Ahoy there, Captain!
Life slows down on the water, and the GoBoat experience from Kingston-upon-Thames is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable days out you'll have.
This summer I’ve had family visiting from Australia so I’ve gone up in a gear in my search for the coolest things to do in Surrey. And for my boating-mad father, I discovered GoBoat – self drive boats on the River Thames. We packed a picnic, put the olds in the car and hauled the teens away from their screens for the perfect day on the water.
GoBoat is a self-driving boating experience on the Thames River 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 eight people around a wooden picnic table so it’s a wonderfully social experience. And if you’re worried about driving the boat, don’t. You’ll get a briefing before you set off which will tell you everything you need to know, but it’s super easy and the boats don’t go very fast – so there’s very little chance you’ll run into anything.
There’s also a GoBoat at Paddington, so if you fancy a more central London version that’s also an option.
This has to be one of the most relaxing ways to travel. Even at top speed – about 3 knots (or 4 mph) the GoBoats are pretty much just drifting along. It’ll give you a totally different perspective on the area.
The boats are powered by an electric motor that’s connected to a battery which means they’re practically silent – so there are no noisy engines to interrupt the peace and tranquility of the river.
The return trip from the starting point at Riverside Walk in Kingston to Hampton Court Palace takes about two hours and along the way you’ll pass the island’s of Raven’s Ait and Thames Ditton. You’ll see plenty of birdlife along the way, too.
SCOFF & QUAFF
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. But the captain has to remain sober – pretty much the same as the designated driver of a car would.
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, so you needed leave pooch at home.
I was super impressed with the cost of hiring a GoBoat. For one-hour it’s £59 off peak and £79 during peak times; two hours is £89 off-peak and £109 peak; and three hours is £119 off-peak or £139 peak.