Day Trips from Columbia :: Carolina Harbor Waterpark

Columbia SC Moms Blog is honored to partner with Carowinds to bring our readers the following post.

Let’s face it, the summertime heat in the Midlands is brutal. And while our famously hot city has no shortage of splash pads and water fun, the one thing our city is lacking is a really huge waterpark to cool off and enjoy some family fun outdoors all day.

Lucky for us, Charlotte is a little over an hour’s drive up a north and is home to Carolina Harbor Waterpark. As one of Carowinds newest additions, this massive waterpark features everything from giant water slides and wave pools to large play structures and a three-acre kids’ area. From mild to wild, Carolina Harbor is the coolest place to slide, splash, chill and dine.

Best of all, entry into Carolina Harbor is included with Carowinds admission! That means you can enjoy all the rides and attractions the park has to offer, as well as the splash-worthy fun the waterpark provides. It’s definitely worth a day trip or weekend getaway for the whole family!

Here’s the scoop on what to expect at Carolina Harbor so you can make the most of your trip.

Water Fun for Toddlers and Small Children

This park is more than waterslides and activities for big kids. Carolina Harbor has two areas specifically geared towards toddlers and small children. It’s truly a place you can enjoy regardless of age.

Sand Dune Lagoon includes shallow pools for the little ones along with jet sprays and water gushing mushrooms. Parents can relax nearby and watch their children enjoy the children’s pool or splash along with them in the water. This area features its own separate changing area, restrooms and lockers.

Myrtle Turtle Beach is designed for toddlers and their families. The kiddos will love the playful water jets that spray every which way and the interactive water play area. The parents will enjoy the seclusion and shade.

Play Structures and Water Fun for Kids of All Ages

There is no shortage of play structures and water fun to keep kids of all ages entertained. And the best part is even parents can join in on the fun! You don’t have to worry about sweating it out on the sidelines. Many of the play structures and slides can also accommodate adults (which was good since my little one wants me to ride with him).

One thing I love about these areas is there are things toddlers and little ones can enjoy on the lower levels, while the older kids can take advantage of the fun on the upper levels. I even felt comfortable allowing my 5-year-old to explore the structures on his own while I watched from below.

Seaside Splashworks is a multi-level play structure features over 80 play elements, including dozens of interactive spray jets, water guns, adventuresome net bridges, awesome water wheels, six impressive water slides and a giant 423-gallon tipping bucket that drenches everyone below. It’s the perfect mixture of adventure, relaxation and entertainment.

Kitty Hawk Cove has spray jets, splash areas and more! Together with Seaside Splashworks and Kiddy Hawk Cove, Carolina Harbor has a total of two acres specifically created for families.

Pirates Landing allows kids to control the water sprays, wheels and a huge drenching bucket – perfect for little pirates. Three-stories of fun that includes water sprayers, slides, bridges and a rope ladder. 

Attractions for Bigger Kids and Adult Thrill Seekers

There are lots of water slides for the more adventurous. These do require riders be at least 48 inches tall, and are tons of fun!

Dorsal Fin Drop offers 351 feet of slide and takes riders on the spin of a lifetime as they gain speed in a curved-tunnel that blasts them into a bowl. Like a shark circling its prey, guests spin and swirl before sliding into the corkscrew exit.

Blackbeard’s Revenge is a six-story tall water slide complex featuring six exhilarating slides. Pirate’s Plank will send guests plummeting down a nearly vertical free fall where the floor drops out from underneath. Captain’s Curse will twist and turn riders through an enclosed chute with four intense 360-degree turns. And Cannonball Drop shoots guests down a series of intense drops and turns.

Carolina Harbor - Blackbeards Revenge - CarowindsStorm Surge includes four enclosed water slides – two body slides and two inner-tube slides. The slides range from being 80-feet in height to 495-feet in length.

Barracuda Blasters is a black hole experience that plunges riders into total darkness as they glide through giant tubes and blast out the other side.

Surfer’s Swell travels a total of 263 feet as riders will plunge onto an angled wall that mimics the sensation of catching an ocean wave. Guests then gracefully enter a final tunnel for a fun ‘splash landing’ into a pool at the bottom of this 45 foot tall experience.

Wave Pools and Lazy River

Carolina Harbor is home to two wave pools and a lazy river, which is great for when you want to slow down and relax after taking in the interactive play areas. Each is manned by lifeguards, and based on height, children are required to wear floatation devices to ensure safety (think life jackets and puddle jumpers – provided by the park!).

