The 4×4 Beaches of Carova
The paved section of NC12 ends about a mile and a half north of Currituck Heritage Park, but for off-road vehicles, the 11 miles to the Virginia state line is still accessible. Although there are a number of subdivisions in this part of the Currituck Banks, collectively it is referred to as Carova–which is a small town at the northern end.
The name Carova is a truncated version of Carolina (Caro) and Virginia (VA). At one time, it was possible to drive into Virginia from the Outer Banks, entering Virginia Beach at Sandbridge. However, because the Virginia side of the border is occupied by False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, vehicular access is now restricted.
Please make sure that you are comfortable with beach driving, and have the proper vehicle, before you make the trek north of the paved road. Many inexperienced drivers get stuck, and it is very expensive to get a tow. The area is patrolled by Currituck County police, and they do enforce traffic laws. It’s also a very good idea to know when high tide is rolling in because there are times when it can directly affect access. Visitors should take note of low-pressure systems forming offshore.
This is the land of the wild mustangs, which are direct descendants of the Spanish mustangs of the Conquistadors. One of the best ways to view the mustangs is to take a guided tour. Although the horses are the high point of any trek to the Carova area, there is much more to see and a tour is a great way to discover what the northernmost reach of the Outer Banks has to offer. The most unsafe way to see the mustangs is to approach a horse or a herd on the beach. These are truly wild animals. Mares do not like strangers approaching their colts and stallions are proprietary of their herd. Additionally, it is illegal in Currituck County to feed or intentionally come within 50 feet of the horses, and this law is enforced and reinforced vigorously.