I tend to talk a lot but when someone asks me whether I liked my HomeAway.com vacation rental in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I can actually give a concise answer. For once. I can tell them that I loved our townhouse at Corolla Light Resort, because it was spacious (3 floors!) and a two-minute walk to an amazing beach but more importantly because it was part of a complex with a playground, kiddie pool and a bar. Yes, a bar! If that doesn’t improve a family vacation, nothing will.
This was our first vacation with two kids, and we didn’t take it lightly. Baby #2 joined our family in March, but she hadn’t been anywhere yet. Baby #1 was now three-and-half years old, and he was a world traveler (Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, France and Switzerland). But Baby #2 had really slowed us down; we were just exhausted. We decided to take our trip at the end of the summer so she would be five months old, substantial enough to take somewhere.
Our summer vacation was up in the air for a while, until it turned out that it would not be up in the air at all. We weren’t going to fly anywhere for our big summer trip. We were going to drive, with the fantasy of filling the car to the max of everything that a baby and toddler needed (and more). We always wanted the beach but the question then became North or South. We figured that we could drive around 10 hours in any direction from New York City, which meant upper Maine and possibly Canada or North Carolina. One of my best friends had raved about the Outer Banks for years. When we figured out that we could stop in Washington, DC, one of our favorite cities, visit friends and stay at the Four Seasons Washington to and from the Outer Banks, our trip was set!
Once we had decided on the Outer Banks, I had to obsess about where we would stay. Oh, I mean, I had to figure out where we would stay. The Outer Banks is a 200-mile stretch of barrier islands along the coast of North Carolina. You can stay on the northern end in Carova, which is only accessible in a 4X4 car, or at the southern end, on Orcacoke Island, which is only accessible by ferry. Neither of those extremes was for us. From what we could tell, the northern end of the Outer Banks was quieter and more upscale than the southern end. We wanted family-oriented, and I joked to my husband that I didn’t want to see any singles having fun. OK, I was being completely serious. We narrowed it down to Duck or Corolla, but heard that the beach was wider in Corolla. My friend who had raved about the Outer Banks had always chosen Corolla, so I went with that.
Now it was time to find a rental! Most of the homes in Corolla are available for weekly rental. I was impressed by the housing stock, so that only made it harder as I spent hours on Homeaway.com trying to figure out if the houses were really as nice as the photos. The highway didn’t even extend to Corolla until the mid-1980s so everything is fairly new. The barrier island is so narrow that it’s difficult for a house to be far walk from the beach, although we definitely wanted as close a walk as possible because of the kids. The advantage to the Sound Side is the sunsets, but we were all about the Ocean Side.
Then there was the pool to consider. We wanted a pool because we’re not really ocean swimmers, more like ocean waders. As it turned out, there was a red flag for a few days of our vacation so no one was ocean swimming. There were plenty of houses available with a private pool, but I was worried about having my own pool with a three-year-old who couldn’t swim. We started thinking that we’d rather have a communal pool, so that we could meet some people. The cool thing to do is to rent a huge house in The Outer Banks and vacation with other families. We were going on our own so we wanted the opportunity to at least come in contact with some other people, so a shared pool it would be.
I started looking at communities in Corolla, and that’s when I found Corolla Light Resort. Billed as a “cruise ship on land,” it offered one activity a day (including tie-dye), tennis courts, basketball courts, a playground, two adult pools, a kiddie pool, a bar, a gift shop and Corolla’s only oceanfront restaurant called, fittingly, the Ocean Grille. There are 400 townhouses and free-standing homes spread over 250 acres, so we had plenty to choose from as most owners choose to rent out their homes at some point over the summer. When we decided to do a Sunday-to-Sunday rental, we cut down our choices considerably. But we found a great townhouse on Homeaway.com, Beach Magic.
Stay tuned for the full review of our townhouse at Corolla Light Resort. Spoiler alert: we love it!
Comped but Never Compromised: I received a discount from HomeAway, but I am free to write whatever I want.