The sound sides of Hatteras and Ocracoke Islands are well-known outdoor adventure destinations. Warm calm waters and an abundance of wildlife make the marshy areas bordering the Pamlico Sound a natural for kayaking. Using the multiple access points within the National Seashore, you can find your own slice of heaven with plenty of solitude, sun, and nature.
This is quiet flat-water paddling, the kind where you can slip up on egret and ibis while they feed, and watch their potential dinner swim around under your boat. This is why recreational paddling has become so popular as an outdoor activity. It’s also fun, safe, and can be good exercise. Recreational kayaks are wide and stable, so even a novice can jump right in and look like a pro.
Once you’ve decided to give kayaking a try, you’ll need to find a kayak. Fortunately, there are plenty of quality outfitters on Hatteras and Ocracoke, and boats are generally available by the hour, day, and week.
You can choose from sit-on-top kayaks or sit-in kayaks, depending upon the intended use. If you want to fish, there are plenty of sit-on-top boats designed just for fishing. If you’re going to be in the surf, you’ll need a sit-on-top, self-bailing boat. These boats are great as a swim platform and for getting in and out of the boat in water over knee-deep. For stability and efficiency in your paddle, go for a sit-in boat. Sit-in recreational kayaks are designed for paddling distances in calm water, plus there’s plenty of room for your extra gear.
If you’re still not sure what type of boat you need, get with an outfitter and they’ll put you on the right boat. Along with your rental kayak you’ll get a paddle and a PFD. A PFD, or personal flotation device, is there to make sure your paddle is a safe experience. Also, remember that our local laws require anyone under the age of 13 to wear a PFD. Regardless of your age, it makes good sense!
If you’re going exploring, here are a few tips. First, many of the access points on the sound side are at the end of sandy roads branching off of Highway 12. An Off-Road Vehicle Permit is required to drive on these roads. Permits are available through the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Park Service. Next, you’ll need a few supplies: sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, bug spray and drinking water. Dress appropriately; a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt is good for extra sun protection.
If you’re interested in local history, culture, or bird-watching, check with a local outfitter about kayak tour availability. There are several regular excursions available throughout the day on both islands.
So now you’re all set ... time to get on the water and start paddling!