9 Best Places To Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Raleigh, NC 

One of our favorite things to do on a good weather’s day to appreciate the lifestyle we have here in the Triangle area is to go stand up paddle boarding in Raleigh.

Man on a stand-up paddle board on a lake
Lake Johnson

Stand-up paddleboarding, or SUP, has become increasingly popular in recent years, and with so many awesome lakes in Raleigh to take a board out on (or a kayak), it’s the ideal hobby for those who love the outdoors!

But not every lake or river allows you to SUP or go kayaking in Raleigh which is why we prepared this guide to the best places in Raleigh to go paddleboarding, so you know where you can grab a board, paddle out, and discover the joys of SUP!

Note: There are some rental boards and kayaks available as I mention under each location listed below, but we personally own a self-inflatable Body Glove board and use an electric pump to blow it up. Body Glove also sell inflatable kayaks.

Places to Take Your Paddle Board, Raleigh NC

Lake Johnson 

Lady on a stand-up paddle board on a lake
  • Fees: $5 daily launch fee, $125 annual.
  • Launch location: Lake Johnson’s Waterfront Center. You cannot launch when the center is closed.
  • Launch hours: 8 a.m. to 30 minutes before closing
  • Rentals: None.
  • Rental age limit: 18 years old
  • Seasonal dates: For SUP hire, you can rent from May 1st – September 30th, or bring your own SUP all year round.

Lake Johnson is a stunning, 150 acre lake that is perfect for paddleboarding enthusiasts to explore. With its serene waters and picturesque surroundings, it offers the perfect setting to explore the outdoors and find a quiet escape from the city.

At the Lake Johnson Waterfront Center, otherwise known as the Boat House, you can rent stand-up paddleboards for a reasonable hourly price, making it an affordable activity for the whole family. 

Two young girls on a paddle board on a lake surrounded by forest
We love bringing our kids here!

The boat house is located near the main entrance (4601 Avent Ferry Rd) and is also where you will find restrooms, vending machines, and a verandah with chairs where you can take a rest.

The safety measures in place at Lake Johnson also mean you can have an enjoyable time on the water. Park guidelines prohibit swimming and wading, ensuring that paddleboarders can navigate freely without worrying about bumping into swimmers – though you do need to watch out for boats.

Visitors should note that boat rentals may be closed if the weather is bad that day, so call ahead on bad weather days to be sure!

Lake Raleigh

Lady on a stand-up paddle board on a lake
  • Fees or permits: none
  • Launch location: on the southern side of Centennial Campus (the jetty and car park is near the James B. Hunt Jr. Library)
  • Rentals: none
  • Opening hours: dawn until dusk
  • Seasonal hours: none

Lake Raleigh is somewhat of a hidden gem nestled in the heart of North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus. It’s a lush, green oasis surrounded by protected forest, with a small but majestic 75-acre lake to explore.

While paddleboarding, boating, and kayaking are permitted, there are no rentals here, so you will need to bring your own board with you when you visit.

Aerial view of a lake with a city skyline in the background
Lake Raleigh on Centennial Campus

There is one access point to the lake. It’s a large boat ramp intended for non-motorized boats. And like Lake Johnson, swimming and wading are not permitted, nor are motorized boats allowed, so paddle boarders and kayakers have the entire lake to themselves. Bliss!

Bond Lake Park (Cary)

Lady standing at the edge of a lake with a kayak
  • Fees: Seasonal launch pass for $30, or there is a one-time launch fee of $4.
  • Launch location: there is a beach near the Boat House (197 Bond Park Dr, Cary)
  • Rentals: you can rent kayaks, boats, and canoes from the Boat House, but unfortunately they do not have paddle boards. Kayaks $8 p/h, canoes $8 per hour, rowboat $8 per hour. Renters must be 18 or older.
  • Opening hours: 7.30am – sunset, rentals close one hour before close
  • Seasonal hours: none

Bond Lake is a man-made freshwater lake in the Fred G. Bond Metropolitan Park, the largest municipal park in Cary. The lake spans for 42-acres and has a small beach area where you can launch a SUP or kayak.

Bond Lake itself is a picturesque body of water surrounded by lush greenery, creating a beautiful backdrop while you paddleboard. 

Aerial photo of a lake surrounded by forest
Bond Lake

Because it’s one of the smaller lakes, it’s usually fairly quiet and there are no swimmers allowed, so you can enjoy the calmness without having to worry about others.

