Punting on the Cherwell River

Punting on the River Cherwell: Why, How and When to Do It

Punting on the Cherwell River

Punting stunning River Cherwell is a timeless idyllic pleasure and a traditional Oxford activity. And, contrary to you what you might think, quite an affordable activity while you visit the city. This article will cover everything you need to know about punting on the river Cherwell – including how to get ready, where to rent the boats, whether you need a guide, and why it makes such a great idea for a date!

What is Punting? And Why Do Oxfordians Love it?

Punting is quintessentially Oxfordian. So what is punting, exactly? A punt is a long boat that has a flat bottom. You make the boat move by using a long pole to push against the bottom of the river. People punt primarily for pleasure – as it’s not really a sport. However, in Oxford, it’s become a staple activity for locals and visitors alike. Students, families, tourists, and groups of friends all enjoy this eccentric activity – both on weekends and during the week. 

Oxford is ideal for punting. You can punt through the beautiful city, looking at some of the oldest colleges in the world. Or you can punt through the rural countryside. Whatever you choose, this activity is ideal for a day out and suitable for experts and novices alike. 

In case someone asks: 

  • Punting: Being on the boat.
  • Punter: Person pushing the boat.
  • Puntee: Person being pushed on the boat (and probably not a real word). 

Punts and Gondolas: Oxford vs Venice

We have established punting is not actually a sport – but rather a leisure activity. If you’re wondering whether punting has anything to do with Venician gondolas… well, the boats are similar (as in, they are made out of wood, and they are pushed by a person who stands on one of the ends). However, you are not required to sing in Italian when punting on the River Cherwell. 

Dating in Oxford: River Punting

Photo by Chris Boland

Is Punting Difficult?

Punting is not difficult, but just like with any activity you do for the first time, it might take you some time to get the hang of it. If you are in Oxford and you want to go punting for the first time, you should be ready to nose and be nosed by other boats on the River Cherwell. No matter how many videos you’ve seen, it would be irresponsible to believe you can master this art without some wobbly rite of passage. Also, the narrower the boat, the wobblier it will be. 

Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when going punting in Oxford is to stand on the back of the punt. Do not stand inside the boat! This will only make you feel off-balance. Allegedly, also, you’d be dishonouring the ladies of the past who used this posture to show off their ankles. 

Where to Punt in Oxford

There are several places that rent out punt boats for you to explore the River Cherwell. Keep in mind that you will usually easily find boats for hire on weekdays. Weekends, however, are typically busier. 

Cherwell Boathouse

The Cherwell Boathouse is one of the most popular options for Oxford punting. They have quite a helpful system: You don’t need to commit to a certain amount of time when you rent a boat. You just tap your contactless card and authorize a £100 deposit and use the punt for as long as you want. When you return, they stop the clock and calculate the charge. The minimum is one hour, and the maximum is a day rate that doesn’t increase after five hours. 

Cherwell Boathouse opens at 10 am and, on weekends, runs out of boats around noon. You must return your punt before the closing time, which is typically 8pm in winter and 10pm in summer.

Other things to keep in mind: Cherwell Boathouse is dog friendly. Each punt can carry 6 people and is equipped with cushions. Punt racing is NOT allowed.  

Magdalen Bridge Boathouse

Magdalen Bridge Boathouse allows you to hire punts, pedalos, and rowing boats. They have two options for renting them: Either one hour, or the whole day. You can also rent a chauffeur (the cost is £30 to £40 for 30 minutes depending on the day). 

This boathouse is located underneath Magdalen College Tower, at the end of the high street. They are open seven days a week from the 1st of February to the 30th of November. The opening hours are between 9:30 am and 9 pm or one hour before sunset. 

Other things to keep in mind: You don’t need to book your punting boat in advance, but it’s recommended you do so on weekends. This boathouse is a very popular choice for Oxford hen parties, and they can help you plan the perfect day!