Carova Beach

Carova Beach is part of Currituck’s Outer Banks, a secluded area visitors flock to in warmer months for its beautiful beaches and legendary wild horses. Adventure activities are part of the charm along with enjoying the beautiful scenery. Come to Carova and find out why people visit for its history and beauty.

Carova Beach

Carova Beach is located in the northern Outer Banks region, accessible only by 4×4 because it is truly ‘off the beaten track.’ Beautiful vacation homes line this spectacular beach with stunning ocean views. Part of Currituck’s Outer Banks area, this beach is named one of the most secluded beaches in America. Rich in history, Carova Beach is also home to the legendary Corolla wild horses. These horses have roamed free for centuries and are a beautiful addition to an amazing vacation in the Outer Banks. Check out this relaxing, rustic place for yourself.



  • Seasonal so check with welcome center Carova Beach - Currituck Outer Banks (

Park GPS Coordinates

  • Lattidude: 36.510939572648354
  • Longitude: -75.85969196268668

Where is Carova Beach?

Carova Beach is a group of communities located north of Corolla. The communities include Seagull, Penny’s Hill, Swan Beach, North Swan Beach, and Carova Beach. Carova is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and by Currituck Sound on the west. Carova is about 11 miles long and 2 miles wide at its widest point. The northern border trails along the Virginia State Line, with the southern border along the NC Highway 12 that leads into Corolla.

History of Carova Beach

The name ‘Carova’ comes from combining ‘Carolina’ and ‘Virgina,’ since the community lines on the state line between both North Carolina and Virginia. Spanish ships were known to pass the area prior to landing there in the late 1500s. The famous Corolla Wild Horses got their start on Carova Beach after being left there by the Spanish when they had to escape the local Indigenous peoples. Historians are unsure of where exactly they were left, but they became famous in the area and still roam the shores of the Northern Outer Banks as a symbol of enduring beauty, determination and grace required to live in this remote area. Settlers came in around the 1660s from North Carolina and Virginia to settle in the areas now known as Corolla and Carova. Several towns have existed before but were consumed by the sand. The NC Highway 12 was paved in 1984 and created more opportunity to access Carova. The wildlife refuge and Estuarian Reserve were also created to preserve the area from development.

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge at Carova Beach

An undeveloped set of beaches includes Carova Beach, accessible only by 4WD vehicle. Visitors can take their 4WD into the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, only reachable by boat or 4WD. Here they will be treated to 13 acres of untouched beach, maritime forest, marshes, and open space to explore and see nature at its finest. Miles of sand make it a beautiful spot to stop and take pictures, picnic, and lay out in the sun while enjoying the ocean views. Nearby vacation rentals are available.

Things to Do at Carova Beach

Carova Beach is a beautiful place with a unique history. While it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it is certainly a gorgeous place to explore with its quiet beauty and pristine beaches, untouched by development. Learn more about the best ways to explore Carova Beach.

Hiking at Carova Beach

Check out the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge with six separate areas of wild terrain, located between Corolla and the VA state line. Head south to the Currituck Banks National Estuarine Preserve to walk the Currituck Soundfront. There is handicapped accessible and elevated boardwalk that winds through forest and gives a great view of the sound.

Biking at Carova Beach

Bikers who are more experienced will enjoy the sandy and dirty path through the local preserve and sound. Adventure seekers will enjoy the tracks that run near the shoreline or for low key biking, head to Corolla and explore the town’s paved bike lanes and sidewalks along NC Highway 12.

Kayaking at Carova Beach

Head out into the sound and canals to paddle in a kayak. There is a public boat ramp at 2100 Ocean Pearl Road at Carova Beach Park. Explorers can haul their cakay to the sound in the Estuarine Preserve and wildlife refuge. Head to Corolla for rentals or get a tour with guide companies like Coastal Explorations or Kitty Hawk Kites.

Sightseeing At Carova Beach

Enjoy birds and wildlife? There are many to be seen across the Outer Banks, including Carova. Head into the preserve and estuarine areas for best wildlife viewing or head to Carova Beach to visit the wild horses. Be sure to bring binoculars for best viewing and a camera.

