Emerald Isle is our go-to beach. Sitting on Eastern North Carolina's 'Crystal Coast', it's near the mainland towns of Swansboro and Cedar Point. It's the closest beach to where we live (about 25 mins away:). Some of its charm comes from the fact that it's not too busy with businesses - it's really just a lot of residential/beach houses and the beach.
On Emerald Isle, access to the water via kayak, stand-up paddle board (SUP), or fishing boat can actually be a little tricky if you're not renting a beach house or especially if you need parking. We've written before about the kayak launch at Emerald Isle Woods, well, the NC Wildlife Public Boat Ramp at Emerald Isle (next to the Chapel by the Sea) is a little farther down, mid-island-ish, and has parking right at the put-in (not to mention it's a proper boat launch with trailer parking).
Speaking of parking, there is a good amount of it - 112 truck-trailer parking spaces and 18 single parking spaces. There's bathrooms (sometimes closed during high winds...don't ask me...), and lots of space to launch (4 launches). There is no fee to launch a boat.
If you're a paddler shy of busy boat traffic you can also launch at the end of the waterway (there's an unofficial trail on the other side of the channel from the boardwalk), however, be ready to walk a bit. We use Innova Kayaks so it's not a big deal to walk with them on our backs, but a hard shell boat would be a drag.
Once you paddle outside of the launch you can house shop down nearby Archers Creek (also known as Piney Creek), or get your barrier island hop on. You're in the Intracoastal Waterway and there's plenty to explore. Know that although tides are pretty minimal around these latitudes, a high tide means not much sandy beach on the barrier islands you may want to explore. Too low of a tide means you may have to stick to the power boat channels even in a kayak due to the shallow water. Don't forget about the current! If you're just exploring it's always a good idea to paddle against the water-flow/wind first so your return trip will be a breeze.
We basically turned our day into a doggie and Captain photo shoot. Man, we look like we know what we're doing!
Bottom line - if you need parking close to the water and want to launch on Emerald Isle, this is a pretty great option. Cons for paddlers include busy boat traffic at times, however, weekdays and early mornings even on the weekend are manageable. Time to island hop. Paddle safe and get out there.
~Paul & Eleanor EVERYONESTRAVELCLUB.COM
Address of boat ramp: 6800 Emerald Drive, Emerald Isle, NC
Related blog posts: Paddling Emerald Isle Woods
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