Where Are Paddle Boarding Trails Along Carteret County NC Waterways?

Looking for some great paddle boarding trails along the many Carteret County NC waterways, creeks, rivers, and estuaries in communities near Atlantic Beach, Emerald Isle, Beaufort, Cape Carteret, and down east communities along the Core Banks? Hopefully so, because this article is going to focus on local trails we know about, then we hope you will use the comment section at the bottom to tell us about other places in the county you have experienced.

If you decide to contribute by commenting, be sure to tell us whether your additions are beginner or advanced paddle trails.

Additionally, please consider sharing this article on the many social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook so that others can learn about this relaxing sport.

Areas we will be exploring: White Oak River, Newport River, waterways near Shackleford Banks and Cape Lookout, Bogue Sound, Taylors Creek and Beaufort Inlet, Radio Island Beach Access, North River, Cedar Island, and Core Banks estuaries.


Area 1

Beaufort, along Taylors Creek via the Rachel Carson Reserve to Shackleford Banks.

This trail is 2.7 miles long and involves open water and potential for boat wakes, therefore we consider this an advanced adventure.

Once launching near any boat access area along Front St, head due East over to the Rachel Carson Reserve, then head South to Shackleford Banks along the many marshes.

This route is a great waterway to experience the wild horses that call the reserve home, and the many shorebirds that help create the Crystal Coast ecosystem.


Area 2

Atlantic NC to Thorofare Bay, ending at the Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge.

This trail is 6 miles long and is an advanced route given considerable open water and potential for boat wakes.

If you decide on this adventure, you will get to experience an incredible maritime forest along the route, and the beautiful sun drenched open waters of Thorofare Bay and Barry Bay.

The best place to launch is at the Little Port Brook beach access ending at the Monroe Gaskill Memorial Bridge access.


Area 3

Codds Creek via the Core Banks.

This trail is 4.9 miles and considered an intermediate level route.

Launch at the National Parks Service Visitor Center at Shell Point near Harkers Island and wind your way through the saltwater marshes of Codds Creek and Core Sound.

This route offers a good view of area marshes and wildlife of the Crystal Coast.

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Area 4

Davis NC via Oyster Creek Boat Ramp exploring Core Sound and ending at the Great Island Ferry Dock.

This trail is 3.6 miles long and considered an intermediate level route.

This paddle adventure gives you great views of shorelines along uninhabited areas of the Cape Lookout National Seashore, Great Island, and other barrier islands.


Area 5

Straits Landing Boat Ramp to Goose Bay via the North River Estuary.

This is a 4 mile trail of intermediate level, but beginner level adventurers should be fine paddling with more experienced boarders.

This route will offer great views and relaxation as you make your way along the quiet waters of tall marshland, maritime forests, and marine wildlife.


Area 6

Salters Creek Ramp along the shores of Nelson Bay.

This trail is 5.3 miles long and a good course for beginner level enthusiast.

This route will take you along calm waters of Nelson Bay where you get the chance to experience coastal nature ecosystems, marshland, and shorebirds.


Area 7

White Oak River paddle trail starting at the White Oak Campground in Western Carteret County NC.

This is a 17.2 mile trail that requires endurance if you choose the entire route to Boondocks Landing. However, this paddle can be broken down in to shorter lengths for beginners. All routes start at the White Oak Campground near Cape Carteret, Cedar Point, and Peletier.

To Dixon Field Landing is 4.7 miles.
To Haywood Landing is 5.7 miles.
To Long Point Landing is 3.8 miles.
To Boondocks Landing is 4.9 miles.

These routes will give you incredible views of the Croatan National Forest and it’s many maritime forest, shorebirds, other coastal ecosystems, and many beaver dams.

This is an advanced trail is you choose the entire route, but can be accomplished by beginner and intermediate boarders if broken down between each landing destination.

This Carteret County trail is one of the lengthiest in the county and should be considered an all day adventure.

Carteret County rentals
At least 20-30 estuaries near the White Oak River offering incredible paddle boarding in Western Carteret County.

Other Locations To Consider

The paddle trails above should get any level of paddle boarding skill started, but here are some other locations that you can map out along the Crystal Coast using Google Maps.

Monroe Gaskill Bridge to Driftwood Campground (9.5 miles) via Styron Bay and Thorofare Bay.

Davis NC to Sea Level launching at the access point on Horseshoe Road ending at Steep Point (9 mile trail).

Harkers Island Bridge access point to Smyrna (8 miles).

Cedar Island Bay launching at either the Driftwood Campground or Lola Boat Ramp. Be sure to look for the feral cattle that graze on the shoreline of the bay.

Whale Creek Paddle launching at the Harkers Island Bridge, around the point, across Back Sound to Shackleford Banks (5.8 miles).

Radio Island And Beaufort Inlet to explore the Queen Anne’s Revenge shipwreck site.

Newport River starting from the boat access near the N.C. Port ending in the black water estuary near Newport NC (roughly 8 miles).

best locations to go
Over 40 waterways and bays in the county near the down east region.

When thinking about a Carteret County paddle boarding adventure, the real magic lies in creating your own trail along the NC Coast.

The great thing about the Crystal Coast is that there are endless estuaries, creeks, rivers, bays, sounds, and other waterways where you can map out your own adventure depending on your skill level.

The Crystal Coast and Carteret County NC open waters and barrier islands are some of the most diverse ecosystems anywhere on the East Coast and there are endless opportunities for wildlife and nature viewing, aquatic plants discovery, shellfish farms viewing, kayaking, and barrier island shorelines relaxation.

If you are considering exploring the down east communities of Harkers Island, Smyrna, Sea Level, Davis, Cedar Island, and Cape Lookout and not familiar with the NC Coast and will be spending all day paddle boarding, be sure to take a GPS device and let friends know which route or trail you can be found if something happens.

If you decide to take any of the paddle boarding trails we suggested in this article, or mapped out your own, we really encourage you to tell us about the route you created and what islands and bays you explored along the NC Coast using the comment form below.

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Michael Sharp

Michael Sharp

Native of Carteret County NC, Father to Makayla and Savannah. You can add me on Facebook. Interest include web development, encryption, and other technologies.

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