If you have seen my blog post about walking the Regent’s Canal, you will know that I am a huge fan of this stretch of canal. I will, of course, jump at the chance to hit this stretch of water in any way I can and so I was thrilled to find out about GoBoat London and try one of their boats out for myself.
If you have ever dreamed of being your own Captain, then this is your chance. GoBoat London, based in Paddington Basin, hires out 8-seater electric boats. You can take them out for between one and three hours.
Never be short of ideas for other things to do in London; check out 101 Things to add to your Bucket List
Our GoBoat London Booking
I say myself, but it was actually, four friends, Mr Fluskey and I who took a boat out for a spin. When we looked at the dates we could do, we decided to make it later in April in the hopes that the weather would be warming up. Well, it turns out, we picked the worst weather in a two week stretch. The rain was steady and insistent, but we are British and so we persevered!
Boarding Our GoBoat
To be honest, the rain had us all a little apprehensive but we were greeted by a very cheerful chap. He confirmed our booking and gave Mr Fluskey, our appointed Captain, a very funky captain’s hat. He very kindly wiped down the plastic seats for us. No soggy bottoms here.
There are no covers on these boats, so if you are coming on a drizzly day, then pack for the weather. Among other things, we had:
- Rain jackets
- Waterproof trousers
- Waterproof ponchos
We were a well-prepared and odd-looking lot!
We were given a quick rundown of how to operate the boat and then Captain Fluskey had a quick sailing test. He motored slowly up the canal, performed a u-turn and then, with a nod, we were off!
See you in two hours!
Operating the GoBoat
GoBoats are electric so there is no horrible yanking of engine cords here. Just twist the handle and the near silent engine will start up. The GoBoat only goes about 5 mph so it is easy to steer whether you are an experienced sailor or not. You just need to remember to point the rudder in the opposite direction to one you intend to go.
Messing About on the River (Canal)
First things, first, picnic out!
One of my favourite things about picnics is discovering what everyone has bought to contribute. The GoBoat has a picnic table built into the middle of the deck and so it is the perfect place to enjoy a special al fresco lunch.
Being on a terribly dull diet, I brought crudites, reduced fat hummus and a bottle of bubbles. Luckily my friends were a little more generous with their calories. We had cake, pizza, crisps and yet more bubbles! It is worth noting that your captain must stay sober throughout the journey. Luckily, we had one person who was due to go to work after our outing, so the designated driver was easy to pick.
If you’re feeling hungry afterwards, for food inspiration check out Eat Your Way Around the World in Soho
Sightseeing on the Regent’s Canal
We chugged slowly passed Paddington Station laughing at the bemused face of the commuters and office workers. With the rain pattering on our umbrellas, and our champagne flutes filling with rain water, I can see why. The Paddington Basin is a lovely mix of old canal yards and flashy new builds.
Little Venice is a beautiful corner of West London. The weeping willows drank in the rain water, and geese skittered across the surface of the water. I walk through it every day for work, and so seeing it from the water was a nice change of perspective. It is on this stretch you will usually see the nicest house boats. Many have permanent moorings here and so they have little gardens and more elaborate roof step ups.
Maida Hill Tunnel
If it is a lovely sunny day, then this may be the worst part of your journey. You pass underneath a lovely Italian restaurant and for two or three minutes you are in a dark tunnel. The GoBoat has a light on the front though, so don’t panic. We found the tunnel a lovely relief from the rain, an opportunity to put the umbrellas down for a second.
Floating past some of North London’s most fabulous estates takes you from London to a slice of the countryside. These comfy piles, built 1980 – 2004, are my London dream.
ZSL London Zoo
London Zoo runs alongside the canal and from the water, you can see some of the enclosures. We spied the warthogs and wild dogs from the boat. It is always slightly surreal. On the other side of the canal is the Snowdon Aviary. It has been granted funding to be repurposed, and restructured to accommodate monkeys other exciting animals. Check out the ZSL website to read all about it.
Check out when we visited ZSL London Zoo and helped look after the animals in Zookeeper For a Day
Coming up the corner towards Camden, you may have another “out-of-London” experience. Ahead is the floating Chinese restaurant Feng Shang Princess. We thought about ordering some nice warm food to sail off with, but they didn’t open for another 30 minutes.
On the final approach to Camden, the best thing is the personalities along the canal. Tourists, buskers and local eccentrics waved at us as we drifted past. I would have loved a chance to go through the lock but with two hours, this is the point you need to turn around.
Back to the GoBoat Base
After a very slow 180, we set off back the way we had come. One of my party had been huddling so far under her umbrella that as we floated back, she spotted everything that everyone else had already seen. It was very funny and very sweet!
A Quick Homage to the Crew
Sharing this experience with your nearest and dearest will increase the fun ten fold. Thank you to my buddies for coming with me and braving the weather.
We met at Paddington station, London. The closest exit is at the Costa Coffee opposite the Circle and Hammersmith Underground Station. Climb the steps and exit the station. Cross the footbridge to your right. and then it is just along the canal side. This is just a five minute walk but in a confused and soggy screaming gaggle, we went the wrong way twice. Just find the Marks and Spencers Simply Food at Merchant Square and you will see GoBoat on the canal.
Need help navigating the unspoken rules of the Tube? Check out Your Complete London Underground Guide
More Information About GoBoat
- GoBoat London operates a peak and off-peak pricing system. Save money by renting the boat Monday to Friday (not including bank holidays).
- The boat is also cheaper per hour, the longer you rent it for.
- GoBoat operates in all weathers so the only restriction is your constitution.
- If, unlike us, you really don’t fancy a day out in the rain, then cancellation or rebooking must be done more than 48 hours in advance of your booking.
- Your GoBoat captain must be over 18 and remain sober throughout the experience.
- If you have any more questions, check out their FAQs.
I have often seen these little GoBoats sliding past me as I walked the canal, and so I was very excited to take one for a pin. It was a lovely way to get together with friends, reconnect over a weird collection of foods and be able to talk. If the sun had been out, it would have been absolutely perfect. Mind you, I LOVE the fact that we did it anyway! I think GoBoat London would make a great alternative idea for a hen do, Mother’s Day or just a get together with your besties. Pack a bubbly afternoon tea and take to the water.
You can even pop in and see Paddington Bear