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Salvo is another one of the Outer Banks' hidden gems, a small town located on the southern end of the locally-named "Tri-Villages" of Rodanthe, Waves and Salvo. This coastal town has a small collection of tackle stores and variety stores, but not much else, and Salvo vacationers love it that way.

Literally miles away from the mainland and located an estimated 20 miles across the Pamlico Sound, Salvo may be a half hour drive from the busier northern Outer Banks towns, but feels like it's in a world all its own. A vacation in Salvo includes hours of uninterrupted beach and family time, and for vacationers who want to relax without any distractions, this little town is definitely a dream destination.

Where to stay in Salvo

When it comes to the question of where to stay, Salvo visitors will find an occasional campground and a small, almost hidden motel. However, the majority of the area is comprised of vacation rental homes, which can be rented on a weekly basis by Hatteras Island property management companies. While a number of these homes are of the classic coastal variety, with cedar shaked exteriors, efficient but welcoming kitchens, and wide open porches to enjoy a breeze, recent development in the area has produced a number of more modern vacation homes.

These homes have all the amenities of a five-star vacation destination, including multiple living and lounging areas, private heated pools, hot tubs, game rooms, and even special accompaniments, like practicing golf greens or volleyball courts in the back yard. With such varied and entertaining amenities, many vacationers don't mind the seclusion of Salvo, as a vacation rental home in this area can feel like its own private resort destination.

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

Attractions

Watersports - Like Waves and Rodanthe, Salvo is internationally recognized as one of the best kiteboarding and soundside water sports launching areas on the East Coast. On any given spring or fall day, visitors can spot dozens of kiteboarders sailing across the waters bordering the Wind Over Waves community, or congregating by the Salvo Day Use area.

Salvo Day Use Area - The Salvo Day Use area is essentially a public park maintained by the National Park Service (NPS), and is a water lover's paradise, with sandy soundfront beaches, a cluster of picnic tables, plenty of soundfront parking, and even seasonally opened restroom facilities for visitors. Ideal for water sport lovers of all genres, including kayakers, kiteboarders, windsurfers, and stand-up paddle boarders, the area is also a perfect playground for young families with little ones who may be hesitant around the ocean waves. Here, they can splash and play in the Pamlico Sound, which has gentle water, a gradual slope, and an average depth of 1-2' ft. near the shoreline.

The Beach - If you dream of secluded beaches, look no further than the tri-village beaches. The beaches of Hatteras Island are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Here are some things to know about Salvo beach policies:

Adventurous vacationers may want to check out the beach driving ramp right across the street, (a beach driving permit is required but can be obtained from the NPS local offices), or head slightly south to a series of unmarked and relatively undiscovered nature trails. Winding through thick patches of maritime forest, marshes, and soundfront beaches, the wild trails just south of Salvo are virtually undiscovered. In fact, the only sign of human habitation in this area is an occasional manmade wooden bridge that leads over a salty canal. Be warned that there are no markers or distinguished trails to lead the way, and bug spray may be a necessity in the hot summer months, but for visitors who love a wild adventure, the sandy paths on the outskirts of Salvo are worth exploring.

The beaches are part of the National Park Service's Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and as such, visitors will notice no development past the dune line. While this can create a little walk for even oceanfront vacationers, it ensures miles of undeveloped shoreline, and impeccable and uninterrupted oceanfront views. In fact, Salvo vacationers will find that they have the feeling of having the beach "all to themselves," as even in the most populated summer months, the nearest family group of beach goers is always many feet away. The seclusion and privacy is a big draw to vacationers, who can wander down the beach to the desolate outskirts of town, enjoy a bit of shore side angling, or simply enjoy an afternoon of sun and fun with the entire family in tow.

As part of the National Park Service's beaches, there are a few rules and regulations in place, and the tri-village area is sporadically patrolled by NPS rangers in 4-wheel-drive vehicles. However, few families find that the lax guidelines, such as leashing a pet, or maintaining a beach bonfire below the high tide line, infringe on their beachside fun.

