Corolla beach on a sunny day.
I see in the latest reader’s poll of best beaches, (CNN, 20 more can’t-miss U.S. beaches) the beaches of Corolla were rated #2 in the nation, which isn’t surprising at all. Great access, soft sand, wide beach and a beautiful setting. It really doesn’t get much better than that, and with fall coming on, the Outer Banks beaches get even better. The summer crowds are gone, the ocean temperature is still wonderfully pleasant and the air temperatures are still in the mid 80s.
But in fairness to the other areas of the Outer Banks, Corolla is not the only beach that is worth a visit.
We’re going to exclude Duck and Southern Shores from the list. Fantastic beaches, very similar to Corolla, but there is no public access to them. Folks who are staying in either town, though, have a permit and they know how nice those beaches are.
We’re also not going to include Hatteras Island. Nice beaches, worth a day trip, but it’s a bit far afield.
There’s a bit of a conundrum about describing what makes a great beach . . . is it the experience or the beach itself?
Example: Coquina Beach which is actually just south of South Nags Head and is part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is an absolutely wonderful, beautiful beach. Shower and restroom facilities, great parking and if you’re there with family, kids can spend hours exploring the dunes in back of the beach. However, pack a picnic lunch and plenty of fluids–the nearest store is at least six miles away. 
For our guests staying in Corolla, Coquina Beach is pretty far away, but visitors in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, looking for a little bit different beach experience may want to head down there.
In contrast to how far from services Coquina Beach is, the Beach Road in Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills was the original commercial district of the towns, and in a lot of ways all the little mom and pop stores and restaurants lining the road are a throwback to an earlier time. 
Lots of beach access along the roads in both towns. It gets a bit tight in the summer, but going into the fall, there should be no problem at all finding a place to park.
Admittedly the sand and beaches in both towns are not quite as nice as either Corolla or Coquina. The sand tends to be a little more course and especially in Kitty Hawk, the beach is more narrow. However, if you have never experienced a dolphin boat and milk shake from John’s Drive-in in Kitty Hawk . . . your life experiences are sadly lacking.
Nags Head just finished nourishing their beach last year and the result has been a wide, sandy shoreline. South of Jennette’s Pier (South Nags Head) it’s all residential, but north of that the commercial district is a lot like Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills. 
A bit far for someone in Corolla–but you have that beautiful beach up there, so why bother? Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills and maybe even Southern Shores–it’s not too bad a ride, if you’re looking for a little bit different oceanside experience.
A quick surfing note about nourished beaches and Nags Head in particular. A characteristic of a nourished beach is as the ocean removes sand from the beach, a sandbar forms offshore, creating a long even break. The beach south of Jennette’s Pier has some of the best surf conditions on the northern Outer Banks.