Looking for something totally unique to do in London? Sure, you could go ride the London Eye (which I love), stroll through Buckingham Palace, or experience history at the Tower of London. But London is a big, beautiful city and there’s something for everyone – including those of us who are looking for more unusual and unique things to do in London.
In cruises GoBoat – pun intended –: this company has locations in the U.K., Denmark, and Australia, and offers something completely different. At each of their locations, they provide low-powered electric boat rentals to explore some of the world’s greatest cities – Copenhagen, Melbourne, and, of course, London, among others – by water. In short, you become the captain of a tiny vessel and can set out to explore with friends.
I had the chance to try GoBoat during my September 2022 trip; it was arranged for what turned out to be a somewhat drizzly afternoon on Regent’s Canal – but that spitting rain didn’t dampen my husband’s or my spirit at all!
Below you’ll find my GoBoat London review, to help you understand how this service works, and how to add it to your own London itinerary. Have any questions about GoBoat? Let me know in the comments below!
GoBoat London: Locations & Routes
Within London, GoBoat has three locations: Paddington (on Regent’s Canal), Kingston-upon-Thames (further up the Thames), and Canary Wharf (through the Docklands). Each of these is totally unique, so it’s important to read about each one to get a sense of what sights you’ll see during a rental in each area of London.
When you arrive to check in for your GoBoat rental (which I’ll cover more in a moment), you’ll receive a map of the route you can take and other boat driving safety rules – you don’t need to be an expert or have ever driven a boat to follow the guidance GoBoat provides and safely putt-putt along the waterways of the river or canal of your choosing.
For my GoBoat experience, I booked my husband and me on a rental from Paddington; I had previously taken a water taxi from Camden to Paddington while living in London and knew it would be a scenic ride through a part of the city we had never experienced together. Over the course of our three-hour rental, we were bathed in the greens of trees that line Regent’s Canal and the splashes of bright colors from the canal houseboats that line the waterway.
GoBoat London: Pricing & Reservations
While prices are subject to change and depend on the location you rent from, broadly speaking you have a few choices:
- You can rent for 1, 2, 3, or 4 hours (4-hour option only available at Kingston-upon-Thames)
- Prices range from £95 for one hour to £175 for three hours (£205 for 4)
Price is independent of how many people are on your boat, which makes it a great activity for groups or families looking for a unique thing to do in London that’s actually quite cost-effective.
You should absolutely make a reservation in advance, which can be done on the GoBoat website. This is especially important if you’re visiting London during the busy summer months of June, July, and August, and/or on a weekend.
Even if the weather isn’t ideal – this is London, after all – GoBoat is popular on summer weekends or any nice sunny day. Since London does receive visitors year-round, it’s generally just good advice to plan ahead and book anything in advance that you really want to do. (Like GoBoat, after reading my review!)
My GoBoat London Experience
Now let’s turn to what you came here for: my own GoBoat London review.
There are lots of online reviews for GoBoat, but I thought I’d write my own to share a bit more about my experience, especially since it wasn’t in the best conditions.
See, my husband and I came down with food poisoning just after arriving in London (not sure of the cause, but I think it was dodgy oysters at a restaurant in Manchester…). In any case, our GoBoat rental was the very first activity we did after finally starting to recover – I had literally spent two days in bed prior to this, and you can tell from my pallor and the generally lackluster photos I took (though I did try to document the entire experience!).
In any case, we arrived at the Paddington check-in kiosk on a grey, drizzly day, and were quickly checked in and given a safety briefing for our boat, Irene. My husband has lots of experience with boats and was feeling a bit better than me, so he set out to navigate us down from Paddington Basin through Little Venice and onto Regent’s Canal.
At one point, I did take over to drive for a bit, and really enjoyed learning to navigate the boat. As you might imagine, driving on a long, straight canal is generally straightforward – no pun intended. But it’s still fun for everyone to give it a try; when not driving, everyone else can sit at the lovely picnic table you’ve seen in my photos.
In terms of safety, we had no issues: the instructions and map provided by GoBoat were very easy to understand, and we knew where all the safety equipment was located onboard. Adults are not required to wear a lifevest during the ride, but there are plenty tucked into the benches should you need them.
We had a two-hour rental from Paddington, which was more than sufficient to make it all the way to the turn-around point at the far end of Regent’s Canal (you can’t go past a certain point toward Camden Lock). As it was just the two of us (probably a good thing since we were such sad sacks post-poisoning), we chatted and enjoyed the views; you can bring your own food and (non-alcoholic) drinks aboard to enjoy. (We saw a group arriving as we returned with pizza boxes and cans of drink for a fun activity!)
FAQ About GoBoat London
You might have a few other questions at this point, before deciding to commit. I’ve answered some of the main ones below; if you have others, please let me know in the comments and I’ll answer them plus add them here.
What happens if it rains?
As I’ve mentioned, the weather wasn’t ideal for our day on the water; it drizzled and spitted on and off while we were out on Regent’s Canal. GoBoat provides umbrellas and blankets to help you stay dry-ish during your trip; it was more than sufficient given the amount of time we were out and the amount of precipitation, but I would potentially try to reschedule if it’s raining a lot on the day of your reservation, as there’s no good way to stay completely dry.
Is GoBoat good for families?
Absolutely – GoBoat is a great family activity in London! You can fit up to eight on a boat, and according to the GoBoat website, “all children aged 16 and under are required to wear a lifejacket.” Your teenager won’t love that, but it’s a good safety precaution as there are other boats on the water and you will be navigating.
What happens if you’re running late?
If you’re running late for any arranged tour or experience in London, the best thing to do is call as soon as you can. If you’re like me, you might take the Tube a lot to get around, which means no service til you’re back above ground – still, just call and let them know.
Additionally, you still have to be back at the end of your reservation window, so it’s better to book a longer session in case you are late to set out on your GoBoat adventure – you won’t cut your time short if you’re running 15 minutes late!
Is there anywhere good to eat near GoBoat Paddington?
This is a weirdly specific question but one I thought was relevant as my husband and I had our first “real meal” before setting out on our Paddington GoBoat rental. There are lots of amazing restaurants in and near Paddington Basin and Little Venice (including a few floating restaurants!), but we ate at BrewDog. I love this brewery and restaurant, and it was pretty quiet for lunch on a weekday.
GoBoat London Review: Final Thoughts
So, overall, do I recommend GoBoat in London? Yes! (As you might have been able to guess by this point…)
GoBoat is a nice addition to my personal list of off-beat and less common things to do in London; I’m always looking for these as I’ve done most of the big sightseeing stuff at this point – and I know many people are looking for more unique experiences in addition to the must-see sights.
GoBoat is a fun way to explore a part of London you would probably never visit, and partake in an activity you probably wouldn’t think to do. Sure, you can do a Thames River cruise too – but this is a fun family/group-friendly activity that will give you special memories from your London trip.
Have any other questions about my GoBoat London review, booking your own GoBoat, or cruising around London with them? Let me know in the comments!
I was invited to try GoBoat in exchange for this review, but my final commentary and recommendation was at my own discretion.