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Know Before You Go: Corolla vs. Carova

Have you ever wondered what distinguishes these two terms? Read on to find out.

The Currituck Banks coastline is a treasure trove of scenic beauty and serene landscapes, offering two unique gems for those seeking a beachside escape: Corolla and Carova. These neighboring destinations might seem similar at first glance, but they each possess their own distinct qualities and experiences. The name Carova is a portmanteau blending "Carolina" and "Virginia" since this unincorporated community lies just south of the North Carolina-Virginia state line. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the differences between Corolla and Carova, helping you decide which coastal haven aligns better with your vacation dreams.

Accessibility and Location

Corolla, situated on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is easily accessible by car via a bridge from the mainland. It's a well-developed community with various amenities, including paved roads, shops, entertainment options, and restaurants. On the other hand, Carova is a more remote destination that sits north of Corolla and is accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles since visitors must drive on the sand and over dunes to access homes in this area. There are no paved roads, restaurants, or shops in Carova. This exclusivity adds to Carova's untouched charm, but requires careful planning for transportation and supplies. For example, visitors must pull over to "air down" (i.e., lower the PSI of) their tires before attempting to drive on sand and need to be mindful of tide charts, as roads can become impassible or even dangerous during some high tide conditions.

Crowds and Serenity

Corolla is a popular vacation spot with a bustling atmosphere during peak seasons, although it is relatively laid-back and more private as compared to more populated towns like Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, and Nag's Head. Its accessibility and range of activities makes it a great choice for those who enjoy a mix of social interaction and relaxation. In contrast, Carova's limited accessibility means it remains even quieter and less crowded, offering a more tranquil and private beach experience.

Wildlife and Nature

Corolla boasts attractions like the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, where visitors can learn about the history and conservation of the wild horses that roam the area. Carova, however, takes the wildlife experience to the next level. It's home to a population of wild horses that roam freely along the beaches and dunes, creating a unique and unforgettable sight for visitors. You can learn more about them by visiting the Corolla Wild Horse Fund or reading our related blog post.


Corolla provides a range of dining options, shopping, and entertainment for visitors. Visitors to Carova should plan ahead and bring supplies, as amenities are limited. It requires significant time and effort to access amenities like grocery stores and restaurants located in Corolla.

Beach Experience

Both Corolla and Carova offer stunning stretches of sandy beaches, but their ambiance differs. Corolla's beaches are known for their convenience and accessibility, with designated swimming areas and lifeguards during peak season. Carova's beaches are more untouched and rugged, offering a sense of isolation and a chance to connect with nature in a raw, unfiltered setting. One of the main appeals of Carova is the ability to drive on and park along the shoreline. Parking permits are required during peak season, but you may do so yearround. In contrast, beach driving in Corolla is only permitted in the offseason.


Whether you're drawn to the vibrant energy of Corolla or the untouched allure of Carova, both destinations have their own distinct charm. Corolla provides a well-rounded vacation experience with amenities and activities, while Carova offers an off-the-beaten-path adventure for those seeking tranquility and a closer connection with nature. Your choice between Corolla and Carova ultimately depends on your preferences for crowd size, access to amenities, and the kind of coastal experience you yearn for.


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