As the summer heats up and the humidity nears a hundred percent, the classic poolside procedures may no longer be so cool. Luckily, the Carolinas are renowned for natural winding rivers and tree-lined reservoirs, so we’re rich with excuses for outdoor expeditions. Whether you’re boating, floating, paddling, or cruising, Carolina’s natural colors and lush scenery provide the perfect backdrop for a summer spent on the water.
Piedmont Puddle Jumpers: A joint venture brought to Lake Norman by two Piedmont-based flight schools, the Puddle Jumpers offer flight lessons for those in the Charlotte area looking to try their hand at aquatic aviation—and yes, that’s the appropriate term for this kind of experience. If summer is all about year-defining experiences, then cruising through the air at sunset over Carolina greens and blues, only to land and drift on our state’s largest lake… That’s probably as good as it gets.
Paddleboarding the Catawba: Winding all the way from the Blue Ridge Mountains to central South Carolina, the Catawba River weaves through some of the finest countrysides and cityscapes of the Carolinas. Hop on the river at the U.S. National Whitewater Center’s flatwater access point and stand-up paddle through the region’s natural beauty for a relaxing afternoon spent on the water.
Catawba River Expedition Tubing: For adventure without breaking a sweat, find some friends and float. Catawba River Expeditions offers kayak, canoe, and tube rentals for self-guided floats down the Catawba. Spend some hours or devote the day to drifting down the soft rapids of this rock-lined river.
SUP Yoga: OK— this one’s intimidating, but what’s summer without a little challenge? That’s right, we’re talking about taking yoga and putting it on the water. SUP yoga, or Stand Up Paddleboard yoga, is the ultimate practice for achieving balance amid rough waters. Get your feet wet and find stability— or just chill in child’s pose—we won’t tell.
Rafting at the USNWC: Home to the world’s largest man-made whitewater river, the US National Whitewater Center yields experiences that are anything but artificial. Spend a day battling wild rapids alongside family and friends for excitement that endures. Or, if you’re not one to rock the boat, cheer-on those capsized while cheers-ing your craft beer from the observation deck.
Catawba Queen: A custom-built replica of a classic Mississippi riverboat, the Catawba Queen is means for summer sightseeing in style. Started in 1991 by Captain Jack R. Williams and the late Bud Lancaster, Queens Landing Cruises offers creative southern cuisine aboard an open air deck for a vintage cruise that showcases the history of Lake Norman’s unique beauty.
Carolina Grace: Live the dream by sipping drinks on the deck of this brand-new luxury yacht. At 100-feet long, the largest in the Carolinas, the Carolina Grace is prepared to cruise you and 150 of your closest friends across the sunset-painted waters of Lake Norman. While on the water cheers to your charity, as 10% of all rentals for private events will go directly to Carolina Grace’s 501c3 that raises money for other local NPOs.
Waterpark at Carowinds: Here’s one for the kids: Carolina Harbor Waterpark. Whether you are seeking extreme water slides for total family fun or you’re more of a wading type of waterbug, Carowinds can accommodate. Let the kids roam the renowned waterpark while you unwind in a private poolside cabana, or unleash the child inside you for a day of waterborne thrills.
Charlotte Cycleboats: Looking for a cruise that won’t rock you to sleep? Consider this pedal-powered party boat your catamaran of choice. Custom-made and Coast Guard certified, Charlotte Cycleboats provides the boat, your friends and you provide the power for a fun and unique tour of Lake Norman.
Carrigan Farms Cliff Diving Quarry: Nestled beneath deep green foliage and enclosed by natural walls of granite stone is the spring-fed Quarry at Carrigan Farms. Pack a picnic and enjoy open-swim at this Mooresville marvel. Climb the rock face that juts from the natural pool below and answer for yourself that age-old question: if your friends jumped off a cliff, would you jump, too?
Lake Wylie: Created by a dam near Fort Mill in 1904, Lake Wylie is 13,400 acres of blue water enclosed in 325 miles of shoreline that unites the Carolinas. Drift along the reservoir or water ski the wake– whichever is more your style–to soak up that sweet summer sun. Famous among fishermen and fun for aquatic athletes of all ages, Lake Wylie is the perfect waterborne escape for swimmers, fishers, and boaters alike.
Mountain Island Lake: The smallest of the Catawba River fed lakes, Mountain Island Lake is a serene escape just north of center city Charlotte. Enjoy its isolation while kayak fishing and watch closely for jumping bass alongside great blue herons who peer from the shoreline. Or, break the silence: wakeboard atop the bright blue waters to take advantage of the lake’s peaceful backdrop for breathtaking boating.
Shoreside walk in Jetton Park: Jetton Park epitomizes the mountain-meets-beach beauty that is the Carolinas: quiet, shady trails enclosed by lush, green forest; waterfront views from sandy beach access. Perfect for a summertime stroll, a bike ride tucked in the trees, afternoon tennis playing, or a sunset-lit picnic, Jetton Park is a beloved and scenic spot fun for all ages and adventures.
SouthTown Wake Park: No boat? No problem. SouthTown Wake Park is rethinking watersports with their cable wakeboard park, located in Rock Hill. Pulled by an overhead cable ski system, riders of all experience levels can shred the surf and experience one of the world’s fastest growing extreme sports. If ‘extreme’ is not your style, feel free to paddle around in a kayak or cheer from lakeside lounge chairs at this new, family-friendly wake park.