A beautiful day kayaking in Cambridge – Hire & location recommendations

By April 7, 2023 April 12th, 2023 No Comments

Kayaking in Cambridge is a must-do activity for anyone visiting the city. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced kayaker, the waterways of Cambridge offer a unique and unforgettable experience, surrounded by stunning architecture and picturesque landscapes.

Cambridge, a historic city in the eastern part of England, is renowned for its world-class universities, stunning architecture, and beautiful waterways. With the River Cam running through the heart of the city, kayaking has become a popular activity among locals and visitors alike. The tranquil waters of the river offer kayakers a unique perspective of the city, with breathtaking views of historic landmarks such as King’s College and the Bridge of Sighs. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a beginner, kayaking in Cambridge provides an unforgettable experience on the water, surrounded by picturesque landscapes and charming wildlife.

River Cam

The River Cam is the most famous waterway in Cambridge and is a popular destination for kayakers. Paddling down the river gives you a unique perspective of the city’s iconic landmarks, including the University of Cambridge colleges, the Bridge of Sighs, and the Mathematical Bridge. The river is relatively calm and easy to navigate, making it suitable for both beginners and experienced kayakers. If you’re looking for a more challenging paddle, you can head downstream towards the villages of Grantchester and Granchester Meadows, which offer scenic views of the countryside.

Kayaking on the River Cam is an excellent way to explore the city and its famous landmarks. The river is relatively calm and slow-moving, making it an ideal location for beginners and families.

River Great Ouse 

The River Great Ouse is another popular destination for kayaking in Cambridge. The river flows through the city of Ely, which is located about 15 miles north of Cambridge. Paddling down the river gives you the opportunity to explore the beautiful countryside, with scenic views of the Ely Cathedral and the surrounding fenland. The river is more challenging than the River Cam, with several weirs and rapids along the way, making it more suitable for experienced kayakers.

One of the most popular stretches of the river for kayaking is the section between St Neots and Huntingdon. This section of the river is relatively calm and easy to navigate, making it an ideal location for beginners and families. The river here is also surrounded by beautiful countryside, including rolling hills, lush green meadows, and peaceful woodlands.

The Backs

The Backs is a stretch of the River Cam that runs behind several of the University of Cambridge colleges. Paddling down the river gives you a unique perspective of the colleges, with views of the famous Bridge of Sighs and King’s College Chapel. The Backs can be crowded with tourists during peak season, so it’s best to go early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid the crowds.

Kayaking on the Backs is an unforgettable experience that allows you to see some of the most iconic landmarks in Cambridge from a unique perspective. As you paddle down the river, you’ll pass under the historic Mathematical Bridge, which connects the two sides of Queen’s College, and past the famous King’s College Chapel, one of the most photographed buildings in Cambridge.

Jesus Green

Jesus Green is a large public park located in the heart of Cambridge, and is a popular destination for kayakers. The park has a large lake, which is perfect for kayaking, and offers great views of the city’s skyline. The lake is relatively calm and easy to navigate, making it suitable for beginners and families with little ones.

The river flows past the historic Jesus Green Park, which offers a stunning backdrop of greenery and wildlife. As you paddle down the river, you’ll have the opportunity to see the sights of Cambridge from a different perspective. You’ll pass by the famous Mathematical Bridge, the historic colleges, and the beautiful riverside gardens. You may even spot some of the local wildlife, including swans, ducks, and geese.

Grantchester Meadows

Grantchester Meadows is a popular destination for kayaking in Cambridge, offering scenic views of the countryside and the River Cam. The meadows are located downstream from the city and offer a peaceful and picturesque paddle with and calm waters. One of the highlights of kayaking at Grantchester Meadows is the opportunity to stop for a picnic on one of the river banks. There are several grassy areas along the river where you can pull up your kayak and enjoy a picnic lunch while taking in the beautiful surroundings. The river has several weirs and small rapids, which add an element of excitement to your kayak adventure.


Make sure you are organised and have thought about safety before kayaking in Cambridge. To do this, ensure you wear a snug-fitting buoyancy aid, and double-check that it won’t slip off over your head during your trip. Be sure to bring an adequate amount of water for the duration of your outing and pack a phone in case of an emergency. A recommended buoyancy aid can be found at the bottom of this page,


In England and Wales, a river licence, also known as a waterways licence, may be required to paddle on certain waterways. Unlike a driving licence, there is no test required to obtain it. However, if you plan to paddle on inland waterways in England and Wales, it is recommended that you purchase a licence. This is an easily accessible option for anyone, and it is a wise investment to ensure that you are complying with the regulations.

Locks & Weirs 

There are locks and weirs on both the River Cam and River Great Ouse in Cambridge. On the River Cam, there are several weirs and two locks, Jesus Lock and Baits Bite Lock, which allow kayakers to navigate the river at different levels. On the River Great Ouse, there are also locks and weirs that control the water flow and help boats and vessels navigate the river. Weirs can be especially dangerous in times of high water flow, so it’s important to check the conditions and be prepared for any changes.

If you are planning to hire a kayak check out the below kayak company suggestion in Cambridge.

When looking to rent a kayak in Cambridge, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first thing to consider is the cost, followed by the length of the rental period, and finally the location. Additionally, you must decide whether to rent equipment on your own or join a group session. If you are new to kayaking, a group session might be a good option. However, renting a kayak gives you the flexibility to plan your own route and do as you wish.

#1 Millside Canoe Hire


River Great Ouse

Millside Canoe Hire is a Cambridge-based company that provides kayak and canoe rental services to people looking to explore the beautiful waterways of Cambridge. On their website, they provide information about the different routes that customers can take with their rental equipment, including the duration of the route, the distance covered, and the level of difficulty. £15 per hour for a double kayak or £80 a day for 6+ hours.

Millside Canoe Hire

£ 15

(Per hour double kayak)(*Per person, accurate 7/04/2023)

Recommended kit for Kayaking in Cambridge

Check out the below kit to ensure you have everything you need for a safe and exciting adventure kayaking in Cambridge. Please note that this blog contains affiliate links. If you buy something through these links, Destination Downtime earns a small commission (at no extra cost to you). Thanks in advance for your support. 

Buoyancy Aid

New lifejackets sold in the UK, Ireland and Europe are required to meet the international Standards Organisation standard ISO12402. For kayaking you need a buoyancy aid at level 50. Make sure the lifejacket is a good fit, comfortable and non-restricting.

Helly Hanson Buoyancy Aid

Waterproof Phone Case

A cheap purchase that brings hours of piece of mind! The exact model I use is no longer available however, this is extremely similar. I would recommend testing your case out before you hit the water by popping something inside and submerging it in water.

Waterproof Phone Case

Waterproof Dry Bag

To ensure your personal belongings are kept dry on your kayak consider investing in a good quality waterproof bag. This bag features 2 adjustable shoulder straps and buckles to make it easy to carry. To free your hands you can use it as a large volume backpack, it also comes in plenty of cool colours to choose from.

Dry Bag

Water Shoes

It’s a great idea to purchase a pair of water shoes to ensure you don’t ruin your trainers form submerging them in water. These water shoes are quick drying, lightweight, and fit snuggly on your feet.

Water Shoes

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