Punting in Oxford
Enjoy this quintessential Oxford experience as you glide peacefully past willow trees and flower meadows and under ancient bridges. Punts can be hired by the hour, for ½ day or full day from any of several family-run boathouses on the River Cherwell. Picnics are to be encouraged and no previous punting experience required. If it all sounds too difficult then you can even hire a chauffered punt! Boathouses includee Cherwell Boat House, Magdalen Bridge Boat House and Salter's Steamers.
Canoeing and kayaking
The well-regarded Adventure Dolphin Centre offers canoe and kayak tuition and trips for 13-19 year olds from its main centre on the banks of the Thames in Pangbourne. Smaller centres in Newbury and Hungerford do likewise on the Kennet and Avon canal. Also Thames Canoe Hire in Reading have lots of canoes and kayaks for hire.
Cotswold Water Park
The park consists of 140 lakes across 40 square miles of reclaimed gravel pits to the north and west of Swindon. Many lakes are in private hands but plenty are used by commercial operators offering a wide range of water activities. All the usual sailing, kayaking and water skiing stuff is available plus new zorbing and paddle board activities. One lake has an inland beach popular with families with small children. To find out more visit Costwold Water Park and see what takes your interest.
Going for Gold on the Thames
For aspiring Steve Redgraves and Matthew Pincents! Goring Gap Boat Club offers instruction in rowing (the long thin boats used in the Olympics) and sculling (the normal boats with a couple of oars used by the rest of us) for all ages and abilities. They offer a warm welcome at their boathouse in Whitchurch on Thames (near Pangbourne) with progression into their club boats and teams if you want to take things further.
Water skiing & wakeboarding (like snowboarding but on water)
If you are looking for something to get the adrenaline going then Thames Water Ski Club is the place to go. They offer water skiing and wakeboarding tuition for all ages and ambitions on their lake between junctions 11 and 12 of the M4 . They claim to be the friendliest and cheapest club in the south of England.
Sailing at Theale
Learn to sail dinghies at Theale (M4 Junction 12) with Berkshire Sailing. They offer courses and tuition for children, youths and adults on a variety of different types of dinghy. If you have your own boat then Burghfield Sailing Club, who use the same 200 acre lake, will be happy for you to join and use the facilities.
Your very own Three Men (or Women) in a Boat
Jerome K. Jerome's classic Thames river trip adventure, recently re-enacted for TV by Griff Rhys Jones, Dara O Briain and Rory McGrath. Now you can follow in their wake on your own multi-day rowing and camping trip on the Thames, thanks to Thames Skiff Hire. They provide the boat and a map of suitable camping grounds, you provide the tent and food and off you go. Trips from 2-7 days to suit you, starting and ending at various places on the river between Lechlade and Reading. And don't forget to read the book before you go.
Take a Narrow Boat on the Kennet and Avon canal
Running through the heart of Newbury the Kennet and Avon canal has been a big part of the region's history for the last 200 years. Fully restored in 2000 the Kennet and Avon canal is a great way to see the local countryside from a different perspective. Narrow boats can be hired in Hungerford and Caversham for periods of 1 day or longer. Public trips are available too including a 2 hour trip on a horse-drawn barge from Hungerford. Check out Rose of Hungerford and Kennet Horse Boat.
Motor cruising on the Thames
If punting and rowing sound too much like hard work then exploring the Thames in a small motor launch could be the answer. Pack a picnic and spend an afternoon poodling up and down the river with friends. Various sizes of boat are available for hire, chiefly from Oxford and Caversham. Most have cabins in case of rain or scorching sun (!). Hire by the hour, ½ day or full day from Magdalen Bridge Boathouse, Oxford River Cruises and Salters Steamers in Oxford or Caversham Boat Services in Reading.
An afternoon row on the Thames Oxford
All the pleasures of punting but without the worry of losing the pole! You will find plenty of boat houses in Oxford hiring rowing boats by the hour. Try Cherwell Boat House, Oxford Punting and Salters Steamers or Caversham Boat Services in Reading.
Let someone else take care of the boat and navigation by joining a Thames river boat trip. Plenty of offerings to choose from starting in Oxford, Reading and various pick up places in between, including Abingdon, Goring and Pangbourne. Trips from the usual operators in Reading Thames River Cruise and Caversham Boat Services. From Oxford it's Oxford River Cruises and Salters Steamers.