Nature Centers, Reserves, and Parks

Hundreds of acres in and surrounding Carova Beach are designated as wildlife refuges and reserves, and are home to an incredible amount of wildlife. The following locations are dedicated to preserving this wildlife and educating the public about its existence.

Center for Wildlife Education - photo by SteelCityB on Wikimedia Commons

Center for Wildlife Education

"The Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education invites you to explore coastal North Carolina's wildlife, natural history and cultural heritage." Free admission.




Events: Program Calendar


Location:  1160 Village Way, Corolla - behind the Corolla Lighthouse about a mile south of the 4WD beach access ramp.

Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve - photo by

Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve

Walking trails, boardwalks, and self-guided tours from dune to sound.

"The Currituck Banks Coastal Estuarine Reserve is 965 acres of natural maritime habitat. Visitors are free to explore the nature trails that wind through the area for some of the Northern Outer Banks' best fishing, hunting, birding, hiking, photo ops, and wild discoveries of how all of the barrier islands of the Outer Banks used to be decades and even centuries ago."




Location: 1276 Still Water Court, Corolla - Parking lot on Hwy 12 about ½ mile south of the 4WD beach access ramp

Brackish Marsh - photo by Bob Glennon, US Fish & Wildlife Service

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge

Several parcels of land in the 4x4 beach area were designated as "National Wildlife Refuge" in 1984 under the protection of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. At 4,570 acres total, the refuge consists of pristine habitats for local wildlife, including woods, beaches, and marshes, free of development and restricted to limited human visitors: only foot and boat traffic is allowed within the borders of the refuge. 


"Primary purposes of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge are to preserve, protect and maintain healthy and viable populations of migratory birds, wildlife, fish and plants, including federal and state endangered species and trust species . . . the Refuge also provides opportunities for wildlife-oriented interpretation, outdoor recreation and environmental education focusing on the wildlife and habitats of the refuge."




Location: 6 refuge tracts exist within the 4x4 beach area. The southernmost tract is approximately 3/4 mile north of the 4WD beach access ramp. Vehicular traffic is only allowed along the beach - access to the interior of the refuge is restricted to foot traffic due to the fragile nature of the dune ecosystem. Please follow all rules posted on the refuge boundary signs. More information is available at the McKay Island headquarters: 252-429-3100.

Carova Beach Park - photo by Andrew Dunn, Google Photos

Carova Beach Park

Public boat ramp, pavilions, volleyball court, bathroom and dock. Enjoy picnicking, water sports, or launch your paddleboat. This park was built in 2008 to give Carova Beachgoers a public place to access the canal system leading to the Currituck Sound.


Location: 2100 Ocean Pearl Rd, at the intersection of Ocean Pearl Rd and Gulf Hawk Blvd. Turn in at mile post 21 and follow the road until it ends.

Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary - photo by Mark Buckler

Pine Island Audobon Sanctuary

Just south of the town of Corolla, over 2,600 acres of marshland, maritime forest, and sound is preserved by the National Audobon Society. Walking trails, kayak tours, and an education center (open by appointment only) make this sanctuary a destination to occupy your family all day.


Take a guided kayak tour of this pristine marsh with Outer Banks Kayak Tours.




Location: 300 Audubon Dr, 10 miles south of the 4x4 Beach Access. Across from the Pine Island Hampton Inn.