Life in Carolina Beach revolves around the water, and one of the most popular (and easiest) ways for new visitors to join in the fun is by signing up for a coastal kayaking adventure.
With a far-reaching range of ocean waves, river and sound waters, and even a freshwater lake within the town limits, the world is a paddler’s oyster in this hopping beach town. On your next vacation, discover the beauty of the shoreline while embarking on an unforgettable adventure by diving into the always engaging Carolina Beach kayaking scene.
Where to Launch in and Around Carolina Beach
Visitors will find no shortage of options for accessing the local waters, and the sheer variety of terrain ensures that paddlers of all ages and experience levels can be accommodated in Carolina Beach.
Visitors who want to launch a paddling expedition but aren’t sure where to begin can start by checking out these area destinations where accessing and enjoying the water is a breeze.
Carolina Beach Lake
Atlantic Ave and S Lake Park Blvd, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Located in the heart of Carolina Beach, the Carolina Beach Lake is a small, 11 acre freshwater lake that is just a few blocks away from the salty ocean surf. Featuring four gazebos, a picnic area, a launch site, and even an on-site kayak and pedal boat rental company for visiting paddlers without a ride, the calm Carolina Beach Lake is an ideal destination for beginning kayakers who just want a leisurely excursion.
Carolina Beach State Park Boat Ramp
B Road, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Carolina Beach State Park is arguably one of the best destinations for paddlers, thanks to its ample parking, on-site seasonal kayak rentals, easy launching site, and miles of Cape Fear River terrain. Explore the open waters and small outlying islands, or head east along Snow’s Cut for a different perspective of the region. Just use plenty of caution when exploring the area– maritime traffic of all sizes regularly use this launch site and adjacent marina.
Snows Cut Boat Ramp
220 Annie Drive, Carolina Beach, NC 28428
Located on the edge of Snow’s Cut and the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), from this central launching point, paddlers can explore the local ICW, sounds, and even the Cape Fear River to the west. Parking is available for roughly 100 vehicles, (and there’s a separate hand launching site for kayaks), which makes it easy to access for visitors throughout Carolina Beach. Just watch for periods of heavy maritime traffic.
Federal Point / Buzzard Bay
2515 South Fort Fisher Blvd., Kure Beach, NC
This site located on the southern tip of “Pleasure Island” provides access to a network of salty marshes and coastal terrain that comprises the undeveloped Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and Zeke’s Island Reserve. Parking is available for 40 vehicles, and while the outlying waters are scenic, paddlers will want to use caution as the tides, potential high winds, and currents can present treacherous conditions.
109 Causeway Dr Wrightsville, NC 28480
Located on the edge of the Wrightsville Beach Causeway, this public boat ramp accommodates vessels of all sizes, but has ample parking and launching facilities to attract water fans on the hunt for convenience and instant water access. Paddlers can effortlessly access the ICW from the launch site, but will want to watch out for other vessels that utilize the site as well.
River Road Park Boat Ramp
River Road Park, Wilmington, NC 28412
Situated on the edge of the Cape Fear River, this launch site that’s nicely close to Carolina Beach features a single launching lane, as well as on-site public amenities including restrooms, picnic areas, and a fishing pier.
Trails End Boat Ramp
621 Trails End Road, Wilmington, NC 28409
Close to the Masonboro Sound as well as the famed undeveloped Masonboro Island, this public boat ramp that’s just north of Carolina Beach features parking for 30 vehicles, a launch lane, and an on-site fishing pier
Castle Street Boat Ramp
Castle Street and Surrey Street, Wilmington, NC 28401
Explorers who want to tackle the Cape Fear waters close to Downtown Wilmington can head to this site which is located on the outskirts of the city center, and which features multiple launching lanes, parking, and a separate launching area for kayaks and canoes
Virtually any stretch of shoreline in the town of Carolina Beach can serve as a great starting point for an ocean kayaking adventure. With a shallow and gradually sloping ocean floor, and nice wide beaches, hitting the ocean surf is always a breeze. Just be careful not to kayak around the Carolina Beach Fishing Pier, and watch out for swells that can produce larger than normal waves.
Carolina Beach Kayak Rentals and Sales
Visitors who need a kayak before they can start a paddling expedition will find plenty of options when it comes to finding a kayak or canoe to use for an hour, a day, or even a lifetime.
Two of the town’s biggest kayaking hotspots – Carolina Beach Lake and the Carolina Beach State Park – have on-site kayak rental businesses that are open in the summer season, and which provide hourly rentals to visitors who want to dive right into the water. With multiple options, (such as one or two seaters), these businesses are great destinations for an all-inclusive kayaking trip without extra stops.
