Fun Canterbury Boat Trips: History, Nature Or Ghosts?

Canterbury boat trips are something I highly recommend in my post about a Day Trip to Canterbury. A boat tour along the Great Stour really is one of the best things you can do on a visit to historic Canterbury.

You may know the city of Canterbury because of its famous Cathedral where Thomas Beckett was murdered it is one of the oldest and most renowned Christian structures in England. Exploring Canterbury through punting boat tours offers a unique perspective on the city’s charm. Drifting along the River Stour, passengers can admire the picturesque landscapes and historic landmarks while learning about Canterbury’s rich heritage from knowledgeable guides.

But there are a few different boat cruises and companies to choose from, so here’s what you need to know.

A scenic canal with a Canterbury boat trip, flanked by buildings and greenery under a blue sky with clouds.

Canterbury Boat Trips

Canterbury Historical City Tours

With the historic trip, you’ll go through a section of the city and see a number of religious and historical sites.

You can do this trip in a few different ways:

Westgate Punts is a private punt with just your group and minimal commentary. It lasts about 60-65 minutes and also takes you through Westgate Gardens and passes under the High Street in an 800-year-old tunnel. Trips start from Westgate.

The Canterbury Punting Co. – group punt trip with up to 12 people lasting about 45 minutes. The chauffeurs provide educational and fun commentary. Drinks can be reserved from their bar. Tours start from Greyfriars Garden.

Canterbury Historic River Tours – shared tours in a large rowing boat lasting about 45 minutes. The tour guides provide humorous explanations throughout. Trips starts from the Old Weavers House and the Ducking Stool.

A historic brick building with arches over a canal, reflecting on the water's surface, perfect for Canterbury boat trips.

Be sure to duck as you pass under bridges and buildings!

Caterbury Nature Trips

These trips run upriver and immerse you in nature and an abundance of wildlife. Think ducks, kingfishers, cormorants, weeping willows and fairy bridges.

Punting along a vibrant, flower-lined river in a quaint urban setting during Canterbury boat trips.

The Canterbury boat trip is a popular tourist attraction in the historic city

Westgate Punts offers two nature trips, both as private options. Each starts by sailing through picturesque Westgate Gardens.

On their short trip, which lasts about 35-40 minutes, you head out upstream through Westgate Gardens. You’ll pass under a couple of low bridges (be ready to duck down to go under) and through the weeping willows.

After you pass Hambrook Marshes and the Victorian Viaduct, the punt gets turned around so you can loop past Bingley Island. On this part of the trip, you travel along the man-made Roman canal before rejoining the natural river through Westgate Gardens.

A view from the stern of a Canterbury boat number 16 moving under a bridge on a river, with people and dogs visible in the background.

I did this and it was a peaceful and relaxing trip, right in nature amongst the local wildlife. There was no running commentary, which I liked. But my boatman was happy and friendly and answered my questions and shared some anecdotes.

Person enjoying a peaceful Canterbury boat trip on a serene river shaded by weeping willows.

Westgate Punts also offer a similar long trip that’s about 50 minutes. After the viaduct, you go further to Whitehall meadows before turning around.

A Canterbury boat approaching an old railway bridge over a river on a sunny day with scattered clouds.

The Canterbury Punting Co. runs similar cruises as shared tours with up to 12 people. The price is similar to Westgate Punts, although it’s cheaper to join the shared cruise if you’re on your own.

A swan gliding on a tranquil river surrounded by lush greenery during one of the Canterbury boat trips.

Evening Boat Tours

Fancy spending a warm summer evening floating through the heart of Canterbury? You’ve got it! You can also book a river cruise in the evenings during the summer months.

Canterbury Historic River Tours do shared and private tours on their rowing boats.

The Canterbury Punting Co. only offer evening tours on a private basis (with a glass of Pimms if you like!)

Half-timbered buildings lining a narrow canal offering Canterbury boat trips.

Ghost Tours

If you visit the city of Canterbury around Halloween, you can enjoy a truly atmospheric cruise. Evening ghost tours run on particular dates in October. Prepare to be recounted with grisly stories of the city’s chilling but fascinating history. Spooky.

Canterbury Historic River Tours run their Chilling Tales tour with “stories of ghostly sightings to gory torture and beheadings”. Not suitable for children under 10.

The Canterbury Punting Co.’s Ghost Tours are proclaimed to be “brilliant”, and they’ll bundle you up with cushions, blankets, hot water bottles and candlelit lanterns.

