Discover the Outer Banks in a New Way with Kayaks

Kayaking on the Outer Banks

Ready for an up-close-and-personal look at the NC Outer Banks? Try kayaking. This hugely popular watersport lets you and your family paddle across calm, shimmering sounds; over grass-fringed salty marshes; and through secluded nature preserves teeming with coastal wildlife. It’s an eye-opening, fascinating way to explore the OBX.

It’s also open to all ages, ability levels, and interests. You can rent a kayak from a sound-side outpost for a guided sunset tour… cast your line from a fishing kayak… or brave the Atlantic’s choppy waves in a seaworthy ocean kayak. It all depends on your skills and preferences.

Sound-Side Kayak Tours: Ideal for the Entire Family

Never kayaked before? Or simply prefer a more leisurely experience? Take a kayak tour over one of the five peaceful sounds bordering the Outer Banks.

You’ll find tour outposts all over the OBX, from Corolla down to Cape Hatteras. All offer equipment for rent – kayaks, paddles, life vests – along with step-by-step lessons. All also provide veteran guides who will accompany your party, identify points of interest, and head off potential problems.

With an average depth of three to five feet, the Outer Banks sounds are generally safe for all ages. Even if your kayak tips over (highly unlikely), you’ll be able to right it quickly, especially with prompt assistance from your professional guide.

Typically, rental kayaks accommodate one or two persons. Designed for calmer waters, these recreational craft are built more for stability than speed. Nonetheless, they’re amazingly nimble, so you’ll find yourself easily skimming over the placid surface.

As you glide along, you may spot egrets, pelicans, ducks, geese, great blue herons, and other wildfowl. And, if you’re taking a sunset tour, you could witness a magnificent light show, with intense reds, pinks, golds, oranges, and purples. Be sure to have your camera handy so you can capture the colorful spectacle.   

Guided tours can last anywhere from several hours to an entire week. You can even arrange for a nighttime “bioluminescence” tour – where chemicals produced by microscopic organisms literally light up the water. 

Explore Nature at OBX – Wildlife Refuges, Water Trails, and More

Are you a birder, animal lover, nature enthusiast… or just a curious person open to new experiences? Check out the many guided kayak tours that focus on nature and wildlife. Via companies like Kitty Hawk Kites and Outer Banks Kayak Adventures, you can paddle through unspoiled wilderness to experience:

  • Roanoke Island’s Alligator River Wildlife Refuge, home to alligators, wolves, black bears, and a variety of rare coastal birds
  • Kitty Hawk Woods Preserve’s peaceful High Bridge Creek, where you’ll spot otters, nutrias, white-tail deer, plus birds and reptiles galore, all amid one of the world’s most famous maritime forests
  • Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, a legendary “birder’s paradise” on beautiful Pamlico Sound; and more

The Latest Thrill: OBX Kayak Fishing

Love watersports? With kayak fishing, you can combine two sports in one: kayaking and angling. No wonder it’s the hottest new craze in the NC Outer Banks.

Getting started is easy. First, make sure you have a North Carolina Coastal Recreational Fishing License, available for as little as $10 (for adults) online and at most tackle shops. Then, simply load up your kayak with your rod and reel, cooler, and tackle box. Paddle out into one of the OBX sounds… and cast your line for mullet, flounder, speckled trout, puppy drum, and more.

If you’re new to kayak fishing, consider taking a guided sound-side tour with an expert rental company such as Outer Banks Kayak Fishing & Excursions.

Up for a more exciting adventure? Try kayak fishing in the Atlantic Ocean, either inshore or offshore. Several OBX companies will ferry you and your kayak – via a charter fishing boat – out to the open sea. Then, while you ride the waves, the charter boat will linger nearby to make sure you’re safe and sound.

You’ll get to cast your line for feisty larger fish like tuna and mahi mahi. But remember, the current is swift, and the waves are often rough. Make sure you charter your excursion with a reputable firm that will vigilantly watch out for you.

Own Your Own Kayak(s)? Launch from Practically Anywhere

If you and your family are veteran kayakers, you’ll be right in your element. Simply launch your kayak from any sound-side access point. Or use one of the many public launches located throughout the islands.

For ocean kayaking, access is even easier. Bring your kayak to any public beach, paddle out to the breakers, and ride the cresting waves.

Prefer bigger waves and more extreme thrills? Launch from an ocean pier, such as Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head. Just be sure to watch out for riptides. (Most OBX beaches post warning signs when rip currents have formed nearby.)

Any one- or two-person kayak will work for ocean kayaking, but your best bet is a longer, lighter craft specially built for ocean conditions.

Kayaking Is Just the Beginning You’ll find countless other opportunities for family fun at the OBX. Discover our year-round outdoor activities now.

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