7 of the best places to kayak and paddleboard in East Anglia

A woman in a kayak on an open stretch of water

East Anglia's waterways provide ample opportunities for paddleboarding, kayaking and canoeing - Credit: Hilary Tate

With summer just a few months away, the weather is beginning to heat up, and there’s no better time to get out on the water for a socially distanced dip with your bubble or group of six.

Great exercise, and fun for all the family, here are just some of the spots across East Anglia where you can dabble in kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding. You can take your own craft to any of these locations (ask about launch fees at Alton Water), with the exception of Iken Canoe, or take advantage of hire facilities - but make sure you call ahead to book in advance.

Enjoying the spring sunshine at Wroxham Broad.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The Norfolk Broads in summer - Credit: Antony Kelly

Coltishall  

If it’s the Norfolk Broads you’re looking to explore this year, then be sure to set sail from Coltishall’s TheCanoeMan. With eight launch venues scattered across Norfolk and north Suffolk including Wroxham, Norwich, Beccles, South Walsham and Coltishall, there is ample opportunity for you to hop on and off as you make your way down the tranquil waterways at your own gentle pace. 

The beauty of the Broads is that they experience little to no wave movement, meaning even the most inexperienced paddler can enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors. Customers can hire either a single or double kayak, a two or three-person canoe, a large family canoe which sits two adults and two teenagers, or a stand-up paddleboard. Prices start from £25 for a half day (three hours). You can also launch your own boat for £10. To find out more, call 07873 748408 or visit thecanoeman.com 

If you have your own kayak, Coltishall is a lovely place to launch from, with the green being perfect for picnics, and plenty of outdoor dining at The Rising Sun pub. Here there's currently a horsebox trailer (10.30am to 3.30pm every day) selling soft drinks and snacks, with wood-fired pizza from 4pm to 9pm on Thursdays.

sunset soft light highlighting the river stour running through the country in dedham; UK

The River Stour - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sudbury 

Traverse Constable Country and soak up its beauty by heading to south Suffolk this summer. From the Sudbury-based Outdoor Hire Centre, you can set sail on either a canoe (suitable for two adults and two small children), a single or tandem kayak, or a stand-up paddleboard. Once you take to the water, there are a number of sights to marvel at as you head south towards Cattawade, including Flatford Mill Lock, Dedham Mill Lock, Boxted Mill and Bures Mill. There are also a number of pubs en route that you can stop off at for refreshments.  

For those looking for a challenge, intrepid explorers can embark upon the One Day Challenge Paddle. Starting at the Sudbury base, you can make your way down the 24-mile length of river to Cattawade on a kayak from £65 per person, including a return transfer. Alternatively, a number of two-day camping trips are available in which you can navigate the full length of the river, stopping off at a secluded camping site to break the trip up. Single kayaks and stand-up paddleboards start from £10 per hour, and both open canoes and tandem kayaks start from £25 per hour. To find out more, call 01206 700707 or visit outdoorhirecentres.com 

Slipping in the water at Geldeston

Traversing in the water at Geldeston - Credit: Viv Southorn

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Geldeston Lock 

A well-known hub for paddlers, Geldeston Lock on the Norfolk-Suffolk border is an ideal spot for a day out on the water this summer, providing you easy access to the Broads. Setting sail down the River Waveney, head east where you will make your way through the likes of Barsham Marshes and Waveney Meadow before you eventually reach Beccles.  

For a gentler journey, why not traverse from Geldeston village to Geldeston Lock and back in under an hour? Simply go down the dyke and at the end, turn right on to the River Waveney towards Geldeston Lock. Heading west on the River Waveney will take you towards Bungay. With no motorboats on this stretch of river, it’s an extremely peaceful journey with an abundance of wildlife. Paddle crafts can be hired from nearby Rowan Craft, who have a number of Canadian open canoes available for hire. Suitable for all ages, three hours cost £25, and a full day is £40. To find out more, visit rowancraft.co.uk or call 01508 518208.  There are  several places to grab picnic lunches in Beccles on your day out, including Twyfords cafe (for fantastic cakes and epic sandwiches), and Baileys Deli.

Family enjoying themselves at Alton Water. PICTURE: RACHEL EDGE

A family enjoying themselves at Alton Water - Credit: Rachel Edge

Alton Water 

The largest manmade reservoir in Suffolk, Ipswich’s Alton Water has a variety of equipment available for hire, making it the perfect family day out this summer. Whether you’re looking to canoe, kayak or take to the water on a paddleboard, there is something for everyone. 

Choose from Canadian canoes (which sit two people), one and two-seater kayaks, rowing boats for up to four people, stand-up paddle boards, single and double-handed sailing dinghies, and pedalos which sit up for five. The hire cost also includes wetsuits and buoyancy aids. Prices start from £10 per person. To find out more, visit anglianwaterparks.co.uk or call 01473 328408. Bike hire is also available, with miles of pathway to navigate. And the cafe on site sells light lunches, snacks and ice cream.

Cromer 

If you’re hoping to hit the waves but would like to get some practice in first, Cromer’s Glide Surf School offers lessons to anyone wishing to learn how to paddleboard in the sea. Ranging from complete beginner through to intermediate and more proficient paddlers, all of its instructors are fully-qualified in the sport, holding both a Level 1 Surf & Stand-up Paddleboard coaching award and an SLSGB beach lifeguard award, and will teach you everything you need to know in either a group of private session.  

Two-hour group lessons start from £30 per adult, and private lessons start from £75 for one-to-one teaching. Paddleboard rental starts from £25 for two hours, or £40 for a full day. 

In addition, a variety of equipment is available to hire if you’re confident enough to take to the water without needing lessons, including stand-up paddleboards, foam and hard surfboards, bodyboards, and single and double kayaks. To find out more, visit glidesurfschool.co.uk or call 01263 805005. Don't forget to stay for fish and chips after. Galton Blackiston's No1, overlooking the sea, does a cracking takeaway.

Paddlers enjoying the River Alde on a summer's day Picture: Iken Canoe

Paddlers enjoying the River Alde on a summer's day Picture: Iken Canoe - Credit: Archant

Iken 

Venture out on the River Alde this summer by launching off from Iken Canoe in Suffolk. A range of paddlecraft are available for hire, meaning you can drift down the stunning upper reaches of one of the region’s most peaceful waterways, situated between Snape and Aldeburgh.  

While your day on the water is dependent on the tide direction, explorers can typically expect to paddle up the winding river to Snape Bridge – with the option to stop off at a couple of waterside pubs for a quick bite to eat – before making your way back to Iken. Alternatively, paddlers can continue down the river, where the estuary widens, and catch a glimpse of St Botolph's Church and Blackheath Mansion. 

Available for hire are single and double kayaks, Canadian canoes and stand-up paddleboards. Prices start from £15 for one hour on the paddleboards, and £25 for up to two hours in a single kayak. To find out more, call 07979 517186 or visit ikencanoe.co.uk 

Southwold  

On the Suffolk coast is where you’ll find Southwold Surf School - the only hire centre in Suffolk to offer stand-up paddleboard hire in the sea. In just one hour, you can learn to paddleboard under the tutelage of the surf school’s fully-qualified instructors.  

The minimum age to paddleboard is 12 years old, and all lessons are inclusive of all equipment, including the board and buoyancy aids. Group sessions start at £35 per person. Alternatively, one-to-one sessions are available for £100. For those ready to take to the water, paddleboard equipment is available to hire from £15 an hour. To find out more, call 01502 630023 or visit southwoldsurfschool.co.uk 

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