Kayaking on Pamlico Sound, that body of water between Cape Hatteras Island and mainland North Carolina, is a fun way to explore nature and build family memories while visiting the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
There are numerous outfitters offering organized kayak tours in various locations along Cape Hatteras Island, and many of these could be a good option if you have kids old enough to paddle for an hour or so, or at the very least able to sit still safely in a kayak while riding along.
If you have very young children, however, an organized kayak tour may not work.
But don’t despair of having the chance to experience the fun of paddling through the sound with your kids, viewing wildlife and learning new skills together.
On our recent trip to the Outer Banks, we took all five of our kids, ages one and a half up to age 8, on a fun kayak adventure, with a stand-up paddle board thrown into the mix for added fun.
Slash Creek Outfitters
Slash Creek Outfitters in Hatteras Village made it possible with a customized experience at a very affordable rate.
While they do offer a longer kayak tour, when hearing the ages of our kids, they suggested a customized option.
The idea was to bring out several kayaks and a paddle board to the sound for the kids to try out in the relatively shallow water, without requiring squirmy littles to commit to a longer ride/paddle distance that would leave them worn out or restless.
As a side note, you can also rent kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, bicycles, and more from Slash Creek Outfitters to use on your own, with no tour necessary if you’d rather go at your own pace.
Sandy Bay near Hatteras
Our guide, Julia, met us at the Sandy Bay parking area just north of Hatteras Village with three sit-on-top style kayaks, one smaller than the others and just right for small paddlers.
She also had a stand-up paddleboard ready for us to try.
She and her son helped tote the boats down to the sound, along with paddles and life jackets, although we had brought our own along as well.
We just had to show up with our sunscreen and hats, ready for some fun on the water.
We were all in swimsuits as well, as the kids were intent on combining the activity with some swimming. They actually spent as much time in the water as they did on the boats.
The Sandy Bay sound access was a perfect place for the kids to try out the kayaks.
The water is shallow – no deeper than about 5 feet anywhere nearby, and about 2-3 feet deep in most places. Perfect swimming and wading for little kids.
I paddled around first with the two youngest in a kayak with me, and when the almost 2-year-old wanted out of the boat, I could let her over the side (with puddle-jumper on, of course), and the water was shallow enough for her to stand on the sandy bottom.
Each of the kids had turns on each of the boats, riding or paddling and getting the hang of how to handle the paddles and steer the watercraft.
When they got bored or needed to cool off, they could just hop out into the water and switch things up.
The day was quite windy, which made the stand-up paddle board a challenge, but the three bigger kids each took turns on that as well.
They would walk the board up-wind a little bit through the shallow water, and then stand up and ride it back to where the rest of the group was hanging out.
We played on the boats and swam for about 2 hours, which seemed like the perfect amount of time for everyone to have a chance to try out and get comfortable on the kayaks and paddleboard.
It was a great first introduction to kayaking for our young crew, without the fear of falling in or tipping over (they wanted to get wet!), and calm, shallow water to make the paddling easy and the swimming fun.
We also got to see some fun wildlife, including a loon, seagulls, some hermit crabs, shrimp, bay scallops, and clams. The living variety, not the seafood platter!
When we finished up our scheduled “tour,” Julia loaded the boats back up in her truck, and we waved goodbye and headed home for our dinner.
It made for a super easy, no-stress boating adventure, perfect for littles. We didn’t have to load up boats or transport them anywhere, and we had a sheltered, calm place for the kids to learn to kayak.
What a fun afternoon and one of the most memorable activities of our vacation!