When the solar is shining, there are few higher methods to discover London than by boat – however it’s not simply the sightseeing cruises on the Thames which can be good for households, as we found once we tried out GoBoat with youngsters.
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You may rent one of many fleet of electrical boats from a number of totally different areas across the metropolis – for our GoBoat evaluation, we headed to Paddington Basin, however there’s additionally the choice of ranging from Kingston and from Canary Wharf (in addition to Birmingham should you’re exterior London).
As a result of when you may suppose that the Thames is the one possibility in London, there’s multiple waterway working by way of the capital, and even after a long time dwelling within the metropolis, a cruise alongside the canals gave me a very totally different viewpoint to get pleasure from.
GoBoat Paddington evaluation
With two hours behind the wheel – or relatively, with our arms on the tiller – we headed to the Grand Union Canal to find simply how straightforward it’s to discover by boat.
The brief reply? Very straightforward! I delegated the precise driving/captaining to my husband, who very effectively steered us from the Grand Union canal to the Regent’s canal, round barges, beneath bridges, by way of tunnels and all the way in which to the sides of Regent’s Park and London Zoo.
In the meantime, I nominated myself official first mate and navigator for our boating expertise.
As there’s just one route you’ll be able to take, one (quiet) water roundabout to barter and one stretch the place it’s important to cross to the other aspect of the river forward of a tunnel, that meant I largely acquired to take a seat again, absorb the spring sunshine and luxuriate in a complete new view of my dwelling metropolis.
As a result of whereas I’ve visited Paddington, Little Venice and Regent’s Park extra instances than I can rely, to not point out London Zoo, I’ve by no means cruised alongside that complete stretch aboard my very own little boat.
High velocity is round 3-4mph, so that you’ll end up being overtaken by joggers on the towpath. However half the enjoyable is slowing down, taking a deep breath and absorbing all of the sights with out feeling such as you’ve acquired to hurry.
And there are quite a lot of to identify alongside the way in which. Passing the Puppet Theatre Barge, we had a style of Little Venice – supposedly named by the poet Robert Browning, the banks are lined with narrowboats and flanked by some spectacular homes.
As you sail, maintain your eyes open to spy a plaque to the house of the second Lord’s cricket floor, in addition to some actually jaw-dropping mansions as you get nearer to Regent’s Park.
First, although, comes the 249 metre lengthy Maida Hill tunnel: large sufficient for a single craft to sail by way of, it takes a number of minutes to get from one aspect by way of the darkness to the sunshine on the opposite aspect.
Loads of time to check the echoes and leap on the occasional drop of water dripping down your neck!
When you attain Regent’s Park, you’ll additionally end up crusing between two sections of London Zoo. Whereas the painted canine on one aspect of the canal have been retaining a low profile, we had an amazing view of Monkey Valley, one of many zoo’s latest areas.
Residence to colobus monkeys, we noticed half a dozen of those beautiful black and white creatures swinging by way of the enclosure and calling to one another.
The habitat stretches 80ft up, with climbing sections coated by the netting, and the monkeys all however flying by way of the air to get from one aspect to a different – or discovering a quiet spot in a tree to settle again.
In contrast to the water buses which cruise on previous to Camden, having our personal self-drive boat meant we may cease to look at for a short while – not the one ones to have that concept, with a gaggle of kayakers and a small crowd on the trail as effectively.
When you do wish to get the most effective view and head inside, purchase tickets for London Zoo right here
However a visit on GoBoat with youngsters isn’t about ticking off sights and landmarks, it’s about sitting again and having enjoyable as a household, watching out for the little issues – a mandarin duck at one level, a coot constructing its nest at one other.
Carry a picnic or some snacks with you – there’s a helpful little desk within the centre of the boat – and you’ll graze as you go. When you’re heading out for longer or in search of an much more memorable boating expertise, you could possibly even convey a mini afternoon tea to have on board.
There’s no alcohol allowed for the Paddington boats although (and the captain has to remain sober on the different areas).
It’s effectively price bringing one thing comfortable to take a seat on although, or selecting one of many upgrades – Cosy Boat comes with snuggly blankets (plus some snacks and handwarmers), or there are seat-warmer cushions out there at Paddington – as my bum was going distinctly numb in direction of the tip of our two-hour session. Even with loads of padding…
There’s loads to see round Paddington as effectively, should you’re trying to spend longer within the space earlier than or after your GoBoat journey.
For starters, it’s among the finest locations to identify Paddington in London, together with a few statues alongside the canalside in addition to contained in the station.
Save a while to take a look at the Floating Pocket Park too, a sequence of mini inexperienced areas which bob on the water, in addition to Paddington’s uncommon bridges.
