• Katie McCarthy

Just Keep Swimming with 13 Ways to Get on the Water in Gaston County

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With the warm weather coming to our area more and more frequently now, you may be antsy to get outside. Whether you consider yourself an adrenaline junkie or prefer to spend your free time floating down a lazy river, Gaston County has you covered with water activities of all kinds. From a high-energy kayak race to getting your zen on a full-moon paddle, you can find rentals, lessons, and competitions all over Gaston.


So, when you get tired of your neighborhood pool or if you are just looking for a new way to cool off this summer, the perfect day on the lake is just a paddle, row, and a stroke away. From summer classics like Lake Wylie and Crowders Mountain State Park to new favorites like The Blob at the Warlick Family YMCA, Gaston County is the perfect location for on-the-water fun for all ages and swimming abilities.


Anchored Soul

A paddleboarder glides along the Catawba River
Image courtesy of Anchored Soul

170 Lake Mist Dr., Belmont

Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.


Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is one of the fastest-growing sports and recreation activities in the country. In part, it’s because you can have so many different experiences on a paddleboard. There are SUP races, for intense competition, and SUP yoga for the ultimate core workout. Or, if you're looking for a relaxing staycation, just cruise across the water and feel your stress flow away with each paddle.


Anchored Soul provides all the gear you need to get going. Plus, they offer yoga classes, organized group paddles (try a full moon paddle if you can), and lessons for all levels and ages. Anchored Soul launches from private property on the Catawba or from Riverside Park on the South Fork.


Belmont Rowing Center

Photo courtesy of Belmont Rowing Center

1500 River Dr., Belmont

Hours vary by program


Enjoy water activities all year long with the Belmont Rowing Center. Whether you are just starting out or have been rowing competitively for years, Belmont Rowing Center offers opportunities for rowers of all abilities and age groups. Not sure you're ready for the water yet? Check out their indoor rowing facility, dedicated to increasing strength, power, and flexibility. With summer just around the corner, it is the perfect time to try something new on the water. Register for one of their summer camps or sign up for one of their "Learn to Row" programs.


Crowders Mountain State Park

Rob Glover, Gaston Outside

522 Park Office Lane, Kings Mountain

Visitor Center hours: Monday-Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.


For those days when you can't decide what to do, but know you just have to get outside, Crowders Mountain State Park is the way to go. With miles of hiking trails, excellent bouldering, and picnic spots, there is no shortage of fun to be had at Crowders. And when you're ready to cool off, the seven-acre lake offers the perfect scene for paddling and fishing. So, grab that fishing license and spend the afternoon with some largemouth bass and sunfish. Though swimming is not permitted, you can bring your own human or electric-powered boat, or head to the visitor center where you can rent a canoe. After your day on the water, unwind with a trip to Veronét Vineyards and Winery, sitting just beneath Crowders Mountain.


Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park

Camille Renner, Gaston Outside

1400 Catawba St., Belmont


After a stressful week at work, what could be better than a relaxing picnic on the Catawba River? Nothing. So, grab a kayak or maybe two and head on over to Kevin Loftin Riverfront Park. Bring the whole family and enjoy lunch under one of their picnic shelters or enjoy a spring breeze on the swings on the dock.


Lake Wylie Boat Rentals

1500 River Dr., Belmont


It’s not uncommon to see giant white-winged osprey or even bald eagles soaring above Lake Wylie, diving for fish and even clashing in the sky. A luxury pontoon from Lake Wylie Boat Rentals can fit up to 8 people and is a fantastic perch from which to watch these aerial acrobatics. They offer full, half, and even multi-day rentals. All of their boats are launched from the River District in Belmont (near Aberfoyle Village).


Rankin Lake Park

Gaston Outside, Anna Naphtali

1750 Rankin Lake Rd., Gastonia

Hours vary by season


Rankin Lake Park is still a hidden gem for people outside of Gaston County. This 80-acre lake is surrounded by manicured grounds, fishing piers, a disc golf course, and a 1.5-mile trail, making it a prime location for your next staycation. With so much to-do, a day at the lake turns into a "pick your own adventure." You can hop in a pedal boat for a leisurely spin. Or take out a Jon boat or canoe, with or without a motor, and spend some time exploring the lake and searching for bass at spots not accessible by foot.


