5 best kayaking and canoeing adventures near London
This year I really started to enjoy paddling, let that be in a kayak or canoe. As you know I live in London, which at first might not seem like a good place to do any sort of paddling sports. London is a big city full of buildings, constructions, cars and people. There is always some sort of event going on that attracts a crowd. However, London also has canals, the river Thames and thanks to the excellent public transport system it is only a short train ride away to the sea.
Although London has lots of green parks, it is often difficult to find a quiet spot and fully enjoy nature. A lot of people visit the capital to spend Christmas in London and enjoy the festive lights and food. However, if you are spending summer or spring in London and you want to spend your day a bit different than walking around the city I have a few suggestions for you. Kayaking and canoeing can be very relaxing. It is a great form of exercise, good chance to get some fresh air and you will also come across some beautiful scenery. I took part in a few kayaking and canoeing adventures near London and really enjoyed all of them.
Henley to Windsor – Canoe camping trip
This canoe trip on the Thames was my first time doing an overnight trip by a canoe, which was on my bucket list for a while. We had great weather and we really enjoyed this self-guiding trip. The company gave us clear instruction about how to use the locks and which way to go. You will have a few options about where to spend the night. Cookham Lock or Longridge Camping are your best options. You will need to book the campsite yourself and think ahead as they tend to fill up quickly.
The highlight of the trip: Seeing the wildlife and the gorgeous view of Windsor Castle at the end of the trip.
Who do I recommend this trip: It is a great trip for wildlife lovers, as this part of the Thames is very quiet. We saw red kites, herons, moorhens, great crested grebes, swans, ducks, cormorants, cows and horses.
Child-friendly: Suitable for families with children.
Starting point: Henley-on-Thames at the River and Rowing Museum
How to get there: You can get a train from London Paddington to Twyford, then change for Henley-on-Thames. This will take you about 1 hour 15 minutes, then a 5-minute walk to the launching point.
Duration: The total distance is 38 km, that you will cover in 2 days. It is about 5-6 hours of paddling each day.
Price: This 2-day trip will cost about £130, which includes all the equipment you will need (canoe, paddles, buoyancy aids, dry bag and tent)
Difficulty: Moderate – You will need to be quite fit to paddle 5-6 hours each day.
Tip: Feel free to take your camera, as in a canoe you have more space to move around, than in a kayak, and it is very unlikely that you will capsize.
Where to book: CKT Canoe and Kayak Tours
Battersea to Greenwich – Sightseeing London by kayak
This is a great trip to see all of London’s famous landmarks. I can’t think of a more unique way to do sightseeing in London, than by kayaking down the tidal Thames. You will pass The London Peace Pagoda, the Houses of Parliament, London Eye, St Paul’s Cathedral, Gherkin, Skygarden, HMS Belfast, Tower of London, Tower Bridge and Cutty Sark.
The highlight of the trip: Paddling under the Tower Bridge
Who do I recommend this trip: Great trip for tourists who want an alternative way of seeing London’s top attractions.
Child-friendly: The event is for adults only
Starting point: Battersea next to St Marys Church
How to get there: Several bus, train and tube stops nearby as it is quite central in London
Duration: You will cover 17 km in under 3 hours
Price: £59 per person, which includes the guides and all the equipment you will need. (double kayak, paddles, buoyancy aids, spraydeck, waterproof trousers and rain jacket)
Difficulty: Easy – perfect for beginners, the tide will be in your favour. There will be some waves and it can be busy with boats, but having 4 guides on the trip ensures you will be completely safe.
Tip: No need to bring your camera as we had 4 guides with us and they had waterproof cameras. We stopped briefly to take pictures in front of the Tower Bridge and the company sent us all the pictures they took during the day by e-mail.
Where to book: The London Kayak Company
Seal Colony kayak trip from Dovercourt
Who would have thought that you can be in busy London in one moment and after a train ride, you can be paddling in the sea among with seals? This trip is really unique. I loved seeing the seals popping up their head from the water and staring at us curiously. Our instructor Kurt shared some interesting facts about their habitat. He is very passionate about nature and wildlife and it was fascinating hearing his stories!
The highlight of the trip: Seeing seals in their natural habitat.
