Kayaking the Outer Banks, from Relaxing to Thrilling

Kayaking the Outer Banks (OBX) is a paddler’s delight. The Banks are a chain of barrier islands dotted with nature preserves and wildlife refuges, running over 175 miles along the coast of North Carolina., from Back Bay Virginia to Cape Lookout at the south end.

The Banks include a sprinkling of towns and villages, including Corolla, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Avon, Buxton, Bodie, Frisco, Hatteras, and Ocrakoke, among others. With calm waters in Pemlico Sound, and various waterways and wildlife refuges, the OBX offers a wealth of kayaking adventure, from kayak excursions, rentals, and day trips through local guide companies, to self-guided paddles.

Woman kayaking the Outer Banks North Carolina
Kayaking the Outer Banks

Kayaking Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve

Kitty Hawk has more to offer than just the Wright Brothers National Memorial, though that is worth a visit. The home of the first flight is also home to the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, which offers hiking and biking trails, sightseeing, and kayak adventures. Bring your own boat (BYOB) if you have one, or book a kayak tour with one of the following guides local to the Kitty Hawk Woods for a relaxing paddle: Guide 1 | Guide 2. *

Kayaking Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge is one of the only places in the world where endangered red wolves can be seen in the wild. Also home to a large population of black bear, waterfowl, river otters, bobcat, and… You guessed it, alligators! Tour operators offer guided trips featuring area history, wildlife spotting, and adventure.

The wildlife refuge has a canoe/kayak launch and four paddling trails that start near the parking lot at the end of Buffalo City Road. There is space to accomodate trailers, but parking can fill up during peak season. Another launch and parking lot on Milltail Road where it meets Milltail Creek. Trails are clearly marked.

Kayaking in Corolla and Currituck Sound

Currituck Sound is a nature loving paddler’s dream. Featuring miles of soundfront, wide expanses of shallow, easy to navigate water, maritime forests, and small islands, and an abundance of wildlife, there is plenty of kayaking to be had. Migrating waterfowl stop in for a breather, so bring your camera or binoculars. Guided paddles are available.

The pier at the popular Whalehead Club is a great spot to put in. The club is located at 1100 Club Road, Corolla, NC 27927. Club Rd terminates at the pier and boat ramp a short distance past the club.

Cape Hatteras Kayaking

Paddle Pemlico Sound and explore the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Sea turtles and sea birds, the world famous Hatteras Lighthouse, sea lions and sandy beaches, are all at hand in this sea kayaking playground. A local tour company offers a guided sunset paddle to Cape Hatteras out of Rodanthe, including paddling the salt marshes and wildlife spotting.

Kayaking Whalebone Junction

In the 1930s, a local man, Alexander Midgett discovered a dead whale on the shore of Pea Island. He hauled it up the beach and a year later moved the 72′ skeleton across Oregon Inlet and up north to the junction, where he placed it near is filling station to attract tourists. The station is no longer standing, and the skeleton has been moved, but the names sticks. You’re likely to pass through Whalebone Junction on any Outer Banks, so you might as well know the origin of the name. You can also pop in and rent kayaks by the hour on your way to any of the numerous preserves and refuges.

* The Tri-Cities Tribune may earn a commission for purchases made through third-party vendors.

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