A Year-Round Guide to Franklin and Nantahala

First thing in the morning, as the sun peeks over the trees and mist rises off the water, might just be the best time for a peaceful paddling trip on

Rosemary and Goat Cheese Strata

First thing in the morning, as the sun peeks over the trees and mist rises off the water, might just be the best time for a peaceful paddling trip on

6 Ways to Enjoy the Water in Halifax County

First thing in the morning, as the sun peeks over the trees and mist rises off the water, might just be the best time for a peaceful paddling trip on Lake Gaston.

After having kayaks delivered straight to your lakeside vacation rental, set out to make ripples on the reservoir, where herons and turtles are emerging for breakfast and the sole sounds are the calls of birds and the oar dipping in and out of the water as your kayak glides across the surface. Then head back to the house for a well-earned breakfast and a cup of coffee.

Whether you prefer a peaceful morning paddle, high-energy wake-surfing, or shoreline adventures, Halifax County is filled with ways to spend a day on the water — and places to fuel up afterward.


Cast a line

In the spring, fishermen and women in Weldon cast their lines in the Roanoke River hoping to catch the big one — or at least go home with some good fish tales and a selfie with Rocky, the striped bass sculpture hanging from the train trestle on Third Street.

Weldon is known as the “Rockfish Capital of the World” because of the abundant population of rockfish (also called striped bass or stripers) that swim up the river to spawn in the spring. Start your fishing expedition at the boat landing in River Falls Park and head down the Roanoke River.

Fish is also a highlight of the menu at Blue Jay Bistro in nearby Littleton, where executive chef Ashleigh Fleming uses local and regional ingredients to make Southern favorites with a seasonal twist. Order a black bass BLT or flounder and grits and experience the combination of fine dining and small-town hospitality.


Lake Gaston’s day-use area offers a sandy beach and a perfect swimming spot. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Take a dip

Pack a picnic and your swimsuit and spend the day at Lake Gaston. The day-use area includes a sandy beach and swimming area, grills, a picnic table, horseshoe pits, a playground, and a pier.

Rent a stand-up paddleboard or kayak from Lake Gaston Outfitters or have Lake Gaston Outdoor Rentals deliver a pontoon boat right to your vacation rental dock to explore beyond the shores. Dave Blodgett, owner of Lake Gaston Outfitters, will even deliver equipment to vacationers renting houses on Lake Gaston to use during their stay.

After working up an appetite paddling, swimming, and building sandcastles, you need the perfect spot to fuel up. Head to Downtown Sports Bar & Grill in Littleton for a cold drink, cheeseburgers, and wings.

Then, for a sweet, frosty treat on a hot day, head over to the nearby Sunset Slush Italian Ice stand and choose from dozens of flavors. 


Learn to surf on a lake with WakeSurf NC. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Hang 10

Why head east when surfing lessons are available in Halifax County? WakeSurf NC uses powerboats that race across the water, creating waves so that experienced surfers and newbies alike can hang 10 on Lake Gaston.

“It’s the most fun you can have on the water,” says owner Jay Baker.

Starting in May, book an hour-long wake-surfing lesson or plan a full-day adventure that’ll have you bragging about catching waves like the pros.


Learn about the historic Roanoke Navigation Canal at the Roanoke Canal Museum. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Explore on shore

There are lots of places to get out on the water in Halifax County, but just one spot to learn about how the water (and the construction of the Roanoke Navigation Canal) impacted the region.

Stop in at the Roanoke Canal Museum and view the exhibits that highlight canal construction and learn about the wildlife that calls the region home. The museum campus also includes the Roanoke Canal Trail, a network of almost eight miles of trails that follow the canal from Roanoke Rapids Dam through portions of the canal that remain intact, including the original aqueduct.

The area is also a popular spot for birders hoping for sightings of bald eagles, hawks, great blue herons, and pileated woodpeckers.


Little Fishing Creek in Medoc Mountain State Park is an under-the-radar paddling spot.  Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Get off the beaten path

Little Fishing Creek at Medoc Mountain State Park is a lesser-known destination for paddling, and park superintendent Kelley King believes it’s one of the best-kept secrets in Halifax County.

“It’s a beautiful spot with the trees overlapping the creek, creating a canopy of leaves that cast dappled sunlight on the river,” she says.

The slow-moving water is great for beginners — but call ahead to check water levels, which fluctuate throughout the season; sometimes the water is too low to navigate in a canoe or kayak.

While you’re there, be sure to check out Bluff Loop Trail, which follows Little Fishing Creek to the top of the bluffs.

“I love the view of the river,” King says. “You don’t get that on any of the other trails in the park.”


Cap off a busy day on the water at Weldon Mills Distillery. Photography courtesy of Visit Halifax

Enjoy the views

Stop at Ralph’s Barbecue, a true Southern barbecue joint where the Brunswick stew is hot and the barbeque pork shoulder has been a mainstay since 1941, and then head to Weldon Mills Distillery — open for tours and tastings — to sip a glass of award-winning bourbon on the patio that overlooks the Roanoke River.

“There are plenty of spots to hang out and enjoy the view,” says distillery owner Bruce Tyler.

With a cold drink in hand and a view of the river, there’s no better place to wrap up a weekend on the water.

This story was published on Jul 11, 2023

Jodi Helmer

North Carolina-based journalist Jodi Helmer writes about food, farming, and the environment.