Splash Into Summer

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North Carolina summers are often sweltering, and there is no better way to beat the heat than in the water. Our state has no shortage of beautiful and unique ways to enjoy the water — and I’m not talking about your average neighborhood pool. I’m talking stunning waterfalls, crystal-clear blue springs perfect for swimming and diving, kayaking adventures, floating water parks, and more! Did I mention swimming in old quarries?

Grab your swimsuit, sunscreen, and a towel and prepare for an adventure with family and friends at one of these ultimate water hangout spots. What are you waiting for? Get going already!

Cape Fear River Adventures


Photographed by Jonathan Fredin

Ilya and Megan Smirnov purchased Cape Fear River Adventures in June of 2012. At that time, it was a small operation of just eight kayaks and nine canoes. As their family began to grow, so did Ilya’s desire to expand the business. Megan credits her “entrepreneurial mastermind” of a husband in developing the park into what it is today: one of the largest river outfitters in central North Carolina. They have been known to host some 30,000 visitors in just one season!

As the name suggests, Cape Fear River Adventures offers a new adventure at nearly every turn. With river tubing, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, whitewater rafting, and even glamping on the long list of activities, they serve up something for everyone. All river activities are seasonal and open from March through November, but glamping is year-round.

“Our goal is to get as many people outside as possible,” Megan says, “and to introduce them to the wonderful Cape Fear River and its many possibilities for fun times.”

Photographed by Jonathan Fredin

Cape Fear River Adventures takes glamping to a whole new level. The Cozy Heron Glamping experience is ideal for those who enjoy nature but not primitive camping. Visitors have the unique opportunity to stay in hand-hewn wooden Conestoga wagons. You’ll feel like you have traveled back in time — albeit with many of the modern luxuries of today (the wagons have air conditioning and Wi-Fi).

Whether you stay overnight or just stop in for a day trip, river tubing is a must. Added to the park in 2016, it quickly established itself as one of the most popular attractions to date.

Depending on river levels, Lazy River Tubing can last anywhere from one to five hours. For a more abbreviated experience, Tubing Express lasts about an hour. Either way, plan to relax in the serene environment of the gently rippling water of the Cape Fear River. You might even catch a glimpse of some wildlife along the way. There may not be a better way to spend a hot summer day or weekend.


Fantasy Lake Adventure Park

Wake Forest

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Have you ever dreamt of diving deep into the blue depths? How about walking on water? You can experience both at Fantasy Lake Adventure Park in Wake Forest.

A former stone quarry constructed in the 1800s, the 90-foot-deep mine is now filled with clear spring water. In 1950, the 52-acre quarry flooded when an enormous spring filled the mine so quickly that a large rock-crushing machine was trapped inside. That machine still sits at the bottom of the quarry today. Doye Sherrill purchased the 100-acre property including the quarry in 1980 and converted it into a unique scuba diving recreational and training park.

For safety reasons, the quarry lake is sectioned off into multiple areas for designated activities including scuba diving, kayaking, paddle boarding, and an inflatable water park.

Yes, you read that correctly, an inflatable water park. Remember what I said about walking on water? This is your chance! Imagine an obstacle course reminiscent of the television show Wipe Out.

“The inflatable water park itself is the attraction for kids and families,” said owner Daniel Cox. “Last year we only allowed 6 years of age and older on the inflatable water park, but this season we are adding a kid section to allow 3- to 5-year-olds to have their own section.”

Scuba divers can swim in any of three holes ranging in depths from 60 to 80 feet. To partake you must be a certified scuba driver or a scuba student accompanied by your instructor. While visiting, there are plenty of underwater attractions to enjoy, each conveniently marked by a surface buoy. Such attractions include the aforementioned rock-crushing machine, two airplanes, one car, two 21-foot boats, and a sailboat.

The water park is open Memorial Day weekend through September 29, while scuba diving is open year-round. Given that the quarry is fed from a natural spring, the water stays cooler even in warmer months. Water and air temperatures are most ideal in the summer months.

This is one adventure you’ll want to add to your bucket list.


Carrigan Farms


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Located in Mooresville, Carrigan Farms is a fifth-generation family-owned farm with a 25-foot-deep waterhole on the property. The 275-acre farm contains what used to be a working granite mine. Many years ago, during standard excavation practices, several springs were hit, and the quarry flooded. Mining became impossible, but from it sprung a swimming experience like no other. Capitalizing on this “accident,” the Carrigan family converted the flooded quarry into a swimming feature in the 1980s, and it has been a hit with families ever since.

The main event at the farm, Open Swim, is accessible from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year. Jumps range from 4 feet to a towering 16 feet above the splash zone. The swimming area is truly picturesque, surrounded by sheer granite cliffs rising some 70 feet above the water.

“Our rope swing is one of our bigger attractions,” said Marketing Manager Terrell Chestnutt. “It tends to be one of the more popular social media things that we have.” If you want to join in the fun and take the plunge, you must be at least 54 inches tall and able to perform a pull-up.

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Safety is paramount. All visiting swimmers are required to wear a life jacket when in the water and are supervised by experienced lifeguards. Because of this attention to safety, no boats or other watercraft are allowed during Open Swim. Don’t let that dissuade you from bringing your own small floats, though! Anything you can take to a local pool is welcome.

When you need a break from swimming, be sure to check out their onsite farm-to-table restaurant featuring produce grown right on the property. And when the swimming season ends, you can pick strawberries in April and apples and pumpkins from October through November. No matter what time of year, you will be guaranteed to have a splashing good time!


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