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Dog-friendly water activities in London: the ultimate guide

By September 18, 2019June 6th, 2020No Comments

Something to do with your four-legged before Summer ends! Although there is no seaside, you can enjoy many dog-friendly water activities in London with your dog. We put together a list of activities for you to tick off your bucket list with your canine partner, making the most of the sunny days ahead. From rowing boats to canoes, kayaks to SUP, electric boats to river buses and ferries, and more!

10 dog-friendly water activities in London

#1 Dog-friendly stand-up paddle boarding (SUP)

Dog friendly water activities in London are great. This dog enjoys stand-up paddle boardingWe are starting the list with stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), which is the most physically demanding among these water-activities for the humans. This allows you to explore the Thames and the canal network with your four legged, while looking at a different perspective and exercising. East and West London offer some good options to bring your dog along on a SUP experience. Set aside a 25% chance of ending up in the water.

Back of Beyond Adventures: SUP With Your Pup in Richmond

Back of Beyond Adventures, in Richmond, has been hosting special SUP With Your Pup sessions for the last couple of years (and informal ones before): these are fun events for small groups of people and their dogs, to paddle board on the Thames from Richmond. Apart from these special sessions, experienced paddle boarder and their four-legged (having already attended a SUP With Your Pup Session), can join the SUP Socials that are held early mornings or at sunset. The next SUP With Your Pup session will be hosted on Saturday 28th September 2019 and there are only 8 spots available (so good to book fast).

You can read more about Back of Beyond Adventures SUP With Your Pup in this blog post.

SUP with Moo Canoes on River Lee

Moo Canoes offers SUP sessions in Hackney Wick, on the River Lea. We confirmed with them that dogs are welcome as long as participants are already skilled SUPpers.

Miniature dachshund on SUP with owner in blue wetsuit in East London

Credits: Photo courtesy of George the sausage, at Wakeup Docklands

Active360 SUP with dogs

You may remember that, for a couple of years, until last year, Active360 and City Paws Club co-hosted some special dog-friendly SUP sessions, for a group of humans with their dogs, starting from Kew Bridge. We confirmed with Active360 that their regular sessions are not dog-friendly, however private group sessions welcome dogs (prices info here). In addition, next year, Active360 is looking to organise more dedicated dog-friendly sessions. Active360 makes sure that each dog has a buoyancy aid when attending: most dog owners bring their own, but Active360 do have some to lend or sell in case.

A curiosity: two of Active360’s coaches have dogs, Rex the Alsatian, Alma the Dalmatian (who are both expert suppers) and a Staffie cross pup who will find her way on the boards soon.

Wakeup Docklands in Royal Docks

If you are in East London, could also go paddle boarding with your four-legged at Wakeup Docklands at Royal Docks, in East London. Due to the regulations in the area, there are a number of conditions to be met, including that dogs stay on the SUP, as regulations forbid swimming in that area of the Docks. Dogs are only allowed on session outside regular classes, which cost £30 per person per hour. For hires, all paddlers must have prior experience and be able to provide certification of proficiency such as a BSUPA Ready2Ride card (more about this in this blog post). Please note that this is a seasonal activity.

#2 Canoeing with your dog

dog smiling on a canoeMoo Canoes dog-friendly canoe hire in East London

Two humans, one dog and a canoe for an adventure on the canals/river. Moo Canoes are based at the lovely floating bar & cafe The Milk Float, in Hackney Wick, and offer canoes for hire that can accomodate up to 3 people (or 2-3 humans and a dog, or 2 adults and 2 small children). There are a number of recommend routes, which can take you up on the river Lea, or on the Regents Canal. We recently tested it and we will be soon telling you all about the experience! This is a brilliant way to explore the area, enjoying a different view.

Moo Canoes is open on weekends and bank holidays from 10am to 6pm, and canoe hires are by the hour (£36 the first hour, £10 for the following ones). You can book here.

Active360 canoeing with dogs in Paddington

Active360 has a fleet of 6 Canadian canoes moored in Paddington, which can be taken out for hire and welcome dogs. They don’t host specific dog events on canoes, but sometimes people get the canoe with 1-2 dogs. They are open all year round. Price of the hire is £30 for 2 hours, £40 for 4 hours, £60 for the whole day and canoes can be booked on Active 360’s website here.

Coming soon: Back of Beyond Adventures canoes

Back of Beyond Adventures told us that they are looking to start some dog-friendly canoeing in Richmond as well, next year.

#3 Dog-friendly kayaking

Husky dog on the river

Moo Canoes, at their Limehouse Basin hub, offers dog-friendly two-seat kayaks for hire. There are many suggested routes to kayak the canals to Mile End Park, Three Mills, a Limehouse loop, to Victoria Park or Hackney Wick and more (from 2 hours to a full day navigation).

Their hub is open on weekends and bank holidays 10am to 6pm and kayak hires cost £26 for the first hour and £10 for the following ones. You can book here.

#4 On rowing boats with your pooch

Dog-friendly rowing boat at Hollow Ponds in East LondonRowing boats can be challenging if you have no previous experience, as steering them is less easy than it seems the first few times you try. Our experience(s) were pretty much a disaster due to our non-existent rowing skills. But if you have an experienced rower in your crew, then you are set for a lovely ride. Compared to canoes and kayaks the indubious advantage is having more room.

