London is the perfect place to visit as a family. The city’s ancient architecture, museums, pubs, and cathedrals are sure to impress even the most cynical traveler! Travelling can be tiring for kids, though, and finding an activity to unwind can help them recharge. Some kids also want a bit more excitement after a day of visiting museums.
Watersports might not be the obvious thing that springs to mind when visiting London with kids, but there are dozens of places offering fun water sports activities from open water swimming to paddleboarding. It’s the chance to enjoy familiar sports and learn some new skills as well.
London has no shortage of splash parks and outdoor pools that are great for younger kids but teens will probably want something a little more challenging. Fortunately the city has myriad waterways and watersports activities to enjoy whether your family are beginners or more experienced on the water. The various sports centres in London are there to cater to your itch for adventure water sports. Children and teens will have no problem finding a water sport they will love.
If you and your kids are looking to get wet and have fun then here are London’s best water sports for kids and teens!
Guest post by: Julien Mordret, Founder of XtremeSport4U.com
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Stand-up paddle boarding is a relaxing activity for balance and endurance training. London has multiple places for the whole family to paddleboard, including Paddington Basin and Kew Bridge to name a few.
The Paddington Basin has calm waters and canals surrounded by London’s awe-inspiring modern and old architecture.
If you prefer a place with more nature, the Kew Bridge is a popular and scenic paddling destination on the Tideway. Check out the Active 360 watersports centre for a great paddleboarding session with skilled instructors.
Kids who are looking to cool down with some swimming will not be disappointed while in the city. Hampstead Heath is a popular swimming area in London. The ancient heath has three different natural swimming ponds surrounded by lush green trees and grasses for the whole family to enjoy.
Beware that the Hampstead Ponds can be cold and deep, and children aged 8 to 15 must be accompanied by an adult and take a swim test at the site.
The West Reservoir Centre in Finsbury Park is a great open water swimming venue and a good option for teens. The West Reservoir welcomes young people from 14 years old, children under 16 years must be accompanied by an adult from the same household.
London is also home to lots of very good lidos, outdoor swimming pools. Try the lido at Park Road Crouch End, Tooting Bec or at London Fields.
Your kids and teens will be pleased to know that London also has a place to wakeboard! WakeUp Docklands in Royal Victoria Beach is London’s only cable wakeboard park conveniently within the central transport network. The minimum age allowed for wakeboarding is 10 years old, and the participants also need to be able to swim at least 25 meters. Make sure to reserve a schedule with them online before you go.
Of all the water activities on offer in London, sailing is one of the best for the whole family to enjoy. The tidal Thames river is a busy waterway, and planning your route and time is essential.
The passages on the Thames each come with their own challenges. The upper tidal Thames, between Putney and Teddington, is filled with small recreational boats and low bridges. As you go lower through the waterway, commercial boats become more common and the passage gets more constrained.
If you are new to the intricacies of sailing along the River Thames, you may want to join a club.
The London Corinthian Sailing Club was established in 1894. They are a recognised training centre by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), providing courses for yachts, dinghies, powerboats, and safety boats. They sail every weekend all year round. Their races go for two-and-a-half miles in the stretch between Hammersmith and Barnes bridges, the best tidal stretch on the Thames.
The Docklands Sailing and Water Sports Centre is another good option for sailing enthusiasts. They are a recognised Training Centre and deliver courses in sailing, windsurfing, powerboating and paddlesports.
Canoeing is a fun thing to do to relax while working up a bit of sweat with your kids.
The calm canals of London are a great place for taking the family out on a canoe trip. Little Venice is home to gorgeous architecture, canals, and waterways. It is within the area covered by Active360. There are also pubs, cafes, and restaurants on the waterfront to stop at for lunch.
London may not have beautiful oceans to scuba dive in, but the city has many passionate schools for your kids to get started with scuba diving. The London Diving Centre on Paul Street uses the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) System. They offer training ranging from recreational beginner courses, specialty courses, emergency first response, and more. They also rent out high-quality scuba diving equipment.
Lee Valley Regional Park is the place to go if you want to have a whitewater rafting trip with your family. The Lee Valley White Water Centre is the closest venue near London for white water rafting. The white water centre hosted the canoe slalom events in the London 2012 Olympic games.
The Lee Valley White Water Centre is about an hour away from Trafalgar Square by train or car. Once you get there, endless activities await the whole family, including wildlife watching, horse riding, sailing, and rowing.
Windsurfing is an excellent way to feel the breeze and connect with the water around you. You will be pleased to know that Queen Mary Reservoir, the King George Sailing Club at Chingford Reservoir, and Canary Wharf are all popular places to windsurf in London.
In Canary Wharf you can take to the water with the beautiful backdrop of the city. Each body of water has its own clubs to help potential windsurfers get started.
If you’re a large family looking for the best team-building activity, try out dragon boating! The sport involves a team of 10 to 20 paddlers, coordinating to row in rhythm. The Thames and Canary Wharf are perfect places for dragon boat racing events. If you live in London, the Thames Dragons train twice a week.
Kayaking is a timeless activity for children and adults of all ages. Launching a kayak is one of the best ways to explore the waterways of London with your teens and kids. The canals and the tidal Thames are the usual places to launch your boats.
Hackney Wick and Paddington Bay are two other popular places to go kayaking, with the former having a quirky drive-through where you can get drinks from your kayak!
If you want to bring a personal boat to tour London’s canals, you will need a licence issued by the Canal and River Trust or a membership with British Canoeing. On the day of your trip, don’t forget to bring your favourite drink or water bottle to put inside the cup holder for a kayak to keep hydrated while admiring the gorgeous city.