Kayaking in London is an awesome way to explore the UK capital, from the water. Mix the peace and tranquility of the waterway, with the hustle and bustle of the city, and you’ve got a recipe for an exciting kayaking adventure.
London is home to the River Thames, at 215 miles the Thames is the longest river entirely in England. Starting at Thames Head near the hamlet of Kemble, and joining the North Sea near Southend-on-Sea. The Thames provides a playground for the adventurous to explore the waterway, while enjoying the market towns and countryside that the river meanders through.
There are two ways you can enjoy kayaking in London, the first of which is by using your own kayak and kit. The second, is to use one of the many great kayak hire companies in London who will rent you a kayak for a number of hours, along with all the gear you need. Depending on which option your going for, skip to the relevant part of this blog to help map out your itinerary for the day.
If you own a kayak… follow this scenic route on the River Thames, starting at Sunbury-on-Thames, and heading to Hampton Court.
The River Thames has locks, click HERE to see where they are located.
A large portion of the River Thames is tidal, which is something to always bear in mind when kayaking in London. However, the river only becomes tidal at the first lock at Teddington (from the sea). Although the above route is situated in the section of the River Thames which is non-tidal. It’s still worth being aware of, and for future reference, as a gage, the least safe tide state for beginner kayakers to paddle in is mid-tide. During high/low tide the water current will be weaker. During mid-tide the water will be moving quicker, this is great if you are going with the current, not so good if you are fighting against it.
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.
You need a license to kayak on the River Thames. A license is fairly easy to obtain online and works out as a worthwhile investment if you are frequently using the waterways. You will receive a digital copy of your license which can be accessed on your phone should you need to display it.
Locks & Weirs
There are 45 locks on the non-tidal part of the River Thames. A lot of the time there are lock keepers at each lock to help you navigate your way through, if there isn’t a lock keeper there, you can also operate the lock yourself. As there is often a lot of boats and other kayakers enjoying the river, you will often find that there may be serval people heading for the same lock. This makes it relatively easy to slip in alongside the boats and not have to worry about operating the lock yourself.
If you are planning to hire a kayak… check out the below kayak company comparison (London & surrounding areas).
A couple of considerations when hiring a kayak in London include; firstly the price, secondly the session duration, and lastly the location. Below are different companies that offer kayak hire in London and surrounding areas, each with a very different offering, and different way to experience kayaking in London.
*Price comparison is based on a tandem kayak (seats 2 adults). Price accurate as of 04/08/2022, please bear in mind that prices can fluctuate, make sure you double check with the kayak hire company on price before booking. Prices include buoyancy aids. Not ranked in order.
Moo Canoes Pinnacle Way
£ 362 hours(+£10 additional hours)
Lee Valley Canoe
£ 322 hours(Max 2 hours)
£ 352 hours(£7.50 extra 30 mins)
DSWC Millwall Dock
£ 402 hours(£20 per hour)
#1 Moo Canoes
If the name alone dosen’t already sell these guys to you, their fleet or ‘heard’ of kayaks certainly will. Moo Canoes offer for hire a range of cow print kayaks and canoes, ready for you to take to the water on a fun day out on the Thames.
Moo Canoes are open every weekend (and some Fridays) from early April to late October, their Tandem Kayaks live at Limehouse Basin, E14 7PB. and their 2/3-person canoes live at The Milk Float, their floating bar in Hackney Wick, E9 5EN.
What’s great about these guys, is their desire to make London’s waterways more fun for everyone. They certainly have plenty of fun appeal and they are a great choice for families with little ones. As well as their kayak, canoe and paddleboard hire, Moo Canoes also offer a range of team day’s out and group events.
#2 Lee Valley Canoe
You can find Lee Valley Canoe Cycle at: Mill Lane, EN10 7AX, UK. You can hire a kayak for a maximum of 2 hours. A good choice if you want to just go for a leisurely paddle, however it may not be enough time if you want to make a day of it. They are open Thursday to Monday, and you are perfectly situated to explore the River Lee Navigation.
#3 Paddle Richmond
Based in Richmond Upon Thames you can find Paddle Richmond at the arch under Richmond Bridge right next to the boathouses. (The nearest parking is Friars Lane, 5 mins walk away). Paddle Richmond’s standard slots are 2 hours in length but they do specify on their website that you can book for longer by special arrangement. They are situated in a great spot to explore a scenic part of the River Thames.
Situated in the heart of London Docklands: Docklands Sailing and Watersports Centre, 235A Westferry Rd, London E14 3QS. You can hire equipment for the whole day, but you have to stick to their areas of operation, which are inside Millwall Outer Dock. DSWC is a recognised training centre, so it’s safe to say you’ll be in safe hands if you are new to kayaking in London.
The Lee Navigation runs from Herefordshire into the centre of London. The Lee Navigation is a river that was made into a canal, and it’s a popular unbroken walking and cycling route, it offers many peaceful spots, perfect for a paddle.
Recommended kit for kayaking in London & surrounding areas
Check out the below kit to ensure you have everything you need for a safe and exciting adventure kayaking in London. 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.
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Will you be heading out on an adventure kayaking in London? Share your adventures below in the comments.