In addition, Carolina Beach and the surrounding area is also home to several all-encompassing rental equipment businesses, like Pleasure Island rentals, that can outfit a visiting family with all the equipment they’ll need for the duration of their vacation. Visitors can peruse options online, and even order in advance to be able to enjoy their kayaks as soon as they arrive at Carolina Beach.
As for sales, Carolina Beach, Wrightsville Beach, and Wilmington are home to a number of name-brand and local kayaking and watersports stores that offer a far-reaching range of models and price ranges. As a result, it’s easy to do a little browsing and find just the right ride that fits a paddler’s style and budget.
Visitors in search of a deal will want to check out the local rental companies and watersports shops at the end of the season, (generally mid-fall to late fall.) At the end of the year, new kayaks can go on sale to make room for the next year’s wave of merchandise, while used kayaks that were former rentals may be offered for sale at drastically reduced prices. Do a little hunting for bargains, and coincide your shopping with the end of the season, to find the best deals around town.
Wrightsville Beach Kayak Tours
Visitors who would prefer a guided exploration of the Carolina Beach area will find a number of options for kayak tours and expeditions that are family-friendly and which showcase the best of the beach.
Local companies like Paddle NC and Pleasure Island Rentals offer 1-3 hour tours of the region in and around Carolina Beach. These tours often explore the local “hot spots” in the area, like the Carolina Beach Yacht Basin, Masonboro Island, Shark’s Tooth Island, Zeke’s Island, and a number of secretive destinations along the way.
Rates for tours can vary depending on the season, the destination, and the tour provider, and almost all equipment – including the kayak, lifejackets, and paddles – are all included in the excursion. Perfect for newcomers and beginning paddlers who’d prefer to venture out with an experienced guide, a tour is a great way for visitors to get their toes wet in the local kayaking scene.
Carolina Beach Kayak Fishing
Kayak Fishing is a great way for anglers to access some of the best fishing grounds in the inshore Cape Fear area, and there are plenty of launching areas that will lead paddlers to a host of great catches. Local species like drum, mullet, flounder, sheapshead, bass, and even catfish frequent the river and sound waters, and because the terrain is typically gentle, it’s easy to hold your balance while reeling in a big fish or two.
Several kayaks for sale or rent come equipped with pole holders and / or extra storage areas for bait and tackle, and fishermen can check in with kayak companies and tackle stores to identify the best places to go. (The Cape Fear River is always a good start, and there’s plenty of access points to launch into the river waters.) With plenty of room to roam and little competition once on the water, kayak fishing is a great way to get first dibbs on some of the inshore water’s best catches.
Tips and Tricks for Carolina Beach Kayaking
- The major waterways that surround Carolina Beach are used by maritime traffic of all varieties, and all sizes. Use extra caution, and stick close to the borders of the shoreline / mainland whenever possible.
- Likewise, in the summer months, the ocean beaches can be enjoyed by a number of water fans, including surfers, swimmers, and fishermen. Paddle out away from the crowds to avoid a possible mid-water collision.
- Keep an eye out for windy days and currents, especially around the local inlets. The inlet waters may appear calm on the surface, but there’s often a swift current rushing underneath with every incoming or outgoing tide.
- Don’t forget the bug spray! Carolina Beach’s isolated regions are beautiful, but they can also be enticing to mosquitos as well as humans. Bring along plenty of protection to keep the bugs at bay.
- Sunscreen is also a must for paddlers, as the sun is much stronger off the water than on land. Bring along plenty of water too in order to stay hydrated throughout your trek.
- The Cape Fear region also has several paddling clubs for new kayaking residences and frequent visitors. Check out local organizations to discover an abundance of cool paddling trails, and to make a few friends in the process.
- Be sure and check the weather before a trip. Summertime thunderstorms are common along the Cape Fear coastline, and can put a potentially dangerous damper on a paddling expedition.
- There’s more terrain to explore inland as well! Neighboring Wilmington has several freshwater and / or manmade lakes, like Greenfield Lake or Sutton Lake, which are perfect for kayakers who prefer gentler terrain.
Kayaking is gaining steam in Carolina Beach, and it’s certainly easy to see why. Budget friendly, easy to learn, and scenic in every direction, paddling is the perfect way to uncover all the stunning landscapes that the Cape Fear coastline has to offer.
Grab a kayak or two, (or just rent one when you’re on the island), and see for yourself why a kayaking adventure is often a highlight of any Carolina Beach vacation.