London’s best spots for messing about in boats

On a hot, humid London summer day, there’s nothing like messing about on the water in a boat. Boating lakes are a London institution, and many of the major parks have one – sometimes two – with rowboats along with pedal boats, known as “pedalos”, for hire. Float amongst swans and ducks, stare up at fluffy clouds and let your cares bob away on the ripples of the lake. Here are some of London’s best-known public boating lakes, scattered around the capital.


In north London the most popular boating lake is at Alexandra Palace, known affectionately by locals as “Ally Pally”. With incredible views of the city and plenty to do all year round, including mini golf, concerts, fireworks and ice-skating, you can always rely on Ally Pally if you’re stuck for entertainment. The boating lake is open all year round and you have the choice of hiring a classic rowboat or a pedalo in the shape of a swan, a dragon or a VW Beetle. There are adult and child pedalos and hire is by the hour or half hour, starting at £4.95 for adults or £3.95 for children.

Closer to central London, there’s Finsbury Park. Here you can buy special bird feed to give the swans and ducks a treat as you row your way around the lake – especially fun in spring when you might spy a flock of fluffy ducklings or cygnets paddling obediently behind their parents. Rowboat hire is £8 for half an hour.

Moving south, there’s Crystal Palace Park, one of the largest parks in south London. Pedal your way around the lake and keep your eyes peeled for dinosaurs! Not live ones, unfortunately: the shores of Crystal Palace’s boating lake are peopled with concrete Victorian sculptures of prehistoric beasts. They look a little weathered and out-of-date now, but it only adds to their charm. The boating lake is open during the summer on weekends, school holidays and bank holidays; hire is £4 for an adult, £2 for a child or £10 for families.

Crystal Palace Park london

Dulwich Park offers both pedalos and rowboats for groups of up to five people at a time, with prices the same as Crystal Palace as their boats are operated by the same company. With the Horniman Museum just a few minutes away, you can craft a fantastic London day out.

Our final southern boating lake is Greenwich Park – a small, shallow lake best suited for children. Prices are the same as Dulwich Park and Crystal Palace. It’s in the same park as the Greenwich Observatory, where you can stand on the International Date Line, as well as get a great view of the city. A short walk away is the National Maritime Museum and the Old Royal Naval College – featured in recent blockbuster Thor: The Dark World.

Victoria Park london

Victoria Park is the largest park in the East End and features a magnificent boating lake along with stunning gardens and plenty of lawn space. During summer the rowboats and pedalos are open for hire every day, but the hire service closes on 31 October. Prices are £10 per 30 minutes.

Head west towards BW Plus Park Grand London Heathrow and you’ll get a boating adventure of a different kind in Richmond, where you can hire rowboats to splash around on the Thames itself. If you’re feeling lazy you can also hop on a river cruise and see the sights while you relax on board with a cup of coffee.

In the centre of town near Paddington Suites London , the best-known boating lake is of course the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. Pedalos and rowboats hold up to six passengers each and you’ll be surrounded by beautiful white swans and some of Europe’s most famous greenery. Prices are £10 per 30 minutes or £12 per hour, so why not plump for a full hour and see if you can manage to get a suntan?

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