Kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding destinations near Raleigh

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Explore Raleigh by paddleboard, kayak, or canoe | Photo via Pexels

Kayaking, canoeing + paddleboarding are great ways to explore the Raleigh area. These water sports also offer both physical and mental health benefits that extend far beyond a day on the water.

But before we dive in, let’s get a lay of the land (er, water). Check out these unique facts about our region:

  • NC has 5,201.25 square miles of water area — that’s like 35 Raleighs. The Tar Heel state has the tenth largest water area in the US.
  • The 250-mile Neuse River flows through the northeastern corner of Raleigh — it links the City of Oaks to NC’s original capital city, New Bern.
  • Raleigh gets most of its drinking water from the Falls Lake Reservoir in Northern Wake County.

Next, we should talk about paddling safety, so you don’t capsize:

  • Always wear a PFD (personal flotation device).
  • Start small. Water, especially flowing water, can be intimidating. First-timers should opt for a small lake or pond. You don’t want to get in over your head.
  • Consider a guided adventure from Gear Up before heading out on your own.
  • For a fully detailed list of do’s + don’ts, check out this paddling safety guide.

And finally, here are a few local options for getting your feet wet (plus, their travel time from downtown):

  • Pullen Park, 520 Ashe Ave. | 5-minute drive | Ride around Lake Howell on a pedal boat ($7 for 30 minutes).
  • Lake Johnson, 4601 Avent Ferry Rd. | 10-minute drive | Launch your own personal paddle craft or sign up for an open paddle; SUP and kayak rentals are available at the Waterfront Center.
  • Lake Wheeler, 6404 Lake Wheeler Rd. | 15-minute drive | Launch a personal boat; be on the lookout for SUP classes. Bonus: Dip your toe into the landmark’s history.
  • Forest Ridge Park, 2100 Old NC 98 Hwy., Wake Forest | 30-minute drive | Bring your own paddling device or join a guided stand-up paddleboard or kayak tour, perfect for beginners. Register here.
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