Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Afsar

Greetings to all adventurous souls and lovers of waterways! Welcome to our guide to the wonderful world of kayaking in London. If you thought the capital city of the UK was just about the hustle and bustle, iconic landmarks, and regal parks, then you’re in for a pleasant surprise. London has a fantastic network of waterways that provide a unique perspective of the city, and what better way to explore these hidden gems than by kayak?

From tranquil reservoirs to bustling canals, these waterways offer an opportunity to explore London’s diverse urban and natural landscapes while enjoying the thrill of paddling through the water. Our guide offers a comprehensive list of the top 15 kayaking spots in London that we believe would satiate your thirst for adventure. We’ve dived deep into each location, giving you details about accessibility, wildlife, surrounding activities, and of course, the best spots to launch your kayak.

So, grab your paddles, don your life jackets, and prepare to embark on an urban adventure like no other, as we navigate through the winding waterways of London. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a curious beginner, there’s a corner of this city waiting for you to explore. Let’s get started!

kayaking in river thames london

River Thames

Paddling down the Thames is a must-do in London. You can easily rent a kayak near Putney Bridge and hit the water in no time, thanks to nearby parking and transit. As you drift along, you’ll see London’s beauty unfold from the greenery of its parks to the grandeur of landmarks like the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye. There’s wildlife aplenty, with seals and porpoises making surprise appearances, and birds like swans and herons are part of the river’s charm. If you fancy a break from kayaking, the Thames Path is perfect for a walk, a bike ride, or just kicking back at a riverside pub or on a picnic. And there’s nothing quite like the sunset over the Thames to top off your day. Kayaking here is an adventure that mixes city vibes with nature’s touch, perfect for both pros and first-timers. It’s an experience you won’t want to miss in London.

Photo Credit: Ben Garratt, Unsplash

Regent’s Canal

A hidden gem in the heart of the bustling city, Regent’s Canal offers a picturesque and serene kayaking experience right through the historic waterways of London. Accessibility is incredibly easy with the canal located close to King’s Cross or Camden Town Tube stations. The waterways can be easily accessed, and kayaks can be launched from the multiple boating centres located along the canal. This makes it an ideal starting point for your adventure, whether you’re an experienced kayaker or a first-time paddler.

The canal weaves through a rich variety of landscapes, from trendy urban locales to areas of lush greenery, offering a unique cross-section of London life. You’ll paddle past historic narrowboats, under charming bridges, and through Victorian tunnels. The canal also runs through ZSL London Zoo, offering the unusual and exciting prospect of spotting exotic animals as you kayak.

Speaking of fauna, the canal teems with a variety of water birds. You might see coots and moorhens darting across the water, ducks drifting by, or even catch the dazzling flash of a kingfisher. These sightings add a hint of the wilderness to the heart of the urban landscape, making the kayaking experience at Regent’s Canal uniquely appealing.

When you feel like stepping out of your kayak, there’s a wealth of other activities to enjoy in the surrounding areas. You could take a leisurely stroll through the iconic Camden Market, where you can explore vintage clothing shops, bookstores, and street food stalls. The Regent’s Park, another delightful stop along the canal, is home to beautifully manicured rose gardens, an open-air theatre that hosts performances during the summer, and even the London Zoo, making it a perfect place to unwind and relax after your kayaking adventure.

In terms of dining, you’ll find plenty of delightful waterside cafes and restaurants along the canal where you can savour a variety of delicious dishes, both local and international. Whether you’re in the mood for a light snack or a full-course meal, you’ll find something that hits the spot.

In conclusion, a kayaking trip on Regent’s Canal offers an immersive and unforgettable adventure that blends history, nature, and urban excitement. It’s a wonderful way to explore London from a fresh perspective and engage in an active pursuit that’s both fun and rewarding.

Royal Docks

Steeped in maritime history and characterized by an urban setting, the Royal Docks in East London presents a unique kayaking experience that harmoniously blends the city’s past with its present. The docks are easily accessible, with convenient transport links available via the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), making it an inviting location for anyone looking to embark on an urban kayaking adventure. The docks are equipped with several kayak rental facilities and a well-maintained launch area, ensuring a hassle-free start to your journey.

