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Canoeing and Kayaking In London

Read our guide for Canoeing and Kayaking In London and Find and Book experiences, courses, activities and tours! Browse through the list of experiences, either instantly book onto your dates or enquire to book. All you have to do is turn up and enjoy! If you’ve got any questions about any specific experience, send a message and the providers will aim to get back to you as soon as possible. Have a specific experience in mind that we don’t have listed? No problem, drop us a message and we’ll send your quote around to hundreds of the best experience providers nationwide and come back with you the best quote, making it easy for you to make the most of your spare time!

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Being one of the most vibrant cities in the world, London has no shortage of things to do. In fact your biggest problem is probably going to be what not to do! From historical palaces and famous landmarks to musicals and nightlife London has it all. Take an iconic open-topped bus tour, delve into the details on a walking tour, explore the stunning Royal Parks, or get active with a paddle down the Thames. Whatever floats your boat, London has the answer! Practise your climbing skills in one of the many indoor climbing walls, or jump on a train and with just a short journey be climbing in beautiful woodlands at Harrison’s Rocks. Explore one of the many rivers, like canoeing or kayaking the Thames or the River Medway for a peaceful escape. There’s also a wealth of rolling hills in Surrey, perfect for the weekend hike, bike or camp!

Canoeing and Kayaking in London

In amongst its rich history, iconic landmarks and surprising green spaces London has no shortage of memorable kayaking and canoeing tours and trips. There's a wealth of places to visit by canoe and kayak in London. Most iconic of all is of course the River Thames, and there are various trips you can take on here to explore London by water. Paddle alongside the Houses of Parliament in central London, or take a more relaxed approach and enjoy a more rural feel to the river with a paddle through Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames. For those wanting calmer waters there are the docks to the east of the City, and also a surprising canal network north of the Thames to explore some lesser known areas of London. For something extra special why not try a sunset paddle to Big Ben, or check out the Olympic White Water Centre in the Lea Valley!
kayaking in london

Do I need a License for Kayaking in London?

When using your own canoe or kayak, always be aware of the restrictions and licenses required. In London, you’re able to paddle on the non tidal section of the River (Westerly from Teddington to Cricklade Bridge) with a British Canoe Union license or a license from the environment agency. For Kayaking through the Thames in the City itself, you’re best to join a guided tour due to the tide, weather, and busy shipping lanes being potential hazards that guides will know how to navigate.

Best Places for Kayaking in London

It’s surprising to many, how much choice there is for canoeing and kayaking in London. Whilst in many destinations you can just expect nice scenery and lots of nature, London offers a much broader range of paddling experiences, from complete nature paddles to city river and canal tours.
canoeing and kayaking in london, richmond

Kayaking the Thames through the City

The classic London experience is Kayaking the Thames through the city. Usually done from Greenwich to Battersea, the experience can take a few hours and is a great way to see the city from a completely different perspective. Just because it’s in the city, don’t think there won’t be any wildlife nearby. It’s no wonder there have been seal sightings, as the Thames is one of the cleanest city rivers in the World. This kayaking tour in London offers sites covering Greenwich Park, Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, The Shard, St Pauls, Oxo Tower, Westminster and Big Ben just to name a few. You’ll use sea kayaks which are incredibly sturdy and in the 20+ years that these tours have been offered, it’s been very rare for anyone to fall in.
kayaking in london at night

Kayaking in London at Night

One of the best city experiences is doing the aforementioned kayaking tour of london at night. As sun starts to set, hop in the sea kayak and see the skyscrapers of London light up as the sun starts to fade and the sky fills with red. As light fades, you’ll be in for a completely different kayaking experience, with the rivers being quieter and the lights starting to switch on, it's a magical experience.

Kayaking the Canals of East London

As a very different experience to paddling the Thames, Canoeing or Kayaking the canals of east Llondon offers a more relaxing experience, with no tides or small waves or wash from boats to navigate. The pace is often leisurely and you’ll see some of East London’s finest culture. Moo Canoes offer trips all around the east canals which are a great way to get involved.

