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

by Anna Lane

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.

Book now kayaking with Norfolk Outdoors Adventures

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.

Book now kayaking with Splash Kayaking

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.

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. 

Book now kayaking with Woodmill Outdoor Activity Centre

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.

Book now kayaking with The Paddle Centre

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. 

Book now kayaking with Back of Beyond Adventures

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.

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.

Book now canoeing with with Active 360

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.

Book now kayaking with with The Sharks

 7. Hickling Broad, Norfolk 

What we love: The Hickling Broad is a totally magical and untouched area. Being the largest of the Norfolk Boards it is also home to a spectacular variety of both plants and animals. It’s great for kayaking, being a sheltered lake with no current and endless rare beauty to discover. Keep your eyes peeled for swallowtail butterflies, bitterns, cranes, marsh harriers and other hidden species. 

Where to go: Norfolk Outdoor Adventures specialises in offering high quality guided adventures and instruction in kayaking. Their goal is to enable people to not only experience the beauty of the broads in a unique way, but to also gain from the physical and mental benefits that being outdoors and surrounded by nature can bring. 

Book now kayaking with Norfolk Outdoors Adventures

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.

Book now kayaking with Thames kayaking and Adventures

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). 

Book now kayaking with Cornish Coast Adventures

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.

Book now kayaking with Cornish Rock Tors

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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