What boats should I take with me to OBX?

I am taking a trip down to the Outer Banks this sunday for my Honeymoon. Between the two of us, we have 4 boats. My fiance only has experience in her small 9’6" rec boat. I have very slight experience in the great lakes with some turbulence, but I cannot do a self rescue in a normal small cockpit kayak. Our boats consist of

1 Mainstream Streak (9’6") typical rec boat big cockpit

1 Wilderness Systems Pungo (10’) big cockpit

1 Heritage Expedition LP (17’) Sit on top touring kayak

1 Wilderness System Sealution 2 (16’6") small cockpit

I have owned the pungo for 5 years and have experience on small lakes and rivers. I’ve done multi-day river trips, etc. I have only been in the great lakes once with my Sealution. I am a below novice level sea kayaker. I’ve done some reading and it looks like the most popular boats down there for tourist are small sit on tops. So my question is, which 2 boats should I take? My fiance has basically no experience in the big boats. She has paddled the expedition and doesn’t like it (too big and hard to turn for her). I think I want to take the Expedition for myself, but which should I take for her? the small one she’s comfortable with, or the long touring boat? We aren’t looking for any major sea kayaking, just to hug the shoreline for a couple hours probably. I guess I’m asking is it calm enough for a small rec boat?

Thanks for any info.

Kill Devil Hills
Also, I should mention that I am going to be staying in Kill Devil Hills if that helps.

In the bays behind the islands , no
problem with any of your boats. Off the front beach, the waves can get wicked in a hurry. I experienced that first hand in my sea kayak. I had no roll and a wave took me out.it was a long swim to the beach.

look up Alligator River Nat’l Wildlife Refuge. A beautiful place to paddle out of the waves.

many nice places to paddle in the sounds
There are lovely places to paddle in the Alligator River NWR, around Manteo (an island in the Roanoke Sound) and on rivers like the Scuppernong at Creswell (off hyw. 64) or downstream at Columbia. Google “NC paddle trails coastal plain” and you should be directed to maps of the established NC paddle trails. Ah, there’s also a nice put-in called New Inlet down south a few miles from Pea Island. There’s no inlet there now. You just put in on the sound side and paddle through marshes. You could also put in at the Oregon Inlet fishing center and paddle the marshes there – staying well away from dangerous Oregon Inlet and out of the channel used by fishing boats – and you could even make your way up to the back side of Bodie Island. It’s all so beautiful! Near Kitty Hawk there are nice places to paddle in the sound. There’s a kayak company – Kitty Hawk Sports maybe – that could offer you some advice on nearby paddles. Good luck!

G in NC

I’d take two similar boats
If you take a slim 17-foot touring kayak for yourself, and she’s in a 28" wide rec kayak, I think neither of you will have fun for long. If she constantly feels like she can’t keep up with your faster, glidy-er boat, she may not have as much fun as if the two of you were poking along in protected bays side-by-side in the two rec boats.

Seaworthiness of the boats probably isn’t as much of a concern, since from what you describe the two of you do not have the basic skills required to make any more exposed paddling a safe option. You should stick to areas that are very protected under all possible weather conditions.

Take the boat that she is most …
comfortable in.

On the back side of Kitty Hawk there is a place called Kitty Hawk Woods reservation which is a great sheltered river/stream.

there is a public launch area.

You can paddle all day there and not be exposed to surf or big water.

On one end you come out behind Kill Devil Hills and can just about paddle up to behind the Wright Brothers Memorial, and if you go the opposite direction you will come out into the sound where you can paddle in protected waters as long as you want to.

Also on the back side of Duck and Corolla there is protected waters in the sound and several good places to launch

Just don’t get too tired during the day so the nights will be as they should !!

congrats on your wedding



We mostly want to paddle through the sounds in the calm stuff. I didn’t really think about rivers, primarily I don’t want to deal with the hassle of shuttling, etc.

I guess if I take the expedition for myself and take her boat, we will be ok. The expedition isn’t very fast, it’s more of a barge.

any other insight is appreciated

Go to the sounds early or late

– Last Updated: May-11-09 12:47 PM EST –

when the birds are moving.
There is (was) an outfitter on Emerald Isle where you could rent boats if you want to save the hassle of carrying them.