As you paddle around the Royal Docks, you’ll encounter a modern urban landscape punctuated by impressive architectural feats, notably the Siemens Crystal, one of the world’s most sustainable buildings, and the Emirates Air Line cable car. Despite the urban environment, the Royal Docks is home to a variety of wildlife. You’re likely to see an array of birds, particularly waterfowl such as ducks and geese. If you’re fortunate, you might even catch sight of a seagull diving for its lunch, adding a touch of the wild to your urban exploration.

Beyond the enjoyment of kayaking, the Royal Docks boasts a wealth of additional activities for outdoor enthusiasts. The Wakeup Docklands water sports center is a popular destination offering wakeboarding, paddleboarding, and a variety of other water-based activities. These options make the Royal Docks an excellent location for those looking to try a new sport or hone their existing skills.

On land, you can stroll along the dockside, savoring the tranquil atmosphere and beautiful views of the water. The area is dotted with a range of dining options, from casual cafes to upscale restaurants, where you can replenish your energy after a day on the water. A short walk away, you’ll find ExCel London, a world-renowned exhibition center that hosts an array of events throughout the year. From trade shows and exhibitions to live performances, you’re sure to find something of interest.

To conclude, the Royal Docks offers an appealing blend of urban and natural elements, making it a vibrant and exciting location for kayaking in London. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or a novice, the Royal Docks promises a captivating and memorable adventure.

Lee Valley White Water Centre

The Lee Valley White Water Centre is an Olympic-grade water sports facility, located near Waltham Cross. You can try kayaking, rafting, hydrospeeding, or canoeing to experience different water adventures. The Centre also offers stunning natural areas to explore on foot or by bike, and you might spot various bird and animal species while enjoying the outdoor activities. After the day’s adventures, you can refuel at the on-site café or nearby pubs and eateries. The Lee Valley White Water Centre is an excellent choice for those seeking an active day out combined with the calming influence of nature.

Richmond Upon Thames

Kayaking in Richmond upon Thames is a great way to explore a picturesque suburb of London. The district is easy to access by public transport or car, and there’s plenty of parking available. The River Thames is wider and slower here, which makes for a leisurely kayaking experience. You can launch your kayak from public slipways or local boating centers found along the river bank.

As you paddle along the Thames, you’ll be surrounded by beautiful landscapes and historical architecture. Richmond is home to many stunning royal parks and stately homes, such as Ham House and Marble Hill House. Seeing these sites while floating on the tranquil water is a unique and memorable experience.

The river is also rich with wildlife, including water birds and even otters and kingfishers if you’re lucky. There are other activities to enjoy in Richmond, such as taking a stroll in Richmond Park, which is known for its herds of red and fallow deer, or visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can also explore the charming town center, with its cobbled lanes lined with independent shops, galleries, and historic pubs.

Richmond has many dining options, from cozy pub lunches to sophisticated dining experiences. Some riverside eateries even offer stunning views while you enjoy your meal. Kayaking in Richmond upon Thames is a great way to experience a greener, slower side of London. With its balance of nature, history, and cosmopolitan charm, Richmond offers a delightful day out on the water and beyond.

Grand Union Canal, London, UK

Grand Union Canal

Kayaking the Grand Union Canal is like finding a peaceful hideaway right in London’s hustle. You can jump in a kayak at several spots, all easy to reach by bus or train. Picture yourself gliding past old homes, heritage spots, and the quaint vibe of Little Venice, with its lovely houseboats and cafes by the water.

You’ll share the space with herons, ducks, and if you’re lucky, a flash of kingfisher blue. It’s a slice of wildlife surprisingly nestled among the city scenes. Off the water, the canal’s path is great for a stroll or a bike ride, taking you to lively markets or quiet gardens. Need a bite? Canal pubs dish out hearty meals, and there are plenty of spots for a fancy dinner or a quick coffee along the way.

