The Kayak Chronicles

by Darren Caffery


Paddling the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Since my first visit there in 1992, I've been taking yearly kayak trips to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  If you've ever seen a white oval bumper sticker on a vehicle that reads "OBX" in bold black letters, you've seen the logo for the Outer Banks. The OBX provide miles of incredible coastal paddling. Riding through pristine, undeveloped portions of the Hatteras Island National Seashore gives us a reminder of what our natural coastline is supposed to look like.  The ride over the Oregon Inlet Bridge on NC-12 on a sunny day provides a most spectacular view that captures the allure and the coastal beauty of the OBX.


There are plenty of places to paddle in the Outer Banks and plenty of outfitters to guide a paddling trip.  An essential paddling guidebook for the area is  Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina:  The Best Day Trips and Tours from Currituck to Cape Fear.  I purchased the guide  so I could start exploring some waterways on my own and it's proved to be an invaluable resource.  The book was written by Pam Malec - Landrum who has guided a few of my previous OBX trips, and more recently, some kayaking adventures to the Everglades National Park.  Pam has been very helpful to me over the years with rental equipment and local paddling information.  Pam and her husband currently run their own Bed & Breakfast in Manteo called the Outdoors Inn.   The inn caters to outdoor enthusiasts and through Nags Head Diving & Nautical Training  they provides scuba, snorkeling, sailing, and fishing charters. Kayak Outer Banks provides guided tours of Outer Banks coastal regions, in addition to yearly guided kayak/camping trips in the Everglades National Park.

Some other helpful guidebooks for paddling in the OBX include Sea Kayaking the Carolinas by Jim Bannon, Paddling Eastern North Carolina by Paul Ferguson, and Exploring Flatwater:  The Complete Outer Banks by Ed White. White's guidebook contains info on launch sites, outfitters, camping areas, flora and fauna and birdlife from the Outer Banks to Cape Fear. More information about paddle trails in North Carolina can be found at North Carolina Paddle Trails Association. The Pasquotank River Basin Guide inlcludes paddle trails in addition to hiking and biking trails.

To get a better idea of some OBX kayaking trips, check out some of my trip report and photo links below:



After years of paddling canoes and sit on top kayaks, I decided to purchase a sea kayak.  Trips that year included Roanoke Island & Croatan Sound, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, and Pamlico Sound at Salvo and Bodie Island.


Kitty Hawk Woods - Maritime Forest  An 18.5 mile trip from Colington Island across Kitty Hawk Bay, into the Maritime Forest and out into the Currituck Sound.

Roanoke Island Circumnavigation  -  This turned out to be the best way to see Roanoke Island.  A 35 mile circumnavigation, paddled over two days.

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge - A report of a trip from Milltail Creek to Sawyer Lake and out to the Alligator River.

Roanoke Island Sunset Paddle - What a sunset!

FALL 2002

Kitty Hawk Woods - Maritime Forest -  A 13.5 mile paddle from Colington Island into Jean Guite Creek and back.

Bodie Island & Pamlico Sound - A great paddle from the Oregon Inlet Boat Ramp with great views of the Bodie Island Lighthouse, beautiful white sand beaches and paddling with pods of dolphin.

Portsmouth Island Paddling & Camping - Just south of the island of Ocracoke is a small uninhabited island with nothing but white sand beaches and remnants of an abandoned fishing village  (and maybe a few pesky mosquitoes).



Currituck Sound / Maritime Forest Circumnavigation  A 14 mile paddle north through Kitty Hawk Woods Maritime Forest into the Currituck Sound then south along the shore and back into the forest.

Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge - A 14 mile paddle on the Pamlico Sound from Oregon Inlet into the Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge.

Durant Island - A beautiful day for a 16 mile circumnavigation!

Whipping Creek - Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge - A great paddle in a remote natural area with a few nice size alligators and snakes.


FALL 2003

Currituck Sound / Maritime Forest Circumnavigation

Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge



Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge

Collington Island Circumnavigation

Pamlico Sound - Oregon Inlet to Nags Head

Bodie Island & Wanchese Harbor



Alligator River Crossing - Whipping Creek

Milltail Creek & Sawyer Lake - Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge

Pamlico Sound - Salvo to Pea Island

Island Hopping Around Bodie Island




    Pamlico Sound - Oregon Inlet to Wanchese & Broad Creek

    Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge - Milltail Creek

   Cedar Island National Wildlife Refuge - Thorofare to Salters Creek



    Kitty Hawk Woods - Maritime Forest  A quiet day poking around on the creek.

   Roanoke Island - Manteo  We were determined to get into town for lunch.

   OBX Storm Watching  No paddling, but some great storm pics.

   Hatteras to Ocracoke  Most people take the ferry to Ocracoke. We paddled.

   Pamlico Sound at Ocracoke  A warm spring day of paddling, with a refreshing swim.

   Milltail Creek to Alligator River  I never tire of paddling this area



Here are some OBX websites to check out

Outer Banks Visitors Bureau Kayak Outer Banks Howard's Pub
Guide to Sea Kayaking in North Carolina Nags Head Diving & Nautical Training North Carolina on
  Outdoors Inn  


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