Richmond Bridge Boat Hire

If you are based far West, in Richmond, Richmond Bridge Boat Hire is perfect for a dog-friendly adventure on the Thames. If you are strong enough you can get to The White Swan Twickenham pub and moore there to grab something to eat or a pint before heading back.

Seasonal. Price: £8 per person per hour for the first hour, and then £4 for the following hours, £20 deposit per person. Tip: Check the Thames tides.

Dog-friendly rowing boat in Richmond LondonHollow Ponds Rowing Boat Hire

In East London visit Hollow Ponds dog-friendly rowing boats for hire are available at Hollow Ponds Rowing Boat Hire. You can combine your visit with a walk and picnic in Epping Forest, which surrounds the ponds.

Seasonal. Price: £10 half hour, £15 for one hour. Please note that the hire is currently closed due to very low water levels at Hollow Ponds.

#5 Electric boats for a relaxing adventure on the Thames or Regent’s Canal

Dog-friendly boat in London Regents Canal for hire

GoBoat London dog-friendly electric boats

Electric boats is the perfect choice if you want to glide on the water without much effort. GoBoat London offers dog-friendly self-drive boats from two location:

The boats can accomodate up to 8 people (or combinations of people and dogs). Hires are from 1 to 3 hours, priced between £59 and £139. Booking essential (through their website).

#6 Sailing on dog-friendly Solar Shuttle

Dog-friendly Solar Shuttle at the SerpentineHave you ever seen the Solar Shuttle? You may have without knowing about it… there is a Solar Shuttle moored right in the middle of Hyde Park Serpentine. It is operated by the same company which runs the pedalos and rowing boats hire. While the latters are not dog-friendly, enquiring about the Solar Shuttle we had a great surprise: we confirmed that the Solar Shuttle allows dogs!

The Solar Shuttle used to run as a public service on a regular schedule and be open to anyone, taking you from one side to the other other Serpentine in half an hour. We received contrasting information from its crew regarding its current status and we are awaiting clarifications (on their website it is indicated that it runs as public service on weekends and bank holidays from March to September and runs every half hour, but we were told by staff that it was broken and wasn’t running any more, then that it now only runs for private groups hires, and then that it is still running as public service but not on a regular basis and we weren’t provided with the applicable timetable). We really love the idea and can’t wait to tell you more later on the blog.

#7 Dog-friendly cruises and river buses on the Thames and canal network

Dog looks at cruise ferry on the ThamesIf you just want to relax and let someone else drive while you enjoy the cruise, there are a number of ferries and boats sailing on the Thames that can take you around London offering a completely different view of the city. We scouted them and pulled together a list:

  • Thames Clipper River Bus: (where: across London, from Putney to Woolwich) A great alternative to the tube, you can get around the Thames with the MBNA Thames Clipper River Bus with your dog (dogs on a lead welcome). We took it for the first time as part of a tour boat tour on our way to the dog-friendly Brunel Museum, and loved the trip. Runs are more expensive than the tube, but still reasonably priced if you use it for a one-off trip (prices available here, with single rides from £4.80 to £10.30 depending on the area/route). Seats are indoor and the river boat has some large windows you can clearly see outside and all the landmarks.
  • Thames River Boats: (Central-West London) Serving Wesminster, Kew, Richmond and Hampton Court, Thames River Boats is dog-friendly and allow dogs of any size as long as they are kept on a lead. It takes a 3-hour cruise (£19 ticket per person single, £27 return) from Westminster to Hampton Court. Trips can be taken also from Kew and Richmond to Hampton Court (£11 Richmond-Hampton Court, £15 Kew-Hampton Court, both adult single).
  • Circular Cruise: (Central London) if you want to be a tourist for a day and (re)view the most famous London landmarks from a boat with a live audio commentary (from the captain), Circular Cruise is exactly this. Their boats depart from Westminster Pier, Embankment Pier, Festival Pier, Bankside Pier and St Katharines Pier (for Tower of London) returning non-stop to Westminster. Dogs are welcome on Circular Cruise. Adult tickets are priced are £10.75 single, £16 return, Oyster cards can be used to purchase a paper ticket. Read our review.
  • Turks Launches: (West London) Turks Launches offers boat trips between Richmond, Kingston and Hampton Court on lovely old river boats (prices are £7 Kingston-Hampton Court, £9 Richmond-Hampton Court, both adult single; dogs allowed on a lead). The service runs daily April to October.
  • Parr Boats: (West London) Parr Boats run between Kingston and Hampton Court (£5 adult single, 25 minutes circa). Dogs welcome. The service runs April to October.
  • Hammerton Ferries (West London): Hammerton Ferry is a foot ferry that links the North bank of the Thames at Marble Hill House with the South bank near Ham House. It welcomes dogs on lead and operates daily in season. Crossing costs £1 and takes just a few minutes.
  • Lee and Stort Boats (East London): Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park Boat Tours run every day April until the end of October and welcome well-behaved dogs. Tours last 45 minutes and tickets cost £19 per adults, £9 children above 3 years old, dogs go free. Private hires available. Lee and Stort Boats also runs a dog-friendly service out of London between Hertford and Ware.

