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 are good for households, as we found once we tried out GoBoat with children.
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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 assessment, we headed to Paddington Basin, however there’s additionally the choice of ranging from Kingston and from Canary Wharf (in addition to Birmingham in case you’re exterior London).
As a result of whilst you may suppose that the Thames is the one choice in London, there’s multiple waterway operating via the capital, and even after many years dwelling within the metropolis, a cruise alongside the canals gave me a very totally different viewpoint to get pleasure from.
GoBoat Paddington assessment
With two hours behind the wheel – or fairly, with our arms on the tiller – we headed to the Grand Union Canal to find simply how simple it’s to discover by boat.
The brief reply? Very simple! 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, underneath bridges, via tunnels and all the best way to the perimeters 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 possibly can take, one (quiet) water roundabout to barter and one stretch the place you must cross to the alternative aspect of the river forward of a tunnel, that meant I largely bought to sit down again, take in the spring sunshine and luxuriate in an entire new view of my dwelling metropolis.
As a result of whereas I’ve visited Paddington, Little Venice and Regent’s Park extra occasions than I can depend, to not point out London Zoo, I’ve by no means cruised alongside that entire stretch aboard my very own little boat.
High pace 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 bought to hurry.
And there are quite a lot of to identify alongside the best way. 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: huge sufficient for a single craft to sail via, it takes a number of minutes to get from one aspect via 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 had been protecting a low profile, we had an awesome view of Monkey Valley, one of many zoo’s latest areas.
Residence to colobus monkeys, we noticed half a dozen of those pretty black and white creatures swinging via the enclosure and calling to one another.
The habitat stretches 80ft up, with climbing sections lined by the netting, and the monkeys all however flying via 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.
For those who do need to get the very best view and head inside, purchase tickets for London Zoo right here
However a visit on GoBoat with children 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.
Deliver a picnic or some snacks with you – there’s a useful little desk within the centre of the boat – and you may graze as you go. For those who’re heading out for longer or searching for an much more memorable boating expertise, you would 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 value bringing one thing comfortable to sit down 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 top of our two-hour session. Even with loads of padding…
There’s loads to see round Paddington as effectively, in case you’re seeking to spend longer within the space earlier than or after your GoBoat journey.
For starters, it’s the most effective 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 collection 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, normally on Wednesday and Friday at midday and 2pm on Saturdays.
Not distant, the Fan Bridge additionally lifts, wanting like a conventional 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 children: must know
For those who’re planning to check out GoBoat with children, it’s a number of enjoyable – however as you’re out on generally busy waterways with youngsters, right here’s how GoBoat works and what you have to know first.
How secure is GoBoat?
Life jackets are supplied 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 necessary. It’s very simple to get the cling of steering, it’s undoubtedly extra of a precaution than a necessity.
How simple is it to function?
You must arrive quarter-hour upfront for a security briefing explaining how all the things works – you can too watch the video beforehand. It’s value realizing there are not any bogs 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 move out alongside the primary canal, so if there’s something you’re unsure of, you possibly can cease in your well past.
There’s a map supplied and employees gives you recommendation on the place to show round as a way to get again in time for the top 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 move again. You may’t moor up alongside the best way and boats must be returned to the beginning level.
Boats could be booked for one hour, two hours or three hours (and 4 hours from Kingston).
Charges differ however begin from £85 for one hour, £125 for 2 – it’s value reserving the longer session, particularly as chances are you’ll not be capable of lengthen it at busy occasions, in case you resolve you need extra time on the day.
E book 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, all the things will go forward rain, shine or snow!
You too can e-book through GetYourGuide, which has free cancellation as much as 24 hours beforehand
What number of children can I convey?
The boats have area for 8 on board they usually’re dog-friendly too. There’s no minimal age both so it’s nice 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 too can rent as much as three boats in a single reserving, in case you fancy heading out as a part of a giant 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 value having one thing comfortable to sit down 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 without spending a dime from GoBoat if the climate modifications unexpectedly.
There’s nowhere to depart possessions while you decide the boat up, though there’s area within the boat itself. For those who’re a giant group, keep in mind that shall be restricted so don’t attempt to convey an excessive amount of on board although.
You too can convey decorations (though you do must take away them earlier than you permit) however no audio system are allowed on board, in case you had been planning a boating soundtrack.
And no, you possibly can’t go swimming from the boat, so go away your towels at dwelling!
What if we’ve issues as soon as we set off?
For those who do run into bother, assistance is at hand: there’s a telephone quantity to name on the map with GoBoat’s model of the AA cruising alongside the identical stretch of water at greater pace, 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 challenge 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 means.
For extra uncommon issues to do in London with children, 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 assessment – all opinions about making an attempt GoBoat with children are my very own. This submit accommodates affiliate hyperlinks – any purchases you make are unaffected however I’ll obtain a small fee
Photographs copyright MummyTravels