Embrace the chill: how to enjoy the water in winter

Heritage and history

Embrace the chill: how to enjoy the water in winter

The temperature may have plummeted but don’t let that deter you from adventures in, on, or around our fantastic waterscape. There are still so many ways in which you can enjoy the water during the colder months, whether you’re seeking a thrill on the water, a bracing dip or a tranquil stroll. Now is the time to experience our vast waterscape in a whole new light, so embrace the chill and dive on in:

Paddleboarding in the Royal Docks

Photo: Tian Khee Siong

On the water

Don’t let the drop in temperature deter you from adventures on the water. Whether you want to hire a canoe, learn how to handle a small powerboat, experience the camaraderie of dragon boat racing or book a sailing taster session, Royal Docks Watersports in Royal Albert Dock is open all year round and provides water-based activities for all ages and abilities.

The Royal Docks is a beacon to water enthusiasts and offers a home to a diverse and inclusive range of clubs and leisure activities including:

  • London Youth Rowing is ground-breaking charity that works with over 10,000 young people a year to ensure children from schools and youth clubs across London have access to an otherwise traditionally niche sport.
  • London Otters is the capital’s LGBTQI-friendly rowing club and welcomes all abilities, from complete beginner to experienced rowers. As well as weekly training sessions in the Royal Docks, members take part in regular races and regattas.
  • Windy Pandas is one of London’s top tier Dragon boat clubs and their ethos is based on team spirit, friendship and fun!
  • Wake Up Docklands provides another inner city oasis for water sports with wakeboarding sessions taking place throughout the winter months. If you get the bug for the ride, you can join them again in the spring and try your hand at paddleboarding.
Boats stored at the Royal Docks Boats stored at the Royal Docks

Photos: Tian Khee Siong

In the water

It might be under 10℃ in there but enthusiasts at Royal Docks Open Water Swimming are not deterred. With a full 250-meter course available for hardy swimmers and a ‘dip’ option for those who prefer a quick plunge, it can be an exhilarating experience. Indeed, many swimmers believe this is the best season to swim with the cold water experience providing health benefits for mind, body and spirit.

The Royal Docks is also a participating venue for NOWCA’s popular Sub10 Club, which opens annually on 1st November when water temperatures are most likely to drop below 10°C. The initiative encourages like-minded swimmers to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of cold-water swimming in a safe setting. You can even earn swim badges when you reach certain milestones!

Cold water swimming is not without risks, and Love Open Water asks that new swimmers complete a cold water induction course.

A man in a wetsuit looking over the Royal Docks

Photo: Tian Khee Siong

Beside the water:

One of the simplest yet most enjoyable activities can be taking a leisurely walk along the dock edge. The waterfront offers a fantastic backdrop year-round but there can be a special charm to the Royal Docks in winter, especially when you’re greeted by the sight of frozen water stretching out before you.

So, dress warmly, pack a thermos and take a stroll along one of our traffic free waterside paths. Alternatively, head to the area’s green gem, the oasis of Thames Barrier Park, where you can take in the views of the river. For more inspiration check out our guide to the Royal Docks terrific tours and trails.

If you’re feeling in need of something more energetic, you can join the Victoria Dock Parkrun - a free, friendly 5km community run that meets every Saturday at 9am.

Thames Barrier Park

Above the water

The IFS Cable Car glides between the Royal Docks and Greenwich Peninsula. Take in aerial views of London’s skyline and a panoramic perspective of the Thames from 90m above the water. Travel using your Oyster card or opt for the London Cable Car Experience, an interactive space providing fun for all the family on Greenwich Peninsula.

So whether you’re seeking adventure on the water, a refreshing swim or a tranquil stroll by the water, the Royal Docks offers a host of activities. Embrace the chill and discover the unique charm of this remarkable London location.