Learn more about boating in the great state of North Carolina, with a wealth of data gleaned from thousands of boat rentals.

Table of Contents

With a beautiful coastline, lovely rivers and lakes, and many other waterways, North Carolina boasts a diverse array of boating destinations. As of 2022, there are over 340,000 registered boats in the state, averaging 7.5 boats per 100 residents. From the famous Outer Banks along the coast to the massive and beloved Lake Norman, there are tons of great locations to explore on the water when you’re visiting North Carolina.

In this report, we'll delve into the top 10 boating locations in North Carolina, ranked based on their popularity and the range of boating activities they offer.

About This Report

This report analyzes booking and demand data from Getmyboat, the world’s largest boat rental marketplace, examining the top 10 boating locations in North Carolina.

It contains proprietary boating data for each city or location, including the most desired vessel style for renters and average pricing. It discusses the distinct features that make each of these destinations boating hotspots and the overall boating experience they offer.

Our Methodology

To develop this report, Getmyboat analyzed boat rental demand and booking data for all locations in North Carolina. Cities are determined by the city that the boat owner registers the boat in within their profile on the platform. The data was cleaned to exclude outlier hourly and total trip rates while rental types were categorized into the significant categories to be evaluated in this report.

North Carolina Data

#1: Lake Norman

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Coming in at number one, Lake Norman reigns as North Carolina's busiest boating destination. It’s the state’s largest man-made lake, spanning over 32,000 acres, and there are many cities dotted around the perimeter that offer great boat rentals. Less than an hour’s drive from Charlotte, its vast expanse provides ample room for various water sports, including boating, fishing, and water skiing. It’s the perfect weekend getaway from the busy city, and there’s a lot to do at the waterfront restaurants and marinas scattered throughout the shoreline.

In addition to pontoons, the most popular style of boat for cruising Lake Norman, powerboat, yacht, and jet ski rentals are very popular.

#2: Belmont — Catawba River

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Flowing through the heart of North Carolina, the Catawba River offers picturesque scenery and excellent boating opportunities. The city of Belmont along the river is the second busiest boating location in the state.

Boaters can explore its meandering waters, enjoy fishing for trout (make sure you get the special license first!), or simply soak in the natural beauty of the surrounding landscape. Additionally, the river's accessibility from multiple points makes it a convenient choice for boating enthusiasts, and it flows all the way into South Carolina, where it becomes the Wateree River.

#3: Raleigh

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Jet Skis

Raleigh's proximity to several lakes and rivers, including Falls Lake and Jordan Lake, makes it a vibrant boating hub and puts it as the 3rd busiest boating city in the state. Here, jet skis are a popular rental option, allowing people to cruise around and explore. Launch from one of several public access points on the lakes, enjoy a picnic on the water or go for a relaxing paddle if you prefer to kayak. Don’t forget to bring insect repellent here; the bugs are out in force during summer evenings.

#4: Wilmington

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Center Consoles

Wilmington's coastal charm and access to the Intracoastal Waterway make it a sought-after destination for boaters. From navigating the Cape Fear River to exploring nearby barrier islands, there are tons of spots to explore and enjoy activities on the water. Book a fishing charter or sunset sailing trip to enjoy the pristine coastline of North Carolina on the water. Wilmington's bustling waterfront, marinas, and vibrant dining scene further enhance its appeal as a boating hotspot.

#5: Hope Mills

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Jet Skis and Pontoons

Hope Mills comes in at #5 on the list, thanks to nearby Hope Mills Lake and Jordan Lake. These boating spots offer tranquil settings amid North Carolina's natural splendor. Boaters can navigate calm waters, enjoy picnics along the shore, or engage in water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. This area is a serene retreat not far from the city of Fayetteville, perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of city life.

#6: Mountain Island Lake

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Not far from Charlotte, Mountain Island Lake charms boaters with its serene atmosphere and scenic surroundings. It’s much smaller than Lake Norman but still offers plenty in terms of on-water recreation. The lake's relatively secluded location provides a peaceful retreat for boating, fishing, and wildlife watching. Keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, wild turkeys, red foxes, gray foxes, red-spotted newts, minks, raptors, catfish, and crappie.

#7: Wrightsville Beach

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Wrightsville Beach offers a quintessential coastal boating experience with its pristine waters and sandy shores. Boaters can cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway, anchor near Masonboro Island, or venture into the open ocean for deep-sea fishing. The beach's vibrant boating scene, waterfront amenities, and lively atmosphere make it a must-visit destination for boaters and beachgoers alike.

#8: Lake Gaston

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Straddling the border between North Carolina and Virginia, Lake Gaston beckons boaters with its expansive waters and scenic beauty. Boasting over 20,000 acres of surface area, the lake provides ample space for boating, water skiing, and other recreational activities. Its picturesque coves, waterfront communities, and recreational facilities attract boaters seeking a tranquil escape.

#9: Belews Lake

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Fishing Boat

Belews Lake offers a serene retreat for boating enthusiasts amidst North Carolina's Piedmont region. Surrounded by rolling hills and lush forests, the lake provides an idyllic setting for leisurely cruises, fishing expeditions, and water sports. Boaters can explore its clear waters and scenic shoreline while enjoying a sense of tranquility and seclusion.

#10: Falls Lake

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Falls Lake, located near Raleigh, beckons boaters with its serene waters and scenic beauty. The lake has over 12,000 acres and offers ample boating, fishing, and camping opportunities. Boaters can navigate its expansive waters, explore secluded coves, or enjoy picnics along the shoreline. Falls Lake's proximity to urban centers and recreational amenities makes it a popular choice for weekend getaways and outdoor adventures.

In Summary

Thanks to its impressive coastline and various lakes and rivers, North Carolina is one of the better states for boating and boat rentals. The high availability of rentals in favorite spots like Lake Norman helps to keep prices affordable for most, and the range of boat styles available to rent helps fulfill boating preferences of all kinds. For fishing enthusiasts, the diverse ecosystems supporting different fish species offer a range of opportunities to make the ideal catch. North Carolina is a place where outdoor recreation thrives, especially during the summer months.

Citing This Report

Media professionals are welcome to utilize this data for journalistic reporting purposes, with a citation and link to Getmyboat. For any questions, or for any other data not found in the below report, reach out to pr@getmyboat.com. Our data and press team can provide further analysis, press quotes, and any other information needed for press stories.

About Getmyboat

Getmyboat is the biggest and best marketplace for boat charters and rentals, worldwide.

Launched in 2013 with the vision of making the joy of boating accessible to everyone, the company has since grown into the largest boat rental and charter marketplace globally, with over 150,000 listings in 184 countries covering 9,300 destinations.

By giving a platform to both individual boat owners and professional charter businesses, Getmyboat makes the experience of getting out on the water more accessible to everyone — from a weekend jet ski rental in the local lake to a vacation yacht charter to a bachelor party pontoon, and everything in between.

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