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Corolla Wild Horse Tours: An Outer Banks Adventure

Corolla wild horse tours are one of the most popular things to do in the Outer Banks. Each year, thousands of visitors flock to the area in hopes of catching a glimpse of the beautiful mares, stallions or even a foal running across the beach.

Here’s how you can see the wild horses of Corolla!

A foal born on Mother's Day in the Outer Banks.

My tour was provided to facilitate this story. However, my husband’s was not and I was not paid to write this post. All opinions are my own.

Wild horses near the vacation homes.

If you search TripAdvisor for things to do in Corolla the very first suggestion will be Nature & Wildlife tours – aka Corolla wild horse tours. If you skip the research and simply show up in the northern Outer Banks, you’ll catch on rather quickly that the horses are a big draw.

One trip along Highway 12, or Ocean Trail as it’s known locally, and you’re likely to see several vehicles loaded with passengers in route to the 4×4 beach to seek out some of the Colonial Spanish Mustang herd.

The 4x4 Beach in Corolla with wild horses.

Where is the best place to see the horses in Corolla NC?

Many people wonder, “Can you walk to see wild horses in Corolla?” You might be lucky enough to spot some on your own, but the best way to get up close is with wild horse tours in Corolla, NC.

There are many Corolla wild horse tour companies, but Corolla Outback Adventures were providing tours of the area long before it was cool. 

Harem in someone's yard.

Owned by Corolla native Jay Bender and his 84-year old mother, the company was founded by Jay’s parents in 1962 as Bender’s Beach Service. At the time, they transported fisherman, hunters, and sightseers on beach trips when there was no pavement beyond Duck.

The ecological tour has morphed over the past ten to fifteen years to focus more on the wild horses as their popularity grew, but Corolla Outback Adventures has held true to their roots, retaining the love of the land which is evident in the tours they offer.

The Benders have donated more than 60 acres of land to be used as a wild horse sanctuary, which is accessed exclusively as part of the tour. This makes it one of the best Outer Banks wild horse tours.

Horse crossing sign along the 4x4 beach.

Passengers on their tours learn about the history, ecology and natural environment of the northern Outer Banks during their quest to find the wild horses of Corolla milling about the beaches and community.

Horse lurking by homes in the Outer Banks.

What to Expect on OBX Wild Horse Tours

Our tour began at 8:00 a.m. We were asked to arrive 30 minutes early to sign our waivers, which only took a few moments. If you’re not an early riser, four other Corolla wild horse tours are offered during the busy summer season.

A cattle egret among the horses.

We watched as our tour guide fueled up the truck, wiped down the seats and swept the floor before we boarded. You do need to step up two steps into the back of the pick-up truck to claim your spot on one of the bench seats that line each side. If you are unable to do so, there is limited seating in the cab with the driver, but this should be mentioned when booking your reservation.

Harem hanging out.

Once we were on our way it took only a few minutes for us to reach the enchanting and wild 4×4 beach. At this time of the day, the beach was nearly deserted, and we sped along the beach as the salt air sprayed our faces and watched as the pelicans seemed to hover above the ocean waves.

Pelicans flying over the ocean in the Outer Banks.

The morning was beautiful, and I was excited to see the horses. We soon turned down a beach path and our guide pointed out Lewarks Hill and Penny’s Hill which is the second largest dune in North Carolina.

Interestingly, before I arrived in the Outer Banks, I had read a short passage in this book about a fishing village by the name of Seagull that once rested here, only to be engulfed by the migrating sand of the living dune.

A wild horse is spotted eating on the sand dunes.

We continued in search of the horses and found ourselves in one of the vacation home allotments where a new foal who was born on Mother’s Day seems to hang out. After spotting a bachelor horse lurking near one of the homes, we came up upon a harem with the foal and from there we began to spot one horse after another on our 20-mile, two-hour long excursion.

Mama and foal on the Corolla wild horse tour.

Midway through the tour, we stopped at a park with nice restroom facilities as our tour guide showed a dried whelk egg case and shared information about the species as well as displaying pieces of fulgurite which are formed when lightning strikes sand. I made a mental note to seek out both on my next beachcombing endeavor, but I found neither.

