If you're heading to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this summer, do yourself a favor and take one of Kitty Hawk Kites' Kayak Tours.
I was an Outer Banks regular for more than a decade before taking most of the last four years off from the place where Bright Idea Outdoors was born. I'd considered trying a backwater kayaking trip on past trips but never got around to it. When I returned to Nags Head for a few days recently, I decided this trip was the one where I'd finally do it.
Kitty Hawk Kites offers guided kayaking tours throughout the Outer Banks and on the mainland, which is where my sons Nick, Jake and I took the Alligator River Kayak Tour in the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Early Wednesday morning, we crossed the Bridge from Nags Head to Roanoke Island and continued west to Buffalo City Road where we met our guide Tait at 7 a.m.
Tait is a true professional who clearly loves his job as a kayaking guide. He switches back and forth seamlessly between his roles as tour guide and kayaking instructor. I've got a reasonable amount of kayaking experience but learned more from the first 15 minutes with Tait than I have in the last year of doing it on my own. The boys and I were joined on the tour by a very nice couple from Newport News who had no kayaking experience, but Tait had everyone comfortably paddling up Mill Tail Creek by 7:45.
We started out looking for alligators. Tait said he'd only seen one all season, but Jake - who's always had a sharp eye for wildlife - spotted one within a few minutes!
The gator hung around for at least 10 minutes, keeping an eye on us as we snapped photos with our phones.
After the gator sighting, we paddled into a lily pad pond.
We spent the rest of the trip paddling the kayak trail of black water creeks in the wildlife preserve. At one point we stopped so Tait could tell us the history of the area - once known as Buffalo City - as a timber camp and later a bootlegger stronghold. According to Tait, submerged jugs of the rye whiskey known as "swamp shine" were found in the murky waters of the wildlife preserve as recently as 10 years ago!
We spent about 2.5 hours on the water, but you should budget about four hours for the trip to include travel time from Nags Head and preparation time at the kayak landing. The cost is reasonable and well worth it, and I highly recommend giving it a try on your Outer Banks vacation!