By ProfDEH – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Walthamstow Wetlands

Walthamstow Wetlands, the largest urban wetland nature reserve in London, offers an extraordinary kayaking experience surrounded by a lush natural environment teeming with wildlife. The site is located in northeast London, easily accessible via public transport or by car, with parking facilities available on site. You can rent a kayak from the visitor centre and launch from a designated spot, immersing yourself in this oasis of tranquillity amidst the urban landscape.

As you paddle across the Wetlands’ expansive reservoirs, you’ll be surrounded by nature at its most vibrant. The site comprises ten large water bodies, offering ample space for exploration and a chance to see the impressive Victorian structures that form part of the site’s unique industrial heritage.

Wildlife abounds at Walthamstow Wetlands. The site is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, owing to its significant bird population. Over 250 species of birds have been recorded here, including herons, kingfishers, and a variety of waterfowl. It is also a fantastic spot for watching the annual migration of various bird species. Keep your eyes peeled for other wildlife too, such as bats, amphibians, and dragonflies.

Beyond kayaking, the Wetlands offers a range of other activities. You can enjoy a walk along the scenic nature trails, go bird watching, or even try your hand at angling, with some of the reservoirs stocked with a variety of fish species.

When it’s time to refuel, the Larder café at the Engine House Visitor Centre offers a range of light snacks and refreshments. The visitor centre itself is well worth a visit for its engaging exhibits on the site’s natural and industrial history.

In summary, Walthamstow Wetlands offers a unique kayaking experience that brings you closer to nature without leaving the city. Its abundant wildlife, rich history, and beautiful landscapes make it a must-visit location for all keen kayakers in London.

Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake

One of the most famous parks in the world, Hyde Park, houses the Serpentine Lake – a wonderful place for a leisurely kayaking experience right in the heart of London. The park is highly accessible by public transport and is a short walk from several tube stations. The Serpentine Boathouse on the lake’s eastern end offers kayak rentals, and the gently sloping banks make launching straightforward.

As you paddle along the tranquil waters of the Serpentine, you’ll be surrounded by the grandeur of Hyde Park, a verdant oasis amidst the city’s hustle and bustle. The lake offers beautiful views of the park’s greenery and landmarks like the Serpentine Bridge and the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain.

The Serpentine is rich in wildlife, despite its central location. Numerous water birds inhabit the lake, such as swans, ducks, geese, and the occasional heron. You may even witness the delightful spectacle of ducklings or cygnets following their parents around the lake during certain seasons.

Hyde Park offers an array of activities when you’re not kayaking. You can take a stroll or a bike ride along the numerous paths, visit the beautiful Rose Garden, or explore the Serpentine Gallery, known for its contemporary art exhibitions. The park is also popular for concerts and events, so you might find something interesting happening during your visit.

When it comes to dining, there are several options around the lake. The Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, located near the Boathouse, offers a variety of dishes, from sandwiches to wood-fired pizzas. Alternatively, you can grab a quick snack from one of the many food stalls around the park.

In summary, kayaking in Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake is a fantastic way to enjoy nature, see wildlife, and take in some of London’s most famous sights. It provides a peaceful retreat from the city’s fast pace, making it a perfect urban kayaking destination.

Hampstead Heath Ponds

Nestled within the expansive Hampstead Heath, the Hampstead Heath Ponds offer a unique and serene kayaking experience in one of London’s most beloved green spaces. The Heath is well-connected by public transport, and the ponds are a short walk from either Hampstead or Gospel Oak stations. You’ll need to bring your own kayak as there are no rental facilities, but the launching process is straightforward, and the calm, still waters are perfect for beginners and seasoned kayakers alike.

As you glide across the pond’s mirror-like surface, you’ll be enveloped by the stunning natural beauty of the Heath. Majestic weeping willows dip their branches into the water, and dense reed beds rustle in the wind, creating a sense of seclusion and tranquillity that belies the location’s proximity to the city centre.