Who do I recommend this trip: Great trip if you love nature and wildlife, as you will see seals and birds in their natural habitat.
Child-friendly: Must be over 16 years old to take part in this trip
Starting point: West End Lane Car Park in Dovercourt
How to get there: Take the train from Liverpool Street to Manningtree, then change for a train to Dovercourt. This should take about 1,5 hours. Then another 30 minutes walk by the beach to get to the launch point, or you can also take a bus.
Duration: The total distance is 13 km, that you will cover in 5-6 hours. This also includes a lunch/snack break at a beach.
Price: £89.99 per person, which includes a guide and all the equipment you will need. (sit on top kayak, paddles, buoyancy aids)
Difficulty: Moderate – you will need to be relatively fit, to be able to keep up with the group. Although during the most part the tide will be in your favour, you will still need to paddle quite hard, especially if there is some wind.
Tip: Bring a change of clothes, as you are likely to get wet. The kayak has a hatch, where you can store your quite a bit! I suggest coming early and taking a stroll on Dovercourt beach as it is really beautiful!
Where to book: Nomad Sea Kayaking
Kayaking on the Regent’s Canal in London
This trip is great if you are in London on holiday or you live here and want to get away from the busy city life. Although the tour takes place in central London, it is like you are completely elsewhere thanks to the tranquil settings. The tour starts by Regent’s Park and finishes at Camden Lock. It is a short 90-minute paddle on the canal. We had lovely weather and enjoyed this relaxing kayak trip. Lot of birdlife on the canal as you can imagine and if you go in the spring you will see lots of ducklings as well.
The highlight of the trip: Entering the “secret tunnel” which was featured in the James Bond Spectre movie.
Who do I recommend this trip: Great for beginners, as there is some tuition at the beginning of the tour and it is a short, slow-paced relaxing paddle.
Child-friendly: This trip is suitable for children over the age of 9 if they are accompanied by an adult and able to swim a minimum of 10 metres.
Starting point: Primrose Hill Bridge, by the Regent’s canal.
How to get there: Baker Street, St John’s Wood and Camden Town tube stations are all about a 20-minute walk to the launch site. Alternatively you can take bus #2, 13, 18, 27, 30, 74, 82, 113, 139, 189, 274, 453 , or C2.
Duration: The total distance is less than 3 km and it takes about 90 minutes at a very slow pace.
Price: £39 per person, which includes the guide and equipment (single kayak, paddles, buoyancy aids)
Difficulty: Easy – The canal is a safe environment for kayaking and the trip is short and slow, perfect for beginners.
Tip: No need to bring your camera, as the guide took some pictures of the guests during the trip and they e-mail them at the end of the day!
Where to book: London Kayak Tours
Tonbridge to Yalding – Kayaking the river Medway
A nice relaxing kayak trip on the river Medway in Kent. This section of the river was very peaceful and quiet. There were 6 canoe passes that I really enjoyed. The last one was the biggest with a big splash at the end. It was great fun. No need to worry at all, as very beginner friendly to use these “slides”.
The highlight of the trip: The canoes passes and the jungle section, where we kayaked in a narrow bit with lots of fallen trees around.
Who do I recommend this trip: Great trip for anyone looking for a relaxing paddle.
Child-friendly: This trip is suitable for children over the age of 12. You can do the same trip in a canoe, where children under 11 can join free of charge.
Starting point: Tonbridge
How to get there: There are direct trains from London Victoria and London Bridge stn. Journey time is 45 min-1 hour depending on the route you take, then a 10-minute walk to the launch site.
Duration: The total distance is 14 km, that you will cover in 5-6 hours. This also includes a lunch/snack break.
Price: £75 per person with transfer from the finish to the start or £65 without transfer. It includes 2 guides and all equipment was provided (single kayak, paddles, buoyancy aids, spraydeck)
Difficulty: Easy – This was my first time using the canoe passes, but they were very straightforward.
Tip: Bring a change of clothes, as you are likely to get wet. The kayak has a hatch, where you can store quite a bit!
Where to book: Kent Canoes
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Note: We were guests of these kayak and canoe companies stated above, but as always all opinion is my own!
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