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While driving along NC Highway, it may be difficult to identify the little town of Waves. The village is sandwiched in between Salvo and Rodanthe, and the area in its entirety is known to locals as the "Tri-Villages," with no undeveloped gaps or markers to distinguish one small vacation town from the other.

A couple takes a kiteboarding lesson in Waves

That's not to say, however, that Waves is lost in the shuffle. The town is home to two of the Outer Banks, and arguably the East Coast's, biggest water sports companies, features a small number of charming restaurants and cafes, and offers superb access to gorgeous oceanfront and soundfront beaches. Waves may be a small town, but it's big on coastal appeal, and vacationers will surely love the quiet beaches, charming shops, and miles of water to play in and explore.

Rental homes in Waves

Where to stay in Waves

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

 

REAL Watersports is arguably the epicenter of Waves

Waves Attractions

Watersports - Waves claim to fame is being the home of not one, but two water sports giants' extensive shops, training, and school facilities. REAL Watersports and Kitty Hawk Kites are both nationally renowned as leaders in the water sports industry. Kitty Hawk Kites covers all on-the-water adventures, from kayaking to hang gliding, while REAL is dominant in the local kiteboarding scene. In fact, because of the popularity of the sport of kiteboarding along the Pamlico Sound, both companies have constructed massive complexes where vacationers can stay, shop, and spend days riding the wind and waves.

Waves is a watersports enthusiast's dream. Rentals and lessons available

Both the Kitty Hawk Kites and REAL Watersports complexes offer soundfront cafes for incredible post-riding refreshments and views, comfortable soundfront condos available for rent, a pro and rental shop for equipment, and a number of classes or schools throughout the year. In the town of Waves, kiteboarding novices can spend a week fully immersed in the sport, and leave at an advanced level, ready to tackle lifts, flips, jumps, and even the more unpredictable ocean waves.

Students can opt to take an afternoon kiteboarding lesson that lasts just a couple hours, or enjoy a kiteboarding camp that can last for a week or even more. Regardless of how much learning and kiteboarding you want to do, both complexes also have exceptional rentals and shops to help you find the right gear, and get a little guidance on the fly on what to expect in the ever-changing Pamlico Sound water conditions.

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 Waves beach policies:

  • 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 Waves.
  • 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 Rodanthe.
  • 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.

 

 

A typical mid-week afternoon on the lawn at Real Watersports

Waves 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.

Waves History

Don't worry if you have trouble figuring out where Rodanthe ends and Waves begins - the town has had a bit of an identify complex since the early 1800s when it was simply considered a part of "Chicamacomico," named after the local Native Americas, with a small portion of the area known as "Wimble Shores." (Observant visitors will notice that "Wimble Shores" is now the name of a road, as well as a vacation home community.) In 1874, the U.S. Postal Service changed the name of the entire northern portion of the Tri-Villages to simply "Rodanthe," and as the community gradually grew with locals, fishermen, and Lifesaving Station employees and their families, Waves became big enough to be called "South Rodanthe."

Despite this, the confusion persisted on, until the U.S. Postal Service finally gave the central village the name of "Waves" in 1939, along with its own Post Office.

Waves remained relatively undeveloped, explored solely by occasional adventurous hunters and fishermen, until the 1960s when the Herbert C Bonner Bridge opened, and vacationers from the established northern Outer Banks towns of Nags head, Kill Devil Hills and Kitty Hawk finally had a ferry-free way to explore the beaches of Hatteras Island. Developers took interest, and by the early 1980s, Waves was a true vacation destination, with well over a hundred vacation rental homes for Outer Banks visitors to enjoy.

Waves Today

Man-made dunes protect NC 12 from the Atlantic OceanToday, Waves is home to a handful of the classic beach cottages that first popped up on the shoreline, as well as a number of larger oceanfront or soundfront castles, complete with private swimming pools, theater rooms, game rooms, multiple levels of living space, and gourmet kitchens.

Waves vacationers are also attracted to a handful of local campgrounds, including branches of nationally-recognized chains. These campgrounds not only have RV hook-ups and oceanside spaces for tents, they offer a world of amenities, and their own little "resort" within the campers' community grounds. Many campgrounds in Waves offer community pools, playgrounds, ocean and sound boardwalks, gazebos and sitting areas, and even game rooms and on-site stores or restaurants. For visitors who are in search of a camping trip that feels more like an all-inclusive resort, Waves is one of the best places to visit on the Outer Banks.

