Kayaking the Waters of the Outer Banks!
Kayaking the Waters of the Outer Banks!
The Do’s, Don’ts, Must Haves and Must See info…
The Outer Banks of North Carolina is often considered the “Sportsmen’s Paradise” as it hosts a bevy of world-class outdoor activities like fishing, surfing, kiting and even kayaking. However, sprinkled amongst the nooks and crannies of the coastline lies an amazing highway of sounds, canals, ponds and lake to be explored by your self propelled yacht… and, yeah, there’s an ocean out there too.
Since most of the best spots are shallow and tough to get to by boat, the kayak is a great option to explore these areas. Let’s take a closer look at what works, what doesn’t, where to go and what to expect when you are ready to ‘yak up the OBX!
First Things First… Know your Kayak!
There are a bunch of different kayaks out there and most are outfitted for the type of activities you are interested in. For example, a fishing kayak will have things like rod holders, perhaps an anchor hitch, extra room for tackle and maybe even peddles to maneuver easier in bigger bodies of water. Fishing kayaks are often a bit wider and range from 9-12’ in length. Most come already outfitted to fish so, you won’t need much if that’s what you’re looking for.
A touring (everyday use) kayak will be longer, a bit more streamlined and often have a dry storage bin for holding gear like towels and sunscreen. Touring kayaks are often “sit in” kayaks (meaning there’s a cockpit to slide down into.) This makes extra gear tough to store so, be sure to pack appropriately if you plan on taking a touring kayak out for the day… things like a cooler, towel and spare clothes may be tough to store.
Be sure, if you are renting a kayak, to recognize between the two as both function differently in the water and handle differently in certain conditions. Kayaks can come as solo seat (single) and duel (tandem) seating to offer an option for smaller children (or pets) to enjoy the water with adults. Most rental companies offer both types so, be sure to ask for which type of kayak will work best with your planned adventure.
Get the right gear for a day on the water…
A day on the water is AMAZING when you have the right stuff packed. Kayaking is usually limited space and there are a few mandatory things you will need on the boat before you launch. Make sure the following are handy for each boat and passenger:
- Life Jacket or Vest - The life vest is the most important safety device on the kayak and should be worn at all times when venturing out onto the water. They come in many styles and can be a buckle up, zip up for simple throw over with the snap. Regardless, if approached by a Marine Patrol officer, they will be checking to make sure this device is handy and can ticket, fine or citation anyone not using one (or having it available.)
- Anchor - There are always winds and currents on the Outer Banks. A small claw anchor with at least 15-20’ of rope is suggested for staying put in faster moving waters.
- Sunscreen & Sun Hat - Oddly enough, it is easier to get sunburned on a boat than it is near the beach due to the reflective light coming off the water. Therefore, a nice sun hat coupled with thoroughly applied sunscreen will ensure you wont get crispy while enjoy the sights. Sunglasses are highly recommended too.
- Plenty of Liquids - It doesn’t seem like a “workout” but, kayaking is definitely an aerobic exercise, using muscles and exerting energy unlike any other boating activity. Therefore, it’s advised to make sure you pack plenty of water to stay hydrated on your paddle.
- Communicate your plan & have phone charged - This one is explanatory but, it’s always advised to let a friend or family member know where you’re headed off to and have your phone charged all the way before you shove off.
One you have the proper kayak and equipment / gear for the trip, let’s get ready to hit the water!
Paddle here, paddle there, paddle everywhere!
Kayak friendly waters are all over the Outer Banks! The Towns of Corolla, Duck, Southern Shores, Kitty Hawk, Kill Devil Hills, Nags Head and Manteo all have designated kayak launch zones near their boat piers at most public parks. Most of these locations are kayak friendly spots, suitable for roaming without fear of getting lost. Kayak piers are situated along some town sponsored gazebos, as well, offering a easy access launch to the respective waterways around that pavilion. All launch areas are free and open to the public for use.
One of the best, most scenic kayaking adventures can be found at Alligator River State Park, just across the “big bridge” along 64 west near Buffalo City Road. Miles and miles of winding streams roam throughout the sound side of the nature reserve, making it great for spotting wildlife, birds and plants that litter the water trails. A guide map of the waters are available at the launch site also. Most of the local kayak tour services frequent this area and can be found launching at the end of Buffalo City Road to meander along the lakes.
Sound-side Kayaking can be a fisherman’s happy place (in season)
Kayak fishing in the Outer Banks can be hit or miss, depending on the time of season and other variables associated with the fish biting. However, when it’s biting, it will be your best day fishing, EVER! Kayak fishing along the causeway, along Cape Hatteras Island and even on the ocean brings a whole new level of excitement. So long as the proper safety equipment is onboard, you are free to launch and explore anywhere a “typical” boat can go. However, it is advised you use the buddy system when heading out as the weather, winds and current can all change very fast and calling in for help becomes easier to do in a serious situation (which can happen on the Outer Banks.)
Ocean Kayaking can be exhilarating! …or it can be a real workout.
Ocean kayaks are a bit different than the normal fishing or touring kayak in that they sit a bit higher on the water, often are sit-on-top styles and are a bit wider in size. This allows them to float better in open swells and track in rougher conditions. The hardest part of ocean kayaking is the launch and return to shore process. It can be tricky navigating the breakers on the paddle out and back in, especially after a lot of paddling on the adventure. On a calm ocean day, kayaking out to a shipwreck to explore could easily be the highlight of any kayaking excursion.
Grab your paddles & let’s hit the water!
Kayaking on the Outer Banks is a great way to really get off the beaten path and into the essence of what the area is all about. Speckled with wildlife, birds, fish and reptiles, the sights from a kayak are sure to astound you once your out there in the thick of it. So long as you follow the proper safety tips above, get outfitted in the proper kayak for your adventure and gear up with the necessities needed to make the trip a blast, there is nothing stopping you from paddling all around the OBX! It’s healthy, fun and takes you to places most boats can’t so, perhaps you should consider a kayak on your next trip (or bring yours along if you already have one.). You won’t be disappointed!
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See you on the Outer Banks!