26 Kayaking Spots in the Carolinas – Plus AAA Discounts!

by Kristy Tolley
Kayakers paddling in Palmetto Dunes

By Vanessa Infanzon

Kayaking may be one of the easiest ways to get outdoors and social distance this summer. There are bays, lakes and rivers — perfect for kayaking — in the Carolinas. Join a guided kayak tour or rent a kayak for a self-guided experience. It’s a perfect family road trip, too. Many locations offer tandem kayaks to carry younger children.

Safety Tips From an Expert:

Jim and Teri Pohorsky own and operate Beaufort Kayak Tours. They offer guided tours such as salt marsh and dolphin ecology tours in Beaufort, South Carolina. Kayaking is a sport that doesn’t require a lot of specialized equipment, Jim Pohorsky says. He suggests you wear comfortable, water resistant clothing – t-shirt, shorts, swimsuit. This may be the one sport where flip flops are OK.

“Physical ability is not all that important to enjoy this sport,” Jim Pohorsky says. “A variety of folks can participate in the sport, making it successful and appealing to so many.”

Wear the personal flotation device (PFD) just in case you fall out of the boat, and Pohorsky’s advice for staying in the kayak: “Keep your nose above your belly button.”

COVID-19 Safety

Not ready to visit a restaurant? Pack a picnic, water and snacks! Kayak rental companies clean the kayak, PFD and paddle after each customer but bring supplies to disinfect if you’re concerned about cleaning protocols. Consider wearing a mask while you’re checking in and setting up the kayaks. Most locations offer online or phone reservations with no contact sales. Rentals typically include the kayak, paddle and PFD.

Kayaker in Elkin

Kayaker in Elkin

Try one of these 26 places to kayak around the Carolinas
  1. Beaufort, SC Beaufort Kayak Tours (843) 525-0810. Rentals and tours.
  2. Beech Mountain, NC: Buckeye Recreation Center, (828) 387-3003. Rentals.
  3. Blacksburg, SC: Kings Mountain State Park, (803) 222-3209. Rentals.
  4. Blowing Rock, NC – Price Lake Boat Rentals, (828) 963-2292. Rentals.
  5. Camden/Lake Wateree SC: Wateree Marina, (803) 475-1226. Rentals.
  6. Charlotte, NC: USNWC, (704) 391-3900. Rentals.
  7. Cheraw, SC: Cheraw State Park, (843) 537-9656. Rentals.
  8. Cross Hill, SC: Skipper’s Landing, (864) 715-2542. Rentals.
  9. Durham, NC: Rollingview Marina, (919) 596-2194. Rentals.
  10. Edenton, NC: Town of Edenton, (252) 482-2832. Rentals.
  11. Elkin, NC: Rocky Forest River Run, (336) 469-8652. Rentals.
  12. Fort Mill, SC: Anne Springs Close Greenway, (803) 547-4575. Rentals and tours.
  13. Hendersonville, NC: Lazy Otter Outfitters, (828) 756-1386. Tours.
  14. Hilton Head, SC: Hilton Head Outfitters, 866-380-1783. Rentals Members Save! Receive a 10 percent discount with code AAA.
  15. Lancaster, SC: Edgewater Golf Club, (803) 577-0195. Rentals.
  16. Lexington, SC: AquaFun Paddle, (803) 575-2925. Rentals and tours. Members Save! Receive a 10 percent discount with code AAA.
  17. McCormick, SC: Earth Connection Outfitters, (864) 993-0109. Rentals.
  18. Mount Pleasant, SC: Coastal Expeditions, (843) 884-7684. Rentals and tours. Members Save! Receive a 10 percent discount with code AAA.
  19. Ocean Isle and Sunset Beach, NC: Summertide Adventure Tours, (910) 833-2418. Rentals and tours.
  20. Outerbanks in NC: Kitty Hawk Kites, (877) 359-8447. Rentals and tours.
  21. Salem/Lake Jocassee, SC: Eclectic Sun Paddlesports, (864) 944-1191. Rentals and tours. Members Save! Receive a 10 percent discount with code AAA.
  22. Saluda, NC: Green River Adventures, (828) 749-2800. Rentals and whitewater tours. Members Save! Receive $5 off tours with code AAA.
  23. Southport, NC: Adventure Kayak Tours, (910) 454 – 0607. Rentals and tours.
  24. Swansboro, NC: PaddleNC (910) 612-3297. Rentals and tours. Members Save! Receive $5 off with your AAA Membership.
  25. Sylva, NC/Tuckasegee River: Dillsboro River Company, (828) 507-2428. Rentals and whitewater tours.
  26. Waterloo, SC: Twin Rivers Landing, (864) 554-6498. Rentals.
Kayakers in the water

Hammocks Beach State Park Kayak Tour

Best Places to Launch Your Kayak

More experienced kayakers who want a challenge and have equipment (no rental companies close by) can take advantage of these places:

Four Rivers in Surry County, NC

Paddle Yadkin River, Mitchell River, Ararat River and Fisher River for 100 miles of kayaking adventure. Download a Four Rivers Map online or request one to be sent through the U.S. Mail.

Saluda River in Anderson, SC

Start at one of the 14 suggested trips or try the Upper Saluda River Blueway at Dolly Cooper Park with its ADA accessible kayak launch. Advanced paddlers have more than 50 miles to enjoy on the Saluda River.

Glendale Shoals Preserve at Lawson’s Fork Creek in Spartanburg, SC

Look for a waterfall cascading over a dam, plant and wildlife. Walk across the shoals and skip rocks, when the water is low in the old mill area. Expect Class II-IV rapids when the water is high.

Lake Tugaloo in Long Creek, SC

Even extreme sports enthusiasts enjoy a peaceful lake and forest. Bring your kayak here for a serene experience.

Photo credit: Hilton Head at Palmetto Dunes, Beaufort Kayak Tours, Kip Shaw, PaddleNC, Sam Dean and Jackson County TDA

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