Family days out: Riverboat cruise on the Ouse

Family days out: Riverboat cruise on the Ouse

Last weekend my 3-year-old drove an actual riverboat and ticked off around a dozen new wildlife species. If that’s not a good family day out, I don’t know what is.

We’re lucky enough to live just a short walk from the fantastic River Great Ouse in Cambridgeshire, and even luckier that the St Ives Electric Riverboat company runs hourly cruises up and down it during spring and summer. It’s a great day out for families – totally safe, fun and exciting for young kids.

The cruise is captained by a lovely local chap who knows everything about the history of St Ives and its surrounding villages, and gives you a complete tour of the river with loads of fascinating nuggets of information.

Perfect for kids

For adults it’s interesting, and for kids it’s mindblowing. Infants and babies will have a cool experience, but it’s toddler age upwards that this is really perfect for. Sonny’s just turned 3 years old and turned up wearing his pirate hat (yep, I’m that dad) practically exploding with excitement when I told him he might be able to get his hands on the wheel if he was a “good boy”.

He didn’t have to wait long, because as soon as we got clear of the St Ives town bridge, Sonny was handed the wheel and allowed to steer the boat up the river for what must have been around half a mile. We’ve hardly been able to get the daft grin off his face since.

Riverboat cruise

Great for wildlife spotters

The kids were handed wildlife bingo sheets as they boarded the boat, and challenged to spot as many species as possible on the trip. Amazingly, in just an hour, we saw ducklings, cormorants, cygnets, coot chicks, moorhen chicks, great-crested grebe chicks, black-headed gulls, swallows, swifts, a kingfisher and many more that I now can’t remember. Sonny managed to tick off around 12 of the 16 species on his bingo sheet, and left the boat with some sweets from the captain as his prize. Awesome!

Riverboat cruise

How much does it cost?

The Electric Riverboat trips cost £8 for adults and £5 for kids (£2 for infants in arms), so it isn’t the cheapest way to spend an hour as a family, but it’s well worth it. From April until October they run every hour from 11am until 5pm from the Quayside in St Ives town centre, and you can even charter the boat privately if you have a very large group.

Riverboat cruise

What other boat trips can I do?

The Great Ouse is a perfect river for this kind of boat trip, with calm waters and plenty of picturesque villages and pubs to stop at along the way. If you fancy a full day on the river rather than a short trip, you can also hire boats for a full day from places like Purvis Marine in Huntingdon. The Electric Riverboat company also run dawn chorus birdwatching trips in spring, and evening bat cruises throughout the summer.

And if you want a proper family adventure, it’s a great place to go canoeing…

Riverboat cruise

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