Riverside Marina, Paddle and Row

A young couple enjoys a tandem kayak
Photo courtesy of Riverside Paddle and Row

1500 River Dr., Belmont


It’s not difficult to hop in a kayak and go. But learning the proper paddle technique can make the experience much more enjoyable. Riverside Paddle and Row offers both private and group lessons as well as kayak and SUP rentals. All conveniently launched from the same marina as Lake Wylie Boat Rentals. For those who already feel comfortable on a board, give them a call to learn more about their SUP and land yoga. Stop by their website often to learn about any upcoming themed paddle events. They're known for their riverside ghost tours in the fall.


Sun’s Up Scuba

Two kayaks float down the Catawba River
Image courtesy of Sun's Up Scuba

900 S. Fork Village Dr. G-03, Belmont


Paddling the South Fork River is a more intimate experience than other local rivers and lakes. Its tree-lined banks provide a quiet escape from everyday commotion. Sun’s Up Scuba makes it easy to find your zen on the South Fork with a range of kayak and SUP rentals. All boats are launched near their retail location at South Fork Village. They also offer PADI Scuba equipment and dive classes for all ability levels. District 8 Brewing Company is in the same complex and a perfect spot for a post-paddle refreshment.


Tailrace Marina

Photo courtesy of Tailrace Marina

1010 Marina Village Dr., Mount Holly

Monday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.


You have likely heard of a party bus, but what about a party boat? Well, Tailrace Marina has you covered with four-hour or all-day party pontoon rentals. Spend this summer on the Catawba River with Tailrace Marina's wide range of boat rentals, including kayaks (single and tandem), canoes, standup paddleboards, and pontoons. All boats are launched from their picturesque property in Mount Holly, conveniently located next to J. R. Cash’s restaurant and not too far from District 8 Beer Company or Muddy River Distillery.


The Boathouse

Courtesy of Catawba Riverkeepers

115 Willow Dr., McAdenville

Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.


Spend some time on the water during your next McAdenville staycation with kayak, SUP, and canoe rentals at The Boathouse. Located along the South Fork of the Catawba River, The Boathouse offers an exciting self-guided paddling experience. Rental fees include boat, paddle, PFD, and safety instruction and all rentals are walk-up only. Other options include a half-day guided tour and events.


The Floating Goat

Two people kayak under Cramerton's iconic Goat Island Bridge
Photo courtesy of The Floating Goat

137 8th Ave, Cramerton

By appointment


Coffee shop menus seem to grow daily, offering new and interesting items to lure customers through their doors. But Floyd and Blackie’s Coffee & Ice Cream has something few can match: kayak rentals. Located on the South Fork River in downtown Cramerton, Floyd and Blackie’s operates a second business from their shop, The Floating Goat. Here, you can rent kayaks for an hour or a day and explore the meandering Southfork. The kayak launch is next door to the coffee shop. Just call ahead and let them know you’re coming and they’ll have all the gear you need ready and waiting.


U.S. National Whitewater Center

Photo courtesy of the USNWC

5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy, Charlotte

Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (with extended hours in the summer)


Located just across the river, The U.S. National Whitewater Center offers kayak and SUP rental, all launching from their dock on the Catawba River. But if you’re looking for a little more action, the center is home to amazing, man-made whitewater rapids. Train like the Olympians with their kayak rentals, tackle the rapids on a guided raft, or even try to stay vertical on your SUP. Test your rock climbing skills at Deep Water Solo; 10 climbing routes 20-45 feet tall over a 20-foot deep pool. The center holds all sorts of races throughout the year, on both the Catawba and the whitewater river.


Warlick Family YMCA

Photo courtesy of Gaston County YMCA

2221 Robinwood Rd., Gastonia

Monday-Thursday, 5 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday 5 a.m.-2 p.m.; Saturday 7 a.m.-2 p.m.; Sunday 1 p.m.-4 p.m.


New to the Gaston County scene, the Warlick Family YMCA is just like your neighborhood YMCA, if every YMCA had a lake right behind it. After playing a pick-up game of sand volleyball on their sand volleyball courts, cool off with kayaking, SUP paddleboarding, or pier fishing. They offer a number of paddle fitness classes including SUP Yoga, both on the lake and in their indoor pool. Stay tuned this summer for the return of The Blob, a giant inflatable in the lake that summer campers and guests can jump on, sending them flying into the water.