One better, in my opinion.
Pacific Northwest, more rivers than I can count, more wilderness, Portland for instance is 1.5 hours to the Ocean Beaches or about the same to the Cascade Mountains. Or in the Seattle area, you are on the ocean so to speak and close the Olympic Penn. which is pretty amazing wilderness IMHO.
Also Portland is caulk full of transplants so you won't feel like a much of an outsider, unlike some cities (Boston I am talking to you) ----I am a Oregon Native and sometimes I am the outcast
A nice health kayaking community ensures you don't need to paddle alone--- check out PDX kayaker.org for more info.
Plus and Minus, way fewer people than N. Carolina, lots of open space, also fewer jobs etc.
Oh and 365 days a year of paddling weather. Give a look to google WKCC or OKCC as well.