Review: A red boat adventure on the Ouse with York City Cruises

Ahoy there! When we were invited by York City Cruises to take one of their trade mark red boats for a jaunt on the river with the kids, we jumped at the chance. We’ve taken them on one of the big sightseeing boats before, but never taken charge of the steering wheel ourselves. With visions of Swallows and Amazons and Wind in the Willows in mind, we took to the high seas (well, the Ouse) on one of the rare sunny days of the summer. We had a cracking time, and here are our top four reasons to hire a boat.

You get to drive a boat!

Our seven and five year-olds absolutely loved the freedom of being in charge of driving the boat. They took it in turns to take the controls and, with a bit of help, managed to steer it pretty much all the way from King’s Staith up to Clifton Road Bridge, down to the Millennium Bridge and back again with enormous grins on their faces. The boats go slowly enough that there’s little risk of ending up wedged into the river bank – it’s really good fun.

You get to see the city from another angle

We might have walked over the various bridges thousands of times, but we’d never seen them from underneath until we were on the river. The kids loved spotting some of the landmarks they know from the water, like City Screen and, er, Pizza Express. It was also fun to see the houseboats moored near Skeldergate Bridge and to wave at the passengers on all the boats we passed.

You can have a picnic on the water

Our handy lunchtime slot meant that we could pack a picnic and eat our sandwiches on the water and watch the world go by. It made a lovely change from the park, and is something that the kids will definitely remember.

You can have an ice cream from the ice cream boat!

You can’t generally stop during the one-hour trip, but there’s an important exception where ice cream is concerned. If the Two Hoots ice cream boat is moored by the Millennium Bridge, you can pull up alongside it and buy a cone or four of their delicious ice cream to enjoy on your way back to the landing. It’s the perfect end to a brilliant York family experience. From the friendly staff to the freedom, great views and the chance to do something different, there are a lot of reasons we’d recommend a self-drive trip with York City Cruises. All aboard!

Top tips and info

  • Book a lunchtime slot so you can enjoy a picnic on your trip
  • Hire prices are £25 to £40 per hour (half hour rates are available on the day)
  • The boats hold up to 8 people, so why not make it a big outing with family or friends?
  • Life jackets are compulsory for under 10s, optional for everyone else.
  • You need to leave a £40 deposit, so you might need to go via the cash machine on your way there
  • You can walk up and hire a boat or book online for Monday to Friday trips through the website

Visit the City Cruises York website

Thank you to City Cruises York for inviting us on board. As always, our reviews are entirely genuine and we take pride in only recommending things that we love

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