There are few things better in life than having a row with your partner…
…particularly when London is full of lovely little lakes to do it on.
Think Greenwich Park, in the shadow of the Old Royal Navy College or Crystal Palace Park, overlooked by a herd of Victorian dinosaurs. London also has a number of slightly more romantic boating options, like the self-driven GoBoats, perfect for boozy picnics up and down Regent’s Canal; or Skuna Boats who offer both floating BBQs and hot tub boats to anyone who’s feeling up to it.
Either way, they’re all right here…
Ever ridden a Flamingo? Or a swan? Or a WV Beetle …on the water? If you answered yes to any of those you’re either a terrible person, a terrible driver, or you’ve been to the boating lake at Ally Pally. It’s a beautiful building, a lovely lake, and there’s a delightful little cafe on the shore if you want to want to grab a panini and a glass of freshly squeezed orange. Oh, and there’s the city’s largest beer garden too, if you fancy getting a little wetter.
Address: Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY | Opening times: March-October, Monday-Sunday, 11am to 5:30pm | Boat capacity: 4 | Book HERE.
Despite the name, Moo Canoes also offer Moo kayaks and Moo paddleboards, but they clearly don’t roll off the tongue quite as easily. To take one out for a spin, just head down to one of their bases at Hackney Wick (canoes), Limehouse (kayaks), or Poplar Union (paddle boards). They’re all large enough for 2/3 people, and you’ll get a brief sailing lesson from the staff on dry land before you hop in. And the best bit? If you pre-book it and head down to their Hackney Wick base, The Milk Float (it’s also a cafe), you can go on a tour to a local brewery for beer & pizza.
Address: Limehouse Basin 30 Pinnacle Way, London, E14 7JZ | Opening times: | Boat Capacity: 3 | Book HERE.
Hot Tub Boats
To be clear, this is not just a hot tub on a boat. This is a hot tub that is a boat. Fresh water’s pumped in for each trip, and heated up to a balmy 38 degrees by the on-board wood stove (which, incidentally, brings a lovely sauna-like aroma to proceedings). You’re completely in charge of the boat’s engine, so you can explore the waterways of West India Quay at your leisure over the 90 minute experience, and they’ve even got little ice pockets on board to keep the beers cold.
Address: West India Quay, Off Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London, E14 4AL | Opening times: | Boat capacity: 7 | Book HERE.
Victoria Park is the biggest and most popular park in East London, and its lake is the biggest and most popular lake. Which is unsurprising really, considering its 40-strong fleet of boats which you can hire come rain or shine. The surrounding scenery too is pretty spectacular, including the enchanting Chinese Pagoda. Story has it that it was once home to a Chinese family, who used to sneak out at night to feeds the ducks and swans. There’s also the gorgeous Pavilion cafe, with its huge glass dome roof. Arrive early on a Saturday and you might be lucky enough to bag a table for one of their expert Sri Lankan breakfasts, otherwise you can always stop by for a cup of coffee and a slice of cake once you’re all done boating.
Address: Grove Road, E3 5TB | Opening times: summer, 11-5pm | Book HERE.
Home to the Old Royal Naval College – Greenwich Park was once the training ground for tens of thousands of navy officers – and now you too can learn to captain your boat on its small, kidney-shaped boating lake, with pedalos for a piddling £4.
Address: Park Vista, SE10 9LZ | Opening times: between Easter and October on weekends, bank holidays, and school holidays, 10-5pm (weather permitting) | Boat Capacity: 5 | Book HERE.
The Serpentine is a 40-acre lake created for Queen Caroline back in 1730. It’s now home to the Serpentine Swimming Club, apparently the oldest swimming club in Britain. But if you want to stay dry, you can also hire row boats and pedalos by the half-hour, giving you the best view of the park’s impressive scenery. And if you really want to kick back, you can hop on board the Solarshuttle and let the sun do all the work.
Address: Hyde Park| Opening times: Daily between April and October, 10am-sundown (about 4pm in winter, 8pm in summer) | Boat Capacity: 4 | No need to book, just turn up. | See our perfect day out round Hyde Park here
Crystal Palace’s boating lake is overlooked by the world’s oldest dinosaur statues. Which, in the realm of dinosaur statues, makes them… dinosaurs. You can hire a pedalo for a quick half-hour calf workout, before exploring the rest of the park with its enormous maze.
Address: Crystal Palace Park, Thicket Road, SE20 8DT | Opening times: Between Easter and October on weekends, bank holidays, and school holidays, 10.30am-5pm (weather permitting) | Boat Capacity: 5 | No need to book, just turn up.
The Hollow Ponds at Epping Forest are lovely at any time of year – in autumn the surrounding trees are burnished with gold, and in the spring you can see baby cygnets paddling across the water. The row boats here have a real vintage feel to them, and can be hired by the half hour or hour, if you want to properly navigate round all the islands and through the weeping willow branches.
Address: Whipps Cross Road, London E11 1NW | Opening times: Weekends 11am-5pm, March to late September | Boat Capacity: 5 | No need to book, just turn up.
From the same high-five of a company as the hot tub boats, comes this mini fleet of BBQ boats. Moored up alongside the Hot Tugs at their West India Quay docks; they’ll fit you and up to 9 friends. Rock up, and you’ll be given a crash course in boat steering (not literally, calm down) before hopping aboard your craft and scooting around the Canary Wharf canals while scorching your marinade-soaked feast.
Address: West India Quay, Off Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London, E14 4AL | Opening times: | Boat capacity: 9 | Book HERE.
GoBoat | Paddington, Canary Wharf, Kingston
For the times you don’t fancy using your hands or feet, there’s GoBoats, available to hire in Paddington, Kingston, and Canary Wharf. GoBoats are electric powered, which means you can forget about all the rowing and the peddling and instead, kick back and enjoy a picnic, or a glass of fizz, alongside minimal steering. Choose to leave from Paddington and you’ll get to ride up and down the beautiful Regent’s Canal; from Canary Wharf you’ll have access to the London Docklands; whilst from Kingston it’s either all the way to Teddington Lock, or to Molesey Lock, passing Hampton Court Palace along the way.
Address: Paddington: Merchant Square, Paddington, London, W2 1AS; Kingston: Riverside Walk, Kingston upon Thames, KT1 1QN; Canary Wharf: | Opening times: Monday – Friday, 10am-7.15pm; Saturday-Sunday, 9am-7.15pm | Boat Capacity: 8 | Book HERE.
Right in the centre of picturesque Dulwich Village is Dulwich Park – 29 acres of leafy green. And right in the middle of Dulwich Park is Dulwich Boating Lake – charming little expanse of water, surrounded by trees, where row boats and pedalos are just £4 every half hour.
Address: College Road, SE21 7BQ | Opening times: between Easter and October on weekends, bank holidays, and school holidays, 10-5pm (weather permitting) | Boat Capacity: 5 | Book HERE.
You know what underrated aspect of boating Finsbury Park does better than any other lake? Ducks. There are tons of them. All manner of waterfowl, actually. Apparently the water is blessed with “geese, coots, moorhens, grebes, even the fish and terrapins”. So when you jump into your trusty craft, they’ll give you a complimentary bag of duckfeed to pass out to your new feathered companions. It’s first come, first served, and anyone dressed up as a pirate on Saturdays gets their boat half price.
Address: Finsbury Park Boating Lake, London, N4 1EE | Opening times: 12-6pm | Boat capacity: 4 | First come, first served. No bookings.
Looking for outdoor dining ideas? Behold our list of (really good) places to eat outside in London
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