The ponds are a haven for wildlife, particularly birds. You’re likely to see ducks, moorhens, and coots paddling alongside you, while overhead, you might spot a heron in flight or a sparrowhawk hunting. In the surrounding woodland, keep an eye out for squirrels, foxes, and the many species of butterflies that inhabit the Heath.

Hampstead Heath offers an array of activities beyond kayaking. You can explore the extensive network of walking trails, take a dip in the famous swimming ponds, or visit Kenwood House, a beautiful stately home with an impressive art collection. The Heath also offers some of the best views in London from Parliament Hill, making it a great spot for picnicking.

When you’re ready for a bite to eat, the park offers several options. The Parliament Hill Café is a popular choice, serving a range of hot and cold meals, while the Brew House Café near Kenwood House offers an enticing selection of cakes and pastries.

In conclusion, a kayaking trip on the Hampstead Heath Ponds offers an opportunity to escape the urban rush and immerse yourself in nature. The combination of beautiful surroundings, abundant wildlife, and a calm, peaceful atmosphere makes this an unforgettable London kayaking destination.

Brent Reservoir (Welsh Harp)

Located in North West London, Brent Reservoir, commonly known as Welsh Harp, is a large water body that offers a peaceful kayaking experience within an urban environment. It’s easily accessible by public transport with a few bus routes directly passing by the reservoir, and it is also conveniently reachable by car, with free parking available nearby. You’ll find the Phoenix Canoe Club at the water’s edge, providing kayak rentals and instruction, making it an ideal spot for beginners and experienced kayakers.

As you navigate the serene waters of the reservoir, you will be surrounded by the splendour of a protected nature reserve. The contrast between the quietude of the water and the surrounding cityscape creates a unique atmosphere that’s both calming and captivating.

The Brent Reservoir is a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to its significance as a habitat for a wide range of wildlife. The reservoir and surrounding wetlands are a haven for water birds such as ducks, coots, grebes, swans, and herons. It’s also a popular spot for birdwatchers as migratory birds often stop at the reservoir. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a rare species!

Apart from kayaking, Brent Reservoir offers a range of other activities. You can enjoy a walk along the many paths that wind through the surrounding woodlands and meadows, or you can try your hand at sailing or windsurfing through the Welsh Harp Sailing Club. Birdwatching is also a popular activity here, given the site’s rich birdlife.

When it comes to food and refreshments, you’ll find a café in the nearby Silver Jubilee Park, serving a variety of hot and cold options. A short drive away, the local area of Wembley has a wide range of eateries to choose from.

To summarise, Brent Reservoir offers a unique urban kayaking experience. With its abundant wildlife, tranquil atmosphere, and array of water sports, it’s a must-visit spot for anyone looking to enjoy kayaking in the heart of London.

Limehouse Basin UK Kayaking spot

Limehouse Basin

Located in East London, Limehouse Basin offers an urban kayaking experience that provides a unique perspective of the city. The Basin is conveniently located close to Limehouse DLR station and is well-serviced by numerous bus routes, making it easily accessible by public transport. The Limehouse Basin Marina has facilities to rent and launch a kayak, catering to paddlers of all levels.

As you paddle around Limehouse Basin, you’ll experience a fascinating blend of modern and traditional London. The waterway is surrounded by contemporary apartment complexes, trendy bars, and eateries, juxtaposed against remnants of the old docklands, such as the restored Victorian clock tower. The Basin connects to the Regent’s Canal and the River Thames, offering longer paddling routes for the more adventurous.

The wildlife in Limehouse Basin and the connecting canals and river may surprise you. Look out for coots, moorhens, and mallards in the water, while the surrounding trees and shrubs often house sparrows and finches. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a seal in the Thames near the Basin’s exit.

When you’re not kayaking, there’s plenty to do around Limehouse Basin. You can walk or cycle along the scenic canal towpath, explore the local art scene at the Limehouse Gallery, or visit the nearby Narrow Street, known for its traditional English pubs and famous former residents, such as author Charles Dickens.

