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Let’s go boating on the River Thames

Life slows down on the water, and whether you're with a bunch of mates or have the family in tow, the GoBoat experience from Kingston-upon-Thames is one of the most enjoyable days out you'll have.

Photo credit: Rits Patel

I’m always on the lookout for cool and quirky things to do in Surrey. And if it’s something that combines eating, drinking and taking in beautiful scenery – I’m pretty much sold. Sound appealing?

Then you’ll want to know about GoBoat, self-drive boats on the River Thames. You pack your own picnic – Champagne optional – and set sail for a watery adventure.


GoBoat is a self-driving boating experience that starts and ends at the Thames River quite near the Kingston Bridge at Kingston. You’re the captain of your own boat, and you’re completely in charge of where you go – so either head up river towards Hampton Court Palace or downriver towards Teddington Lock – the choice is yours. If you fancy doing both, you can rent the boat for the full three hours.

The boats seat up to eight people around a picnic table – including children and or dogs – so it’s a wonderfully social experience. And if you’re worried about driving the boat, don’t. The GoBoat team give you a full briefing before you set off, as well as a map – but it’s super easy and the boats don’t go very fast, so there’s very little chance you’ll run into anything. Trust me – we were overtaken by a stand-up paddleboarder!

As well as the Kingston GoBoat, there are also Canary Wharf and Paddington GoBoats, if you fancy a central London experience, plus one in Birmingham.


Photo credit: Rits Patel

There’s something rather cool about sitting back on a boat and just watching the world go by. It has to be one of the most relaxing ways to travel (especially if someone else is driving and you’re sipping a glass of Prosecco!).

Even at top speed – about 3 knots (or 4 mph) the GoBoats are pretty much just drifting along. And because they are powered by an electric motor connected to a battery, they’re practically silent – so there are no noisy engines to interrupt the peace and tranquility of the river.

Taking in the scenes from the water gives you a totally different perspective, and there’s something about being on water that makes everyone super friendly. Everyone waves to you when you’re on a boat – I think it’s a universal thing!

Photo credit: Rits Patel

This was my second GoBoat experience. The first was three years ago when my parents were visiting from Australia. It was a great way to combine a spot of sightseeing and also spend time together. I had my teens in tow too, and this was an experience that appealed to everyone.

This time though, Mr Muddy and I caught up with friends for cruise on the water. And what fun it was – the girls sipping Prosecco (as it should be) while we all had a good nose at the riverside homes along the way.

We journeyed from our departure point in Kingston about an hour up river to Hampton Court Palace, passing on the way Thames Ditton Island, Boyle Island Farm, Swan Island and Raven’s Ait. (Fun fact: Thames Ditton Island is just 320 metres long, and home to 48 houses. It’s connected to the mainland by a footbridge.)

Along the way there was plenty of birdlife to be seen – families of geese and ducks, as well as swans.


Pack your own picnic – as we did – and you can scoff and quaff to your heart’s content. Alcohol is allowed on board, within reason (no straight spirits, one bottle of wine / Champagne / Prosecco between two people or two cans of beer / pre-mixed spirits per person). The captain has to remain sober.


The boats are well-equipped with life jackets, rain ponchos and umbrellas, as well as a weather-proof map of the river. And it’s worth knowing that dogs are allowed on board too, so you needn’t leave pooch at home.


Prices for one boat are; £95 for 1 hour; £135 for 2 hours; £175 for 3 hours.

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