Kayaking NC Outerbanks

Considering kayaking from Harker’s Island over to Cape Lookout. Have some sea kayaking experience in sound and open sea. Anyone out there have any comments or suggestions that may be helpful? Thanks

if it’s your first time…
you may want to go with a guide. we used abkayaks in beaufort. they have a website… abkayaks.com

mandy is very nice.


Some Experience

– Last Updated: Jun-25-04 1:42 PM EST –

Shallow water, tidal flow, wind speed and direction are what to keep in mind.

Try launching from the Cape Lookout National Park headquarters at the far end of Harker's Island. The folks there would be glad to tell you how to avoid the shallows but I think it just amounts to following the markers that the power boats use.

You will likely be fighting the tide coming or going unless you time it just so. Be prepared to go slow for a while.

Early in the morning is usually calm. If you go early and you get a southerly wind back to Harker's Island it's fantastic.

Good luck and have fun.

Crystal Coast Canoe and Kayak Club has some nice free maps available for that area. Go to ccckc.org to request the maps.

Alternative launch point…
Is there anywhere that you can launch on the east end of Emerald Isle (like down near Fort Macon)? I’m thinking that the trip to Cape Lookout might be more fun on the “outside.”

ft. macon
that is one of the busiest areas for power boats/fishing charters in the area. very dangerous water conditions as well. you may want to contact ft macon staff and inquire about launching from the park area. they allow fishing but there are no swimming signs along the channel beaches.

THE scariest experience I ever had in a kayak was at Beaufort inlet.

Beaufort Inlet
I have surfed 6 ft swells INSIDE Beaufort inlet on the Hobie Cat. mostly, avoid it when the tide is opposed by a good wind.

I get my tide data here:


There is a parking lot at Fort Macon next to the inlet, you can launch “inside” without too much of a carry as I remember, but I don’t know if there is a limit on how long you can park. Be aware that until after labor day, you won’t like Core Bank unless you like crowds.

If I were doing it, I’d watch for a couple days of North or West wind to damp down the waves coming towards shore, launch downtown or from the park on Radio Island on an ebb tide, go around Shackleford on the outside, camp on the back side of Shackleford bank, come back down the channel next to town from the northeast side. But I’d wait till September to do it.

wind and wave data here:


Stay away from Beaufort inlet
I concur. A few years back I witnessed a Navy Minesweeper (180ft) get lifted on swell and set up on sand bar right in the channel. As an OOD in a following ship, I almost wet my pants.

I was just there about a month ago. Lots of small boat traffic, choppy water, swift currents and wind. Not a fun combo.

Out To The Ocean
I found the transition from sound to ocean to be much kinder and gentler at Barden’s Inlet right there at the lighthouse. I can testify that it’s much safer. I’d go in and out there.

(Not only is Beaufort Inlet the scariest place I ever paddled, it’s also where I got extremely seasick on a sailboat years ago.)

sounds like a fun combo to me…
“choppy water, swift currents and wind” sounds like a fun combo to me.

I’d rather launch on the ocean side, but getting ‘flushed’ out the inlet on an outgoing tide works as well — you’d need to stick to the channel until you got out past the worst of the breakers. I’ve found that the problem with crossing inlets on the ocean side is the somewhat unpredictable breaking waves that result from the shallows. From the nautical charts, it looks like you’d have to go out a mile or more to avoid the shoal-produced breaking wave at Beaufort inlet.

The park website says…
The park website says: “The launching or landing of private boats or personal watercraft is not permitted.” I’m assuming that they are talking about motorized craft. Have you actually launched from the park?


save Beaufort Inlet for the off-season
Summer boat traffic is insane. Chop isn’t the problem, boats are. It’s probably the most stable and most reliable inlet in North Carolina aside from the entrance to the Cape Fear River. Therefore it’s the most congested inlet I’ve been around in NC and I’ve been through Oregon, Beaufort, Bogue, Hatteras, and Ocrakoke Inlets (mostly in power boats). The tide absolutely flies too. If you’re outside and need to get inside and the tide is ebbing, you’d better be fit. Like if your comfortable sustained speed isn’t over 5mph your going to have a hell of a struggle getting in. Typical SE summer breezes set up interesting conditions on the ebb tide as well but if you like waves that isn’t a problem. Boats are. I was underway on plane in a 21’ center console coming into the inlet and maintaining a steady heading and nearly got run down from behind by a 50ft cabin cruiser. He missed us by maybe 10yards to port with no signal what-so-ever. His wake was steep and breaking and washed over the gunwale and nearly through me overboard. Consequently I’ve never paddled that inlet. Bogue is generally more kayak friendly as the channel is narrower so though congested it’s short to cross and then there’s lots of boat-free shoal water on the west wide of the inlet that provides lots of gently rolling breakers on a typical summer seabreeze day.

Then again, I’ve almost been run over by an ocean racer running at wide open throttle in Bogue inlet while paddling from Emerald Island to Bear Island. I heard him in the intercoastal but he wasn’t within site so I started my crossing. He closed a three mile gap faster than I could make a 200meter crossing. He was going so fast that he was launching all 40something feet of boat airborn on the little rollers on the shoals out by the sea buoy.

Cape Lookout Park?

– Last Updated: Jun-28-04 5:54 AM EST –

I have kayaked in and out of there and helped some folks take out. They loaded up a trailer. No one said a word.

I was talking about Ft. Macon Park…
I was responding to Dwight_G’s post regarding lanching from Fort Macon Park. I contacted the folks at that park and received the following:

“We do not allow boats or kayaks to be launch within the park. You may be able to park at one the fishing piers close by and launch from there. The Triple S pier is about .6 of a mile from the park. Sorry we could not be of more help.”

Cape Lookout (park) is my destination. Given that I’ll be staying in eastern end of Emerald Isle, it would be quite a drive to put in at Cape Lookout Park. I might just go ahead and do the trip from Harkers, but I was trying to plan a trip with “bigger” water — running on the outside of Shackleford seemed like just the thing. The big stumbling block seems to be the crossing of Beaufort inlet.

Maybe I’ll just stick to exploring the Bogue inlet area and Bear Island.

Bear Island
If your planning on taking a trip to Bear Island, you may want to plan around the tides. I was there 3 weeks ago and was very surprised at how shallow the area is on the ICW side of the Island. Though I should have know because of some friendly posts on this site.

Have Fun!

I am heading out to Corolla next week. Any one paddled to Monkey Island.

Out And Back
You could do an ‘out and back’ and still paddle in the ocean. Just go from Cape Lookout park toward the lighthouse. Go out Barden Inlet and paddle in the ocean. Then head back to the park.

Considering all the things you’ve read so far on this thread I’ll give you a bit you can’t refuse. On the e-mail side send me your shoreside address and I’ll mail you copies of ALL THREE MAPS my club has published that cover from the White Oak down/up to Harkers Island.

FYI: Map Four (Harkers Island to Cedar Island Ferry and 2 trails on the Long Bay side) is in the final developmental stage. Just need some funding for printing.

Stay safe on the water,

NC Cal

Bogue Inlet- Bear Island
check with barrierislandkayaks.com, if you are staying at emerald isle, you’ll be close to swansboro, lamar at barrier island, right across bridge at swansboro does trip to cape lookout, bear island and all around that area, he has topo maps of the area also, he can tell you most anything you need to know about the area, have fun

Those maps are great!
Tell your fellow club members THANK YOU from me. I just emailed the tourism folks and they showed up a few days later.

I just wish there were more trails I could feel comfortable doing in my Pungo.

But never fear! A new toruing boat is in my future…when, I don’t know exactly but it’s on the horizon.

Pungo Paul