For food and drinks, Limehouse Basin is surrounded by numerous options. Gordon Ramsay’s gastropub, The Narrow, overlooks the Basin, serving traditional British dishes with stunning water views. If you prefer a casual bite, several food stalls and cafes serve everything from street food to gourmet coffee.

In summary, Limehouse Basin offers an engaging and unique urban kayaking experience. The combination of historical charm, modern sophistication, and surprising biodiversity makes it an excellent location for a day out on the water in London.

The River Wandle

A tributary of the River Thames, the River Wandle is a lesser-known but charming spot for kayaking in London. The Wandle Trail, a route that follows the river from Croydon to Wandsworth, is easily accessible via public transport, with nearby stations at various points along the river. You’ll need to bring your own kayak as there are no rental facilities, but there are numerous places where you can launch your kayak and start your adventure.

The River Wandle offers a tranquil and beautiful environment for kayaking. It winds through parks, past historic mills, under ornate bridges, and alongside beautiful gardens, offering a taste of London’s varied landscapes and rich history. With generally calm waters, it’s suitable for both beginners and experienced kayakers.

The river is a hotspot for wildlife. Various species of fish inhabit the water, including brown trout, which have been reintroduced after years of pollution. Above the surface, keep an eye out for kingfishers, a thrilling sight with their vibrant plumage. You might also see ducks, swans, and moorhens, as well as the occasional heron.

There’s plenty to do when you’re not kayaking. You can walk, cycle, or run along the Wandle Trail, or you could visit the Wandle Industrial Museum to learn about the river’s significant industrial heritage. If you’re interested in angling, the river is a popular spot for fishing, with the Wandle Piscators offering advice and events for keen fishermen.

When it comes to refreshments, there are plenty of options along the river. You’ll find a variety of pubs, cafes, and restaurants in the towns and villages along the Wandle Trail, offering everything from hearty pub lunches to sweet treats and gourmet coffees.

In conclusion, kayaking on the River Wandle offers a unique opportunity to explore a lesser-known side of London. With its beautiful scenery, fascinating history, and rich wildlife, it’s a wonderful place to escape the city’s hustle and bustle.

Little Venice kayaking spot london

Little Venice

Situated near Paddington, Little Venice is a picturesque and tranquil part of London’s extensive canal system where the Grand Union and Regent’s Canals meet. Known for its beautiful canals and colourful narrowboats, Little Venice provides an idyllic setting for a relaxing kayak trip. It’s easily accessible via Warwick Avenue tube station, and there are several boat hire services nearby, including the Paddington Sports Club.

Paddling through Little Venice feels like stepping back in time. The tree-lined canals, charming narrowboats, and elegant Victorian houses that overlook the waterway create a calm and serene environment that seems a world away from the busy city streets nearby.

Despite its urban location, Little Venice is a good place to spot some wildlife. Various water birds can be seen here, including ducks, swans, coots, and moorhens. On the water’s edge, you might catch a glimpse of birds such as robins, sparrows, and blackbirds.

When you’re not on the water, there’s plenty to see and do in Little Venice. You can take a leisurely stroll along the canal towpath, relax in the nearby Rembrandt Gardens, or catch a show at the Puppet Theatre Barge – a unique floating puppet theatre.

When it comes to dining, Little Venice offers several delightful options. The Waterside Café, housed inside a narrowboat, is a great spot for a bite to eat, while the Bridge House pub serves classic British fare. You can also find several quaint tea rooms and artisan bakeries in the surrounding area.

Overall, Little Venice offers a peaceful and picturesque kayaking experience, rich with London’s distinctive charm. Whether you’re paddling gently along the canal or watching the world go by from a canalside café, Little Venice provides a memorable visit for all kayakers.

kayaking on lea valley london

Lea Valley

Stretching 26 miles through North East London, the Lee Valley, also known as the River Lea, offers a lengthy and diverse kayaking trail that takes you through an array of landscapes. The area is easily accessible with the London Overground servicing several stations along the river. The Lee Valley White Water Centre provides kayak rentals and lessons, making it an ideal spot for both beginners and experienced paddlers.

