10 places to go kayaking and canoeing in the South of England (2022)

The South of England offers a huge variety of kayaking and canoeing locations, from azure seas, meandering rivers to glistening lakes. Whether you live by the coast or not, there is always somewhere to paddle. Explore the large collection of beautiful bays and waterways around England whilst discovering the abundance of wildlife and admiring the breathtaking scenic landscapes.

Now is the perfect time to plan new exciting activities to look forward to after the lockdown ends. Why not get a voucher to have an adventure to look forward to, or maybe gift someone an experience this Christmas? We’ve listed 10 amazing places to go kayaking and canoeing in the South of England.

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1. Hadleigh Park Reservoir, Essex

What we love: Hadleigh Park, one of the largest green spaces in Essex, boasts idyllic countryside views and a stunning reservoir perfect for kayaking. As the reservoir is sheltered from winds and has no currents, it is great for building your confidence and practising the relevant strokes while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. There’s also a small local cafe on site if you feel a bit peckish after a fun-filled day outside.

Where to go: Splash Kayaking offers fun, affordable, family-friendly kayaks for hire. They provide sit-on-top kayaks which are stable, fun and easy to use, great for all ages. Hire sessions are offered from 30 mins at a time and you can choose between single and double kayaks.

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2. River Itchen, Southampton

What we love: The River Itchen is a beautiful chalk stream that is deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to its high-quality habitats supporting a range of protected species including water voles, otters and white-clawed crayfish. Kingfishers, butterflies and dragonflies are also frequently spotted. Along the banks you can see weeping willows and thick green hedgerows, making it a magical place to kayak and explore.

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Where to go: Woodmill Outdoors Activity centre is a perfect place for paddling, offering a wide range of courses for all levels and abilities. Check out the paddle to the pub session, finishing at The White Swan Pub for a drink or food with a stunning view! Alternatively, if you are looking to perfect your paddling, take part in their master class sessions.

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3. River Hamble, Southampton

What we love: The river is a stunning place to explore and one of the most beautiful rivers in Hampshire. It’s calm, quiet and rich with wildlife. You can paddle along the long stretch of the river which is totally immersed by ancient woodland, fields, meadows and reed beds, meaning there is an amazing variety of birdlife to see.

Where to go: The Paddle Centre is located between Southampton and Portsmouth and sits on the banks of the River Hamble overlooking the Swanwick Marina. Offering sit-on-top kayak hire all year round, they have a great range of strong and durable single and double kayaks.

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4. River Lane, Richmond

What we love: Explore the beautiful backwaters around London in stunning Richmond. A great place to kayak close to central London that still boasts quiet and tranquil waters with an abundance of wildlife. Paddle through the beautiful stone arch of Richmond Bridge and maybe even try one of the charming restaurants and pubs on the riverside.

Where to go: Back of Beyond Adventures offer a range of self-guided kayaking and canoeing adventures along the gorgeous Richmond waterfront. The sessions range from 2.5 hrs to 5 hrs, allowing you to choose between a taster session or a full kayaking or canoeing adventure! It's a perfect socially distanced activity, allowing you to get outdoors and explore the gorgeous outskirts of London.

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5. Paddington Basin, River Thames

What we love: Escape the streets of the city and paddle along the secluded waters of the River Thames, passing by some of the most iconic buildings in the world. Paddington Basin is a popular spot, with miles of canals to explore including the Grand Union Canal and Regent Canal. Get to explore places like the adorable Little Venice and beautiful Regents Park - it is the perfect way to experience a new side of London.

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Where to go: Active 360 offers canoe hire from Paddington Basin for either 2 hrs or 3 hrs. The route takes you through some of the most stunning parts of London's waterways. You’ll paddle via the Grand Union Canal past iconic landmarks including Little Venice, Saint Mary Magdalene Church and Trellick Tower.