Wild horse munching vegetation in the sand dunes.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and could have spent the entire day seeking out horses, my husband was ready to call the tour quits after spotting the first horse. No joke. He really isn’t a tour kind of guy.

But he hung in there as we continued to see the homes of both Gravedigger and Santa Claus, the nest of an osprey, and a final harem of horses sunning themselves on the beach as we made our way back to Corolla. In total, we had seen between 25-30 of these North Carolina wild horses on our tour. I’d call that a very successful trip.

Horse laying on the beach by the ocean.

Top Tips for Corolla Wild Horse Tours

  1. Make your reservations in advance.

During the busy summer season, it’s common for OBX wild horse tours to fill up so make your reservation as early as possible. Judging by the vehicles in the parking lot when we returned, the 8 a.m. tour is not nearly as popular as the 10:30 tour. I know you’re on vacation, but if you can drag yourself out of bed a bit earlier you may have an advantage.

  1. Don’t fix your hair.

Seriously, ladies. Just don’t do it. Pull your hair back into a ponytail or wear a snug fitting hat. I spent much of the time trying to keep my long hair from slapping my husband in the face. While I feel bad for him, I’m thankful it wasn’t another guest sitting beside me. By the end of the tour, my wind-whipped hair was literally in knots so trust me and pack the hair scrunchies for this excursion.

Horse harem by the ocean.
  1. Dress in layers.

The website states to dress for the beach and while I would agree, I’d also say to keep in mind the tour is open-air. Dress for the elements and keep in mind that on a cool day, the temperatures are going to feel even cooler along the ocean with the wind.

Pack a light jacket or sweatshirt- especially if you purchase a seat on the morning or evening tour. If you’re heading out during the early spring, fall or winter, you may also opt to pack a blanket.

  1. Pack some water and snacks.

Corolla Outback Adventures allows guests to carry a small cooler with beverages and snacks on board the truck. While we didn’t take a cooler, I did pack a couple water bottles and granola bars which I tucked inside my purse.

Corolla wild horses in the sand dunes along Canary Lane.
  1. The ride is bumpy.

You are riding in the back of a pick-up truck over some rough terrain, so it can get a bit bumpy at times. While I didn’t find it unpleasant, my husband was a bit uncomfortable. If you are prone to back problems, you may want to clamor for a seat closest to the cab of the truck or in the cab if there’s room.

  1. Make sure you have cash on hand to tip your tour guide.

This is a question that comes up quite a bit, so I do want to address it so you can be prepared. I don’t know about you, but I rarely carry cash on vacation. Per the FAQ’s on the Corolla Outback Adventures website, they suggest a gratuity of 15%.

Corolla Wild Horse Tour Prices

Wild horses on the beach

Outer Banks wild horse tours with Corolla Outback Adventures are priced at $50 for adults and $25 for children. There is no age limit for children, but state law does dictate that children under 40 pounds must be in a car seat. To ensure that this can be accommodated on the tour of your choice, call to inquire before booking.

Website: Corolla Outback Adventures
Address: 1150 Ocean Trail, Corolla
Phone number: 252-453-4484

Looking for a place to stay in Corolla? I highly recommend Seaside Outer Banks Vacation Rentals. Booking with them will also give you a discount on Corolla wild horse tours.

More Things to Do in the Outer Banks and North Carolina

Corolla wild horse tours with Corolla Outback Adventures.

Linda Hall Wright

Thursday 1st of August 2019

Are there rentals on the beach to stay the weekend ?

Tonya Prater

Sunday 15th of September 2019

Hi Linda,

I know there are rentals near the Carova Beach (this is where the horses are) but not too many right on it, rather they are tucked behind a sand dune or two. I'm not sure about the length of stay as that is determined by the rental company. I do know that if you're staying on this particular beach, you'll need a 4x4 to access the property. You can reach out to https://www.outerbanks.org/about-us/welcome-centers/ for assistance. They are wonderful!

Dolores Ray

Thursday 7th of February 2019

I am familiar with everything you talked about. I have been on four, maybe five of the Corolla Outback tours. Absolutely fantastic!

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