Microtubule-associated proteins (MAPs) use particular microtubule-binding domains that allow them to interact with microtubules in a manner specific to their individual cellular functions. Here, we have identified a highly basic microtubule-binding domain in the p150 subunit of dynactin that is only present in the dynactin members of the CAP-Gly family of proteins. Using single-particle microtubule-binding assays, we found that the basic domain of dynactin moves progressively along microtubules in the absence of molecular motors - a process we term 'skating'. In contrast, the previously described CAP-Gly domain of dynactin remains firmly attached to a single point on microtubules. Further analyses showed that microtubule skating is a form of one-dimensional diffusion along the microtubule. To determine the cellular function of the skating phenomenon, dynein and the dynactin microtubule-binding domains were examined in single-molecule motility assays. We found that the basic domain increased dynein processivity fourfold whereas the CAP-Gly domain inhibited dynein motility. Our data show that the ability of the basic domain of dynactin to skate along microtubules is used by dynein to maintain longer interactions for each encounter with microtubules.