Boating In London: Have An Oarsome Time At These Beautiful Lakes

Last Updated 19 June 2024

Boating In London: Have An Oarsome Time At These Beautiful Lakes
Boating is possible all year round in Hyde Park. Image: The Royal Parks

There's a lot to be said for drifting on a lake aboard a giant plastic swan, and London's parks and boating lakes are the perfect place for messing about on the water. We've rounded up London's rowing and pedalo options for summer 2024.

Note: boating is very much weather dependent, so it's worth checking with the individual companies before you travel if the forecast's a bit iffy. Also check for specific season start and close dates, as they may change according to the weather.

Boating at Alexandra Palace

All sorts of boats are available to hire at Alexandra Palace. Photo: Jim Osley via creative commons

Is there anything you can't do at Ally Pally? The hilltop fortress and park is home to an ice rink, theatre, skate park and — yess indeedy — a boating lake.

The fleet consists of both rowing boats (styled as swans, dragons, flamingoes and VW Beetles) and pedal boats, each holding up to four people. Hire is for half an hour, and takes place at the Lakeside Cafe which is exactly where you'd expect to find a cafe with that name. Handy for a pre- or post-sail ice cream or coffee.

The lake is located at the most northern point of Alexandra Palace Park, behind the palace building, and handily close to the car park, or a 15-minute (uphill) walk from Alexandra Palace station.

Alexandra Park Boating Lake. Open March-October.

Boating in Finsbury Park

Up to four people can share a rowing boat in Finsbury Park — you'll find them moored up near the Finsbury Park Cafe, which operates the hire service.

The pond has an island in the middle, so why not challenge your crew to see how many laps you can do in your 30-minute hire period? Note: you're not allowed to step onto the island itself, or leave the boat anywhere except for the boat landing. Life vests are provided.

Finsbury Park Boats. Open noon-6pm daily Easter-early October, then weekends only in autumn.

Boating in Crystal Palace Park

Find the Crystal Palace boating lake right next to the dinosaurs. Image: Park Boats London

The Lower Lake is the place to head for all your boat business in Crystal Palace, located right by the model dinosaurs. It's all about the pedalos here, with a decent-sized lake to roam around during your 30 minutes on the water. No dinosaur-bothering though — we don't want a repeat of Jurassic Park.

It's located close to both Crystal Palace and Penge West stations.

Park Boats London, Crystal Palace. Open Easter-early November on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays, 10.30am-5pm.

Boating in Dulwich Park

Image: Park Boats London

Park Boats can also be found in Dulwich Park, on the lake at the south corner of the green patch. Again, it's pedalos a-go-go rather than rowing boats (the people of south London must have excellent calves...). The park's Dulwich Clock Cafe is just a couple of minutes' walk from the lake, and Dulwich Picture Gallery is a five-minute walk in the other direction, should you wish to combine your exertions with culture (or visit the gallery's excellent cafe).

Park Boats London, Dulwich. Open Easter-early November on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays, 10.30am-5pm.

Boating in Greenwich Park

Due to its hilly nature, you might not think of Greenwich Park as somewhere with decent bodies of water, but the petite Greenwich Boating Pond can be found at the bottom of the hill at the northern end of the park, close to Queen's House and — top tip — closer to Maze Hill station than Greenwich station.

Boating in Greenwich Park. Open April-October, school holidays and weekends only, 10am-6pm. Note it's cashless payment only.

Boating in Barking Park

A flotilla of unicorns
Brexit boats! Image: Londonist

Or should that be unicorning? That's right, Barking Park is home to the Magical Unicorn Lake (itself part of Splash Park), where a flotilla of multicoloured-maned creatures await to whisk you off to far-off lands/a slightly different area of Barking Park. The vessels carry families of up to five, with 20-minute and 40-minute sessions available to book. If you do pre-book your ride, you can reschedule up to two hours beforehand for free — handy given the capricious British weather. Various other Splash Park activities are available throughout the summer too.

The Magical Unicorn Lake, Barking Park, open May-November, weekends and school holidays, 11am-5.40pm

Boating in Victoria Park

40 boats are available to hire at Victoria Park's West Boating Lake (located in the southwest corner of the park with the Chinese pagoda in the middle, not to be confused with the model boating lake or the East Lake in this well-watered park).

Regal Boat Hire supplies the rafts, both row boats and pedalos, for 30 minutes at a time. There's a maximum of three adults or two adults and two (small) children in the pedalos; and four adults, or three adults and two (small) children in the row boats. The decent-sized lake offers an obstacle course of three islands to navigate around and two foot bridges to row beneath.

Regal Boat Hire, Victoria Park. Open Easter-end of October, daily, 11am-5pm.

Boating at The Serpentine, Hyde Park

Image: The Royal Parks

Perhaps London's most famous boating spot of all is Hyde Park's Serpentine, the lake running through the middle of the Royal Park — and it's open for boating all year.

Lengthy though the Serpentine is, boating is reserved to the eastern end — you'll find the boat hire company on the northern shore of the lake, just a few minutes' walk from Serpentine Bar & Kitchen. Choose between 30- and 60-minute hire periods.

Boating on the Serpentine. Open daily April to October. Open Wednesday to Sunday (weather allowing) November to March. From 10am daily, closes 5.30pm in April and May, 7.30pm from June to August, 6.30pm in September, and dusk from October to March.

Boating in Regent's Park

Image: David Howard via creative commons

Regent's Park has a large, Y-shaped boating lake and a smaller one just for children. The large one offers both rowing boats and pedalos, while the children's lake has child-sized pedalos, perfect for wearing them out during the school holidays.

As with Hyde Park, you can choose between 30 or 60 minute sessions on the 'big' pond, and anyone under the age of 12 must wear a buoyancy aid (provided). Sessions on the Children's Boating Pond are 20 minutes long.

Boating in Regent's Park. Main boating pond open daily April-October. Children's Boating Pond open daily, 23 July-October.

Boating in Hollow Ponds, Leyton Flats

On the western edge of Leyton Flats, Hollow Ponds Rowing Boat Hire loans out rowing boats to carry a maximum of five people, with life jackets. Choose whether to take your boat for half an hour or a full 60 minutes. Ice creams, drinks and snacks are available to buy from the boat house, and there's a small car park located right next to the boat house, usually with an ice cream van in residence.

Boating at Hollow Ponds. Open daily, 12pm-7pm. The same company offers boat hire at Hainault Park Boating Lake and Valentine's Park Boating Lake.

Boating in Danson Park, Bexley

Watersports centre Danson Park Adventures is located on the lake at Danson Park. Among its offerings are 20 rowboats, available to hire and able to hold five people (dogs welcome too).

Pedalos are also available, though these are confined to the smaller pool area, and aimed more at families with younger children. Up to four people can share a pedalo, and a bank overlooks this part of the lake, from which anyone who doesn't have sea lake legs can watch the fun. Sailing, canoeing and kayaking are among the other water-based pursuits available.

It's located about a half hour walk from both Welling and Bexleyheath stations, though local bus routes serve the park too.

Boating in Danson Park. Open Saturday and school holidays, April-October.

Swan pedalos in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford

Fancy swanning about on a pedalo in the shadow of Olympic venues? Head to the pontoon next to the London Aquatics Centre and hire one of the 10 swan pedalos to ply up and down the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park waterways. They're operated by the same company which offers boat tours of the park, so they know the area well.

Swan Pedalos at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Open weekends and school holidays, April-October. Payment by card only.