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Raleigh Excursion: Robertson Millpond Paddle and Grounds Cafe

A Kayak Paddle and a Leisurely Coffee Stop

There is such tranquility in floating gently through the sunken forest of Robertson Millpond, that for a few moments you forget that what lies beneath the black murky water is a total mystery. Nessie could be down there, for all we know. The black water does make it creepy at times, as you paddle through the water looking to avoid bumping roots and whatever un-named creatures may also be lurking.

Last week’s Kayak adventure in a sunken cypress forest.

A photo posted by Phil Rodriguez (@p_rod80) on

How did we find ourselves in this strange habitat? Paddle Creek offers kayak rentals at Robertson Millpond on weekends, and we decided to explore with our son on a new adventure after an amazing kayaking trip in Hilton Head recently. Why not take excursions at home, rather than waiting until we’re on vacation?

First thing’s first, though. Where in the heck is this place and is there coffee nearby? At least that’s a summary of what my husband and I would ask before engaging in any activity.

Robertson Millpond is located in Wendell, about 30 minutes or so from Raleigh. Notably not far from Lizard Lick, and the new master planned community of Wendell Falls. So the morning before our trip we spent some time enjoying a breakfast wrap, coffee and a an amazing homemade banana pudding (to power up, certainly!) at the tranquil coffee shop Grounds Cafe.  Situated near a nice pond, a pavilion and a lovely looking pool with splash-ground, I wished I had brought the swimsuits and begged the staff there to let us pretend to be residents for a day. But it was pleasing enough to enjoy the food and ambiance before our paddle.

The millpond has an interesting history, which you can read about in the brochure. In short, the dam at this site did power a grist mill from the 1820’s  until about the 1940’s. This dam flooded the creek to create this blackwater swamp, with vegetation which is rarely found this far west of the coastal plain and this far north. The pond is marked with a trail of 37 buoys which help visitors navigate kayaks through the water, as the surroundings all start to look the same if you lose sight of your path. Staff have also marked with orange ribbon a detour to find some nesting herons, but we were unable to get back to see them due to the density of the roots in that area.

We really enjoyed our two hour (closer to 1.5 hours) paddle in the pond in one double kayak and a single, and would recommend this as a fun outdoor family activity. It’s a quick highway drive to this unique ecosystem, and my six year old was entertained the whole time. Bring bug spray, water, and sunscreen.

If you want more history, consider visiting Historic Oak View County Park on the way back to Raleigh.