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North Carolina’s Best Paddle Boarding Spots: Coastline to Mountains
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North Carolina’s Best Paddle Boarding Spots: Coastline to Mountains

Whether you’re a seasoned paddle boarder or just looking to dip your toes into the water, North Carolina offers a plethora of stunning locations that cater to every level of expertise. From the serene coastlines of the Atlantic to the tranquil waters of mountain lakes, join us as we explore the best paddle boarding spots across the state.


North Carolina, with its diverse landscapes ranging from vast coastal areas to majestic mountain ranges, offers some of the most picturesque paddle boarding experiences in the country. Whether it’s the gentle swells of the Atlantic Ocean or the calm, glassy surfaces of a mountain lake, every spot has something unique to offer.

The Crystal Coast

The Crystal Coast, known for its clear waters and abundant marine life, is a paradise for paddle boarders. Areas like Beaufort and Emerald Isle provide not only breathtaking scenery but also a chance to glide over waters teeming with fish and other sea creatures. It’s like paddling through a live aquarium!

The Outer Banks

A nationally recognized spot for windsurfing and paddle boarding, the Outer Banks offers a mixture of challenging and gentle waters. The unique geography of these barrier islands creates conditions suitable for all skills levels. Here, you can paddle through history, passing by the famous Wright Brothers National Memorial and the mysterious Roanoke Island.

Wrightsville Beach

Just east of Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach is ideal for paddle boarders looking for a vibrant community and active waters. The area is not only perfect for paddling but also a great place to learn, with numerous shops offering lessons and board rentals.

Lake Norman

Situated near Charlotte, Lake Norman is the largest manmade lake in North Carolina, providing over 520 miles of shoreline. It’s a hub for paddle boarders who enjoy long, uninterrupted journeys and occasional sightings of local wildlife along the shores.

Lake Lure

Famous for its role in the film “Dirty Dancing,” Lake Lure is surrounded by the towering cliffs of Hickory Nut Gorge. Paddle boarding here allows you to enjoy the mirror-like waters and stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Fontana Lake

This lesser-known gem offers secluded waters and undisturbed natural scenery. Fontana Lake is bordered by the Great Smoky Mountains and the Nantahala National Forest, making it an idyllic spot for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle and connect with nature.

The Intracoastal Waterway

For those who prefer calmer waters, the Intracoastal Waterway provides miles of sheltered paths ideal for paddle boarding. Stretching from Wrightsville Beach to the South Carolina border, it’s a safe haven for wildlife and a beautiful backdrop for a leisurely day on the board.

Equipment Tips for NC Waters

Choosing the right board and paddle can make a significant difference in your experience. For the calm waters of the lakes, a wider board is advisable for stability. In contrast, more streamlined boards are better suited for the coastal areas where the waters can be more dynamic.

Best Times to Paddle Board in NC

Spring and fall are ideal, offering mild weather and less crowded spots. However, the adventurous at heart can also enjoy the serene beauty of North Carolina’s waters in the quieter winter months.

Safety Tips for Paddle Boarding

Always wear a life vest, know the weather conditions, and have a plan. Especially in coastal areas, tides can change quickly, and it’s crucial to be prepared.

Local Paddle Board Communities

Joining a local community can enhance your paddle boarding experience. Many towns and cities around North Carolina have clubs and groups that organize regular outings, which can be great for beginners to learn from more experienced boarders.


Paddle boarding in North Carolina is more than just a sport—it’s an adventure that connects you with nature and history. Whether you're gliding through the coastal waters or exploring the tranquil lakes of the mountains, each experience is unique and memorable.


  1. What is the best season for paddle boarding in North Carolina? The best times for paddle boarding in North Carolina are during the spring and fall when the weather is mild and the water conditions are generally favorable. Summer can also be a great time, especially in the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat.

  2. Are there paddle boarding rental facilities available at these spots? Yes, most of the popular paddle boarding spots in North Carolina offer rental facilities. Places like Wrightsville Beach and the Outer Banks have several shops where you can rent boards and gear. For a comprehensive list of available paddle boards, you can visit Starboard's Paddle Board Collection.

  3. Can beginners participate in paddle boarding in oceanic locations? Absolutely! Beginners can enjoy paddle boarding in oceanic locations, especially in areas with calmer waters like the Intracoastal Waterway or sheltered parts of the Outer Banks. For tips on mastering the basic paddle stroke, check out Learning the Basic Paddle Stroke for Beginners.

  4. What should I bring for a paddle boarding excursion? For a paddle boarding trip, you should bring a paddle board, a paddle, a life vest, sunscreen, water, snacks, and depending on the weather, appropriate clothing. If you’re looking for high-quality gear, explore options like those found at Starboard's Inflatable Paddle Boards which are ideal for various conditions and skill levels.

  5. Are there guided paddle boarding tours in North Carolina? Yes, several companies and local shops offer guided paddle boarding tours in North Carolina, which can be a fantastic way to explore the area with the help of experienced guides. These tours are available in both coastal and inland water locations, providing a safe and informative way to enjoy paddle boarding.



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