Salvo at a Glance

Located about 30 minutes South of Nags Head, Salvo is a small, relaxing village away from the crowds.

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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.

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.

The historic local Post Office isn't Salvo's only claim to fame. The area is also internationally recognized, along with its Waves and Rodanthe neighbors, 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.

This 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.