What do you get when six humans, four dogs and a picnic big enough to last for a week take to the River Thames on a self-drive electric boat…a hilarious day out for humans and hounds! That’s definitely what we had when we were invited to try out dog-friendly Go Boat Kingston, the latest dog-friendly boating experience to hit London from Go Boat London.
You may remember we reviewed the dog-friendly Go Boat experience on Regent’s Canal last summer and had a fabulous time, so on an overcast Sunday afternoon, Belinha, Lilliput, Claude and Orly together with their humans, were very excited to try out Go Boat’s new location in Kingston Upon Thames.
ABOUT GO BOAT LONDON
Since first launching in Copenhagen and then coming to London in 2017 at Paddington, taking one of the Go-Boat self-drive electric boats for a spin is must on the ‘London To-Do List’. The boats are eco-friendly (the foam kernel of the boat is made from 80% recycled PET – the equivalent of about 600 plastic bottles) and travel at just over 5mph so can be driven by people without any previous boating experience – don’t worry, you are given instructions by the Go Boat crew on how to operate the boat before setting off.
DOG-FRIENDLY BOATING ON THE THAMES VS REGENT’S CANAL
Just like Go Boat Paddington, the Go Boat Kingston experience offers the chance to charter your own boat but this time with a very different experience…sailing along the River Thames, the thought of which was both exciting and somewhat terrifying at the same time!
Sailing down the Thames is quite different from sailing down Regent’s Canal, especially when you may be a beginner captain! Contrary to what I expected, the general consensus from those on board who had done both trips was that it’s actually easier to captain the Go Boat along the Thames than it is along Regent’s Canal. This is mainly due to the fact that on the canal you have less space to manoeuvre so until you find your boat legs, you may not end up going in the direction you were aiming for!
On the Thames however, there is much more open space so everything is easier. Of course, there are other boats on the river with you and some of these are big boats, but as long as you stay to the side and follow the instructions of the Go Boat crew, then there is plenty of space for everyone to sail along without any mishaps.
We initially put the captainship in the paws of Lilliput and Claude but soon had to hand over the tiller to our proper captain – Claude’s dad Ian (disclaimer – obviously we didn’t actually let the dogs drive the boat but they do make for very cute captains in the figurative sense).
OUR DOG-FRIENDLY GO BOAT KINGSTON EXPERIENCE
For the Go Boat Kingston experience, you have two choices of routes – one towards Molesley Lock passing Hampton Court and the other, towards Teddington Lock as you can see on the map here.
We had booked the two-hour boating experience which was enough time to do one of the routes, so we chose to sail towards Hampton Court. Surprisingly, although it took approximately an hour in either direction, the time absolutely flew by.
Everyone brought along picnic goodies which are definitely recommended to put the finishing touches to your time on board. Alcohol is allowed as long as you stick to the following limits – either two bottles/cans per person of standard strength beer, larger, or pre-mixed spirits or, one 750ml bottle of wine/champagne/prosecco between 2 people. Obviously, anyone driving the boat must remain sober throughout the trip and stick to alcohol-free options.
In the end, we had enough food and drink on board to feed us for several days! The dogs couldn’t believe their luck at all the pup picnic items with the pupcakes made by Lilliput’s mum and the Snuffle dog beer being the biggest hits and devoured at record speed.
After sailing past Thames Ditton Island and spotting many a gorgeous house to envy along the way, we arrived at Hampton Court. The impressive gilded gates and views of Hampton Court Palace from our unique angle definitely were worth choosing this route for our trip.
All too soon, we reached Hampton Court Bridge and it was time to turn back for the return trip and the last chance to finish off our picnic!
WAS IT A PAWS UP FOR OUR DOG-FRIENDLY BOATING EXPERIENCE?
Absolutely! Everyone agreed that it had been a lovely afternoon doing something different with our dogs and for those who hadn’t been on a dog-friendly Go Boat before, that it was a really fantastic experience.
Those who had done the Go Boat experience on Regent’s Canal were just as big fans and pleased that the experiences are sufficiently different that you don’t feel that you doing the same thing twice. There were some differing views on favourite experiences between the two for different reasons – sailing down the open water of The Thames was a winner for some and the uniqueness of navigating Regents Canal for others. Either way, it’s definitely a paws up for both experiences.
