Kayaking in Bristol is a fantastic way to explore the city, from the water. Whether you are exploring the City Docks for a paddle, or heading for a more rural day trip on the nearby River Avon, Bristol has plenty to offer for a dreamy day on the water.
Bristol is a beautiful city that is well-known for its historic landmarks, lively nightlife, and stunning countryside. The city is also home to a variety of waterways that offer fantastic opportunities for kayaking enthusiasts. Whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a beginner, Bristol has a range of waterways that cater to all levels of experience. Here are some of the best places to kayak in Bristol:
The River Avon runs through the heart of Bristol and is a great place for more experienced kayakers. The river is home to a variety of wildlife, and offers stunning views of the city. The Avon Gorge is particularly popular with kayakers due to its dramatic cliffs and rugged terrain. The river is also home to a variety of riverbanks, which are perfect for picnics and other outdoor activities. The River Avon is also home to a number of historical landmarks, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which is a popular spot for kayakers to stop and take in the views.
Bristol Floating Harbour
The Bristol Floating Harbour is a popular destination for kayakers due to its calm waters and stunning views of the city. The harbour is home to a variety of boats and is a great place for kayakers to explore. Kayakers can paddle past the historic Underfall Yard, a Victorian dockyard that has been restored to its former glory. The Floating Harbour also offers access to the River Avon and is a great starting point for kayakers looking to explore the wider waterways of Bristol.
Cumberland Basin is a large, open body of water that is perfect for kayakers looking for a challenge. The basin is located at the western edge of Bristol Harbour and offers stunning views of the Clifton Suspension Bridge. The basin is a popular spot for windsurfers and kite surfers, making it a great place to test your skills on the water. The area is also home to a variety of wildlife, including swans and ducks, and is a great place for birdwatchers.
Chew Valley Lake
Chew Valley Lake is located just south of Bristol and is a popular spot for kayakers looking for a more secluded experience. The lake offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and is home to a variety of wildlife, including otters and kingfishers. Kayakers can paddle along the lake’s shoreline, which is lined with trees and meadows. The lake is also home to a variety of fish, including pike and carp, making it a great spot for anglers.
Blagdon Lake is another popular destination for kayakers looking for a secluded experience. The lake is located in the heart of the Mendip Hills and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The lake is home to a variety of fish, including brown trout and rainbow trout, making it a popular spot for anglers. Kayakers can paddle along the lake’s shoreline, which is lined with trees and meadows, and take in the stunning views of the surrounding hills.
To stay safe on your trip, make sure you wear a buoyancy aid (you can find a recommendation at the bottom of this page). Make sure your buoyancy aid is a snug fit, with no risk of slipping over your head. Make sure you pack enough water for the time you are planning to be out, and always ensure you take a phone in case you need to call for help in an emergency.
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 several locks along the course of the River Avon that allow boats to navigate through the different levels of the river. One of the most well-known locks on the River Avon in Bristol is the Cumberland Basin Lock, which is located near the city centre. The Cumberland Basin Lock is a large, tidal lock that allows boats to pass between the River Avon and the Bristol Floating Harbour, which is a large inland dock system that was created in the 19th century.
In addition to the Cumberland Basin Lock, there are also several other locks on the River Avon in Bristol, including the Avon Lock and the Hanham Lock, which are located further downstream. These locks are used by pleasure boats and commercial vessels alike to navigate the river and access the many attractions and facilities along its banks.
If you are planning to hire a kayak… check out the below kayak company suggestion in Bristol.
A couple of considerations when hiring a kayak in Bristol include; firstly the price, secondly the session duration, and lastly the location. You’ll also need to consider if you would prefer just booking equipment or joining a group session. A group session is a great idea if you’re new to paddling!
#1 All-Aboard Watersports
Bristol City Docks
All-Aboard is a Watersports Charity with this mission: Our aim is to break down barriers and make it possible for everyone in our community to participate in a range of watersports such as sailing, kayaking, canoeing, rowing, paddleboarding, powerboating and other water related activities in the beautiful and historic Bristol City Docks.
Group Kayaking Sessions
£ 25*2.5 hours (group)(*Per person, prices from – accurate 21/03/2023)
Recommended kit for Kayaking in Bristol
Check out the below kit to ensure you have everything you need for a safe and exciting adventure kayaking in Bristol. 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
You may also like…
If you enjoy kayaking, you may also like to explore the below.
Will you be heading out on an adventure kayaking in Bristol? Share your adventures below in the comments.