Windsurfers ride Pamlico sound off the coast of WavesOf course, kiteboarding isn't the only water sport Waves has to offer, and as the town name would suggest, there's plenty of fun to be had on the oceanside too. Because of the town's small population, (which is even smaller in the fall and winter months), visitors can expect to enjoy miles and miles of quiet beaches with plenty of room to spread out. The beach fishing in Waves is good, and during the spring and fall Red Drum runs, becomes exceptional. Anglers will find a handful of locally run tackle shops, like Hatteras Jack's, that have lifelong locals on hand to answer questions on the Hatteras Island fishing conditions.

Surfers, of course, have not been forgotten as Waves has a number of decent breaks when the waves are good, and beachcombers will have fun exploring the sand, especially post-storm when the beaches can be covered with an assortment of treasures, from starfish to shells to sand dollars. Bear in mind that the beaches of the tri-villages are protected by a "double dune" system, which means that even an oceanfront home will be a several minute walk from the ocean. However, many vacationers find the seclusion, the uninterrupted views, and the miles of desolate ocean landscape worth the trek.

It should also be noted that the town of Waves is part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which is overseen by the National Park Service (NPS), so any and all Park Service rules apply while on the oceanfront beaches. These rules are limited however, and beach goers can bring their pets (provided they are on a leash), enjoy a beach bonfire, and take full advantage of life on a sand bar.

As for grub and shopping, the small town of Waves offers a handful of restaurants and cafes, a local deli, and quite a few convenience or "variety" stores to stock up on the staples. Chain grocery stores are located somewhat nearby, (either 15 miles south in Avon, or 25 miles north in Nags Head), but many vacationers find that one big grocery shopping trip is more than enough to cover a week's worth of Waves fun.

For families who are looking for a quiet retreat that's still a half hour drive from the major northern Outer Banks attractions, Waves is an ideal destination. Secluded and family oriented, visitors won't find a lot of nightlife, but they will find charming ice cream shops, locally run restaurants, and miles of starry oceanfront skies. If your family is considering a vacation that's close by still completely away from it all, then the often overlooked village of Waves is definitely worth a second glance.

Photos of Waves

    If windsports aren't your thing, modren waverunners are available for rent  Taking out a jet ski at sunset Kiteboarder watching the sunset over Pamlico Sound  Kiteboarding at sunset in Waves Shopping in Waves  KOA campground and RV park in Waves

Sun Fish Grill

Sun Fish Grill

Sun Fish Grill is a great stop for fresh local seafood and a variety of delicious specialties. The menu has a good balance whether desiring sea fare, vegetarian choices, chicken or steak for lunch and dinner. You can make up a meal with appetizers, soups and salads or order wraps, rolls, burgers, baskets, plates and platters. Enjoy traditional mussels with a wine and garlic sauce, crab bites, Ahi tuna, veggies and wings for starters. Dive into She-Crab Bisque, Award Winning New England Clam Chowder and a variety of salads including the Sea-Breeze Tropical that features baby greens, mango, Mandarin oranges, green apples, nuts. Wraps and rolls include lobster, crab, tuna, chicken and veggie choices. Choose from chef specialties: fresh tuna, sirloin filet cut, pasta dishes, grilled chicken breast, classic crabcakes and our signature nachos. Our Fisherman’s Platter, a house specialty includes haddock, shrimp, oysters, and scallops. We offer a full bar and can cater to large parties all in a clean coastal atmosphere.  Being the largest restaurant in Corolla , we are perfect for dinner for two in our lounge or a large family gathering in the main dining room. 

Ocracoke Harbor

Ocracoke Harbor

The Ocracoke Harbor is easily the busiest quarter mile stretch of Ocracoke Island. Consisting of a small, lagoon-like section of saltwater, and lined by a semi-circle of docks, restaurants, shops, marinas and motels, visitors will find that any and all of the activities on Ocracoke Island can most certainly be found harbor front.

Henry's Restaurant

Henry's Restaurant

Henry’s Restaurant offers down home, simple food done Outer Banks style. This is the kind of delicious food grandmothers of North Carolina have been cooking for generations. You’ll feel like you're visiting family with the comfort food and the restaurant’s nautical-style decor. The kid-friendly and casual restaurant has been serving hearty portions to locals and visitors since 1989. Breakfast is what Henry’s does best, although it’s a wonderful restaurant for lunch and dinner as well. Start your day with incredible hotcakes, omelets, biscuits, french toast, eggs benedict, breakfast sandwiches, and even fried trout, served 7:00am to 1:00pm daily.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, with its black and white candy-cane stripes, is one of the most famous and recognizable lighthouses in the world. Protecting one of the most treacherous stretches of the Outer Banks, with a beam of light that spans 20 miles into the ocean, the lighthouse is also the world's tallest brick lighthouse at a staggering 208' ft. tall.

