Kayaking Guide Sections:

Surrounded by creeks, rivers, and coastal terrain, Southport is understandably a dream destination for kayakers of all varieties. From this central and slightly inland launching point, visitors can cruise past towering trees and deep maritime forests, or enjoy picturesque open water views of the sunny downtown region. The possibility of routes is seemingly endless, and newcomers will be treated to a myriad of tours, lessons and rentals to give them a head start in exploring the open water.

With so many options in terms of both geography and how to embark on an adventure, Southport’s kayaking scene is truly distinct, and can lead to a host of unforgettable expeditions all vacation long.

About Southport Kayaking

Because Southport is quite literally bordered by water in virtually every direction, paddlers will find that there are tons of options when it comes to plotting a course for a kayaking adventure.

The wide Cape Fear River is found to the east of Southport, as well as the outlying Bald Head Island. The Oak Island shoreline, which includes Fort Caswell and Caswell Beach, is found just south of Southport, close to the intersections of the Cape Fear and Elizabeth Rivers, and the Atlantic Ocean is found just past this barrier island shoreline.

Inland, Southport is bordered by the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as smaller creeks including the popular Dutchmen Creek, which in turn is bordered by marshes and is a prime birdwatching destination. Just north of Southport lies several creeks and branches of the Cape Fear River, which narrow as they cut through small neighborhoods. Suffice it to say, the sheer variety of water – and the many different types of paddling trips these landscapes have to offer – makes the community and the surrounding coastal region an attractive destination for paddlers of all interests – from kayak fishermen who want to hit the open waters, to nature enthusiasts who want a serenely wild expedition.

Where to Launch In and Around Southport

Visitors will find that there are a number of public parks, boat ramps, and launching locations throughout the Southport area. To start a kayaking expedition, paddlers may want to check out these regions where accessing the local waters is a breeze.

Dutchman Creek Park
4750 Fish Factory Rd SE, Southport, NC 28461
The 30-acre Dutchman Creek Park features a boat ramp for vessels of all sizes, as well as instant access to the popular Dutchman Creek. In addition, paddlers and mariners will be will be less than a mile away from the main Intracoastal Waterway channel and the Elizabeth River, and less than 3 miles away from the Cape Fear River. The site features parking for roughly 60 vehicles with trailers, a concrete boat ramp, and a “T” shaped boat dock.

Kingsley Street Park
Kingsley Street, Southport, NC 28461
Located on the eastern borders of downtown Southport, the Kingsley Street Park is a passive town park that features a dock extending out into the Intracoastal Waterway, as well as views of the Cape Fear River and outlying barrier islands.

Waterfront Park
East Bay Street, Southport, NC 28461
Located in the heart of downtown Southport, this 9-acre park overlooks the Cape Fear River and features picnic facilities, benches, water fountains, and grassy terrain along the water’s edge for relatively easy equipment set-up and launching.

Southport Marina
606 W West St, Southport, NC 28461
This waterfront complex offers a myriad of activities and launching points. Visitors can rent a ride, or sign up for a tour, within minutes, and can be on their way exploring the wide Intracoastal Waterway as well as the nearby Cottage Creek, which is noticeably smaller, less populated, and enticing for paddlers and nature lovers.

Tidal Waves Kayak / Canoe Dock
3003 E Oak Island Dr, Oak Island, NC 28465
Located in nearby Oak Island, this canoe dock that is conveniently located just behind the Oak Island Recreation Center connects paddlers with a network of tidal creeks and marshes, which makes it a fine destination for birdwatchers and wildlife fans. The terrain is heavily influenced by tides, so plan a high tide outing to ensure easy paddling conditions.

40th Street Inlet Park
SE 40th St, Oak Island, NC 28465
This launching point in nearby Oak Island is a prime destination for beginner paddlers. Accessing the David Canal waterfront, paddlers will be treated to calm waters as well as pretty terrain that’s perfect for birdwatching and exploring the barely-inland Oak Island region.

30th Place West Canoe Dock
30th Place, Oak Island, NC 28465
Located just a couple blocks away from the Oak Island oceanfront, the 30th Place West Canoe Dock connects with a particularly wide portion of the Montgomery Slough, which in turn, intersects with the Intracoastal Waterway after a collection of marshy tidal creeks. As a result of the gentle terrain, this destination is a good fit for beginners and kayak fishermen alike.

Crab Dock
Yacht Drive NE, Oak Island, NC 28465
Situated on the edge of Yacht Drive on the “soundside” of Oak Island, this small dock accesses a wide section of the Intracoastal Waterway as well as a network of marshes, tidal creeks, and fascinating terrain where the local wildlife thrives. As such, it’s a good starting point for clamming, crabbing, and kayak fishing.

Southport Kayak Tours and Rentals

Visitors who don’t have a kayak handy, or who would prefer that an expert lead the way on a Southport paddling expedition, will find several options in the immediate and surrounding area for launching a kayak adventure.

The town of Southport is home to two paddling companies that are close to the water – The Adventure Kayak Company and Lighthouse WaterSports – which both offer rentals, tours and / or lessons for paddlers who are new to the area.

Kayak rentals can also be acquired from local watersports shops and sporting goods stores, and can be available on an hourly, daily, or even weekly basis for visitors who want to paddle throughout their stay. Ranging from simple one or two-seater sit-on-top options, to decked out rides for kayak fishing and long adventures, there are ample rental options available for paddlers of all interests, budgets, and experience levels.

