It seems that we have been on a lot of water adventures this Summer (canoes, SUP) and today we talk about dog-friendly electric boats on the Thames! And I can’t promise that this will be the last water activity you’ll read about on the blog in the near future, either, but this is a good one to know before Autumn really kicks in… Following the success of their Paddington hub (where had been invited last year on the Regent’s Canal and wrote about in this post), in May GoBoat opened a new branch in Kingston upon Thames, which lets you hire electric boats for self-drive and welcomes dogs! They offered us a press ride to check out the experience, so today we tell you what we thought of it.
GoBoat electric boats: adventure on the Thames with dogs from Kingston
In a nutshell, GoBoat offers self-drive electric boats for hire – “be your own captain” is their slogan -, without requiring any previous boating experience, and which can accomodate up to 8 humans (or combination of dogs and humans) per boat. Apart from being more environmental friendly, the electric engine is also noiseless, adding to a relaxing experience, and the boat has a table for picnics/brunches.
For our adventure on GoBoat electric boat in Kingston, my husband and I decided to bring Argo along and invite some other doggies: our patron Juno the rescue Husky and Skylar the Weimaraner, who were accompanied by their humans. We had a crew of 8 in total (3 dogs and 5 humans), which is the maximum number of beings allowed on the boat.
On our previous experience on GoBoat London’s boats on the Regent’s Canal (a really enjoyable and jolly one), we were joined by small Spanish rescue dogs Gustavito and Glitch and their humans, and experienced an unexpected frenzy rescue mission when Gus jumped off the boat near Camden Lock, mistaking the green algae for grass. This suggested being extra cautious with Argo on our Kingston adventure, since he is obsessed with water.
It had been a lovely sunny day in London, with that pleasant temperature of when the Summer is running away, but Autumn is still lagging behind, but upon arrival at GoBoat Kingston’s hub (located on the riverside just South of Horse Fair bridge, opposite The Bishop’s pub), it started pouring down. We were definitely unprepared for a trip under the rain, and GoBoat is rain or shine! Hopeless, we found shelter near the pub and waited for our crew to arrive. GoBoat’s staff used a window squeegee to get rid of the rain from the boat seats, but luckily, as we hopped onto the boat, the rain stopped and the weather started turning, although the boat was still wet.
After signing the waivers, being briefed by GoBoat’s staff on how to drive the boat and given a map to navigate the river, we were ready to set off. We had been offered a 2-hour press experience (but they have packages for 1, 2 or 3 hours, which allow you to cover more or less ground (actually, water!)) and the staff recommended to take the Kingston to Hampton Court route. We were told that Hampton Court was reachable in 60 minutes circa and then we would have turned under the bridge and sailed back. The map clearly marked our route and there was no chance to be mistaken anyway, just one to remember was that on the river you must keep the right hand-side. There was a different route option, heading downriver to Teddington Lock, which was recommended for shorter 1-hour hires.
After a first exploration of the boat, the dogs seemed to find their spots. Skylar and Juno were comfortable off lead and sat at bow. Argo was a bit more interested in sniffing out (and we were conscious of his interest for water), so we kept him on his lead making sure he didn’t have enough rope to make a leap. Taking a photo of the three of them together proved a bit more challenging, as at least one of them on each attempt would find it much more interesting to look elsewhere or roam around the boat.
On our way to Hampton Court we admired some incredible houses built on the river, some of them very modern, with huge windows and lovely gardens overlooking the placid water, while the grey sky opened and the sun started painting the riverside.
Before reaching Hampton Court Palace, Juno decided that the seats were too slippery for her and she jumped onto the table, where she seemed to have found the most comfortable spot, There she stayed for the rest of the trip. Hampton Court Palace, with its golden gates and red brick palace, kissed by the sunset sunrays, was marvellous. At Hampton Court bridge we reversed course.
On the way back the route took us on the side of Thames Ditton Island, in a quiet and narrower stretch of the river, which had the charme of an East London canal, with houses pointed with private mooring and boats. Both dog and humans enjoyed the ride, and as we got back to base, two hours later, I would already have done it again!
