Cool off this summer with our favourite water destinations
There’s nothing quite quintessentially English than enjoying a Pimms or pint in the sunshine at the pub – throw in a river view and it becomes the ultimate summer experience. The East of England is awash with fantastic waterside dining destinations, not to mention boat hire and outdoor pools. So, if you fancy watching the boats sail on by along side your Sunday lunch, here’s a few tips…
First off let’s start with boat hire. Spending the day on the water is a fantastic day out and a great way of making the most of the summer. There’s plenty of options for your vessel of choice – canoes, canal boats, rowing, sailing, paddle boards and motor boats, it’s all catered for.
Those looking to embrace their inner Rosie & Jim should jump aboard a canal boat at the Lee Valley Boat Centre in Broxbourne. There’s four styles to choose from and day hire is available from 9.15am to 5.30pm. The River Lee does involve a lot of locks so you’ll need a bit of strength (trust me, it’s not as easy as it looks – made even harder when you leave the winch on the side of the bank and suddenly find yourself in a bit of a pickle at the next lock). Pack a picnic and make the most of being on the river, or stop at a pub for a bite to eat. Alternatively, if you’d rather leave the hard work to someone else, Lee Valley offers public cruises which include a Sunday lunch or afternoon tea.
The region’s obvious answer for boat hire, be it for the day or a holiday, is the beautiful Broads. Your journey can start at various marinas along this vast waterway. Barnes Brinkcraft is located in Wroxham, known as the ‘capital of the Broads’, and home to the famous Roy’s of Wroxham, while Herbert Woods, which celebrated 90 years last month, is located in the quaint town of Potter Heigham. Richardson’s Boating Holidays in Stalham is located between the two and has a large and stylish fleet of boats to cater for all purposes. Read our full guide to the Norfolk Broads
For something a little different and for those who are not afraid to get wet, try out paddle boarding on the River Bure, also known as SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding). Navigate the water and reeds and see the Broads from a whole new perspective. Prices start from £25 for one hour at the Canoe Man.
Cruises in Cambridgeshire
One of the best ways to explore the stunning Cambridgeshire landscape is by boat. Discover the Fenlands and the county’s rich heritage from the water. The River Great Ouse features a number of historic buildings, parks and monuments as you travel between Ely and Cambridge, and the River Nene, which is slightly quieter, takes in the sights of Peterborough and Ferry Meadows Country Park. Boat hire is available from Fox Narrowboats in March and Black Prince located in Ely.
Picnic and a punt
One of eastlife’s favourite days out during the summer is a picnic and punt in Cambridge. Whether it’s for the first time or tenth, punting along the River Cam is a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Soak up the city’s history as you pass by iconic architecture and relax in pretty parkland. Scudamore’s is one of the most reputable punt hires on the river and offer a number of tours for all occasions including Champagne and afternoon tea tours.
If you’d prefer to stay on dry land and watch the world go by as you tuck into lunch, visit one of the region’s riverside restaurants. The Wroxham Hotel and Swan Inn in Horning, are among the most popular places for pint on the Broads. Both offer al fresco dining with river views, and are very popular with day boaters.
The Suffolk coast certainly isn’t short of a restaurant overlooking the water, but if you’re looking for something a little more quaint head to the Meare at Thorpeness. Much of the original character and charm dating back to 1913 is retained, and you can hire colourful row boats before enjoying tea and cake at the café.
Fans of the River Deben should pitch up at The Ramsholt Arms. Situated on the banks, the pub is renowned for its sun soaked terrace and sunset, neighbouring beach and crab fishing jetty.
If you’re not heading to the coast, there’s still plenty to enjoy inland. Hertfordshire offers miles of wonderful walks. A personal favourite is a stroll along the River Lea, from Ware to Hertford finished with a glass of wine and lunch at The Old Barge.
Gastro pubs are the perfect place to spend a lazy summer afternoon with friends, and where better than The Embankment in Bedford. Overlooking the banks of the River Great Ouse, the boathouses and all the hustle and bustle of the water, the pub serves amazing food (the summer cheese selection is amazing), and throughout August will be offering native King Prawns and Lobster on the menu every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening.
If cruising and dining is your thing be sure to check out John Bunyan Public Cruises in Bedford, available Thursday to Sunday, which include afternoon tea or ploughman’s lunch or fish and chips on a Saturday evening.
If you fancy sipping tea with scenic Sufffolk views, Orwell River Cruises offer a number of afternoon tea packages to Pin Mill or Harwich Harbour aboard its purpose built Lady Orwell.
If you’re looking for ways to keep the little ones entertained on hot days, there’s nothing quite like a dip in an outdoor pool. The region’s lido’s are guaranteed family fun, all you need is swimwear and sun screen! Check out the Woburn Lido on Crawley Road, which adjoins the Woburn Abbey Estate, and the much-loved Peterborough Lido, which features three heated pools, sunbathing terraces and a children’s play area.
This summer the paddling pool in Bishop’s Stortford has been given a revamp and has become a splash park for the little ones to enjoy. If you haven’t yet been, the Aqua Play area at Fairlands Valley Park in Stevenage is a must for families. There’s hours of fun to be had in the sprays, squirts and sheets of water!
Head a little further out of the region and you’ll find the UK’s largest Aquaglide inflatable event, launched by Aqua Park in Ruthland Water. A super-soaking experience, it features 16 fun obstacles to climb, jump, crawl, chute, launch, slide and splash. Tickets for the park are priced at £15, offering a 55-minute experience to tackle the obstacles, balance beams, climbing walls, trampolines and blast bags. This is bound to be a sell-out so book your place fast by visiting the website.
Who knew there was so much fun to be had on the water here in the East? Now all we need is some sunshine!