Ahhhhh, I remember the first day of summer. I packed up Eleanor the dog and my Innova kayak and cruised down to this boat launch in Pollocksville, North Carolina.
This is the closest boat launch to us and it provides easy access to a quick paddle or boat ride on the Trent River. You could paddle this all the way down to where it meets the Neuse River in New Bern and onward (a long way) to the sea. On this trip we just paddled down river a little and turned to explore a little of Mill Creek.
It was a quiet paddle this time, the only wildlife to speak of on this trip was the mutt on the bow (#alligators:). After an hour of exploration we turned back and called it a day.
Check out the map below if you'd like to explore the river as we did. Here's a few links for more adventure:
*A local kayak rental business, BearFoot Kayaks - they bring the kayaks to you (on the Trent River and beyond).
*A description of Living Waters, a photo essay of the Trent River written by Ben Casey.
*A link to the Trent River Campground, an upriver campground with paddling access to the Trent River.
~Paul & Eleanor ETC
Near our favorite Eastern North Carolina town of Beaufort, the Rachel Carson Reserve is a gorgeous group of barrier islands, the closest just a mere 5 min paddle from downtown. We explore Beaufort on the regular, mainly just to walk around the town pretending we could actually afford a house here! The seaside town is a booming with great local shops and restaurants, tons of sailing and paddling opportunities, beautiful historic houses, and some adventurous history (#pirates).
Town is quaint and amazing, and we'll definitely post more on Beaufort in the future (we have in the past), but the destination today is the reserve. Off we go. Paddle-paddle!
We set off from a little town boat launch in Grayden Paul Park, located along the downtown waterfront (map of park here). There is lots of parking nearby - paid close by and unpaid a few blocks off. There are even a few load/unload-only parking spots right next to the launch. It is a super quick paddle over to the trailhead on Town Marsh. We pulled our kayaks above the high tide line and hiked through the island, following the markers to the other side and on to Bird Shoal.
While we weren't planning on seeing any wild horses (we didn't want to get our hopes up), we stumbled upon a trail...of wild poop! As we rounded the island to return to our kayaks for lunch we lucked out and caught a glimpse of one of North Carolina's wild horses grazing near the shoreline.
After lunch we paddled back to the mainland and put the gear away. Since the park and boat launch is in downtown, you're just minutes away from refueling and grabbing a bite to eat if needed. Before heading home, we made a quick stop by the Old Burying Ground next to the Ann Street United Methodist Church. Historic cemeteries in the South like this one are always amazing to visit. Underneath the arms of these century old oak trees are the graves of Beaufort locals from long ago - including Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers.
We love the town of Beaufort. The Rachel Carson Reserve is a great paddle with lots of shoreline, trails, wildlife, and beach to explore. Its closeness to a great seaside town make the adventure even better. We highly recommend this trip! Questions about the paddle? Need help deciding on a restaurant for some post-paddle grub? Leave them in the comment section and we'll answer quick!
~Paul, Amber, Ann, & Eleanor ETC
Link to NC Division of Coastal Management info on the Rachel Carson Reserve
Queens Creek is a great little ENC paddle spot, located near the towns of Hubert and Swansboro. It also happens to be just around the corner from the kayak launch at Hammocks Beach State Park (our last post:). It's closeness to other launches is kinda important since the creek doesn't actually have the most convenient launch sites for paddlers.
For this post we launched from the gravel-ly beach next to the Queens Creek Road bridge. Although many folks use this launch and there's actually a decent number of parking spots, it has a bit of a rogue vibe with a few private property signs posted. This is not an official state launch by any means, and most boats larger than kayaks should launch from somewhere else as it can get shallow at low tide (see a few other options below). For us it worked and I always see people launching from here.
Paddling down river will bring you to Hammocks Beach State Park fairly quickly (especially if the current is heading out to sea). There's been some interesting developments at the park that will likely increase the launch options for Queens Creek in the future. Check out part of the story here as the park plans its expansion after recently acquiring several hundred more acres with waterfront access to the creek. Paddling upriver is cool too - some residential areas and wild parts. The creek gets pretty deep this way.
Other launch sites close to the creek include Shell Rock Landing (reopening January 2018), Great Neck Landing (private ramp with fee to launch), and Willis Landing (pictured below). Out of these three I'd probably hold out for the reopening of Shell Rock Landing. It will be free and have a good amount of parking. Another option is always launching from Hammocks Beach State Park and turning a right to head up the creek.
So, if you fancy a paddle with the locals, try Queens Creek. Add it to your network of close-to-Swansboro paddling destinations. It's nice to have a town nearby to fuel up before or after the adventure. We really love Santorini Mediterranean Grill, great for waterfront views and legit Greek beer (hence our greek beer commercial photo above - #opa!).
Paul & Amber ETC
P.S. - We drank the Greek beer after the paddle, not before. Safety first!
P.P.S. - Santorini did not pay us in Greek beer to plug their restaurant...although we're ready to start the bidding...opa! Opa! More opa!
Psst! - the unofficial bridge launch we used is on the opposite side of the map marker above:)
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