Tourism for Elizabeth City, NC
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Elizabeth City from the Locals' Point of View

5 Best Places to Kayak Around Elizabeth City, NC

Elizabeth City the gateway to the Albemarle Region is rich in kayaking opportunities. We have selected five kayaking ventures from the Albemarle Region Paddling Trails you should traverse on your next visit. For those of you wanting to travel light, the Pelican Marina offers kayak rentals for the Elizabeth City area.

Late March through May and September through November are the best times to paddle in the area because these months offer warm days, comfortable nights and not too many bugs. To kick-off the fall kayaking season, we are hosting a Progressive Paddling Party on September 22 – 23 where you will have the opportunity to experience several of the trails shown below with guides.


#1 Sawyer’s Creek Trail 3.5 Mile Trail

Kayak Fishing- photo credit @Fishing_with_Mike

Sawyer’s Creek trail is located on the outskirts of Elizabeth City. This tributary of the Pasquotank River, offers opportunities for kayak fishing and viewing native wildlife and vegetation. You should plan 2 to 3 hours for this excursion. We suggest using the Wildlife Boat Ramp on NC Highway 343 (GPS Coordinates: 36.331841, -76.179953) as the put in and paddling upstream 2 miles and back. Then paddle 1.5 miles downstream to Lamb’s Marina (GPS Coordinates: 36.321799, -76.175822) and have a wonderful lunch across the street at Track I. This scenic paddling trail is easy and perfect for beginners.


#2 Big Flatty Creek Trail – 4 Miles Round Trip

Big Flatty Creek- photo credit- @dan_yellow

The Big Flatty Creek Trail, located approximately 11 miles south of Elizabeth City, begins on the open waters of the creek and goes upstream to the headwaters of Chapel Creek and Mill Dam Creek. Each creek is four miles round trip. While on this creek be sure to stop and take in the splendor of the Albemarle Sound. The best access point is at the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s Boat Ramp located at 265 Shadneck Rd. (GPS  Coordinates: 36.150201, -76.132790). This access point offers 12 parking spaces. Plan on 4 to 5 hours for this trail.


#3 Newbegun Creek Trail – 8 Miles Round Trip

Kayak Fishing on Newbegun Creek Trail- photo credit Don Campbell

You will be able to put in your kayak at the NC Wildlife Resources Boat Ramp at Sawmill Park located on NC Highway 34 (GPS coordinates of 36.208749, -76.173122). This area offers good parking and has a platform at water level for launching kayaks.  This intimate trail ends at the mouth of the Pasquotank River. Be sure to take a waterproof camera to capture the sights.


#4 Dismal Swamp State Park – Miles varies

Kayaking in Dismal Swamp Canal – Photo North Carolina State Parks

The Dismal Swamp State Park’s beauty, remoteness, and solitude have attracted many people over the centuries. The historic Dismal Swamp Canal offers paddlers a chance to glide through amber-colored waters while soaking in wildlife and flora eye candy. The canoe/kayak launch near the parking area gives access to the canal waters. You can rent a kayak from the park at the Visitors Center. One and two person kayaks are available for $5 per hour. Participating in the annual Paddle for the Border in early May is a fun way to experience this state park.  For more information contact NC Dismal Swamp State Park at (252) 771-6593.


#5 Merchants Millpond State Park –  Miles varies

Merchants Millpond State Park Kayaking- photo credit @toddalanbreland

Park visitors are transported into a mysterious world of hanging Spanish moss and ancient cypress trees. Paddlers have two options when visiting Merchants Millpond State Park, venture out onto the 760-acre millpond and Bennett’s Creek (5.7 miles one way) through Lassiter Swamp. If you need to rent a kayak, head to the Visitors Center as boats can be rented for $5 per hour and overnight. The Visitors Center is the launch point for rentals. If you have your own boat, you don’t need to check in at the Visitors Center. Simply head to the boat ramp near the parking area offer access to the water. When exploring the millpond we recommend going in a clockwise direction, keeping the shoreline on your left, to keep yourself oriented. It is easy to feel lost due to the numerous islands even though the millpond is small. For more information contact Merchants Millpond State Park at (252) 357-1191.

Before heading out on the water, always check the forecast learn about weather conditions. Because the wind is a big factor for kayaks (and the weather in general) is an additional tool to use along with general weather apps and forecasts.  Always be prepared! 

Don’t forget to grab a quick lunch to go at one of our independently owned restaurants like Bryon’s Hotdogs, which make a pimento sandwich, a southern cuisine staple, that will make your mouth water. Visit our dining and lodging guide for more options.

Share your kayaking experiences with others by using #DiscoverECity. Happy travels!


Christina Rehklau, Director of the CVB, left the corporate world about five years ago to persuade others to take more vacation time by working in tourism. Christina is a recent northern transplant from Ohio, so she’s still working on her Carolinian accent. To her, every day in the Albemarle region presents a new adventure and something to be explored. Follow her explorations of the area on Twitter at @CLRehklau or Instagram at @crehklau.