By Marla Cimini
Move over West Coast! Stand-up paddle boarding is sweeping the Eastern Seaboard and becoming one of the hottest water activities in lakes, bays and the Atlantic Ocean. Adults and kids are now making stand-up paddle boarding (or SUP) a big part of their vacation, embracing this popular sport that combines exercise and balance with core strength. So whether you are a beginner or expert, these East Coast locations are great places to try stand-up paddle boarding at every skill level.
Bethany Beach, Delaware
A great SUP destination for pros and newbies alike, Bethany Beach offers several options for sublime paddle boarding. Ambitious paddlers can catch waves in the Atlantic Ocean, while beginners can enjoy meandering through the Bethany Canal and the narrow inland waterways that wind through coastal Delaware. These placid waters give riders a glimpse of nature, including birds and sea life. Bethany also boasts a number of surf shops for visitors to rent or purchase boards.
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Kitty Hawk, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Considered a prime East Coast location for paddle boarding, the town of Kitty Hawk offers direct access to the quiet waters of the Currituck Sound, which provide an ideal way to experience the area’s back bays. Whether you decide to take a group tour or paddle on your own, there are plenty of options nearby, including the Kitty Hawk Woods Coastal Reserve and Pine Island Audubon Sanctuary, which features miles of tranquil water trails through the Outer Banks marshlands.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Located on South Carolina’s Atlantic Coast, Myrtle Beach is home to a growing and enthusiastic SUP community. The area boasts several picturesque inland waterways, such as Murrells Inlet, where paddlers can glide along the still waters and view an abundance of birds, animals and marine life. With a vast selection of water sports companies in the area, SUP-ers in Myrtle Beach can take lessons from world-class instructors, participate in tours and easily rent top equipment.
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Hilton Head, South Carolina
In recent years, Hilton Head has become a haven for avid SUP-ers with plenty of optimal paddling for adults, teens and kids. Throughout Hilton Head, tours, rentals and excursions are plentiful and suited to all skill levels. With extremely flat waters, silky bays and easy-to-navigate marinas, Hilton Head is also a hot spot for yoga paddle-boarding, ideal for those who prefer to practice their poses while floating atop the water. Classes are offered in various locations all summer long.
Visitors may be surprised to learn that Orlando offers much more than a theme park vacation. Featuring miles of twisting intercoastal waterways and a number of interconnecting scenic lakes, Orlando offers great SUP options that are fun for the entire family. Nearby, the picturesque Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park provides a tranquil eco-adventure for paddle boarders who wish to explore Central Florida’s nature and wildlife.
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Gulf Shores, Alabama
Providing a multitude of SUP options, the smooth, clear waters of the area’s lovely lagoons and bays are made for peaceful boarding, while adrenaline- seekers can ride the waves crashing on the nearby beaches. A great spot for many water activities, Gulf Shores welcomes paddle boarders of all ages with an array of available lessons and tours, including sunrise and sunset group trips—as well as evening paddling excursions by moonlight.
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Panama City Beach, Florida
With glistening stretches of sugary white sand and turquoise water, this delightful resort town on the Florida Panhandle offers all the trappings for an idyllic SUP vacation. With miles of pristine beaches, this Gulf Coast area provides fun paddle boarding on the gentle waves along the shore, on the bays and through the narrow waterways. Visitors can choose from a variety of SUP adventures, including paddle boarding parties, group tours, yoga classes and nighttime excursions.
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Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Kiawah, one of Charleston’s barrier islands, is known for its calm waters and superb SUP experiences. Paddlers in this southern coastal area enjoy gliding along the smooth marshlands of the serene Kiawah River. A picturesque destination with lush foliage, ample seabirds, fish and other aquatic life, it’s beginner-friendly with welcoming waters that allow easy access and maneuverability. Meanwhile, the more adventurous ocean paddle boarders are often lucky enough to spot dolphins jumping in the surf.
Freelance journalist Marla Cimini has a passion for travel, music and culinary adventures (combining all three whenever possible). Her articles have appeared in USA TODAY and numerous publications worldwide. She is co-author of the book, A Century of Hospitality, a historical exploration of U.S. hotels.