Adventure-seekers who enjoy kayaking (or have always wanted to give it a whirl) will be pleased to learn that the Outer Banks offers various places to explore by kayak.
With miles and miles of waterways on either side of the barrier islands, there are many places to launch your kayak.
Whether you are in the mood to explore canals with abundant wildlife or go to the extreme and power through waves and turbulent conditions of the Atlantic Ocean, there’s something for everyone.
Read on to learn about our five favorite places to kayak on the Outer Banks.
1. Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve
Here you get longing points for two great places to kayak – Currituck Sound and Kitty Hawk Bay. Both offer a great way to explore the waterways and get up close and personal with some wildlife throughout the reserve.
Currituck Sound extends from Currituck south to Duck (about 30 miles north-south), with the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve entrance just beyond the Wright Memorial Bridge. It is perfect for anyone who wants a good workout by paddling towards Currituck.
Kayaking on Kitty Hawk Bay brings to life exactly how much wildlife lives on the OBX (bird watching paradise). It is undeveloped and protected and offers a varied ecosystem with open water and small marshy islands.
Most importantly, if you choose to hit either waterway via the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve, be sure to do it early because the reserve closes nightly at sunset.
2. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Wow is the first word uttered when kayaking here. Located at the north end of Hatteras Island, the Pea Island Wildlife Refuge is about 10 miles south of Nags Head.
As one of the best places on the OBX to kayak, you can explore one of the most spectacular preserves, which quintessentially display what the Outer Banks is about.
Whether you take a guided tour or head out on your own, be prepared to be mesmerized by everything you see. This is a “must-do” for photographers because you must see it to believe it!
Address: 14500 North Carolina Hwy 12, Rodanthe, NC 27968
3. Pamlico Sound
Pamlico Sound is an excellent spot for kayakers of all levels, one of the most famous bodies of water on the Outer Banks (second only to the Atlantic Ocean).
It measures 80 miles long and 15-20 miles wide and encompasses much of the western side of the OBX coastline, extending the edge of Bodie Island down to Portsmouth Island.
The shallow waters (only 5-6 feet deep well offshore) make it perfect for kayaking and other water activities like paddleboarding, kiteboarding, and windsurfing.
Birdwatchers can have a field day with several feathered friends along with the Pamlico Sound, including herons, white ibises, and snowy egrets. On rare occasions, they might spot a white pelican or American Bald Eagle.
Whether for pleasure or a good workout, this is the perfect place to spend a day or just an hour or two.
4. Roanoke Sound
Roanoke Sound by kayak offers nature lovers the perfect way to see a well-known part of the Outer Banks from a different perspective.
It is a pretty easy way to find unchartered areas (especially towards the northern part near Wanchese) of the Sound and the details of downtown Manteo along the waterfront.
On top of this, there are tons of wildlife and beautiful views of the water, marshlands, and other areas.
5. Atlantic Ocean
Ocean kayaking is like surfing primarily for experienced kayakers because the objective is to paddle out to the more significant breaks and ride the waves toward the shore.
For those who just want to enjoy the vastness of the Atlantic, kayaking past the breaks and further out to sea is a little more relaxing (after navigating the strong surf).
As a precautionary note, ensure that the kayak you’re using to catch waves is an ocean kayak. You know, the kayaks without the enclosure! In the very likely event you flip your kayak, you’ll want something you can quickly abort.
A Different Location Every Day
Vacationers can enjoy kayaking in a different spot each day of their stay on the barrier islands. Kayak rentals are available by the hour, day, or week and are offered by several island vendors, including Kitty Hawk Kites.
If you’re a water sports enthusiast or just want to explore the lesser-known areas of the Outer Banks via small watercraft, consider planning a kayaking excursion with friends and family during the spring, summer, or fall months.