla, Dockside North Seafood Market brings in fresh catches from the nearby Outer Banks for visitors to pick up for a picnic at the beach. Items on the menu include snow crab clusters, lobster tails, mussels, clams and a variety of local fish. However, for a spectacular view of the Outer Banks where you can have a martini with your crabs, head over to Corolla to North Banks Restaurant & Bar for a hip and beachy vibe with mounted fish on the walls. Diners can choose from fish tacos, firebugs (fried oysters) and lobster bakes.
Golf Seaside at The Currituck Club
Designed by the famous Rees Jones, The Currituck Club is a semi-private country club featuring a luxurious 18-hole golf course. Golfers can enjoy the view of the Currituck Beach Lighthouse, the Atlantic Ocean and pine trees surrounding the course while teeing off. The club was rated by Golf Magazine as one of the top 10 best new places to play and has received much attention for its remarkable location of sand dunes, wetlands, ocean and forest. Its Outer Banks practice faculty is open to the public and comes with additional tennis courts, volleyball courts, basketball courts, bike trails and a kiddie playground. Don’t leave too quickly after a round of golf; the club has its own restaurant with a large patio featuring soups, salads and sandwiches.