Currituck County features hundreds of miles of water, thanks to the 30-mile long Currituck Sound, as well as a handful of major reserves, parks and refuges, including the Currituck Banks Reserve, the Currituck Wildlife Refuge, and the Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. As a result, every visitor should be prepared to spend ample time enjoying Currituck's endless Great Outdoors

Hiking/walking - On the beachside, visitors can take a walk along the edge of the Currituck Sound via the well-landscaped grounds adjacent to the Whalehead in Historic Corolla. There's also a handicapped accessible and elevated boardwalk on the northern edge of Corolla in the Currituck Banks Preserve. For a longer expedition through the heart of a maritime forest, head inland to Mackay National Wildlife Refuge where the 3.8 mile Mackay Island Trail and the 6.5 mile Live Oak Point Trail can be found.

Biking - The Currituck beaches feature a relatively new pedestrian walkway that runs parallel to NC Highway 12, and is ideal for a long bike ride through the coastal communities. There are also several long biking trails which double as hiking trails on the mainland, namely the Mackay Island Trail and Live Oak Point Trail, in the Mackay Island Refuge. In addition, there are three access roads that cut through the refuge - Mackay Island Road, the Marsh Causeway, and the road to the Joseph P. Knapp Visitor Contact Station - which can be utilized for a less rugged bike ride that nevertheless winds through scenic wooded and waterfront regions.

Kayaking - At 30 miles long and 3-8 miles wide, the Currituck Sound is one of the most popular bodies of water for kayaking. Public boat launches are located in Corolla at the small park adjacent to the Whalehead in Historic Corolla, while on the mainland, paddlers can launch via public boat ramps in Poplar Branch, Coinjock and Harbinger. Keep a lookout for local waterfowl at play, and try to time a kayak trip to coincide with the sunset for a gorgeous expedition.

Birding - Currituck County is a paradise for birdwatchers, especially during the spring and fall months when thousands of birds, (representing hundreds of different species), pass through the region on a mass migration. Head to the Great Marsh Trail, a .3 mile loop in the heart of the Mackay Island Refuge, or the Kuralt Overlook off of Mackay Island Road for the best vantage points.

Surfing - Corolla and Carova boast some decent waves, especially during a late fall swell or when there's a passing offshore hurricane. There are several surf shops that offer equipment, rentals and lessons for visiting surfing newcomers, including Kitty Hawk Kites, Corolla Surf Shop, and Island Revolution. Island Revolution also features an on-site skate park for visitors who still want to enjoy a good ride in less than optimal surfing conditions.

Lighthouses - The 158' foot tall Currituck Beach Lighthouse is one of the most distinctive of the OBX lighthouses, thanks to its unpainted red brick exterior. Built in 1875, the tower is open for seasonal climbing, (for a small fee), and boasts an adjacent museum and gift shop.

Fishing - Visitors can fish off the beach, (provided they have a NC Saltwater fishing license), from their cottage rental dock on the sound, or from a boat in the Currituck Sound. Mainland public boat ramps can be found off of NC3 in Poplar Branch, along SR1142 in Coinjock, and at Sound Park in Harbinger.

Beaches - The beaches are the star attraction in Currituck County, and stretch from the town borders of Duck to the Virginia state line. With no high-rise hotels or commercial boardwalks, the shoreline is generally uncrowded with plenty of room to spread out, even in the height of summer. Public beach access, complete with shower and bathroom facilities, can be found at 471 Ocean Trail, and beach visitors should note that there is no roadside parking allowed anywhere along the Currituck Beaches.

Wildlife Viewing - Head to the northern beaches of the Currituck Banks Preserve or the Currituck Wildlife Refuge for a chance to spot the famous wild horses in their natural element. The elevated boardwalk at the entrance to the Currituck Banks Preserve, (which is where NC Highway 12 ends), is a good secluded spot that's close to town, while the inland .3-mile Great Marsh Trail in the Mackay Island Refuge is a solid and rarely crowded mainland destination for viewing an array of local species in their natural habitat.

Swimming - While the sound can be a little brackish, several small soundside beaches in Corolla by the Whalehead in Historic Corolla and Currituck Beach Lighthouse serve as perfect shallow splashing grounds for young visitors. The ocean is also warm enough for swimming for most of the summer and early fall, (generally from June through September.) There are also seasonally lifeguarded beaches in Corolla at the Currituck Public Beach Access, the Lighthouse Ramp, the North Beach Access Ramp, and at Pine Island / Hampton Inn.

Camping - Mainland Currituck County offers several RV parks and small campgrounds that take advantage of the region's proximity to the Currituck Sound, and offer waterfront or close-to-the-water sites. Popular destinations that include on-site amenities and boat ramps include Bells Island Campground in Currituck, Hampton Lodge Camping Resort in Coinjock, and Sandy Point Resort Campground on Knotts Island. It should be noted, however, that there are no camping options along the Currituck County beaches.

Stand Up Paddleboarding - Stand Up Paddleboarding or SUP is the region's newest watersport, and there are ample options for visitors to take 1-2 hour lessons in the sound or ocean waters. Waterfront businesses in Corolla, including Kitty Hawk Kites and Island Revolution, offer lessons, rentals and equipment for sale.

Golf - There are a half dozen golf courses in the county, concentrated mainly along the Currituck mainland. Critically acclaimed courses in the region include the Kilmaric Golf Club, the Point Golf Club, The Carolina Club, Goose-Creek Country Club, and the Holly Ridge Golf Course.