Jordan Lake State Recreation Area

Paddle board on a lake
  • Fees: There is an entrance fee ($7 per day, per vehicle) for the recreation area on weekends from April – September, and daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The rest of the year is free. 
  • Launch location: There are several launch locations, one of the best places is near Crosswinds Campground. I like Ebenezer Beach area.
  • Rentals: there is a privately owned marina that has rentals near Crosswinds campground. Prices are $20 for 1 hour, $40 for 2 hours, or $55 for 3 hours + 7% sales tax.
  • Opening hours: Day-use areas are open from 8.00am – 6.00pm November – February, 8.00am – 8.00pm March, April, September, October, and 8.00am – 9.00pm May-August
  • Seasonal hours: some access routes are open year-round, while others are seasonal. Check here to see which access routes are open.

Just a short 30-mile drive west of Downtown Raleigh is the huge 56.42 km2 Jordan Lake, which is a popular place for boating, camping, hiking, and of course, paddleboarding.

Nestled in the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, this huge lake is the perfect place to get out on the water. There are several access areas, and opportunities to rent paddle boards if you don’t have your own.

Paddle board on a lake
Ebenezer Beach area

What makes this lake special is that it’s home to the American Bald Eagle, which nests here in the summer months. 

NOTE: One thing paddleboarders need to be aware of is that the lake allows swimming and motorized boats, so watch out for other people in the water when taking your paddleboard out.

Lake Crabtree

Mom and daughter on a stand up paddle board
  • Fees: none
  • Launch location: The best place to launch is from the dock at the main boathouse, since it’s intended for small boats, kayaks, and SUPs
  • Rentals: boats, canoes, kayaks, paddle boards and peddle boats are available to rent for free for up to 2 hours. Just show a valid ID card.
  • Opening hours: 10.00am – 6.00pm (the last rental is at 5.00pm) on weekends only
  • Seasonal hours: none

If you don’t have your own paddle board, then the best place to paddle board in Raleigh is Lake Crabtree, which offers free paddle board rentals for up to 2 hours on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Rentals come on a first-come, first-serve basis and are available for anyone over the age of 18, or 16 if accompanied by a parent/guardian who can sign a release form.

If you have your own paddle board, you can bring this too, and there are several launch spots located around the lake that are open all year round.

Paddle board at the edge of a lake
Easy launch access point

Lake Crabtree is a huge, 520-acre lake that is known for its tranquil and beautiful surroundings. Despite its location near the bustling city of Raleigh, the lake boasts nice views and a surprising sense of peace. 

It also has designated areas for paddleboarding and other water sports. Motorboats are restricted on the lake, with only non-gasoline-powered boats allowed, ensuring a clean environment for water sports enthusiasts.

Lake Wheeler

Kayaks sitting by the lakes edge
Image courtesy of visitraleigh.com
  • Fees: There is a launch fee required for those with their own boards, for city residents, it’s $5 per day, non-residents $7 per day, for over 55s it’s $3 per day, or you can get annual passes for $125 per year for residents and $175 for non-residents, and $75 for over 55s.
  • Launch location: near the Waterfront Center
  • Rentals: You can rent boats, kayaks, and canoes from the Waterfront Center, on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 9.00am – 4.00pm. Rentals cost around $15 for 90 minutes for ages 16+
  • Opening hours: 7.00am – 7.00pm October and March, 7.00am – 6.00pm November and February (closed Mondays), 8.00am – 6.00pm December and January, 7.00am – 8.00pm September and April, 6.00am – 8.00pm June – August
  • Seasonal hours: paddleboarding is permitted year-round, but you must adhere to the park entrance hours.

Lake Wheeler is another huge lake, encompassing 650 acres of fresh water, making it the ideal spot for standup paddleboarding in Raleigh.

With its stunning views, rental facilities, and the chance to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, Lake Wheeler is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Lake Wheeler prioritizes safety by prohibiting swimming and wading, ensuring a calm and secure environment for paddleboarders and kayaking in Raleigh. 

Top Tip: a great time to bring your own paddleboard is on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from opening until 11.00am as these are no wake hours, meaning you can have a nice flat lake with no boats around!