Canoeing or Kayaking in West London

As you move more westerly from London towards Kingston, this is where watersports become more popular on the Thames. With a wealth of rowing and kayaking and canoeing clubs, it’s very popular to see self-guided groups out or clubs out on the water. The water has less boat traffic, is often much calmer that the Thames by the city and offers a wealth of greenery and wildlife to see. Paddling From Kingston to Hampton Court is an incredibly relaxing journey, seeing the large houses on the waterfront, the wild green parks and the stunning building of Hampton Court. In summer, it can feel like you’re a world away from London.
canoeing and kayaking in london

Canoeing or Kayaking the River Lea

The River Lea is a River that originates in the Chiltern Hills and Flows into the River Thames in East London. The River provides a feeling of being immersed in nature and is an easy, accessible way to get involved in the sport. What it lacks from not having the city views of paddling through the Thames, it makes up for in its tranquility and ability to see wildlife and a different part of London you may not have seen before. This really is a hidden gem of a Canoeing experience in London.

Kayaking London, Little Venice From Paddington

Hire a canoe or join a tour to explore Little Venice and Maida Vale, which offer a quiet canal with waterside pubs and cafes to stop off and grab a bite to eat. Take it relaxed as the water is calm and still, with lots of pretty streets, back gardens and architecture to admire. The route from where Grand Union Canal meets Regents Canal offers a wealth of things to see, including a floating art gallery and a hotel boat, not to mention the large range of birds you can expect to spot.
canoeing and kayaking in london, little venice

Kayak to Crate Brewery

One of the popular kayaking tours of London, made popular by Secret Adventures, is the route of kayaking from Limehouse to Crate Brewery, with a stop off at a pub. It’s a great way to get social, meet like-minded people and topped off by Crate Brewery’s delicious pizza and ales - what’s not to love!

Kayaking at Lea Valley

Lea Valley is home to the Olympic White Water Centre and offers kayaking courses for all levels of canoeing and kayaking ability. Whether you want to start off in their lake to learn paddling in a safe environment or go full out and try their white-water course, they have something for everyone.

Major Boating and Kayaking Events in London

Devices to Westminster: Dubbed the ‘Everest of Canoeing’, the Devices to Westminster race is an ultra-marathon style boating event where competitors seek to complete the World’s longest Canoe race at over 125 miles or 200km in either less than 24 hours or over mult-day. The event takes in much of the Thames, reaching Westminster offering some of the most epic kayaking and canoeing you’ll ever experience - if you can handle it.
The Great River Race: Ok, whilst this is not canoeing or kayaking, this is an event well worth the mention. The Great River Race is London City’s annual race by a traditional-style coxed boat, propelled by oars or paddles. In other words, it’s a race with 300+ boats starting in East London by the Isle of Dogs, where competitors (often in fancy dress and decorated boats), race all the way 26 miles towards Kingston. Even if you’re not taking part, it’s well worth looking at the River to see all the different boats. The event takes place annually in late April, early May.
canoeing and kayaking in West london

Canoe or Kayak Hire in London

Hiring a Canoe or Kayak in London is a great way to dabble in the sport. There’s a few places to hire canoes or kayaks nearby, but it’s limited to canals and man-made waterways, as the Thames through the city is very busy and requires licenses and permissions to kayak without a guide. The following are places to hire canoes or kayaks (there are many more places to hire Stand up paddle boards in London):
  • Outside of London, further east: Basingstoke and Deane Canoe Club
  • East London: Moo Canoes (Hackney and Limehouse Basin)
  • North / West London: Active 360, Paddington Basin

Kayaking Clubs in London

Joining a canoeing or a kayaking club is a great way to develop skills in the sport beyond just the occasional outing. It’s a great hobby to have something to look forward to in the week as there’s something very relaxing about starting or finishing your workday off with a calming paddle. There’s a wealth of clubs in London for canoeing and kayaking so take your pick between the following list.
Canoeing and Kayaking Clubs in North London
  • Regents Canoe Club
  • Castle Canoe Club
  • Leaside Canoe Club

