Seal and Yacht Spotting on the Glittering Waters of… London
Half of all Londoners live within a five-minute walk of a canal, river, dock or lake, yet most of us spend our time on land, looking at it or dodging armpits beneath it, rather than on it. We rectified this with a glorious, two-hour GoBoat trip from Canary Wharf, past yachts, boats, glossy skyscrapers and iconic landmarks like the O2 Arena and the beautiful, Harbour Quay Gardens. And there should be a blue plaque on that boat, for being the first place to host a genuinely relaxing two hours for two young children, their parents AND a dog.
The trip started at Bellmouth Passage (Ooh Matron) for a pleasingly Carry On Up the Thames energy. And since these self-drive, electric boats make you the captain, there are optional sailor hats at the kiosk. You don’t need any qualifications to drive the boat and after a brief tutorial, our children were fitted with life jackets and we hopped in.
Armed with a map, we were free to explore the sparkling docks at a gentle 4mph, as our daughter waved regally to onlookers.
We looked out for the famous Sammy the seal, who has been breakfasting at Old Billingsgate Fish Market for the past 20 years. And we bobbed up to the insanely swish, £38 million super-yacht, seized from a Russian telecoms tycoon, before admiring the sleepy barge village at Blackwall Basin.
The boats are powered by almost silent, electric motors - an eco-friendly alternative to petrol engines - making the experience so peaceful, my son ended up sleeping for half of it, gently rocked to sleep by the Thames, lapping at the boat. And our dog proudly stood at the helm, taking in the sights and letting the breeze gently wobble his jowls.
It was fascinating to see the bustling metropolis from this tranquil, new position, bobbing beneath bridges across sparkling water and watching the blue skies bouncing off the skyscrapers.
Sustainability is at the heart of GoBoat - the deck and table are made from sustainably sourced forestry wood and the foam kernel is made from the equivalent of 600 plastic bottles.
The boats fit up to eight people around a picnic table, for a unique sarnie experience - you can bring your own nibbles or order a GoBoat food box of Mediterranean goodies.
GoBoat has five UK locations, including Paddington, where you can cruise through Little Venice, Camden Lock, Regent’s Park and London Zoo. In Surrey, the Kingston or Thames Ditton boats pootle past picturesque sights, like Hampton Court Palace. And Birmingham (the proud site of more miles of canals than Venice) allows you to explore its network and picturesque surroundings on this comfy, gondola alternative.
GoBoat UK, Open 7 days a week from 9am - dusk. Prices start from £85 for 1 hour and £125 for two hours on the 8-person boats. GoBoat Canary Wharf, 22 Churchill Place, London, E14 5RE