Outer Banks family vacation in Corolla

9 July 2019

It had increasingly become a matter of personal embarrassment to John that his wife, despite having lived in North Carolina for ten years, had never been to the Outer Banks. (To be clear, he had also never been to the Outer Banks in these ten years, but since he had visited several times as a teenager, he felt that absolved him somehow.) Admittedly, I was also feeling increasingly chagrined, and so when our Michigan plans changed (due to two family pregnancies whoo!), we all jumped at the chance to experience the Outer Banks together.

Here are a few favorite pics, if you’d like to see!

Outer Banks

We were accompanied by the East Coast Thomases, including John’s parents and his sister, our brother-in-law, and their daughter, who is a few months older than June. For weeks in advance June talked about how much she was looking forward to sleeping in the same room as Maisie, and I don’t think the experience disappointed – there were many heart-meltingly sweet convos overhead on the monitor! :)

Outer Banks beach

Being a little behind in the planning game because of our late-breaking change in plans, John searched the whole Outer Banks for rental properties. We landed in Corolla, the second most Northern town on the beach (this is the house we stayed in). It ended up being a perfect fit for us – beautiful, quiet, and historic!

Corolla Beach

Shep in the ocean

Our house was a one-minute walk from the beach and next to some sort of protected area, which made it feel extra serene. We spent plenty of time at the beach – including one full morning – but it was wonderful to be so close so we could pop back and forth throughout the day, which we did frequently. Our favorite time to go was after naps and before dinner, when it was a little cooler and the sun wasn’t so strong! We did bring our pop-up canopy to help shade us on days we were out for a few hours.

As you can see, the beach was basically empty, and the sand was gloriously soft!

Corolla beach day

Outer Banks family

Shep's beach nap

Shep nap

As you can also see, Shep’s preferred beach activity was napping – he was not the ocean’s biggest fan :)

Though Corolla was farther up the Outer Banks than some more well-known destinations, there was plenty to do aside from the beach! We played mini golf, visited a farm stand, and made several trips to Whalehead, a historic home and park that includes the Currituck Beach Lighthouse.

Whalehead bridge

Whalehead mansion

Whalehead park

Both kiddos hiked up all 220 lighthouse steps with nary a peep of complaint, though the wind at the top was a little much for June!

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

view from Currituck Light

lighthouse steps

Though we opted not to do a wild horse tour (we have been spoiled from seeing them on Shackleford Banks and Cumberland Island!), Joe, John, and I snuck away one naptime to the Corolla Adventure Park. No pictures of that, but trust that it was REALLY fun!

The Shack

Corolla Village BBQ

Island Bookstore Corolla

I am a well-known scouter of charm wherever I go, and historic Corolla Village did not disappoint. Don’t miss The Shack for coffee in the morning and drinks in the afternoon (photo from Our State above!) and Corolla Village BBQ for dinner!

beach family

Other food favorites: bagels at Lighthouse Deli, acai bowls at Island Smoothie, and Italian at La Dolce Vita. We also, of course, got Duck Donuts from the original location – yum!

Duck boardwalk

Duck boardwalk

On our last night, we ordered pizza from Wave and ice cream from the shop next door, then took in the sunset from the Duck boardwalk – the perfect way to cap off an evening!

Corolla sunrise

Of course, as much as we enjoyed finally experiencing the Outer Banks for the first time (together), the best part of the trip was the stuff that could have happened anywhere, but was made more wonderful by the picturesque setting: cousin giggles, leisurely naps spent reading, memories made being chased off the beach by a crazy windstorm (!), a pastel sunrise, plowing through a well-stocked game closet, and cobbled-together meals around the table.

Corolla cousins

Corolla storm

Corolla sunset

beach family

Wishing you some of all of those things wherever your summer adventures take you! And if you have more OBX questions, I’m happy to answer them :)

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July 9, 2019 11:08 am

The place looks great! And cousin time is always good.

July 9, 2019 3:50 pm

Hi Em!
Looks perfect!!
Re kiddos swimming – were there riptides? Was the water warm? When do you recommend going?


Laura B.
July 9, 2019 4:01 pm

Looks like a wonderful trip!! I am curious about what you to do capture the memories of the trip. Obviously these blogs are AMAZING to look back on it, but specifically, what do you do to share the trip memories with Shep and June? I recently did a Shutterfly photo book of our Florida vacation and now Jason loves to “read” it as one of his favorite bedtime stories. I didn’t really intend for it to be a “story” (only did minimal captions) but he loves looking at the pictures and remembering the trip. Any tips or advice about keeping the vacation memories alive with the little ones? (since I am sure you’ve thought of it!) :)

July 9, 2019 6:41 pm

We’ve only been to the Outer Banks once, on our honeymoon! We’re not ‘beach people’ but we went in the spring and had the most amazing time exploring. We spent half the week in Hatteras and the other half in Manteo. I loved how each town we visited has its own vibe & personality!

July 9, 2019 10:00 pm

What a fun family vacation! I love the cousin bonding and beach naps. I had to tell you I have the same exact bathing suit in the same color and I LOVE it. Glad we still have the same taste :) :)

July 10, 2019 7:26 am

Aww, how fun!!! We’ve only been to the Outer Banks a few times (at least once each when we were growing up and once together)…I think knowing we can get to a different beach in two hours makes it hard to build up the motivation to drive 4+! Saving this post for future reference though because it certainly seems like it was well worth it :)

Katie Stefko
August 13, 2019 8:18 pm

It seems like you had a lovely time! The beach truly is the best place to rest and reconnect with family. Hope you don’t mind me asking, but I was wondering where your bathing suit is from? :)

Thank you!