Canoeing and Kayaking Clubs in East London
  • Tower Hamlets Canoe Club
  • Barking and Dagenham Canoe Club
  • Meridian Kayak Club

Canoeing and Kayaking Clubs in South London
  • Bromley Canoe Club
  • Clapham Canoe Club
  • Blue Chip SUPer Club

Canoeing and Kayaking Clubs in West London
  • Putney Bridge Canoe Club
  • Richmond Canoe Club
  • Epic SUP (Twikenham)

canoeing and kayaking in London, Surry

Canoeing and Kayaking Near London In Surrey

Surrey is just a stone's throw from London and has some great canoeing and kayaking opportunities on rivers and lakes. The River Thames and the River Wey. The Wey comprises around 20 miles of gentle paddling through the heart of the county, providing all levels of paddler with points of interest along it’s loops and backwaters. Both the Wey and Thames have numerous places to safely launch, and there are many activity providers offering the chance to rent or book a lesson or course.
  • The Thames: winding its way through Surrey and eventually into London past Kingston, the stretch just before this is well worth a day out. Paddle up from Kingston to Hampton Court to take in the palace there, and enjoy a few riverside refreshments at Kingston on your return. It’s a lively stretch of river but with various parks lining it’s banks it makes for an enjoyable session on the water.
  • River Mole, Dorking to Hampton Court: this is a lovely stretch of river, though not paddled often, which can be good or bad depending on your perspective! For experienced paddlers looking for a mini-adventure then the 34km between Dorking and Hampton Court can be a challenging day trip. There are likely to be trees across the river, but on the other hand there are very few people, plenty of kingfishers, and the river is recorded as far back as the Doomsday book, with mills dating back to Saxon times dotted along the banks. See More for Canoeing and Kayaking in Surrey

Canoeing and Kayaking Near London In Kent

With a huge 350 mile long coastline and several beautiful rivers and canals to explore, there are few better ways to discover Kent’s stunning landscapes than by canoe or kayak. Whether on the Medway Canoe Trail through the heart of the county, chilling out with the family on the Royal Military Canal, or seal spotting in the Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve, there are plenty of options to keep everyone happy. Kayaking and canoeing are a fantastic way to see the landscape from a different perspective, and get to experience locations - and see wildlife
  • Medway Canoe trail: what better way to explore the heart of the Kent countryside than this 18 mile route from historic Tonbridge, passing plenty of heritage alongside the lush banks and reed beds that line the river all the way to Allington Lock.
  • The River Stour: the best section for this is downriver from Canterbury. Starting from Forwich there’s a lovely section approximately 8 miles in length running to Plucks Gutter. Passing through some tranquil marshes it has some lovely clear water, making it a perfect habitat for white clawed crayfish, as well as bream, brown trout and European eels.
  • Ramsgate Coastline: perhaps the safest and most picturesque stretch of Kent’s coastline is around Ramsgate, and kayaking is a fine way to explore the coast and get a different perspective of it. Active Ramsgate have handily come up with two canoe trails to help you make the most of it, one being self-guided and the other a group guided trail. The self-guided route is better suited to experienced paddlers, and sets off from Ramsgate before following the coastline for 2 miles to the pretty town of Broadstairs. The guided trail takes a route through both open sea and river and includes Pegwell Bay National Nature Reserve - one of the UK’s most protected bird sites - which gives you a fantastic chance to spot wetland birds and even seals.