The rolling bridge is each sculpture and moveable bridge, which curls up into an octagon form, often on Wednesday and Friday at midday and 2pm on Saturdays.
Not far-off, the Fan Bridge additionally lifts, trying like a standard fan at noon on Wednesdays and Fridays.
You’ll additionally discover a string of locations to eat and drink round Paddington Basin, from quirky bars on transformed barges to some chain eating places and cafes.
GoBoat with youngsters: must know
When you’re planning to check out GoBoat with youngsters, it’s loads of enjoyable – however as you’re out on typically busy waterways with kids, right here’s how GoBoat works and what you should know first.
How protected is GoBoat?
Life jackets are offered for youngsters, together with child variations, and have to be worn on board.
There are additionally grownup lifejackets out there within the boat itself however these aren’t obligatory. It’s very straightforward to get the hold of steering, it’s undoubtedly extra of a precaution than a necessity.
How straightforward is it to function?
You must arrive quarter-hour prematurely for a security briefing explaining how every part works – you can too watch the video beforehand. It’s price figuring out there are not any bathrooms on the dock (or on the boat!) so go to these, and decide up any food and drinks you need earlier than you get there.
Then there’s a brief check drive from the GoBoat dock – within the case of Paddington, this goes up in direction of the floating park, earlier than turning again once more to go out alongside the primary canal, so if there’s something you’re unsure of, you’ll be able to cease in your well past.
There’s a map offered and workers provides you with recommendation on the place to show round with a view to get again in time for the tip of your slot.
How lengthy do I want?
Our two-hour session gave us lengthy sufficient to get from Paddington to London Zoo earlier than having to go again. You may’t moor up alongside the way in which and boats need to be returned to the beginning level.
Boats will be booked for one hour, two hours or three hours (and 4 hours from Kingston).
Charges fluctuate however begin from £85 for one hour, £125 for 2 – it’s price reserving the longer session, particularly as it’s possible you’ll not be capable of prolong it at busy instances, should you resolve you need extra time on the day.
Guide your GoBoat self-drive boating expertise right here
What if my plans change?
You may rearrange the reserving or cancel to obtain a voucher as much as 48 hours forward of your sail out time. After that time, there’s no choice to rearrange.
Don’t count on sailings to be cancelled if it rains both: except there’s low visibility or different harmful climate situations, every part will go forward rain, shine or snow!
You may as well ebook by way of GetYourGuide, which has free cancellation as much as 24 hours beforehand
What number of youngsters can I convey?
The boats have area for 8 on board and so they’re dog-friendly too. There’s no minimal age both so it’s high quality for the entire household – we noticed one other group cruising previous who’d even managed to get their child’s buggy on board!
Nevertheless, the captain driving the boat have to be aged 18+. You may as well rent as much as three boats in a single reserving, should you fancy heading out as a part of an enormous household group.
What shall I convey with me?
Any food and drinks or snacks that you really want (though no alcohol on the Paddington location, restricted quantities for passengers and none for the captain elsewhere).
It’s effectively price having one thing comfortable to take a seat on, in addition to something you want for the climate situations – there’s no shade, so SPF, hat and sun shades if it’s a sunny day, raincoats/umbrella if it’s wet, and one thing to wrap up in if it’s cool as there’s typically a breeze on the water.
You might be able to borrow ponchos and umbrellas totally free from GoBoat if the climate adjustments unexpectedly.
There’s nowhere to go away possessions while you decide the boat up, though there’s area within the boat itself. When you’re an enormous group, keep in mind that will probably be restricted so don’t attempt to convey an excessive amount of on board although.
You may as well convey decorations (though you do need to take away them earlier than you allow) however no audio system are allowed on board, in case you have been planning a boating soundtrack.
And no, you’ll be able to’t go swimming from the boat, so go away your towels at dwelling!
What if we’ve got issues as soon as we set off?
When you do run into bother, assistance is at hand: there’s a cellphone quantity to name on the map with GoBoat’s model of the AA cruising alongside the identical stretch of water at greater velocity, to allow them to head over to assist any of the GoBoats that want them.
We ended up with some pond weed tangled across the propeller – not a significant problem however it was slowing us down, and round 5-10 minutes after calling, our rescuer appeared to untangle it in moments and ship us on our approach.
For extra uncommon issues to do in London with youngsters, together with a string of different much less well-known household actions, try my high picks
Disclosure: My journey was courtesy of GoBoat London for the needs of evaluation – all opinions about making an attempt GoBoat with youngsters are my very own. This submit accommodates affiliate hyperlinks – any purchases you make are unaffected however I’ll obtain a small fee
Photos copyright MummyTravels