#8 Water fun at a dog pond or dog beach

Dog beach London

To fight the heat what a best way of a good swim for your dog. In London you can choose between dog-friendly ponds, a doggie beach and some unofficial beaches, which is also a free thing to do with your dog. Important note: Please be aware that toxic blue-green algae have been reported in some ponds and at Ruislip Lido, so make sure to check in advance with local groups/Councils and don’t take any risks with your dog, as this can be fatal for them.

Dog ponds

To fight the heat there are ponds to visit. You can bring your dog to have a splash in a pond. Hampstead Heath pond (“no. 1”) is definitely one of the most loved and doggie crowded in town. But you can find appropriate ponds for a splash, like Clapham Common pond, Hollow Ponds, Wimbledon Common pond (with some seasonal restrictions). Price: free. Check out our dog ponds guide to find out more. When visiting one, watch out for signs of green-blue algae and seasonal rules.

Dog beaches

Dog ponds are great and a dedicated official Dog Beach is even more appealing. In the lovely setting of Ruislip Lido, we have been returning year after year to this one. Price: free! You can combine it with a miniature railway ride (which is a great fun!) if not crowded, and a good walk in the woods. However, be aware: ! at the time we write, green-blue algae have been reported at Ruislip Lido, so keep this one for the Winter, when the issue will be solved.

There are, of course, some unofficial beaches in London too: with low tide, the river Thames leaves space to sand banks where dogs can have a run. We will tell you about the accesses you can use to get on Thames “beaches” in a separate blog post. One note to keep in mind: while some Londoners say that the Thames’ water is clean and safe to swim in (mentioning the return of seals, etc), it is good to be aware that there have been instances of people getting sick from swimming in the river (for instance, in 2012, of 1,000 swimmers, 338 fell ill after a swimming competition in Hampton Court to Kingston) and dogs can also get ill drinking its water.

#9 Heading to a dog swimming pool

dog runs into the water from ramp into indoor swimming pool after his owners throws him a toy

If you prefer to have your dog swimming in a safe and controlled environment, but especially a warmer one in Winter, there are some dog swimming pools in and around London, that are worth a visit. Dipping Dogs in Uxbridge and Hainault Hydrotherapy in Romford are the two closer to Central London which offer fun swim sessions (more in our guide to dog-friendly swimming pools).

#10 Doggy Splash at Streatham Common paddling pool

For the last few years, at Streatham Common Paddling Pool has been taking place a Doggy Splash days at the end of the Summer, just before the paddling pool closes for cleaning. The event is run by volunteers and money raised goes towards supporting the children paddling pool. This year’s event date is set for Sunday 13th October.

#11 Splashing at a water fountain

Dog sits next to sprinkles water fountain in London with city on backgroundWater fountains with sprinkles from the ground (apologies if they have a technical name we are unaware of) are pretty popular among kids. A few dogs may may lift their eyebrows at the idea, but some others are partial to them, so in case your dog belongs to the category of water-sprinkle enthusiasts, good to know that they can have a splash in London (the fountains are located in squares and parks and, as far as we are aware, there are no dog restrictions in place). And it’s also free! Four favourites:

  • Granary Square, King’s Cross
  • The Queen’s Walk, near the City Hall
  • Merchant Square, Paddington (near GoBoat Paddington mooring)
  • Arrival Square, St Katherine’s and Wapping

Tips: In the Summer go very early (or not on a super sunny day) to avoid children, as water fountains with sprinkles tend to become overcrowded and not all dogs cope well with running children and ball games. Never force your dog into the water/sprinkles.

Two small dogs liking a water fountain sprinkles in London

# Out of London dog water fun

Lad with dog at Saltdean Lido dog swimIf you head out of London, there are some more water-based adventures you can enjoy!

Dog Swim days

There are Dog Swim days hosted annually by lidos before they close for the season. These are a great fun for water-loving dogs and for the humans too! The closest to London is at Saltdean Lido, in Brighton & Hove, which as is taking place this weekend (21-22 September), and there are still some tickets available for the Saltdean Lido Dog Swim!

Dog-friendly punting

In Cambridge and Canterbury you can find many punts: a flat-bottomed boats propelled by the punter by pushing against the river bed with a pole. Punting is a classic on the river in Canterbury or in Cambridge and also a good one if you prefer enjoying waterways without too much effort, as professional punters offer rides for a fee and you won’t have to do anything else than sit back and relax.

In Cambridge check out Scholars Punting, Scudamore’s Punting (both tours and hires), Let’s Go Punting. In Canterbury dogs are welcome on Canterbury Punting Company punts.

Hiring a boat for a dog-friendly holiday

If you are a boat enthusiast, you can hire a boat for a dog-friendly holiday, on the Thames or on the canal network. On the Thames, Le Boat offers dog-friendly boats for hire which accomodate up to two dogs. More dog-friendly holiday boats in our guide on dog-friendly holiday accommodation.

Dog near boats

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