safety advice kayaking in london

Safety Advice for Canoeing and Kayaking

A license is just one small part of the puzzle when it comes to working out where and when to paddle. See our list below on things to consider before going canoeing or kayaking:
  • Weather, flow, tides and visibility: Attention should be paid to the flow of the river by checking the environment agency website and others. A significant flow on the river can be caused by excessive rain, often hundreds of miles away, that over a number of days, pour into the river can cause significant currents. Whilst its often hard to see ‘flow’ just by looking at the river the National River Flow Archive can provide specific information on the flow to enable you to decide if it’s worth the outing. Often, it’s much nicer to paddle in calmer waters, rather than battling a surging river and having greater risk around meanders, bridges and other boat vessels, so this is something to consider. Likewise, wind, tide, weather and visibility should be taken into consideration when planning your canoeing or kayaking trip.
  • Conditions within your level of capability Always err on the side of caution when going out in your canoe or kayak and make sure you’re comfortable with the conditions of the water
  • Tell your friends: Let people know where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Ideally go with a group of people so if someone falls in, you’ll have others to help or raise the alarm
  • Get training: Book in a canoeing or kayaking instructor course or experience days on Beyonk
  • Practice falling in drills: In calmer waters and with the supervision of an instructor, practice how to fall in and what to do when you do fall in, so you’re prepared on what to do
  • Consider wearing safety equipment such as buoyancy aids, which can be life-savers in many scenarios even if you’re a strong swimmer. The water temperature, flow or taking a knock to the head can all present risks that will make your swimming skills useless and a buoyancy aid life-saving
  • Wear appropriate clothing for the conditions of your paddle. Don’t risk getting soaking wet and cold in the rain if you’re going out for prolonged periods
  • Be aware of waterway restrictions, from boating lanes, military operations and more, to avoid any dangers
  • Make sure to get stacked up on nutrition and water to maintain energy levels if you’re going for over an hour's paddle.
  • Take a communication device, mobile or radio in case of emergency and call 999 if needed.

canoeing and kayaking in london

Where can I go canoeing or kayaking in London?

Unfortunately there are all sorts of restrictions on where you can go canoeing or kayaking in Wales, as many bodies of water are owned by different organisations and there are more specific protections in place. It’s not quite as simple as just rocking up to your closest river and going for a paddle. There have been stories of authorities asking to see licenses and being able to fine those canoeing and kayaking without a license.
There are some places where licenses aren’t required, like paddling in the sea, estuaries or most tidal water (which can often travel quite far up many rivers). However, these are the areas that require skill and experience to go paddling. Nevertheless, estuary and sea kayaking can offer some of the most rewarding experiences with sightings of seals, a wealth of other animals and stunning coastal scenes.
Canals and inland rivers can be great places to kayak and canoe as waters can be easier to navigate and manage than tidal waters. However, for many inland rivers in the UK you’ll need to work out whether you are able to canoe or kayak there due to both private restrictions and licensing restrictions. In Wales, check out the Canoe Wales website for the rivers where you can canoe or kayak under their membership. If there are any questions, you’re best off sending them a message to see what license is required (if any) for your stretch of river. Restrictions also exist for where land is privately owned (e.g. beaches), where there are environmental protection schemes such as Nature reserves, where there are military bases or activity happening or where there are restrictions due to safety such as avoiding shipping lanes, waste disposal or dangerous wrecks.

Canoe and Kayak Clubs, Hire and Lessons in London near me

Search through our map of hundreds of canoe and kayak clubs, places to hire equipment or find lessons. If you’re looking for something specific, drop us a message and we’ll find it for you.

Canoeing and Kayaking for Families and Kids in London

Canoeing and Kayaking are great family friendly sports. Canoes are more of the stable and spacious choice that allow for gentle and calm paddling experiences. Kayaking also offers the option for two-seaters that are a great way to bond with a friend or family member. Sea Kayaks and Touring Kayaks are incredibly stable, like Canoes, so it's more difficult to fall in or get wet. When it comes to the types of water to look out for, calmer water makes for a more enjoyable experience with kids. Look out for local lakes or canals for safer and more tranquil paddling. The beauty of canoeing and kayaking are that they are 'sit down' sports. The level of fitness required for both - at entry level - is relatively low, so most people can get involved with the sport.

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