As for tours, there are a number of routes and expeditions to choose from, which includes detailed eco-tours and scenic expeditions along the downtown Southport waterfront. A favorite tour for many locals and newcomers alike is a trek through the nearby Blackwater Cypress Swamp, where giant trees emerge out of the calm and wild waters, and a variety of local residences – including birds, turtles, and even an occasional alligator – can all be spotted. Tours typically last 1-2 hours or so, and can be booked in advance online via the individual kayaking company. All supplies are included on a tour – including life vests, the paddles, and the kayak itself – although visitors will want to bring along their own sunscreen, bug spray, and water for the trek ahead.

Tours are available for the majority of the year, (and often are available daily), and can even be catered to special interests like romantic sunset or full moon expeditions. Peruse the local websites to discover the myriad of awaiting adventures, and plan a tailor-made trip that will fascinate every member of your vacationing party.

Southport Kayak Sales

Visitors and locals who want their own kayak for the long haul will also find a number of watersports stores in the region that offer both used and new kayaks for sale. Check out the local kayaking companies in the heart of Southport, or venture south to Oak Island - or north to Wilmington - to discover a range of surf shops, watersports businesses, and general sporting goods stores that may all offer kayaks for sale.

For a bargain, check out the local rental and tour companies at the end of the visitor season, when used kayaks that were used during the summer months may be available for sale at a steep discount. In addition, the local watersports shops may offer all the accessories required – including life jackets, sunscreen, waterproof satchels or GPS devices, and more – that paddlers may need for a full and fun exploration of the area.

Tips and Tricks for Southport Kayaking

  • Use caution in the open water area bordering Southport, including the Cape Fear River and Intracoastal Waterway. Vessels of all sizes use these waters, and maritime traffic can be thick – especially in the warm summer months.
  • Also use caution on windy days, when the area currents can be deceptively swift. Avoid local inlets that connect with the Atlantic Ocean to avoid being pulled out to sea by a deceptively swift and tidal-influenced current.
  • The inland creeks throughout the swamps and marshes are great destinations for birdwatching! Several locations, like Dutchman Creek, are listed as spots along the NC Birding Trail, and the wild terrain attracts a variety of water birds and migrating species.
  • A guide may come in handy for large watery regions where area paths aren’t entirely clear, like the massive Blackwater Cypress Swamp. Enlist a guide for an inaugural expedition of unfamiliar waters to enjoy ample tips on how to best navigate through the terrain.
  • Bug spray is a must, and especially in the marshy areas and swamps where the human population is scarce. Also, watch out for snakes and reptiles, (including alligators), which can make occasional, albeit thrilling, appearances.
  • Several vacation rentals, and particularly those that are adjacent to the waterfront, may offer on-site boat docks and launching areas to effortlessly reach the water. Contact a local vacation rental company for suggestions on accommodations where paddling is continually a breeze.

Kayaking is a big part of enjoying the local Southport waters, and it’s easy to understand why. With miles of terrain to explore that can range from big open waters to shaded and secretive creeks, the area is truly a dream for paddlers who love a little variety.

Rent a ride for an afternoon, or bring your own along, and discover four yourself why kayaking has taken this coastal region by storm. With so much to discover and stunning landscapes throughout, a paddling adventure is always a highlight of any Southport vacation.

Zeke's Island Estuarine Reserve

Zeke's Island Estuarine Reserve

Zeke's Island Estuarine Reserve is found just south of the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, and is one of the three original 1985 National Estuarine Research Reserve components dedicated by NOAA and the Division of Coastal Management. Encompassing a wide range of habitats, the lagoon-like reserve is one of the most important feeding regions of the North Carolina shoreline for a wide range of birds, and is a popular destination for nature lovers, mariners, kayakers, and birdwatchers alike.

Southport, NC Kayaking Guide

Southport, NC Kayaking Guide

Surrounded by creeks, rivers, and coastal terrain, Southport is understandably a dream destination for kayakers of all varieties. From this central and slightly inland launching point, visitors can cruise past towering trees and deep maritime forests, or enjoy picturesque open water views of the sunny downtown region. The possibility of routes is seemingly endless, and newcomers will be treated to a myriad of tours, lessons and rentals to give them a head start in exploring the open water.

Southport River Walk

Southport River Walk

The Historic Riverwalk in Downtown Southport will quickly introduce newcomers to the waterfront scene in this coastal community, and will surely instill a newfound appreciation and overall enthrallment with this scenic laid-back region.

Bald Head Island Ferry

Bald Head Island Ferry

Southport is known as the launching point for a number of barrier island adventures and vacations, including the ferry trip to neighboring Bald Head Island. A completely unique experience, the Bald Head Island ferry is one of the only privately run ferries that transport visitors to a North Carolina barrier island is such high volume, and with such an assortment of amenities. From baggage services to incredible passenger lounges, the Bald Head Island ferry allows travelers to arrive to their island destination in style.

Bald Head Island Lighthouse - Old Baldy

Bald Head Island Lighthouse - Old Baldy

It's hard to confuse the Old Baldy Lighthouse with the other Carolina lighthouses that guard the Eastern Seaboard. The unique structure has undergone some interesting natural and manmade changes during its nearly 200 year lifespan, but many visitors believe that the unique structure, the aging exterior, and the long history only adds to the overall charm. A must-see local attraction for day trippers and weeklong vacationers alike, the Old Baldy Lighthouse is easily one of the most interesting and admired sites throughout all of Bald Head Island.