DOGS GO BOATING – TOP TIPS FOR THE TRIP
Our number one tip for the dog-friendly Go Boat London experiences has to be to bring something for your dog to sit on. As the surface of the boats is quite shiny this can be a bit unsettling and slippery for dogs. Belinha is really not comfortable with slippery surfaces, so this time I bought along a non-slip dog mat as last time, even the towel she sat on would slip.
The other top tip would be to bring a picnic but don’t go overboard like we did (pardon the pun). Do make sure you have some special treats in the picnic hamper for the pups though, as the experience is all about them too. Plus, if your pup is a nervous sailor then a pupcake or some chicken will help get them in the sailing spirit.
None of the dogs on board were swimmers (in fact quite the opposite), but if your dog is partial to a suprise swim, then investing in a doggy life jacket is probably wise and there are some reasonably priced ones on Amazon. Keeping a tight hold of them is also recommended as an unexpected dive into The Thames would be quite different to a dip in Regents Canal. Claude brought along his armbands just in case…
Go Boat allows eight passengers on board and those passengers can be people or pups. However, if your pup is a small dog and can sit on your lap (the guideline is that they should weigh less than a 2-year-old child), then they don’t count towards the passenger limit.
We took the two hour Go Boat Kingston experience which was enough time to go to Hampton Court Palace and back. However, if I was doing it again for the first time, I would recommend booking the three hour trip as it would give you time to sail in both directions, taking in both Teddington Lock and Hampton Court Palace.
HOW TO GET TO DOG-FRIENDLY GO BOAT KINGSTON
If you’ve been to Go Boat in Merchant Square in Paddington, you’ll know it’s easily spotted with all the boats lined up next to the jetty so we were looking for the same when we arrived at Kingston. However, the entrance to Go Boat Kingston is almost hidden, tucked away down some steps on Kingston’s Riverside Walk opposite Côte Brasserie and Haché Riverside Social – in fact, you could walk right past it if you weren’t looking.
Here are our tips on how to get to Go Boat Kingston – the postcode for getting there is KT1 1QN for the sat nav:
By Train: The train to Kingston from Waterloo takes 30 minutes and then it’s approx. a 10-minute walk to Go Boat Kingston
- Street parking on the weekends in Kingston can be tricky as the street parking on the roads closest to Go Boat is restricted. However, if you drive over the Kingston bridge to the other side of the river and turn into one of the side streets on the right, you will have a better chance of finding street parking.
- We often drive to Kingston and would actually recommend using one of the car parks as they are not expensive. A good one is the Seven Kings Car Park (KT2 5AD), part of The Bentalls Centre car parks which is not far from Go Boat Kingston and charges a very reasonable £1 per hour with free parking after 6 pm.
- Thameside Car Park is a small(ish) car park with 32 spaces but there are often spaces available. It’s a short walk from Go Boat along the river (KT1 1PL) and charges are £1.70 per hour up to 4 hours, then £12.50 flat rate for the whole day.
- There are other car parks such as the John Lewis car park but that has limited opening times e.g. closes at 5:30 pm on a Sunday so wouldn’t have worked for us.
DOG-FRIENDLY PLACES NEARBY
As we’d brought along a (very large) picnic on our boat trip we didn’t try out any of the restaurants or pubs alongside Riverside Walk opposite Go Boat Kingston after our trip but in case you would like to, here are some of the dog-friendly policies:
The Bishop Pub: dog-friendly inside and out with doggy treats available at the bar
Haché Riverside Social: dogs welcomed outside on the terrace seating area only, dog water bowls provided
Côte Brasserie: dogs welcomed outside on the terrace seating area only
Dog-friendly Go Boat Kingston trips can be booked seven days a week from May to November.
Prices are £59/£79 (off-peak/peak) for one hour, £89/109 for two hours and £119/139 for three hours.
Depending on how many humans you have on board, the prices work out to be really reasonable for such a fun dog-friendly experience.
Happy Sailing Puppers!