Don't plan on bringing the family car, though, unless it's four-wheel drive. There are no paved roads in the communities of Seagull, Penny's Hill, Swan Beach, North Swan Beach and Carova, which consist of million-dollar homes, along with the more modest homes of year-round residents, scattered among the dunes and facing the Atlantic Ocean, on 11 miles of unspoiled beaches that stretch from Corolla to the Virginia Line.
To get there, follow N.C. 12 north to Corolla, to the ramp at the end of the road. Take a left, and drive straight up the beach. Don't forget to lay in some supplies before you go, though, as along with no paved roads, there are no grocery stores, gas stations, restaurants or hotels, or trash pickup and other amenities of modern life.
However, most of the upscale rentals are well-equipped, with heated swimming pools, hot tubs and Jacuzzis, game rooms, multiple televisions and entertainment systems, high-speed Internet access, gourmet kitchens and multiple bedrooms (eight or more, in many cases), so a vacation on the northern Outer Banks isn't exactly roughing it. Many of the larger beach houses sleep from 10 to 25 people, making them perfect for wedding parties and family reunions.
The northern Outer Banks are bounded on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the west by the Currituck Sound, and feature some the broadest, cleanest beaches you'll find anywhere on the Outer Banks. Between the surf and the sound, tight, twisting tracks of hard-packed sand serve as roads around the dunes and through scrub pines, interspersed with the driveways and hardy lawns of homes that range from single-wide mobile homes perched on pilings to multi-million-dollar mansions.
If you get lucky, you may spot a few of the northern Outer Banks' Spanish mustangs, which roam free among the dunes and on the beach.
Visitors who don't have access to a four-wheel-drive vehicle can still experience the magic of Currituck's northern beaches.
Most people who try to make it up the beach in a two-wheel-drive vehicle get stuck near the ramp just beyond Corolla. Most likely, you'll pass a few as you head north; vehicles stuck up to their axles, their hapless passengers attempting to paw their way out of the deep sand with their hands (who brings a shovel to the beach?), waiting for salvation from a heavy-duty, four-wheel-drive tow truck - whose owner may very well own one of the biggest houses on the beach.
So far, the permanent residents of the northern beaches have successfully kept paved roads out of their communities, fearing that they will bring more development.
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