No shuttle needed
Alligator River is tidal water.

I was just about to post the same

– Last Updated: May-12-09 9:03 AM EST –

You can paddle it any direction at any time.

Just do an out and back paddle.


On the sound
be aware of the tides. There are some places that get mighty shallow. Also, not sure about this time of year at OBX, but you may want to bring some bug spray along when paddling the sound. I think it often depends on the time of day and the direction of the wind but it can be a problem. I also paddled my Tarpon 120 on the ocean a few years ago at Nags Head. Had a blast. It was a calm day so only took swim in the shallows on the ride back in to the beach.

as long as we’re at it…
any other suggestions on where we should go?

My favorite spot…
There’s a good book that you can purchase in OBX at either the Manteo Booksellers (in Manteo) or Kitty Hawk Sports & Kitty Hawk Kites (both located across from Jockey’s Ridge). 2/3s of the book are dedicated to OBX paddling trips (it’s written by a woman who used to lead guided tours through Kitty Hawk Sports).


I’m down in OBX on most weekends kayaking. Roanoke Island has tons of possibilities. There’s a boat launch in downtown Manteo itself, where you can paddle the downtown area around the Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, the Elizabeth II ship and circumnavigate Roanoke Island Festival Park. It’s a very easy paddle. There’s a couple additional boat launches in Manteo: One on the side of the Causeway that connects Nags Head to Roanoke Island (on the Roanoke Island side across from Pirates Cove. Don’t launch from the launches, instead launch from the sandy beach on the side). Here you can paddle out (watch the heavy boat traffic) to a buch of tiny little inlets in the marsh. The other is more secluded and will take you out to the western side of Manteo. It’s at the end of Bowsertown Rd (next to the Front Porch Cafe coffeeshop). There’s also a couple of launch spots across Roanoke Island in Wanchese.

Other ideas:

-Has mentioned Alligator River Wildlife Mgmt Area. Google Map Buffalo City Road off of Manns Harbor, NC. There’s a launch that will put you onto Milltail Creek which winds down about 4 miles to Alligator River. The creek is easy paddling and you may spot an alligator (we’re approaching their mating season). Also, along the creek you see a broken down little shanty that used to be part of a moonshine operation (reading the history of Buffalo City online is interesting). The creek paddling is easy. Alligator River can be an intermediate paddle as the current can kick up sometimes. There are trip reports on this location on p.net.

-Also out that way is a little known tiny island: Durant Island. This is a fun circumnavigation, but a little more advanced.

-Pea Island Wildlife Managment Area. Located just south of Oregan Inlet this is a very sheltered easy paddle which is perfect if you like bird watching.

-Ocracoke Island. I’m circumnavigating this in July.

-Jean Guite Creek in the Kitty Hawk Woods. Right when you come across the Wright Bros. Memorial Bridge there is a kayak outfitter in between a car dealership and Island Flags.


They have a private launch onto this creek where they take tours. If you have your own kayak and just want to launch it’s $5. This is a scenic relaxed paddle and you get to go under a covered bridge. The creek eventually runs into the Kitty Hawk Bay which is also sheltered and you can cross out into the Colington Harbor. If you want to bypass most of the creek and get straight out to the Bay you can launch from a public boat ramp on Bob Perry Rd back in the Kitty Hawk woods. But I recommend the paddle from the beginning of the creek.

Here’s a website with all public boat launches in OBX:


The book is really good for ideas and you can buy it down there at the 3 retailers I mentioned.

I’m not sure we want to see any alligators during mating season…do we??

It’s safe
Alligators are not aggressive by nature. If you come across one sunning itself on the banks most times it will slip into the water and swim away. I asked and there has never been any reported attacks on kayakers in the area. The two big kayak tour companies in OBX, Kitty Hawk Sports & Kitty Hawk Kites, both offer tours there - I’m sure their insurance wouldn’t allow it if there was any eminent danger. I was worried about mating season too…thinking that an alligator might mistake a long kayak sliding down the creek has a date, but I’ve never had a single problem. It really is a unique paddling spot complete with “coffee” colored water.

Here’s a good web blog I found online where the kayaker has posted trip reports and pics (a couple of gator shots) of his journeys.