No matter how many times you visit London, no matter if you are a local or a tourist, the capital will always have plenty of things to surprise you with. London off the beaten path opens up to everyone who wants to discover it, with magnificent parks and gardens, intriguing museums and theaters, hidden cocktail bars, unique attractions and so much more.
Did you know that one fantastic way to discover the hidden London is by boat? If you venture North of Central London you will discover an oasis of green and a network of canals that will not only surprise you but also offer you both fun and relaxation moments.
I discovered Little Venice a few years ago, when I booked a hotel in the area. I remember my amazement of how beautiful the area was, and also the pub next door which made its own chocolate beer. Think of it as Guinness with a chocolate aftertaste. I returned to Little Venice a few months ago and followed the Regents Canal all the way to Camden, and further ahead to King’s Cross. And I loved it so much that the following weeks I filled my Instagram feed with the photos I took during that walk, depicting quiet green areas, the African hunting dogs from London Zoo, colorful moor boats docked alongside the canal, yummy dishes from the food trucks in Camden Market, street art and quirky cafes.
GoBoat Canal Boat Hire
On my most recent trip to London, I asked my friend Amy to join me on a unique, London off-the-beaten-path adventure. And it was such a treat! Whether you’ve already visited London and seen the most-travelled sights, or you’re looking for something new and refreshing to experience in the English capital, I guarantee a GoBoat tour is a relaxing, enjoyable way to see London’s finer points whilst coasting wistfully on the water. I’m eager to share with you our experience on the GoBoat Canal Boat Tour.
I highly recommend reserving a boat in advance, so you have smooth sailing on the day of your excursion. Reserving a GoBoat is simple. Just go to GoBoat’s website and click on the “Book Now” button. Of course, life jackets are available and are included in the price. Note the maximum number of passengers is eight (8) per boat. GoBoat vessels are canal boats, so they are large “Jon” boats, with an outboard propeller motor, handle grip accelerator/gear shift and steering rudder. The maximum speed is approximately 4 miles per hour. This is a leisurely canal cruise, not a speed boating experience. I recommend taking a quick “practice lap” with your GoBoat steward prior to setting off on your canal cruise.
How to Get To the Docks
GoBoat’s base location and pick-up point is conveniently located in Merchant Square, Paddington, London, W2 1JZ. If travelling on foot, we advise you to take the main streets – it is an easy enjoyable stroll from Hyde Park. Taking the Tube is also recommended, both Edgware Road and Paddington are withing walking distance from Merchant Square. Be sure to arrive 15 minutes prior to your designated reservation time.
As you approach Merchant Square, you will pass between two large office buildings and see a large public fountain. You will see the GoBoat canal boats clearly marked on the waterfront. Look for the GoBoat stand, where a staff member will be on-hand to greet you, confirm your boat reservation, give you operating instructions, and explain the map for boating on the Regents Canal and surrounding areas. Now you’re ready to set off on your GoBoat excursion!
Setting the Stage
Before heading to the Merchant Square location to check in and board our GoBoat, we gathered our canal boating essentials at the local M&S. Afterall, what is boating without a picnic? We selected a few tasty snacks just around the corner from the pickup location, including a cheese platter, crackers, petit fours and of course, a couple drinks to whet our whistles. As you know, boaters get hungry and thirsty. With our treats bought we were ready to cruise the canals!
Do remember though that GoBoat has an alcohol limit, for safety! Also, you can’t drink and drive so why would you steer a boat whilst being over the limit?
The GoBoat Experience
GoBoat prides itself on sociability and sustainability, with the boats made 80% out of recycled plastic. GoBoats are powered by electric engines in order to ensure no noise or environmental pollution, countering London’s damaging public transportation by water. To top this, GoBoat London collaborates with popular businesses holding a similar goal; The Paddington Partnership and the Canal & Rivers Trust.
Hiring a GoBoat is a clever and affordable way to spend time with friends, family and colleagues while enjoying London’s scenic canals. You can check the prices on the website, by clicking here.
We left Merchant Square and sailed northbound to Little Venice, along the Regent’s Canal up to Camden Lock. One of the thing we liked about the GoBoat experience is its accurate, functional map which is provided on both on the GoBoat website and at check-in.
So there we went, two adult women, on a single lane canal, with a map, heading towards Camden…. The wrong way. After an hour of “Hmmm, I wonder how far is still to the London Zoo” we checked the map and realised we went the exact opposite way. However, we still enjoyed very beautiful sights!
What surprised us most was the street art we witnessed on the canal tour. We especially loved the canalside gardens we passed by, as well as the unique houseboats and canalside restaurants. We waived at other boats and admired an old man’s stunning sculpture garden. We tried to guess which one is the Innocent Tower (I’m a huge fan of their marketing) and “aweeed” at bird families building their nests over the water.
By hiring a boat and cruising Regent Canal, we got the unique opportunity to shoot beautiful photos of London, from the water. Due to the GoBoat’s sustainable and contemporary design, our ride was smooth, ensuring clear photos to capture the natural sights around us. The only thing that made us stop a few times was the propeller getting stuck with plastic wrappers and bags. Unfortunately some people still think it’s OK to throw their garbage in the water.
One extra special perk we enjoyed was the kind, courteous tips the welcome steward gives for our journey. For instance, he warned us of a nesting swan family which was located just before we reached Little Venice. My Gosh, I thought the Dame would board our vessel! She broadened her gossamer wings like an Albatross, hissed and coasted through the water toward us with the speed of a U-Boat. Thankfully, we had fair warning and steered clear. Other than that, we enjoyed a restful, uneventful journey. The best for which one may hope on any journey in a boat, right?
Even if we did get lost, on our way back we did do a detour and explored Little Venice a little bit. Sailing through the narrow, one way tunnel at the end of Little Venice was both fun and spooky in the same time. But no worries, out boat was equipped with a front light.
Have you been on a London canal boat adventure before?
Disclaimer: Please note that I was a guest of GoBoat and I received this experience complimentary. However, all the opinions in this article are my own and I would not recommend anything that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself doing or think it was a great place to visit.
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