6 Best Kayaking Places to Paddle in North Carolina

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The beautiful southern state of North Carolina is a great place for outdoor recreation. With its varied climates and locales that range from sunny beaches to majestic mountains, there is the perfect backdrop for every type of activity and canoeing and kayaking are no exception. If you love getting out on the water for one of these challenging sports, then you’ll definitely want to check out these six top-notch spots.

Cape Fear River Adventures, Lillington

Located in central North Carolina, Cape Fear River Adventures is a family-owned and operated outfitter that offers kayaking and canoeing on the beautiful Cape Fear River. Whether you’re a seasoned paddler or a curious beginner, they have all the equipment and training that you need. They offer a wide variety of self-guided trips that include a leisurely paddle, a sunset paddle, an overnight canoe trip and whitewater kayaking for the brave of heart. But no matter which trip you choose, they will make sure you start out with the most complete safety briefings and the best, top-notch equipment.

Knee Deep Adventures, Greenville
Knee Deep Adventures offers river trips on the Tar River.

Knee Deep Adventures, Greenville

The owner of Knee Deep Adventures in Greenville, NC isn’t just concerned with offering guests a great experience on the Tar River, she’s also concerned with keeping the waterway accessible and clean. She was nominated for the NC Department of Natural Resources’ Water Conservationist of the Year in 2016, has led several community clean-ups and has received the River-Friendly Business of the Year Award. So, if you’re looking to experience the beautiful relaxation and calm of the Tar River, while helping to conserve it, check out one of their 4 or 8 hour rentals that comes complete with life jackets and gear.

Riverside Canoe, Crumpler

Riverside Canoe, Crumpler

The New River is a massive, 360-mile long river that flows through several states including North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and is believed to be the second oldest river in the world. Besides peaceful currents, it offers breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Appalachian Valley, making it a favorite for visitors from all over the country. To explore it yourself, visit Riverside Canoe – a full service outfitter that’s located right on the banks of the New River’s South Fork. In addition to self-guided trips that range from two hours all the way up to overnight trips, they also offer several cabins for camping.

Dan River Company, Danbury
The Dan River Company offers a choice of two standard river trips.

Dan River Company, Danbury

Located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Dan River is another popular spot for kayaking and canoeing in NC, thanks to its peaceful waters and its easy access from both Winston-Salem and Greensboro. The Dan River Company provides visitors a great way to experience the river by offering a choice of two standard trips – a 6.2 mile trip that takes paddlers through the Hammer-Stern Wilderness Preserve and Hanging Rock State Park, past views of the Sauratown Mountains and the Dan River Bluffs. Or a 13 mile trip for more experienced or adventurous paddlers that includes class 1 whitewater, fun rapids and a narrow river bed.

Asheville Outdoor Center, Asheville
Asheville Outdoor Center will help you get out on the French Broad River, the third oldest river in the world.

Asheville Outdoor Center, Asheville

If you’re looking for a unique kayaking or canoeing experience, you’ll want to check out the French Broad River in NC, which is the third oldest river in the world. It falls behind only the Nile and the New River (also in NC), and offers lots of wildlife and captivating scenery. As you sail down the river, you’ll enjoy views of the Appalachian Mountains and all types of trees including sycamores, dogwoods and poplars. At the Asheville Outdoor Center, you can experience the beauty of the French Broad River in a variety of ways, including paddleboarding, tubing, rafting, kayaking and canoeing. In addition to single kayaks, they also offer tandem kayaks and two-person canoes, so be sure to bring a friend along for the adventure!

Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City
The Nantahala Outdoor Center is the largest outdoor recreation company in the country.

Nantahala Outdoor Center, Bryson City

Although the Nantahala River in NC can be both calm and full of rapids, depending on the area, it’s the river’s twenty named rapids that range from class II to class III that make it one of the most popular rivers in the country. Plus, the Nantahala Outdoor Center located in Bryson City, NC, has been named as one of the best outfitters on Earth by National Geographic. It’s also the largest outdoor recreation company in the country, offering more than 120 different river and land-based trips. There’s also a world-renowned paddling school, a large retail shop, three restaurants and on-site lodging. So you can make an entire weekend trip of it!

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