Lots of great kayaking near Emerald Isle -- the sounds between the island(s) and the mainland as well as the White Oak River upstream from Swansboro. There are some nicely marked trails from Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro leading out to Bear Island as well as another trail heading across the inlet toward Cape Carteret.
The local paddling club (Crystal Coast Canoe and Kayak Club) has some great maps showing a bunch of different paddling rounds in the area. Not sure if the maps are still in print, but the local visitors center used to stock them and give away for free.
Recreational Kayak Paddle
Pull-Up Strap Handle Kit
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