  • Pets are allowed on a leash no longer than 6ft, year-round. Pets are prohibited on designated swimming beaches. Service animals are allowed at all times.
  • Fireworks are not permitted in Salvo.
  • Beach fire permits are required. Print, sign and keep your paper permit with you (permits available here). From May 1 to November 15, beach bonfires are only allowed at Coquina Beach, the villages of Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco and Hatteras, and the Ocracoke day use area. From November 16 - April 30, Beach fires are allowed throughout the park. Fires are allowed from 6am - 10pm. An adult must be present. Fires must be on greater than 3 feet in diameter. Fires must be built and maintained below the high-tide mark and 50 feet from any vegetation. Fires cannot be left unattended, and must be extinguished upon end of use. The area must be cleaned up.
  • Beer is allowed on the beach. Wine and liquor are not officially permitted. Please drink responsibly.
  • Metal detecting is NOT allowed within National Parks.
  • There are no lifeguard stations in Salvo.
  • It is illegal to walk on the dunes, and it is also illegal to pick live sea oats growing on the beaches.
  • Fill in any holes you dig. Holes in the sand can be a hazard.
  • Be mindful of Noise. Most communities consider a violation of the noise ordinance to be any sound that can be heard from inside a nearby residence, and any load noise after approximately 11:00 p.m.
  • No glass on the beach. Be mindful of glass bottles. Alcohol is allowed on all beaches, but if at all possible, stick to cans and plastic to save future beach-goers from any bare foot injuries.
  • Surf fishing is allowed. A fishing license is required in North Carolina and can be obtained before your vacation via the NC Marine Fisheries and Wildlife website, or a fishing license can be purchased at most any tackle shop on the Outer Banks.
  • 4x4 Driving on the Beach - The beaches of Hatteras Island and Ocracoke Island are managed by the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Permits are required, and can be purchased online and sent via mail, or in person at one of the following locations: Coquina Beach office, Cape Hatteras Light Station, and the Ocracoke Visitor Center. Each vehicle must have its own permit. Vehicles must be registered, licensed, insured, and have a current safety inspection if required in home state/country. Vehicles must have low-pressure tire gauge, shovel, jack and jack support board. A spare tire, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, trash bags, flashlight and tow straps are recommended. ATV's are not permitted. Night driving is generally allowed from November 16 through April 30. See current access ramps and beach closings by visiting this page and clicking on the "daily beach access map". Obey all posted signs.

Events

Triple-S Kiteboarding Tournament - In June, the sport of kiteboarding really heats up in Waves with the annual Triple-S Invitational Tournament. This kiteboarding competition brings pros from all around the world, battling it out to be the best, or just enjoying a day of exhibition tricks and rides in the Pamlico Sound. Though the competition may be invitation only, the event is open to any and all spectators, and Waves vacationers will find it worth the stroll to watch the amazing acrobatics the world's best kiteboarders can perform with ease.

Salvo History

For centuries, the tri-village area was grouped together as one town, "Chicamacomico," which was the original name given to the area by Hatteras Island's northern Native American tribes. As the three towns pulled away from their original names and were gradually separated in the 1800s, Salvo was renamed as Clark, or Clarksville by the sparse population of local residents.

Still literally off the map, few outsiders ever realized "Clark's" existence. In fact, during the Civil War, a sailor on a passing Union ship took notice of the area, but could find no reference to the town on his map. Approaching his find to the captain, the captain replied that they should "Give them a [cannon] Salvo anyways," or a greeting by firing a cannon, which the ship did. The sailor, in haste, wrote "Salvo" by the area's name, and four decades later, in 1901, the town took the name of "Salvo" and established its first US Post Office.

Building a local Post Office may not seem like a noteworthy event, but the original Salvo Post Office is legendary, as for decades it was the smallest running Post Office in the United States. With less than 100' square feet of space, Post Office visitors basically had enough room to enter, turn around, and leave. Unfortunately, the historic Post Office was burned down in the early 1990s and later replaced by a larger structure that serves all three villages. However, a replica has since been built along the side of NC Highway 12, identical to the original in size and color, and can (barely) be noticed by passerbys who pay attention.

Salvo Today

Vacationers who dream of a vacation that just borders on the wild side will love a week of relaxation and exploration in Salvo. Bordered by 15 miles of undeveloped shoreline, and with just enough amenities to ensure a good and well-stocked vacation, the town is a refuge for folks who literally want to escape to the edge of the world. Granted, the busy northern Outer Banks towns are a 30 minute drive away, and there are clusters of restaurants and shops throughout the tri-villages to enjoy, but Salvo vacationers treasure the area for its seclusion, fantastic rental homes, and miles of undiscovered beaches. After all, there's a reason why for centuries this town was literally off the map.

Photos of Salvo

A sandy NC 12 on the way into Salvo

Kiteboards on the Pamlico Sound shore