Visitors to North Carolina will most likely pass the Intracoastal Waterway during their trip to the Outer Banks. Traveling from the north, you will cross over the waterway on a bridge on U.S. 158 in Currituck County, and it continues to run parallel to the mainland to the Wright Memorial Bridge. The waterway begins in northern Currituck County and then divides into two routes going south. The Intracoastal Waterway was first developed as a safe route for shipping companies to transport goods, but these days, thousands of visitors travel through the Outer and Inner Banks by boat. If you are interested in exploring the waterway, there are several marinas and restaurants along the 120-mile section of the Outer and Inner Banks Intracoastal Waterway.


The Intracoastal Water was developed in the 1800s when settlers along the Albemarle region needed an easier route for smaller vessels traveling to ports along the East Coast. A second parallel canal along the Albemarle and Chesapeake Canal was completed in 1859 to accommodate larger ships that needed a wider route. The Inland Waterway was completed in 1932 to create an easier route and complete the Intracoastal Waterway. The waterway runs through the state, bordering the Wilmington and Cape Fear region. 

Visiting the Intracoastal Waterway

The towns along the Currituck Mainland including Jarvisburg, Poplar Branch, Point Harbor, Currituck, and Barco are unique tourist destinations with local flavor. While cruising, you will have plenty of opportunities to visit golf courses, farmers markets, and Southern-style restaurants. There are marinas located throughout the Inner Banks that are accessible by car if you are looking to launch your boat. You can also explore the Intracoastal Waterway without a boat; there are restaurants along the waterway and public parking is available. At these designated locations, there are often docks that welcome visitors to explore and fish the Waterway.


The Coast Guard has several stations set up along the Intracoastal Waterway and several local towing companies if you run into trouble while boating. While exploring the scenic Waterway, it’s best to plan on traveling with good weather and light winds. If you are planning to explore the Waterway for a weekend or are traveling the entire stretch, it’s a beautiful scenic route of Currituck and the Inner Banks. Whether you are sailing, kayaking, or cruising, you won’t be disappointed in the adventures that await you on the Intracoastal Waterway.