This Outer Banks town relishes life at the end of the road.
The town of Corolla, North Carolina, begins to stir around 5a.m. Lazy waves roll across the cool sand. A shorebird fliesnortheast from a perch atop the only traffic light. Four of thetown's 50 wild Spanish mustangs trot through the surf beforeheading inland to a marsh-grass breakfast.
The most isolated spot on the Outer Banks, Corolla maintains adelicate balance between its unique surroundings and a recenthousing boom. "In the past few years, we've seen major growth,"says John Bone, president of the Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce.The boom began in 1984 when Highway 12 was extended through theonce-small fishing community. Today hundreds of palatial beachhomes line the route through town.
Each summer, thousands flock to the Outer Banks to enjoy rentalsand second homes. Only about 500 people live in Corolla year-round."My husband Steve and I vacationed here for eight years and finallymade the move," Laura Smith says. "Trust me, it took us longer thanwe wanted!" They love being surrounded by two bodies ofwater―Currituck Sound and the Atlantic―and say summersare worth the quiet winters. John Lenhart and George Robinson,owners of Bad Bean Taqueria restaurant, relish winter's slowerpace. "We're confined to a four- or five-month period to makemoney," John says. "After a crazy, busy summer you enjoy theoff-season."
No matter the time of year, locals can find authentic Corolla bylooking skyward. Currituck Beach Light, built in 1875, watches overthe town from historic Corolla Village. Carolyn Peifer, the CorollaLight Inn's office manager, says the past and present mesh well.But an approved bridge to mainland Virginia has some residentsworried that the town will become less friendly. "We don't shakehands here―we hug," Carolyn says. She hopes the town can staythat way.
(published January/February 2008)