Water Activities in Charlotte
As the temperature heats up in the Queen City, it’s time to cool down.
by Jamie Killian May 26, 2023
Area: Fort Mill
Kayak, paddle board or fish on one of the many lakes and ponds at Anne Springs Close Greenway. Nature trails lead to lovely spots along an active creek bed, making it a great place for little ones to splash and play in the water.
For an action-packed afternoon on Lake Norman, rent a jet ski or ski boat from Aquaventure Watercraft Rentals and Boat Club. The club has two locations, one in Mooresville and one in Sherrills Ford. The Sherrills Ford location is ideal for a quieter day on the water, while the Mooresville location is great for thrilling water sports. You can also cruise around the lake on a sailboat, pontoon or power boat.
Neighborhood: South Charlotte
For a fun-filled day, with or without the kids, Carowinds’ Carolina Harbor Waterpark features aquatic attractions ranging from water slides and wave pools to splash pads and lazy rivers. When you need refreshments, beat the heat with Rita’s Italian Ice as well as several on-site eateries to fill you up so you can keep the fun going.
Head to The Boathouse to rent paddle boards or kayaks and explore South Fork, the Catawba River’s largest tributary. You can also schedule a guided tour of the river that includes some whitewater. If you want to venture out alone, check out the Catawba Riverkeeper swim guide for the safest places to swim.
Catawba River Blueway – Mountain Island Section
Area: Mountain Island
Do you have your own boating equipment? Check out the six miles of waterways that loop around Mountain Island Lake via three launch spots for canoes or kayaks. There’s also a boat launch at Latta Nature Preserve. Need to rent a paddle board or kayak? Check out Mountain Island Lake Paddle Co.
Area: Rock Hill
Lake Wylie is a great place to cool off and Ebenezer Park offers public beach access enclosed by a circular pier. The beach, however, has no lifeguards on duty, so life jackets are recommended. While at the park, check out the fishing piers and walking trails while taking in the sights at one of Charlotte’s man-made lakes.
Located in a unique lodge-style hotel, Great Wolf Lodge has four- and six-story waterslides with splash pools to keep the younger ones busy. Everything is wilderness themed, from the interactive treehouse to the cabin-like rooms, making for a real adventure. Want to stay dry? The Lodge has a slew of non-water activities, including bowling and mini golf.
Whether you’re an experienced diver looking for more practice or a novice ready to learn, Lake Norman Scuba is the spot for local scuba diving. Get your diving certification, including pool and open-water sessions, or more experienced divers can take specialty and advanced diving courses.
Formerly a granite quarry, The Quarry at Carrigan Farms is an idyllic natural swimming hole in Mooresville. The 25-foot-deep swimming hole, surrounded by jaw-dropping granite cliffs, is an absolute must for any summer swimming list. For lunch, pack a picnic or order from The Quarry Kitchen which serves sandwiches, salads, burgers and refreshing slushies.
Relax on Lake Norman with afternoon sightseeing or an evening dinner cruise aboard one of Queens Landing’s charters. The fleet includes a Mississippi riverboat, “Catawba Queen,” and luxury yacht, “Lady of the Lake.” Each dinner cruise serves a three-course, plated dinner. Look out for special events throughout the year such as live music and themed cruises for the holidays.
This park covers 46 acres that includes public waterfront beach access on Lake Norman. Lifeguards are on duty and swimming is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. There are also boat launches, a fishing pier and walking trails for a perfect day on the lake.
Neighborhood: Fourth Ward
Ray’s Splash Planet, an aquatic recreation destination from Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation department, is a great way to play no matter the weather. This indoor facility features slides, interactive water features and a lazy river.
Neighborhood: West Charlotte
The U.S. National Whitewater Center has tons of water sports that cover all ages and skill levels. The relaxed environment is perfect for younger participants and first timers, while action seekers can enjoy adventure rafting on fast-paced class III-IV rapids. Located on the Catawba River, this outdoor destination offers scenic flat-water activities as well, such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, on the river’s calm, flowing waters.
Mecklenburg County has several community centers, located throughout the greater Charlotte area, with indoor and outdoor pools. County residents and non-residents can purchase daily passes for the indoor pools at Marion Diehl Recreation Center and Indoor Pool, Mecklenburg County Aquatic Center, Northern Regional Recreation Center and Eastway Regional Recreation Center, as well as the outdoor pools at Cordelia Pool and Double Oaks Family Aquatic Center. Be sure to check online scheduling for pool hours.
Got a few hours to spare? Have some fun in the sun at one of the city’s splash pads or “spraygrounds.” Charlotte’s Spraygrounds can be found throughout the county and feature unique sprays, nozzles and spouts to keep you cool during hot days. Visit Cordelia Park in Villa Heights (right next to the public pool), Dilworth’s Latta Park, Veterans Park in Plaza Midwood, Nevin Park in North Charlotte, the West Charlotte Recreation Center or take a day in Uptown at the Fish Fountains on The Green or at First Ward Park.
Article originally written by Jamie Killian. Updates by Arielle Patterson in May 2023.