What Beaches in North Carolina Have Wild Horses? (Wild Horses In North Carolina)

Wild horses can be found on the beaches of Corolla, the Outer Banks, and Shackleford Banks. On the northernmost beaches of the Outer Banks, you’ll find about 100 Corolla wild horses. These feral horses also roam Ocracoke Island. They can be viewed at Ocracoke Pony Pen located south of the Hatteras.

Why Are There Wild Horses in Corolla North Carolina?

Corolla, NC

These wild colonial-era spanish mustangs have called these beaches home for 500 years. According to legend, these are horses descended from a line brought by European explorers. They are known as the state horse of North Carolina.

These mighty horses reached the Corolla shore from shipwrecks. Others were left behind by failed settlements. Since then, they flourished on these pristine barrier islands.

Where Can I See Wild Horses in North Carolina?

Today, you will find the most massive herds of wild horses at the extreme end of the Outer Banks. You will also see them roaming in Corolla.

I have witnessed herds of hundreds of stallions, mares, and foals. The beach dunes of North Carolina are their home and serve as a sanctuary. You will also find a smaller domesticated herd on Ocracoke Island.

Tourists can get a closer view of these horses via a guided tour. Keep in mind, though, that these horses are wild, and you must always maintain at least a distance of 50 feet. Although you can take pictures, feeding the horses is not allowed.

Does Corolla Have Wild Horses?

Lonely horse stepping on the sandy beach.

Corolla wild horses have been a draw for vacationers for decades. The elegant movement of horses running on the coastline is a breathtaking sight. It makes the dream of a romantic beach vacation come to life.

Also, the horses’ centuries-old legacy is unrivaled on the North Carolina coast. The sight of spanish mustangs running along the Corolla beaches with absolute abandon and ease has captivated generations of visitors. It is no wonder that movies and tv has so often captured the beautiful presence of these horses on film.

Corolla Wild Horse Tours

Vacationers often inquire about the Corolla Wild Horse Fund or CWHF, and ways they can help. These horses have been protected and managed by the Corolla Wild Horse Fund, or CWHF, since 1989. The CWHF office also provides children’s programs, an interactive museum, and a store.

CWHF members can even get a tour with the herd manager for a day. 

They can enjoy a day of fantastic photo ops and knowledge about the herd from someone who is an expert on these animals.

Tourists can also book off-road drivers for a tour. The wild horse adventure tours provide family expeditions from two people up to 14 people. Be sure to check our one of the Corolla wild horse tours.

If you choose this tour, you’ll get to drive right into the epicenter of the horses’ territory. You can also join in on three-hour group tours with knowledgeable travel guides.

How Do I Get to Shackleford Banks?

Wild Horses on Shackleford Banks in North Carolina
Shackleford Banks – A Wild Horse Sanctuary (I was able to get really close, but remember to never pet the horses. They are wild animals.

You can get a ferry ride to the island for $17, but you also have the option of kayaking there for free if you are skilled. It may be a more challenging option. But if you enjoy paddling, you should choose this route.

I find that this unspoiled and wild island provides a sense of serenity. There will often be only a few people roaming on the beach. The entire beach stretches only 8.5 miles long. It is a mile wide at its widest point.

You will discover the wild horses of Shackleford Banks on the Outer Banks. The island is three miles offshore, and can only be reached by private watercraft or ferry. Coming across these horses is a real godsend.

Self-guided tours and photographs are a well-loved option. Make sure to visit Cape Lookout National Seashore for tips and safety reminders. Do this before your adventure.

Cape Lookout National Seashore Lighthouse
Cape Lookout National Seashore and Lighthouse (This is our happy place where we spend countless hours during the summer.)

Tours last for up to three hours. You can get guided tours and ferries from Beaufort. They are available through Shackleford wild horse and Shelling Safari.

You will find that you will see many of the wild horses along the sand dunes as you explore the island. But remember to keep your distance. These creatures are untamed and unpredictable.

You might also be lucky enough to stumble upon ghost crabs, otters, as well as blue crabs.

Remember to bring your hat, sunblock, and water. These ensure you are protected and comfortable for your trip.

The Foundation for Shackleford Horses, or FSH, preserves these wild horses. The horses are considered one of North Carolina’s ecological and cultural riches. This foundation funds management of the herd, health studies, and genetic research.

It ensures the safety and health of generations of wild horses in Shackleford Banks along the North Carolina coastline.

Are There Still Wild Horses on Ocracoke Island?

I discovered that the herd is smaller on this island. But the horses are much larger in stature because of feedings and veterinary care. The herd’s ponies are protected in a 180-acre enclosure to guard them from North Carolina Highway 12.

There is a viewing platform to provide visitors with a bird’s eye view of the paddocks. From this vantage point, you can see the day-to-day life of these horses. They are far more domesticated compared to their wild cousins.

How Many Horses Are on Carrot Island?

Human hand petting an brown Icelandic horse

Carrot Island is home to approximately 30 wild horses. It sits in Rachel Carson Reserve located on the southern point of Beaufort.

On the estuary sits this reserve. The fresh river and salty oceans meet at this point, providing a diverse ecosystem. This natural area is home to a tiny herd of feral horses.

There are also more than 200 species of birds that have been observed to visit the site regularly. Other creatures you can find in this reserve are bottlenose dolphins and turtles. A vast number of fish species also swim in the surrounding estuarine waters.

Holden Beach Horses

Wild horses can also be seen on Holden Beach on the Grace Wynds Preserve. Here, they are cared for and maintained. On the Holden Beach NC map, this preserve can be found between Wilmington and Myrtle Beach.

Visiting the Grace Wynds preserve is a Holden Beach NC attraction. Visit this place if you cannot go to any of the locations we mentioned above.

The preserve helps connect the wild horses of North Carolina and people. This is done through education and recreation.

Smoking is not allowed on the premises, and children must be with an adult at all times. There is a dress code that must be followed—no open-toed footwear. The Holden Beach NC weather is incredible for the animals and visitors.

When I visited, it was a sunny and refreshing day. Like the other beaches, you are not allowed to feed the horses. But if you want to be up close and personal with them here are a few rental properties you can stay in:

Beach Gnome4 bedrooms, 2 bathroomsHas afloating boat dock with a large deck, fish cleaning station located by the canal, 2 hammocks and an outdoor shower.
Beautiful Oceanfront Home6 bedrooms, 4 bathroomsNewly renovated, ideal for multiple families and groups, and conveniently located near the Holden Beach Fishing Pier, General Store, Ice Cream and Local Shop.
Holden Beach Family Vacation Home3 bedrooms, 3 bathroomsIncludes covered porches on each side of the spacious house with new chairs and rockers. Almost all furnitures and applianes are recently updated and it’s just a 5-minute walk from the beach.
Holden Beach Oceanfront Duplex2 bedrooms, 1 bathroomRight across the Holden Beach and Holden Beach Dog Park. Has a boardwalk furnished with bench seating, where you can watch the ocean waves.
Intercoastal Waterway Home3 bedrooms, 2 bathroomsHome has a very open living area and is surrounded by many porches and viewing areas. Has a crow’s nest that can be used to take in the amazing sunsets.

Just click the link to each property for more details.


Horses are one of the most mysterious and elegant creatures on the planet. They have always fascinated people. But you probably only know them as a domesticated animal.

So, make a trip out of it, and witness horses roaming wild and free on these North Carolina beaches. Have a picture-worthy and unforgettable vacation.

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