While kayaking on the River Lea, you’ll witness a contrasting scenery of urban development, peaceful parks, wetlands, and reservoirs. Starting from the industrial, graffiti-adorned canals near Hackney, the river gradually opens into the serene, nature-rich areas of Walthamstow Marshes and Tottenham Marshes, before reaching the sprawling Lee Valley Park.

The Lee Valley is a hotspot for wildlife and is home to various nature reserves. It’s not uncommon to see water birds such as ducks, geese, herons, and swans. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a kingfisher or an elusive water vole. The surrounding green spaces also offer the chance to see a variety of flora and fauna.

There’s no shortage of activities when you’re not kayaking. Lee Valley Park is home to an array of sports facilities, including cycling routes, horse riding, and golfing. The Wetlands Centre in Walthamstow offers birdwatching opportunities, and the Lee Valley White Water Centre provides other thrilling water sports like white water rafting.

For food and refreshments, you’ll find several options along the river. The Terrace Café at the White Water Centre offers a selection of meals and snacks, while the nearby town of Waltham Abbey has a variety of pubs, cafes, and restaurants.

In conclusion, kayaking in the Lee Valley offers an opportunity to explore London’s diverse landscapes and abundant wildlife. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful paddle in a nature reserve or an adventurous water sport experience, the Lee Valley has it all.

Shadwell Basin

Situated in the East End of London, Shadwell Basin is the last of the London Docks that remains in use for recreational activities. It’s accessible through various modes of public transport, with the nearest station being Shadwell on the DLR and Overground lines. The Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre provides kayak rentals and instruction, so both beginners and experienced kayakers can enjoy this unique urban waterway.

Paddling in Shadwell Basin is a unique experience, with the modern skyline of Canary Wharf visible in the distance. The water is calm, providing ideal conditions for a relaxing paddle. The blend of the Basin’s historic industrial roots and its present as an urban oasis gives it a distinctive character unlike anywhere else in London.

While in the heart of the city, Shadwell Basin has a surprising amount of wildlife. Numerous water birds are found here, including coots, mallards, and Canada geese. Look out for cormorants diving for fish in the water, and keep an eye on the sky for peregrine falcons that nest on nearby buildings.

In addition to kayaking, the Shadwell Basin Outdoor Activity Centre offers a variety of other activities such as sailing, canoeing, and climbing. For those seeking a break from water sports, the surrounding area is worth exploring. You can take a walk along the Thames Path, visit the nearby Wilton’s Music Hall – the world’s oldest surviving music hall, or explore the bustling streets of Whitechapel.

For food and drink, you’ll find a wide variety of options in the surrounding area. Local pubs such as The Prospect of Whitby and The Captain Kidd serve traditional British fare and offer fantastic views of the Thames. Alternatively, there are plenty of food stalls in the nearby markets serving diverse and delicious cuisine from around the world.

In summary, Shadwell Basin offers a unique and exciting kayaking experience in the heart of London. The blend of history, urban scenery, and wildlife makes it an unmissable destination for anyone seeking to explore London’s waterways.

From the heart of the city to its peaceful outskirts, London’s rivers, canals, and basins cater to kayakers of all abilities. So, whether you’re a seasoned paddler seeking your next adventure or a beginner looking to try your hand at this thrilling activity, London’s dynamic waterways await your exploration.

We hope this guide has inspired you to embrace the kayaking opportunities in London, and equipped you with the necessary information to embark on your next water-based adventure in the UK’s capital. Remember, each kayaking spot in London offers its unique charm, flora, fauna, and experiences. So why wait? Grab your kayak and head out to explore the best kayaking spots in London, UK.

Don’t forget to check back for more tips, updates, and guides on kayaking in London. Whether it’s the serene River Wandle, the bustling Shadwell Basin, or the historic Regent’s Canal, we are your go-to resource for all things related to kayaking in London. See you on the water soon!

15 Best Places for Kayaking in London