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6. Osterley Park, Surrey

What we love: Osterley Park is owned by the National Trust and has spectacular views of the gardens and Osterley House, the famous Georgian country manor estate. There is a large lake opposite the house which provides sheltered and calm waters, perfect for the beginner paddler. It’s a great place to rent a kayak and explore the breathtaking surroundings.

Where to go: The Sharks operate affordable, family fun sessions using sit-on-top kayaks at the lake at Osterley Park. There is also the possibility to hire either single or double kayaks to go explore at your own pace. You will be kitted with a buoyancy aid, given a set of paddles, shown what to do and then free to experience the stunningly beautiful lake and grounds.

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7. Swanton Morley, Norfolk

What we love:The picturesque village of Swanton Morley is situated in the heart of Norfolk, 18 miles from Norwich. It sits on the River Wensum, the largest chalk stream in England. Chalk streams are an extremely rare and precious environment, almost unique to the UK. Clarified and purified by the chalk bedrock, the water of the Wensum is incredibly pure, ideal for exploring by kayak or canoe.

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Where to go:Dereham Canoe Group are a friendly, family-oriented club offering a range of canoeing and kayaking activities. They run regular lessons and open sessions on the Wensum's crystal clear waters, and are always keen to welcome new members to the club.

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8. Chertsey, River Thames

What we love: The Thames is arguably the most famous river in England and is undoubtedly an amazing place to kayak and explore. This part of the Thames is quiet and rural, located on the outskirts of central London. Travel through Chertsey to Shepperton and you'll paddle past the beautiful nature reserve of the Chertsey Meads and the Dumsey Meadow, classified as an SSSI it's full of wildlife and grazed by ponies and cattle.

Where to go: Thames Kayaking and Adventures offers kayaking trips from 2 hrs to 4 hrs on the Thames. They also run paddling adventures for hen and stag dos and corporate team building events (availability depending on current government restrictions). If you are looking for a full weekend activity they have kayaking trips including overnight camping.

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9. Cornwall, Port Quin

What we love: Port Quin is a peaceful rugged inlet on a breathtaking stretch of unspoilt coastline between Port Isaac and Polzeath in North Cornwall. It’s a magical, sheltered near-deserted cove with beautiful blue clear calm waters that offer perfect conditions for kayaking. There is an abundance of marine life to be found and wild fennel flourishes on the luscious green picturesque cliffs. It's the perfect place to paddle, relax and immerse yourself in the surrounding nature.

Where to go: Cornish Coast Adventures organise a range of kayaking sessions at this spectacular location. Their sessions include family fun sea kayaking sessions and kayaking tours. They also cater to larger groups such as corporate, hen or stag do or school trips (availability depending on current government restrictions).

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10. Cornwall, Port Gaverne

What we love: Port Gaverne is a sheltered narrow cove found half a mile east of Port Isaac. Its stunningly beautiful coastline is an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ awarded site. It’s completely unspoilt and sheltered from harsh winds, making it the perfect place to master the basics of kayaking.

Where to go: Cornish Rock Tors offer a range of kayaking sessions for all ages and abilities. These sessions include kayaking sessions for beginners, advanced sessions and private sessions, all which provide high-quality guidance and tuition. All equipment is provided including a warm wetsuit, thick-soled wetsuit boots, a buoyancy aid and helmet as well as the sit-on-top kayak and paddle.

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As you can see, the South of England is the perfect place to embark on a kayaking or canoeing adventure, with an endless supply of routes and locations. These are just some of the many stunning places to paddle and explore. Check out our marketplace for the full range of experiences we offer around the UK.

Looking for more watersports to try this year? Check out 5 places to go kitesurfing on the South Coast UK and 10 of the best places to SUP in the South West.

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    Where is kayaking the most popular? ›

    Top Sea Kayaking Spots in the World
    • Na Pali Coast, Hawaii, United States. ...
    • Haida Gwaii, Canada. ...
    • Kenai Fjords, Alaska, United States. ...
    • Galapagos National Park, Ecuador. ...
    • Disko Bay, Greenland. ...
    • Corsica, France. ...
    • West Coast, Scotland. ...
    • Cuba. Cuba is the largest island of the Caribbean and has thousands of miles of coastline.