Wedding Receptions And Hen Tours

If you’re looking for a special boat trip in Canterbury for your hen do or wedding group, then speak with The Canterbury Punting Co. They’ll work with you to create a bespoke-length tour for your wedding reception of up to 58 guests. You can also have exclusive use of their cafe evening to provide food and drinks.

For hen parties, they have five boats that’ll hold up to 12 people in each. You can have Pimms, Prosecco or Champagne for your party too.

Ruins of an old stone archway with overgrown vegetation and blooming trees under a blue sky, reminiscent of views seen during Canterbury boat trips.

Canterbury River Tour through Westgate Gardens

About The Tour Companies

Tours are seasonal and generally run from some point in March until the end of October. The routes offered, and the number of people in each boat can vary for safety depending on the height of the river.

Discounts for trips are available for children and groups, and all of the companies take online bookings. See the individual sites for details

Westgate Punts and Canterbury Historic River Tours work with the Environment Agency to keep the River Stour clean.

Westgate Punts

With Westgate Punts, you get a private tour of the waterways starting from Westgate Bridge. You won’t share your punt with anyone else, but if you’re solo, you need to pay for two adult fares. The company encourages you to pre-book; otherwise, you may have to wait a while.

Westgate’s boatmen have done disability awareness training, and some have also been trained in lifting/access. Read the Westgate Punts disability guide here.

I really like the routes this company takes, and they were my favourite during my visit.

A sign for "westgate punts" by the Canterbury Boat Trips company beside a scenic river with blooming trees and traditional buildings in the background.

Canterbury Historic River Tours

The Canterbury Historic Tours are exactly that. Based at King’s Bridge, they share Canterbury’s history lightheartedly as an interactive experience while you enjoy your time on their rowing boats.

If you’re a large group, the company will also put on a special “welcome to the city” tour for you before 11am. Check their website for all the latest as well as their accessibility statement. If you’re interested in the accessibility information they have really helpful details about arriving in Canterbury on that page, too.

Half-timbered buildings overlooking a narrow canal with Canterbury boat trips under a clear blue sky.

I did their city trip and found it a little bit boring as they only go up and down one small stretch of the river. The downside of being in the rowing boat is that it can’t fit through the tunnel under the high street, either.

Punting on a tranquil river beside a vibrant flowerbed and traditional architecture during Canterbury boat trips.

Sign up for Canterbury Historic River Tours on the bridge beside the Weaver’s House

The Canterbury Punting Co.

The Canterbury Punting Co. offer the largest variety of trips in their punts. These include shared historical, nature and ghost tours and private corporate, hen and wedding tours.

Moored punting boats under a banner for the Canterbury Boat Trips mooring cafe bar.

They weren’t running their trips when I visited them as the river was running too high and fast. But they have a lovely spot on the canal, and their little cafe is cosy and rustic.

A rustic brick house overlooking a tranquil pond with greenery and a small jetty, perfect for Canterbury boat trips.

How to get to Canterbury from London

  1. Train: The most convenient and fastest way to travel from London to Canterbury is by train. Trains depart from London’s major railway stations such as London Victoria, London St Pancras International, or London Bridge. Southeastern Railway operates frequent services to Canterbury West and Canterbury East stations. The journey typically takes around 1 to 1.5 hours depending on the train service and departure station.
  2. Bus/Coach: National Express and other coach companies operate direct services from London Victoria Coach Station to Canterbury Bus Station. The journey duration varies but usually takes around 2 to 3 hours depending on traffic conditions and stops along the route.
  3. Car: If you prefer driving, you can reach Canterbury from London by car via the M2 motorway. The distance is approximately 60 miles (97 kilometers), and the journey typically takes around 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic.
  4. Taxi/Car Hire: Taxis and car hire services are available in London and can provide a more flexible travel option, allowing you to travel directly to Canterbury at your own pace.

Worth A Punt

Anyway, one of the Canterbury boat trips has got to be worth a punt (groan, pun intended!) while you’re there. I’d recommend doing one of the many guided walking tours in the morning to get your history lesson and then enjoy a nature trip on the river in the afternoon.

Guest Author Suzie:

Suzie writes honest and helpful posts for solo, nervous or first-time travellers to Greece at Greek Island Bucket List. She became a Greek resident in 2020 and is on a mission to every inhabited island in the country

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