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There is no shortage of entertainment and unique experiences in London. You can dine on a bus, ride the world’s longest tunnel slide, and climb up The O2, so it should be no surprise that the city also has a hot tub boat navigating through Canary Wharf’s skyscrapers.

Operated by Skuna, this unique attraction combines three of our favourite things: sightseeing, sailing and spending the afternoon in a hot tub, and if you want, with a glass of champagne in hand.

Soaking in the city

To say the least, sitting in a bathing suit outside in steamy 40C water is not something you can generally take for granted in the UK. The water inside the boat is fresh, lovely, and heated by a log-burning stove at the front which keeps the water always heated regardless of how cold it is outside, meaning its perfect for all weather even snow!

Approved by the River and Canal Trust, the ride takes 1hr 30mins (35 mins each way with 10mins to stop and relax) and the route between the buildings gives you a nice relaxing tour of Canary Wharf and West India Quay.

Rain or shine, it’s always a great activity for anyone who wants to see this area from a different perspective, regardless of the weather. The boat sits very low in the water, so you are effectively submerged, providing an absolutely new angle to the skyscrapers. The only time you really begin to understand the scale — how much glass and steel, and how towering all these buildings are — is when you glide down the canals around them.

Float and relax

Guests can either buy a slot in a shared boat or hire a whole hot tub (the more people the cheaper for each person). Bring your inner circle aboard, or go big with a fleet for friends and family. Shaped like a teardrop, the boat can hold a maximum of 6 people comfortably, including a designated captain. No sailing experience necessary, the vehicle is powered by a small electric motor that’s completely silent and relatively easy to use but steering takes some getting used to.

Speed is limited to a relaxing 3mph so there’s little danger of crashing or losing control. The water is quiet and calm, and as it’s not connected to the Thames, you’ll never feel at risk or a strong current taking you out to sea. For extra safety, each boat is equipped with a tracker, and Skuna’s emergency staff can reach out to you at any point if needed.

Leave no swimsuit behind

Despite being inspired by the Scandinavian tradition of the outdoor heated hot tub, swimsuits are mandatory for all Skuna customers and if you forget your swimsuit (which we’re told is quite common, especially for the guys), you can purchase one at the reception desk. Guests can also rent towels and robes. Toilets and heated changing rooms are next to the boats and contain large lockers to store belongings while on the water. However, you can bring your phones and other small valuables with you and they will be placed in a dry barrel that comes along in the boat.

An assortment of drinks are available (at extra cost) such as wine, beer, champagne and soft drinks, and can be brought on to the boat and stored in one of the two storage pockets. There are also refreshments and guests are welcome to bring their own snacks and treats for the ride, but since the boat has no tables or countertops, they’ll need to be extra careful not to get them wet.

Voyage vigilance

Before boarding you will get a small map and a briefing of how the boat works, how to steer, and safety protocols, including where the low bridges are and how to pull down the chimney before going under those bridges. Other than that and occasional acquaintances with other hot tubs and barbecue boats (more on that shortly) there are no more potential obstacles.

Get ready to wave back at amused pedestrians and answer their questions about the water temperature in your boat – you’ll make lots of people jealous. One important thing to note is that there is no clock on board, so they recommend setting an alarm on your phone to know when you need to return. 90 mins doesn’t sound like a lot but it’s the perfect amount of time to get the full experience without feeling like it should be longer.

Choose your captain

You will be asked to choose the driver and this responsibility comes with an attachment as this person will have to obey the laws of the sea and stay sober, but you can buy them a captains hat so they look the part.

The rest of the group is allowed to consume up to two alcoholic beverages each during the trip. There have been cases of people trying to sneak bottles of alcohol within their swim suit, which for a guy may come across to the staff as something very different! “We calculated that with 90 mins on the boat, two drinks per person is plenty but we do get people doing silly things”, admits marketing director Greg Swaby.

Sizzle and sail

A fun and innovative mode of travel has been brought to life by the Londoner Stuart “Tommo” Thompson. The ex-civil servant launched Skuna Boats in 2018 to share his passion for water adventures with both locals and tourists. Tommo himself has lived in a houseboat for a number of years and even named his daughter River when she was born in 2021.

Skuna originally started on an older part of London – Regents Canal. As the project grew and became more popular Tommo and his team moved to the larger site at West India Quay, which presented them with the opportunity to get more hot tub boats and try other types of boats. Now, in addition to 5 hot tub boats they also own 10 barbeque boats. The latter is particularly popular during spring, summer and autumn, the experience allows guests to cook their own food with friends and family on the boat while sailing around the canals.

Charting new waters

The company continues to expand; in 2021 Skuna opened a second location at Lakeside, Essex, and has ambitious plans for the future. We can’t wait for them to bring back Tub Film Club – a winter season adventure where Skuna screens Christmas movies for viewers in floating hot tubs!

Throughout December and January lucky guests who managed to book limited tickets were gifted Santa hats, floating popcorn boxes and mulled wine. “Regardless of the time of the year, hot tub boats are a really nice activity, especially for people taking long weekends or short breaks in London, who are looking for something unique and quirky to do”, says Greg Swaby and we couldn’t agree more.

More information and bookings can be found here.


Image credits: © Skuna Boats