You slide into the starting position, gripping the rope. For a moment, your eyes wander, surveying the white sand beaches and clear waters that surround you. High on a mast above, a cable carrier hooks the other end of your rope?with a tug, you launch into the water. Without the hum of a boat's outboard motor, you're free to concentrate on the sound of your wakeboard cutting the water's surface as you prepare to lift out of the rippling waves and off the first jump.
This is the introduction wake-boarders and wake-skaters at Hexagon Wake Park receive when they set out on the flexible cable that winds through the Tucker Lake obstacle course at high speeds. In this controlled environment, instructors help riders of all ages master the particulars of extreme water sports, such as how to stand and when to give ducks the right of way. Beside the cable park, other visitors explore the open water aboard stand-up paddleboats and kayaks. Visitors can also explore beachside attractions such as water slides, rope swings, and inflatable climbing structures.
In curating trips and renting watercraft that cruise the tree-lined Neuse River, Paddle Creek provides visitors with a variety of options for navigating the waterway. For beginners, short trips spanning about 1.5 hours take groups about 3 miles down the river from Falls Dam to the Capital Boulevard bridge. Along the way, paddlers may spot local wildlife, including turtles and deer. More advanced half-day trips are also available, and those who want to strike out on their own can rent canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards with all equipment included.
White-sand beaches flank a 6-acre manmade, sand-bottom lake at Fantasy Lake Water Park, a family-friendly destination offering attractions both in and out of the water. There are numerous water slides, including enclosed-tube slides, open slides with foam mats, and drop slides that unleash adrenaline by sending bodies freefalling to a splash landing. Visitors can also glide into the lake on swings or play games of volleyball or basketball waist deep in water. Pedal-boat rentals are included with admission, giving legs a chance to do some of the work after walking around on your hands all day. Kid-friendly ziplines and other attractions populate a children’s zone, and the savory scents of barbecue drift from charcoal grills in a picnic area.
Frog Hollow Outdoors's trained and enthusiastic team rekindles relationships with Mother Nature through canoe and kayak instruction, guided lake and river tours, and gear rentals. During instructional classes, the staffers teach the fundamentals of canoeing and kayaking, which include paddling basics, capsize recovery, and wet exits. They also lead adventure camps for pintsize explorers and overnight expeditions for outdoorsy vampires.
The photogenic port city of Wilmington, North Carolina, may look familiar to visitors—it’s been the setting of various TV shows and films, among them Dawson’s Creek and Cape Fear. The pristine, natural surroundings are the ideal setting for Mahanaim Adventures, a family-run business helmed by Don and Diane Harty. They make it their job to showcase the natural splendor with which the area flourishes, such as salt marshes, loggerhead sea turtles, great blue herons, and 2,000-year-old bald cypress trees whose cousins' branches are actually covered by toupees. Together, the duo harnesses their extensive outdoor adventure experiences—and even CPR and first-aid certifications—to lead a wide range of nature jaunts, helping participants explore the picturesque rivers, shark tooth–laden islands, and verdant woods during kayaking and backpacking trips.