Scenic Spots - Head to the park grounds surrounding the Whalehead in Historic Corolla around sunset for a gorgeous (and free) vista over the water, or take a secluded stroll via the boardwalk that's found by the entrance of the Currituck Banks Reserve for a morning beach walk that's close to the ocean.

Boating - The Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) cuts through sections of the Currituck Sound, and mariners passing through the ICW can stop at the Midway Marina and Motel or the Coinjock Marina for rest and supplies.

Educational - Brush up on the local wildlife at the Mackay Island Refuge's Visitors Center, the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education, or the Corolla Wild Horse Museum, which is housed within the original Corolla school house. There's also plenty of history to uncover at the Whalehead in Historic Corolla, a historic hunt club that's been expertly restored to its 1920s condition. The wildlife refuges also offer summertime programs for young visitors who want to learn more about the unique coastal environment.

Museums - The majority of museums in Currituck County are found in the small town of Corolla. The Currituck Beach Lighthouse Museum and Gift Shop features artifacts from the tower's original lightkeepers, while the Whalehead in Historic Corolla is ideal for outdoor picnics, and showcases the art-deco architecture of the 1920s. The Corolla Wild Horse Museum sheds light on the history and current preservation efforts to protect the famed wild horses.

Shelling - The best shelling along the Currituck Beaches is found in the 4-Wheel-Drive area, north of Carova. Go early, and try to plan a trip that coincides with a low tide for the best results. Locals attest that the fall months, especially after a storm or hurricane, is the best time to go beachcombing. Common finds include scallops, razorback clams, coquinas, oyster shells, moon snails, augers and whelks.

Windsurfing / Kiteboarding - The Whalehead in Historic Corolla has a public launch that's popular with windsurfers and kiteboarders, and many soundfront vacation rental homes have launching areas or private docks. Fall and spring are the best times for these sports, as the wind is typically a steady and constant 10-20 mph.

Nightlife - The Currituck beaches have a healthy handful of restaurants and bars that offer great views and seasonal live music or Karaoke, including Sundogs Raw Bar & Grill, Flip Flops Bistro and Bar, and The Blue Point Grill. In the winter months, when the majority of beach businesses are closed, head to the mainland where a small number of local pubs and restaurants, like the Mule Daze Saloon and AJ Gator's, can be found.

Crabbing - Whether you wade out into the sound or take out a skiff, the Currituck Sound is fairly fruitful when it comes to crabbing. Rent a soundfront vacation home, and dip a daily crab pot off the dock to try your hand at this Outer Banks tradition. Visitors can also head to the Sound Park in Harbinger for access to the water's edge.

Shopping - Spend an afternoon at Timbuck II Shopping Center, the Corolla Light Town Center, or the Monteray Plaza in Corolla to explore a world of art galleries, boutiques, surf shops and gift stores. On the mainland, swing by the Cotton Gin, which is one of the most popular southern gift shops outside the Outer Banks.

The Cotton Gin

For those traveling to the Outer Banks, The Cotton Gin is a beloved landmark with its large windmill and picturesque gardens. The Cotton Gin has stood in the same location since 1929, starting as a working cotton gin and growing to a gift store with 4 locations. Visitors are treated to a unique shopping experience in our main store in Jarvisburg, as well as our beach stores in Corolla, Duck, and Nags Head. Explore room after room filled with décor for your home and coastal fashions for both men and women. Discover the brands you really want, like, Vera Bradley, Vineyard Vines, La Mer Luex, Simply Southern, Lindsay Phillips, Scout, Pandora, Kameleon, Brighton, Spartina, Tommy Bahama, Southern Tide and Salt Life and Old Guys Rule - all under one roof!


Don’t forget the gourmet market, or shop our beautiful linens for your bedroom and bath. We also feature coastal books and fine art, or just a whimsical fun gift to bring home to family and friends. Stop by soon and don’t forget to try our estate grown wines in our stores or visit our vineyard and winery, Sanctuary Vineyards, located adjacent to the original Cotton Gin in Jarvisburg.


Most know The Cotton Gin as a must-stop shop for fine gifts, beachwear, souvenirs and so much more, but this retailer has a long-standing history within the Outer Banks. A local landmark that holds almost a century of memories, The Cotton Gin started from humble beginnings and continues to adapt to the times and tourists. Tommy Wright’s family has been in the Outer Banks for nearly 200 years. His great-great grandfather, Jacob Francis Wright, shipwrecked in Duck back in the early 1800s. Calling these barrier islands his new home, Wright and his family acclimated to their new environment.


Adaptation is a common theme for the Wright family. Tommy and his wife Candace, who continue to steer The Cotton Gin, have seen not only their business change with the times, but the Outer Banks as a vacation destination as well. A farm market in Jarvisburg eventually transformed and flourished into several retail locations dotting the Outer Banks.


“As the area changed and tourism took off in the 1960s, the family saw people coming for vacations, so they began to grow vegetables and things developed from there,” says Tommy Wright. The Wright family expanded upon the farm market and began to remodel a working cotton gin, later transforming the gin into The Cotton Gin general store in the late 1960s. While the additions to the farm store drew visitors, it was their encounters with the Wright family that kept people coming back year after year, which is something that remains true today.

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