15 fun things to do on the Thames in London
Main image: Back of Beyond paddleboarding
Make the most of London’s own ‘Riviera’ and head to the water with this list of fun things to do on the Thames river…
Whether you’re looking to cool off on a hot day, soak up London’s sights or simply try something a little different, there’s plenty to do on and around the Thames. For adventurous types there are kayaks and stand-up-paddleboards, for thrill-seekers there are high-speed boat tours, and then there’s floating restaurants, floating comedy clubs, a floating puppet theatre and even floating hot tubs and barbecue boats…
Floating hot tub and BBQ boats
For balmy days we can’t think of anything better than cruising along the Thames in one of Skuna’s BBQ boats with a group of friends. Seating up to nine people, the self-drive BBQ boat comes with a built-in barbecue at its centre, so you can picnic and barbecue while sailing around the waterways of Canary Wharf. There are also Hot Tub Boats for groups of up to seven people, heated to 38°C, in the same easy-to-drive electric boats. Prices from £13 pp, see skunaboats.com for more info.
Floating puppet theatre
The UK’s only floating puppet theatre is back in Richmond this summer, stationed along Richmond’s riverbank from 16 July. Climb aboard to see The Hare and the Tortoise, showing daily on weekends and school holidays (16 July – 14 August), or The Three Pigs plus Captain Grimey (17 August – 18 September). There’s also a shadow show for an older audience – see puppetbarge.com for more info and tickets.
Rent an electric boat with GoBoat in Kingston
Pack up a picnic and book a self-drive boating experience with GoBoat in Kingston. The motor-powered boats offer plenty of room for groups, with a handy table in the middle perfect for sharing drinks and snacks. You are the captain, and you choose the route. Just book online, then collect your boat from from Riverside Walk just near Kingston Road Bridge. GoBoat is open 7 days a week until sunset. Boats are £95 for 1 hour, £135 for 2 hours, and £175 for 3 hours. goboat.co.uk/kingston
Go on a Thames boating holiday
Crank things up a notch with a boating holiday. LeBoat lets you be the captain of your own canal boat – fully kitted out with bedrooms, a kitchen, living area, and bathrooms with hot running water. What you do and where you go is entirely up to you; explore new places, and visit towns, villages and countryside all from the water. We’ve been assured that the boats are very easy to operate – no license or experience necessary. Le Boat operates on the stretch of Thames between Oxford and Kingston in London. leboat.co.uk
Go kayaking on the Thames
Explore Richmond and Twickenham by kayak, canoe, or on a stand-up paddle board. You’ll find everything you need for a self-guided cruise at the Back Of Beyond Adventures stand on the Richmond riverbank near Petersham Nurseries. Book ahead online. River adventures priced from £37.50. Backofbeyonduk.com
Try stand-up paddleboarding in Kew
Under the arches of a historic bridge in Kew, you’ll find Active 360m, which offers stand-up paddleboarding sessions to groups and individuals. Private group sessions from £99, active360.co.uk
Dine in a waterside restaurant
There is certainly no shortage of riverside restaurants in London. You’ll find a whole cluster of restaurants along the water in Richmond, in Kingston, by Battersea Power Station, and of course along Southbank in Central London. Other stand-outs include The Anchor in Wisley, The Crabtree in Hammersmith, The White Hart in Barnes, and the 1665 Riverside Brasserie at The Mitre Hampton Court (who incidentally also have a boat you can take out for a Champagne picnic).
Feel like a celebrity in a Thames Limo
For a super-luxe experience, cruise the river in a swish, Riva inspired wooden boat with Thames Limo. Often used by celebrities and in films, the experience is not cheap – expect to fork out £800 per hour (exclusive of food and drink). thameslimo.co.uk
Stay in a riverside hotel
On the banks of the Thames in Egham, just minutes from Royal Windsor, the four-star Runnymede hotel is a perfect spot for summer days along the water. There’s riverside dining, an award-winning spa, paddle boarding sessions and a private jetty with boats for riverboat cruises. runnymedehotel.com
Walk the river
The Thames Path is a long-distance walking trail, following the Thames for 185 miles (298 km). The section through London alone stretches 40 miles, so unless you’re a dedicated walker, pick just a section. We recommend starting the route from Putney pier, and following it through Hammersmith to Barnes, stopping for lunch, then heading back again. It’s worth mentioning you can access Putney Pier via Thames Clipper, for those coming from further East.
Explore the Southbank
The area along the South Bank is one of the London’s best riverside sections to wander as there’s always something going on – a Christmas market in winter, an urban beach in summer, festivals, events, not to mention the London Aquarium, the London Eye, the Southbank Centre exhibitions and performances at the Royal Festival Hall, films at the BFI, and plays at the National Theatre. You’ll find plenty of restaurants along here too, plus the views are pretty spectacular.
Board a floating restaurant
You’ll find hundreds of riverside restaurants in London, but how about a floating one? Starting from Embankment Pier, Bateaux London’s upscale dinner cruise will take you past London’s most famous landmarks on its famous glass-walled boat, meaning you won’t miss a single sight no matter where you sit. There are floating jazz evenings and romantic candlelight concerts, so you’ll also be serenaded along the way, making it one of the most romantic boat restaurants on the Thames. bateauxlondon.com
Laugh out loud at London’s only floating comedy club
Attracting a lively crowd for after-work drinks, the Tattershall Castle is famed for being one of London’s most popular floating pubs. But the restaurant and bar also host a weekly comedy night – each show is packed with familiar TV faces, the best of the UK comedy circuit and fantastic rising stars. Plus, its prime location on Victoria Embankment means you can enjoy dinner, drinks and comedy overlooking some of London’s most iconic sites, including the London Eye and Houses of Parliament. thetattershallcastle.co.uk
Explore London with Thames Clipper
Snap up a day pass and take the hop-on, hop-off Uber Boat by Thames Clippers. It stops at 24 piers along the Thames between Barking Riverside Pier in the east and Putney Pier in the west, with services running from early in the morning until late at night 7 days a week. It’s a great way to spot London’s landmarks from the river and see parts you wouldn’t normally get to see. If you’re based in the south west, why not board from Putney pier (a short walk from Putney overground), hop off at Battersea Power Station or Southbank for lunch, then adventure all the way up the river to Greenwich, before heading back again. An adult river roamer is £18.90, and child tickets are £9.45, thamesclippers.com
Get hearts racing on a Thames RIB experience
Fasten your seatbelts and experience the capital in fast-forward on a speedboat tour of London with Thames RIB Experience. The high-speed ride takes you along London’s top attractions in a rigid inflatable boat. Enjoy adrenaline-fuelled fun with speeds up to 35 miles per hour, soaking in epic views along the way.