    Can you kayak in England? ›

    In England we are fortunate to have many large lakes and reservoirs that can be enjoyed by kayakers and canoeists. They are normally sheltered from winds and have no currents making them a perfect beginner location to learn. Most are easily accessible at public slipways and are only a small fee or free to use.

    Can you kayak on rivers in England? ›

    The UK is an amazing destination to Kayak that's spoilt with a fantastic variety of choices when it comes to spending your free time paddling. The UK's Rivers, Lakes, Lochs, Estuaries, Harbours, Coastline and Canals offer so many paddling options and as such, are a very popular European Kayaking destination.

    Where can I kayak in South West? ›

    Top spots for canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding in the South...
    • Grand Western Canal, Devon. Photo by Visit South Devon. ...
    • River Tamar, Devon & Cornwall. Photo by Cornwall Guide. ...
    • Bridgwater and Taunton Canal, Somerset. Photo by Canal & River Trust. ...
    • Poole Harbour, Dorset. ...
    • St Ives Bay, Cornwall.
    Aug 20, 2021

    Where does canoeing take place? ›

    Canoeing takes place in large bays, lakes, rivers, or other smaller bodies of water, while larger bodies of water such as oceans are not as favored. Canoers often prefer locations that do not have strong currents, waves or winds, so that they have a smooth ride on calm waters.

    Can you canoe anywhere in UK? ›

    If you're kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddleboarding in England or Wales a waterway licence is required to paddle on over 5000km of waterways that are managed by the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and a number of other waterway authorities.

    What is a canoe UK? ›

    Both canoes and kayaks are terrific ways to get out and explore the waterways of the UK, but there is a difference between the two. A canoe has an open deck, higher sides and you kneel or sit (elevated) in it while rowing with a one-bladed paddle. A kayak has a closed deck with only one entry point.

    Where is kayak located? ›

    Stamford, Connecticut

    What do you call a group of kayakers? ›

    Pods, Swarms, Flocks.

    Do I need a license to kayak in UK? ›

    To simplify the answer, if you want to paddle on virtually all the inland waterways in England you will need a licence. This includes narrowboats and unpowered craft such as canoes, kayaks, dinghies, rowing boats, paddleboards, and light inflatable craft.

    Who owns a river UK? ›

    If the river runs through a landowner's land, that landowner will own the riverbed. Whereas if the river forms a boundary of a landowner's land, that landowner will own the riverbed up to the centre of the river along the stretch of the river which forms their boundary, their neighbour owning the other half.

    How do I start a kayak UK? ›

    Beginners Guide - getting started on the water - YouTube

    Can you canoe anywhere in UK? ›

    If you're kayaking, canoeing or stand up paddleboarding in England or Wales a waterway licence is required to paddle on over 5000km of waterways that are managed by the Canal & River Trust, the Environment Agency, the Broads Authority and a number of other waterway authorities.

    Can I kayak on the River Stour? ›

    Canoe Wild operate predominantly along the 5 mile stretch of the River Stour from Fordwich to Grove Ferry. They provide kayak and canoe tours along the River Stour allowing you to take in the local area and wildlife at a leisurely paddle.

    Do you need permission to canoe on a canal? ›

    Can I canoe on the canal? Yes, everyone is welcome to canoe on our canals and rivers. However, you will need to get a small craft license before paddling on the water.

    Can you kayak on Beaulieu River? ›

    Kayak Beaulieu River

    There aren't many privately owned rivers on the planet but the Beaulieu River is one of them. Thus permission (and a fee) is required to kayak on this waterway. Whilst no waterways licence (kayak licence uk) is required please be aware that a launch fee of £5 per day is payable.


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