Robertson Millpond Preserve

Mom and daughter on a paddle board in a swamp
  • Fees: none
  • Launch location: the grassy area near the parking lot (6333 Robertson Pond Rd, Wendell).
  • Rentals: You can rent kayaks from Tar River Life on Saturdays only, but they do not have paddle boards for hire. 
  • Opening hours: 8.00am – Sunset. The park is open daily from April 1 – August 31 and weekends from September 1 – March 31
  • Seasonal hours: paddleboarding is permitted year-round, but you must adhere to the park entrance hours.

If you’d like to explore something a little bit different from lakes, then paddleboarding along the Robertson Millpond Preserve is just what you need.

This 85-acre preserve is just a 25-minute drive from Raleigh and offers visitors the chance to paddle down the creek of a serene blackwater cypress-gum swamp (don’t worry, there are no alligators here!)

What makes Robertson Millpond unique is the variety of plants and fauna here, from the cypress trees to the coastal fetterbush, swamp titi, and more. 

Mom and daughter on a paddle board in a swamp
Such a cool, swampy environment

The 1.5-mile paddling route takes you through a dense cypress swamp and is marked by 70 buoy markers. Some of the markers can be hidden amongst the trees, and it’s recommended to only paddle from buoys 1-26 where the creek is wider.

Although kayaks, canoes, and small trolling boats are allowed on the creek, it’s usually pretty quiet and you don’t need to worry about too many other people to pass.

You do need to bring your own paddle board though, and launch at the grassy launch site or from the ADA-accessible boat dock near the parking lot.

Falls Lake Recreation Area

Boardwalk leading out to a lake
  • Fees: there is a park fee on weekends and throughout the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day) at $6-7 per vehicle
  • Launch location: There are seven access points, but the most popular are Beaverdam, Rolling View, and Sandling Beach.
  • Rentals: you can rent paddle boards and kayaks from a privately owned marina next to Rolling View Access
  • Opening hours: day use areas are open from 8.00am – 6.00pm November – February, 8.00am – 8.00pm March, April, September, October, and 8.00am – 9.00pm May-August 
  • Seasonal hours: paddleboarding is permitted year-round, but you must adhere to the park entrance hours.

Falls Lake Recreation Area is one of the largest lakes in Durham and Wake Counties at 12,000 acres. A popular spot for paddle boarders is near The Beaverdam side of the reservoir, where you can find a sandy beach for swimming and launching your own paddle board. 

Another popular launch site is Sandling Beach, where motorized boats are not permitted. If you don’t have your own board, you can rent one from the marina near Rolling View.

Harris Lake County Park (Holly Springs)

Two kayakers on a lake
Image credit: wake.gov
  • Fees: none
  • Launch location: near the Peninsula trailhead and picnic area
  • Rentas: none
  • Opening hours: 8.00am – sunset, daily. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day
  • Seasonal hours: none

Harris Lake is another huge lake nestled in a 680-acre park, on a peninsula near the Shearon Harris Reservoir in New Hill near Holly Springs.

It’s the ideal place to launch your own canoe, kayak, or stand up paddle board since there are no rental options available here.

This huge lake is also a popular boating spot, but the good news is that motorized boats tend to stay on Holleman’s Crossing or Cross Point Landing side of the lake, with designated kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding launch sites on the Peninsula Trail.

Final Thoughts on Paddle Boarding in Raleigh

lake johnson paddle baord raleigh nc 2
Lake Johnson

Stand-up paddleboarding is one of our favorite summer activities in Raleigh. Not only is it a good workout, but it allows us to see the beauty of the City of Oaks from a different perspective.

If you’re ready to head out and paddle board in Raleigh to enjoy the beauty of the waterways, then we hope this guide provided you with some insights into where to go. 

Whether you’re exploring Lake Johnson, Bond Lake, Lake Crabtree, or Lake Wheeler, you’ll have the opportunity to connect with nature and experience the calming effect of being on the water.

4 thoughts on “9 Best Places To Go Stand Up Paddle Boarding in Raleigh, NC ”

  1. You may have left out a some other nice spots like the upper lake in Umpstead Park, Lake Lynn, Lake Shelly and Beaver Dam Lake to name a few. But nicely written article with lots of good information.

  2. Thank you for a great guide!
    It looks like Lake Wheeler doesn’t rent out anymore tho.
    Keep up the good work – highly appreciated 🙂

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