For those who want another view, head to the Currituck Beach Lighthouse near Whalehead in Corolla. This 158’ ft. tall lighthouse was built in 1875. Open seasonally for a small fee and near a museum and soundside park. This is a great area for local art shows, live music, and annual events.

Driving on the Carova Beach

While people come to visit the Outer Banks and Carova Beach, they may except wind swept hair and beach chairs. Getting around the beach is a bit more rustic with a 4-wheel-drive vehicle needed. You MUST have this type of vehicle or you will get stuck. Carolla Jeep Adventures has tours with the right vehicle to get on the sand and look for horses. Check rules before heading out to be sure you have the right vehicle and it is permitted to access the remote beach (and not get stuck). Some key tips:

  • Lower your air pressure before going to the beach to prevent getting stuck or having vehicle damage
  • The beach is a state road with speed limit of 35 mph. Watch for pedestrians, kids, and especially wildlife like the horses
  • Fill up the tank before heading out as there are no gas stations nearby
  • Head out during low tide and during the day only 
  • Wash off the vehicles right after a trip to the beach
  • Don’t drive near the horses on Carova Beach. Dominant males may be protective of their females and foals. They are wild so they can be dangerous. Don’t feed the horses

Wild Horses of Carova 

One of the attractions to visiting Corolla and Carova are the wild horses. They roam free on the beaches and draw visitors from all over the world. However,  visitors should be alert to them at all times as they come and go as they please and may run into you if you’re not looking. Wild horses rest by lying on the sand so drivers may not see them. Speed limits are slow (15 mph) for this reason. Be alert and aware of your surroundings. Enjoy the majestic horses from a distance as touching or feeding them is not allowed for everyone’s safety. Read the Currituck County laws addresses horse interactions here.

Rentals and Vacation Homes In Carova

There are no hotels or motels on the 11-mile-long 4WD region. Regardless, Carova vacationers can still find accommodation minutes from the beach access ramp near NC Highway 12. Hotels, motels and B&Bs are located in Corolla and Duck, more populated regions than Carova but offer grocery stores, amenities, and more. The handful of resort-style accommodations and places are near to Currituck Sound or offer private beach access. Amenities at these spaces include larger, grand hotels and resorts with private access, amenities, and more. Smaller hotels and B&Bs will offer less, quieter accommodation but still friendly and knowledgeable staff. Summer visitors book well in advance so book ahead. Visitors who come to the Outer Banks can rent a hotel or motel on the Currituck Mainland and are cheaper than the Outer Banks with public boat access. Properties in Carova 4WD area range from 2 bedrooms on up to 25 bedrooms but book up early. Check out this Outer Banks vacation rental website for more information on available properties.

Carova Beach F.A.Q.

Visitors come to Carova Beach to get away from busy lives and relax in a rustic place that is popular with tourists each spring and summer. The area is one of the more desolate and unpopulated regions of the Outer Banks. There are no paved roads in Carova. The only way to gain access is via 4WD vehicle. The speed limit is 30 mph at most and stores or amenities are about 10 to 30 minutes away, with most being accessible in nearby Corolla. Carova is home to lots of undeveloped land and, of course, the famed Corolla wild horses. Visitors also love to come and see the wildlife like fish, birds, and the famed waterfowl.

The best way to see Carova is to book a vacation and head down there yourself. Visit the beautiful, remote beach, drive a 4WD on the beach, take a tour to see the horses and visit nearby Corolla and surrounding towns. The Outer Banks region is one that will give you and your family memories for years to come. Be sure to plan ahead if traveling during the busy summer months.

The Carova Beach Fire Department sells amenities like ice cream, ice, drinks, and more. There are no stores. They are helpful in guiding people where to park. Be sure to obtain a parking permit, which are required to park at all times on the Friday before Memorial Day through Labor Day. Vehicles must park in designated areas east o the dune line and west of the sand strip. There are seasonal passes available for purchase or 10-day passes. If you are a Beach Realty guest staying in a Carova home, you get 2 parking passes for your stay and must be picked up at check in and returned after departure.