Rodanthe at a Glance

Located about 30 minutes South of Nags Head, Rodanthe features secluded coastal cottages in a small village.

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In recent years, Rodanthe has had a claim to fame as the backdrop to Nichols Sparks' famous novel and subsequent movie, "Nights in Rodanthe." However, Rodanthe has always been the setting for incredible stories, including daring oceanfront rescues, tumultuous hurricanes, and today, fantastic beach vacations. Visitors to Rodanthe can expect all the romance of wind-swept beaches and secluded coastal cottages, as well as modern Outer Banks amenities such as exceptional kiteboarding schools and launching points, and local gift shops and locally run restaurants. For a romantic vacation that's miles away from the real world, with some of the best water sports access on the East Coast, Rodanthe is definitely worth a visit.

Where to stay in Rodanthe

Vacation rental homes are the most popular way to stay in the Outer Banks. Rental homes are available in Rodanthe from:

Newcomers to the Outer Banks may notice the integration of the word "Chicamacomico" in reference to the town, in either local conversations or on sign names and brown historical markers along quiet NC Highway 12. The town was originally named Chicamacomico until 1874, when the United States Post Office separated the populated area into three distinct villages, and gave "Rodanthe" its current name.

Long before the Post Office stepped in, however, the town was already nationally recognized as one of the country's greatest lifesaving stations on the East Coast. The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station was, in fact, the very first station established along the coast of North Carolina, and proved to be a heroic and dedicated branch of the lifesaving service, which is now the modern US Coast Guard. Many folks, local and otherwise, even attest that the small Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station helped prove the necessity of a national coastal military branch, and essentially founded the current Coast Guard.

Tales of heroism are in no short supply in Rodanthe, but one of the most popular legends revolves around the doomed British Tanker, The Mirlo, which in 1918, was bombarded with torpedoes by a passing German U-Boat. In the aftermath, six Chicamacomico crew men jumped into the water, and rescued 47 out of the 57 passengers on board, earning the crew the Golf Life Saving Medal from the United Kingdom, and the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor from the United States.

The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station was decommissioned in 1954 to make way for the newly established US Coast Guard, but because of its history in instrumental role in modern lifesaving techniques, the station was preserved and is now home to one of the area's most treasured landmarks.

Chicamacomico Station in Rodanthe

Today, visitors are welcome to tour the original Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station. The complex features the main building which serves as a small museum and gift shop, as well as several outbuildings including a storage equipment house, original bunkers, a cook's quarters, and additional storage or sleeping quarters that were essential to original crew members.

While these buildings are no longer in use for their intended purposes, visitors can still get a glimpse at the skills and maneuvers that made the station a hallmark in the national lifesaving community with seasonal "drills" with original apparatus and equipment. In these public displays, modern US Coast Guard Service men and women perform a deep ocean rescue with the equipment of their late 19th century counterparts. Demonstrations are held seasonally and are free and open to the public. The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station grounds, museum, and gift shop is open seasonally to the public, from Tuesday - Saturday, generally from Easter until Thanksgiving. All Hatteras Island visitors are encouraged to stop by, explore, and gain a deeper appreciation of the inherent hardiness that the local Outer Banks community is known for.

Kitty Hawk Kites in Rodanthe

Not too far from the Lifesaving Station's ground, across the street on NC Highway 12, spring and fall visitors will notice a clutter of brightly colored and exceptionally large kites gliding over the Pamlico Sound. The tri-village areas of Rodanthe, Waves, and Salvo have become synonymous with kiteboarding, as the open miles of Pamlico Sound have become perfect playgrounds for kiteboarders of all skill levels. Other water sports enthusiasts, such as kayakers, windsurfers, and stand-up paddle boarders are also welcome to get their toes wet in the water, and enjoy the local water sports scene.

Just north of Rodanthe, the desolate beaches and soundside marshlands attract a variety of outdoor lovers from all backgrounds, most notably, surfers and birders.

The "S-Curves," a perilous stretch of NC Highway 12 that lies just outside of the village has been a training ground for experienced East Coast surfers for decades. On a hot summer day when the waves are big, it's not unusual to spot dozens of cars and even camera crews parked along this stretch of highway, enjoying the action in the Atlantic waves. Nationally recognized as one of the Eastern Seaboard's best ocean breaks, surfers come from miles around to test their skills against dozens of homegrown local surfers. The result is an oceanfront show that even non-surfers can enjoy from the comfort of beach chairs on the uncrowded beaches.

Fishermen will also find plenty of fun in Rodanthe, with exceptional fishing both off the beaches, and from the Rodanthe Fishing Pier. The pier has suffered some damage throughout the years with the occasional passing hurricane, but it has always recovered and reopened to welcome seasonal anglers who want to drop a line in the deep Atlantic waters. From the side of the pier, anglers can expect to real in mullet, pompano, cobia, drum, and even occasional small sharks.

The 13 miles stretch of land from the town border of Rodanthe to the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge comprises the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. One of the most famous East Coast vacation destinations for birders, the refuge features over 400 varieties of year-round and migratory species of birds, ranging from Great Blue Herons to the exceptionally rare White Pelicans. The refuge features a small visitors' center, as well as a series of nature trails that guide visitors from the parks' outskirts on NC Highway 12 deep into the maritime forests, marshlands, and Pamlico Sound bordering beaches.

The Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge has become so renowned, in fact, that it is home to one of the birder community's most treasured annual festivals, the "Wings Over Water" event. This week-long event allows visiting birders to explore the grounds with local experts, by foot, kayak, or guided boat, and celebrate and compare notes with other avid birders. Open to everyone, visitors are encouraged to check out the Wings Over Water's website to see what educational and entertaining sessions on are the program, and how to sign up and join in on the fun.

As for accommodations, Rodanthe has a small number of campgrounds for vacationers who want to rustically relax and enjoy the beach life, as well as a number of gorgeous vacation rental homes. Rental homes in Rodanthe range from the small coastal cottage to the sprawling beachfront mansion, complete with a private pool, rec room, theater room, hot tub, and all the comforts of home. These vacation rental homes are available for weekly rental, or partial-week rentals for last minute reservations, and are represented by local Hatteras Island property management companies. (And yes, believe it or not, you can even rent the "Night in Rodanthe" home too.)

For beach-goers, it should also be noted that the town of Rodanthe is part of the National Park Service's (NPS) Cape Hatteras National Seashore, so all federal park guidelines should be followed. Pets, bonfires, and even beach driving are all allowed, however, there are restrictions and rules in all arenas. A visit to the NPS's website before your vacation will outline all the guidelines in relation to the Hatteras Island seashore, and will ensure you're up to date on the local Do's and Don'ts.

For a beach vacation that is literally miles away from the rest of the world, filled with stormy romance and plenty of on-the-water fun for everyone in the family, it's hard to beat Rodanthe. The romantic little town that has spurned dozens of sea-worthy adventure stories is also a dream vacation destination for families who adore a good quiet beach, and a lot of history. On your next Outer Banks vacation, take a trip to Rodanthe, and see why this little town has inspired storytellers to spread the word of all of Rodanthe's romantic and fun-filled possibilities.