Our favourite things about dog-friendly GoBoat electric boats
What we liked the most of GoBoat Kingston experience:
1.It’s very dog-friendly
GoBoat has made of having dogs on board something to be proud of, which is pretty amazing. There are companies which allow dogs without any enthusiasm about it, but GoBoat’s staff seemes to be overjoyed to see dogs and they are very welcoming.
2. The views and the relaxing activity
It is lovely to see West London from a different angle, and get to experience a different pace on the river. Also, driving GoBoat electric boat was much easier and relaxing than all other self-drive water activities we tried so far: rowing boats, canoeing/kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding, all require some coordination skills and physical exercise. A table in the middle means being able to bring picnics (or provide a seat to wood seat demanding dogs) for a more chilled out experience, and instructions provided by the staff and on the map/leaflet are clear and easy to follow.
3. Intimate and fun
Being a self-drive boat, there is no stranger on the boat with you, and also that you can play captain. Being on a 8-people boat means that it’s much more intimate than going to the pub together: it’s only you with friends/family and dogs on the quiet of the river, chatting (and eating if you get some snack!).
We were 8 (5 people and 3 large dogs) and it was very comfortable and had plenty of space for everyone, which was great. Just note that there are no pillows or anything: this is great for when it rains, as it is quick to dry, in fact, before we got on the boat, GoBoat staff used a windscree wiper to get rid of the water. If you want it to be completely dry you’d probably need to bring a towel though.
Food for thought
Rain or shine, no cover
Being GoBoat rain or shine, you may find yourself under the rain. Since you’ll have to book in advance to find a spot during the weekend, it’s not assured that it will turn out to be a sunny day.
Unfortunately GoBoat’s electric boats don’t have cover, so if it rains you’ll need to arrive prepared: rainproof clothes/shoes and a raincoat for your dog in case they are not keen on getting wet. Similarly, the lack of cover is something to keep in mind when booking for those hot Summer sunny days: if you are taking your dog, avoiding the central hours of the day and book in the late afternoon.
GoBoat doesn’t provide dog lifevests. This time we forgot ours, but it can be a good idea to bring one, just in case, if you have it. Also, as always when travelling on boats or moving vehicles, if you are not sure about how your dog will behave, it is best to make them wear a harness (with a handle) rather than attaching the leash directly to their collar: in case they make the leap it can be dangerous if they were attached by their neck, and a harness also has the advantage of making it easier to lift the dog back into the boat just in case.
Dog-friendly GoBoat Kingston | Essentials
Dogs of any size are welcome on GoBoat boats.
- In the Summer, GoBoat is open 9am to sunset, but for Autumn it will observe these hours:
- September: Monday and Friday 11am – 7.30pm; Saturday and Sunday: 9am – 7.30 pm; Closed on Tuesday to Thursdays.
- October: 1st – 18th October: open Saturdays and Sundays 9am – 7 pm | 19th October – 27th October: Monday to Friday 11am – 7 pm; Saturday and Sunday 9am – 7 pm
GoBoat electric boats only departs from Kingston and you can’t drop-off the boat in other locations, so you need to make a circular trip. You can choose between:
- Downriver route (North bound): to Teddington Lock, recommended for the 1-hour hires
- Upstream route (South bound): to Hampton Court Palace, recommended for the 2-hour hires
- 1 hour: £59 off-peak, £79 peak (peak = weekends, bank holidays and every day June to August)
- 2 hours: £89 off-peak, £109 peak
- 3 hours: £119 off-peak, £139 peak
Bookings and Requirements
How to get there
- By train: the closest station is Kingston, which is an 8-minute walk away. Trains from Waterloo.
- By boat: until October, if you are coming from Richmond you can get the Turks Launch boat or from Hampton; Thames River Boats serve London from Wesminster, Kew to Richmond, if you want to (just keep in mind it’s a very long journey).