Jimmy's Seafood Buffet

Jimmy's Seafood Buffet

Jimmy’s Seafood Buffet is a great stop for an all you can eat affordable dinner extravaganza. The buffet offers over 100 different items. It even serves Jumbo Alaskan crab legs and Jumbo steamed shrimp, something you will not find on any other buffet in the OBX. The buffet offers a variety of seafood and non seafood options. Try some of Jimmy’s seafood options and load your plate with blackened tuna, Louisiana crawfish, steamed scallops and mussels, fried oysters and deviled crabs. Not in the mood for seafood? Fill your plate with carved and sliced turkey with gravy, steak, cheese pizza and fettuccini alfredo. The buffet also offers a kid section. Let you kids load their plates with chicken tenders, hot dogs, broccoli, curly fries and tacos. Don’t forget dessert! The buffet also offers soft serve ice cream, and a plethora of baked goods. 

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

Currituck Beach Lighthouse

The Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in the heart of Corolla, borders the historic Whalehead in Historic Corolla and still functions as a guide for passing mariners. At 162' feet tall, the lighthouse's First Order Fresnel light, (the largest size available for American lighthouses), can be seen for 18 nautical miles as the light rotates in 20 second increments.

Slice Pizzeria

Slice Pizzeria

Sometimes you want a whole pizza, sometimes you just want a slice. Thankfully with Slice Pizzeria, you’ve got plenty of options. This popular dine in and take out restaurant serves up some of the tastiest pizzas you can experience on the beach, all made with fresh ingredients so that you can taste the quality.

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

Chicamacomico Life-Saving Station

The Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station is one of Rodanthe's greatest treasures. This historical lifesaving station has been a popular attraction for Hatteras Island visitors for decades, and stands on the very edge of the small town of Rodanthe. Over the years, this station has been battered by hurricanes, ocean and soundside flooding, and ferocious gusts of winds, and yet it is still standing, and serves as a proud reminder of Hatteras Island and the Outer Banks' rich lifesaving history.

Sun Realty

Sun Realty

The Best Selection of Vacation Rentals on the Outer Banks. Our large selection of Outer Banks rentals means you can choose from a wide range of amenities, including private swimming pools, hot tubs, theater rooms, game rooms, pet friendly lodging and more! Our properties span the entire OBX coast including Carova, Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head, and South Nags Head. On Hatteras Island, we proudly offer beach cottages in Rodanthe, Waves, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, and Hatteras Village.

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Surfing in the Outer Banks

Surfing in the Outer Banks

Forget Hawaii and California - on the East Coast, the best place for surf is on the Outer Banks, and this region is renowned as one of the best surfing destinations from New York to Florida. Surfers from all over the country and the world flock to the Outer Banks for the annual ESA tournament, or just after a storm swell, to paddle out to the Atlantic and enjoy some of the best waves on the coast.

The Cotton Gin

The Cotton Gin

For those traveling to the Outer Banks, The Cotton Gin is a beloved landmark with its large windmill and picturesque gardens. The Cotton Gin has stood in the same location since 1929, starting as a working cotton gin and growing to a gift store with 4 locations. Visitors are treated to a unique shopping experience in our main store in Jarvisburg, as well as our beach stores in Corolla, Duck, and Nags Head. Explore room after room filled with décor for your home and coastal fashions for both men and women. Discover the brands you really want, like, Vera Bradley, Vineyard Vines, Escapada, Simply Southern, Lindsay Phillips, Scout, Pandora, Kameleon, Brighton, Spartina, Tommy Bahama, Southern Tide and Salt Life and Old Guys Rule - all under one roof! Don’t forget the gourmet market, or shop our beautiful linens for your bedroom and bath. We also feature coastal books and fine art, or just a whimsical fun gift to bring home to family and friends. Stop by soon and don’t forget to try our estate grown wines in our stores or visit our  vineyard and winery, Sanctuary Vineyards, located adjacent to the original Cotton Gin in Jarvisburg.

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Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse

The Roanoke Marshes lighthouse is often one of the most overlooked of the Outer Banks lighthouses, simply because of its small stature, limited visibility and remote location tucked away at the quiet east end of the Manteo waterfront.