The trend-setting Serpentine
Hyde Park is one of the best places in the charming city of London to catch a break and relax. One of the fun things to do in the park is to rent a pedal boat and boat around the Serpentine, which is a 40 acre man-made lake in the middle of Hyde Park that was created back in 1730 pursuant to orders by the Queen. It was a bit revolutionary for its time, as most man-made lakes were long and straight while the Serpentine was one of the first man-made lakes designed to appear natural with its curvy shape. Other places around the world took note of this natural design and soon hundreds of man-made lakes were popping up around the globe assuming more natural shapes. So when you’re paddling around the lake just remember that the Serpentine, like most pats of London, is rich in history and tradition.
Prices per adult: £12 for one hour; £10 for 30 minutes
It obviously seems worth it to pay the extra two pounds for an extra 30 minutes but do note that they actually allow you an extra ten minutes to get back to the dock so the thirty minute option actually gets you about 40 minutes. Because it’s only a matter of two pounds, you’re probably not going to worry about potentially choosing one option over the other. Just know that if you’re overweight or just big and don’t have experience with these boats you might be ready to head back by the time 30 minutes rolls around.
You rent the pedal boats from the gift shop/boat house on the northeast side of the lake. Thus one of the easiest ways to get to the pedal boats is from the Hyde Park Corner Underground station. Once you pop out of that station just follow the Serpentine Road until you see the little blue boats — you can’t miss them.
They have windows on the outside of the gift shop but they were closed when we were there so if you don’t see anybody selling tickets at those windows then just go inside the gift shop and they will take care of you inside.
One thing to remember is that you can only rent these boats from March to October, from 10am to sunset.
The paddling experience
I’m not going to lie, the paddle boats were causing us a little bit of trouble. For two pretty big guys (plus our heavy bag we had with us), I think we had our pedal boat loaded down pretty good so that we were making very little progress with a lot of effort. We saw several boats fly on by us with smaller kids on them so I’m thinking that if you’re much lighter you probably won’t have any issues. It’s also possible that our boat was a bit broken because it felt like our pedal mechanism was constantly getting stuck so watch out for that.
Another thing to be prepared for is if you’re over six feet tall (I’m 6’1″) your legs may be a bit squished. It wasn’t horrible but having your kneecaps come up to your chin is never the most comfortable position. Also, try to position your shoes correctly on the pedals for the best experience. If you’ve got a big foot (11 in mens or larger) then try to make sure that the metal rods on the pedals fit right into the middle of your shoe, otherwise you’re going to have a hard time making full rotations.
So aside from a little discomfort peddling around the boats and taking in the views is a nice way to relax. We didn’t see any fish but we did come across a lot of ducks and a couple of massive swans that I swear looked like they were standing 5 feet tall. Some of the ducks seemed to really enjoy tailing us while we peddled off.
I think we would’ve enjoyed our time on the Serpentine a little more if we weren’t worried about the weather. As you can see by the photos, some powerful looking storm clouds were rolling through and considering we had two laptops and my DSLR on us in the middle of this 40 acre lake, we got a little worried that we might get stranded in a rain shower. That’s another thing – they didn’t have any lockers for us to store our stuff so try to plan that out ahead of time if you know you’re going to have bags on you.
Overall, it’s a cool experience and fun way to relax in the middle of London. Personally, I found Central Park in New York City to be a bit more interesting to explore but Hyde Park is still a great place to check out. If you’re visiting London from March to October and looking for things to do then definitely consider spending 30 minutes to an hour pedal boating out on the Serpentine.