Surf Club Harbor is a state-of-the-art, 27-000 square-foot wave pool. With eight massive generators cranking out monstrous waves of up to six feet high, guests will feel like they’re splashing in the high surf of the Atlantic Ocean. Large waves make you nervous? There’s plenty of low level water to splash around in at the base of the pool. Plus, children will love the interactive water geysers designed just for them. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment on the outdoor stage while soaking up fun in the water.

Carolina Harbor - Surf Club Harbor - CarowindsTidal Wave Bay is a 400,000 gallon multi-functional wave pool – perfect for the whole family. This popular Carolina Harbor attraction is perfect for a quick cool down or a relaxing day.

Coastal Currents is a 1,000-foot long lazy river takes guest leisurely along its path through North and South Carolina – perfect for the whole family. My son enjoys this attraction so much we usually end up riding it several times during our visit.

Carolina Harbor - Coastal Currents - Carowinds

Tips for Making the Most of Your Trip

Rent a locker – The last thing you want to do is have to lug a beachbag around with your towel, wallet, cell phone, and other valuables. Plus, there is no where to put it while you are on the attractions (other than the ground). Lots of people do leave their belongings laying around, but why risk it? Better safe than sorry. Small lockers will easily fit a standard bag and cost around $10 a day.

Invest in a waterproof phone pouch – Chances are you are going to want to snap some photos on your phone of all the fun you are having, which you can’t do in the midst of all the water surrounding you. You can purchase one of these cases online for as little as $2.89 or they have them available at the park. Bonus: can slip your debit card in there as well in case you want to purchase something like a drink or snack.

Consider a cabana for the day – If you have some extra money to spend, definitely consider reserving a cabana. While there are chairs and such throughout the park for you to take advantage of, there is no guarantee you are going to snag one (or that it will be in a place you want). Cabanas are good for up to 6 people and include a table with an umbrella and four chairs, two chaise loungers, lockable storage box, mini-fridge with complimentary bottles of water, tube rentals, ceiling fan, satellite TV, and more! Speaking from someone who found one lounge chair in the sun and no where to sit after I ordered a tray full of hamburgers and drinks on her last visit, a cabana would have been well worth it.

Wear functional swimwear – You are going to be riding slides, getting water dumped on your head, and probably chasing around kids all day. The last thing you want to worry about is if your swimsuit can stand up to the pressure. This goes for kids too.

Leave your puddle jumper at home – The park provides them and life jackets, along with instructions on which size your child should wear. It’s one less thing you have to keep up with during your visit.

Bring dry clothes – Driving home in a wet swimsuit is pretty miserable. Carolina Harbor has changing facilities. Take advantage of them.

Get there early and make a day visiting both parks – If your family is up for it, take advantage of the fact that admission to Carolina Harbor also includes admission to Carowinds. My son and I have easily spent half a day at the waterpark, changed clothes, and then headed over to Carowinds to ride all the rides. The waterpark closes first, so you may want to plan your trip accordingly to maximize your time.

Consider investing in a season pass – I know what you may be thinking. “A season pass? Will I really use it that much? What if we only go a few times?” Truthfully, investing in a Gold Season Pass pays for itself in two visits. Plus it includes added bonuses like free parking, free admission to CarowindsDinosaurs Alive!, SCarowinds and the all-new WinterFest. Truly, it can be a unique experience each time you go and well worth the investment.

While we love the capital city and all it has to offer, we equally love taking a fun day trip – and Carolina Harbor Waterpark certainly fits the bill!

Have you been to Carolina Harbor? What tips would you add to the list?


  1. Wear cheap flip flops. The pavement is very hot. You have to take your shoes off and leave them at the entrance of most slides. My grandson’s Niki’s were stolen.

    • Oh no! I can’t believe someone stole your flip flops! We left ours at the entrance and didn’t have any problems. Probably because they weren’t super nice to begin with. Thanks for the additional tips!

  2. Are you allowed to take your own snacks or drinks into Carolina Harbor? Im thinking it’s probably a definite no but I can’t find an answer and one of the pictures I saw had a family with a cooler in it.

    • Per their website they do not allow outside food and drink unless it is a dietary restriction. They do search bags before you enter the park. I’ve heard of folks bringing a cooler and leaving it in their car. You can exit and re-enter the park during your visit, so some folks do that to save money on dining.


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