The Lake District is a playground for water sports. Not only is it home to many famous and beautiful lakes, but it also has rivers, streams, pools, gills, tarns, and even the ocean to explore! That means there’s plenty of opportunity for water sports in the Lake District and across Cumbria. Here’s what you can get up to during your stay!
Lake District cottages
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Water sports restrictions
Please be aware that not every activity is available everywhere across the Lake District. If you are heading out on your own, remember to check local bylaws and requirements, and follow Check, Clean, Dry practices. Alternatively, there are lots of outdoor activity providers who will take you to the best places and sort out all the practicalities for you!
Certain water activities are not allowed in the national park due to noise and speed limitations. For example, you cannot jet ski in the Lake District.
Note: As always, please take all necessary precautions by using appropriate equipment such as life vests, ensuring children are supervised in the water, and checking the weather before you go out.
Diving in the Lake District
Old quarries, secret gnome gardens, and monster fish… the Lake District is not a first-choice destination for divers, but there are still pockets of interest for those looking to explore the underwater world. Carlisle and District Divers offer courses and taster sessions if you’re new to it. If you’re an experienced diver, try Wastwater or Hodge Close Quarry.
Ghyll scrambling, canyoning and gorge walking
Ghyll scrambling, canyoning and gorge walking are similar activities that let you see parts of the Lake District you may otherwise never experience. You follow mountain streams up or downhill, often passing through deep gorges, over waterfalls, and through pristine pools. Canyoning and gorge walking are the more extreme versions, while ghyll scrambling is suitable for most ages.
Try Keswick Adventures in the northern Lake District or Ambleside Adventures in the south: both have great reputations.
Kayaking and canoeing
Credit: Newlands Adventure Centre
Perhaps the most popular of all Lake District water sports, kayaking and canoeing are accessible to most people and have limited restrictions on most lakes in the national park. You can bring your own, hire one from a marina, or receive a guided tour from an outdoor activity provider. Kayaking and canoeing are great ways for the whole family to enjoy the water, they are activities that are easy to pick up.
Places to kayak in the Lake District
Stand-up paddleboarding - also known as SUP - is great fun and an ever-popular water sport. It’s not as easy as it looks, though, and you’ll take some time to get your balance! However, once you get moving, you’ll glide along the water in a tranquil state, watching the beautiful scenery go by. Paddleboards are available to hire at Ullswater, Coniston, Windermere and Derwentwater. You can also bring your own (restrictions are the same as for kayaking and canoeing), or even hire kit to be delivered to you by Explore the Lakes.
Raft building is an excellent way of getting the family to work together. You can even throw in a bit of healthy competition if you have a couple of groups trying to make the most successful raft! The building takes place on the lakeshore with the basic materials required to make a floating device. Then test your skills as you launch onto the water. Fingers crossed that you float!
Many outdoor activity providers run raft building activities, including West Lakes Adventure.
Pop your bum in a big rubber tube, lay back, get your paddles out, and enjoy a relaxing safari down a Lake District river! The current helps you along, so all you really have to do is keep yourself from bumping into the river banks! Currently Keswick Extreme is the only Lake District company to offer river tubing.
There’s something quite romantic and innocent about taking out a rowing boat. It creates a wonderful sense of nostalgia for times gone by! You can experience this for yourself with hire available at Derwentwater, Loweswater, Windermere, Ullswater and Coniston. It’s a super easy water sport to enjoy, too, with no special skills required.
Does anything look as peaceful as the sight of crisp white sails bobbing on the water on a warm summer’s day?
Dinghy sailing - on a small open boat - is a brilliant activity if you want to learn some new skills or hone your existing ones. You can take short courses and taster sessions at places like Ullswater Sailing School or, if you already know how to sail, hire sailing boats at Derwentwater, Ullswater, Windermere and Coniston.
Alternatively, for something a bit more relaxed, you can sail or be sailed on a yacht with a covered deck. Fantastic if you want to explore the water without having to handle ropes or harness the wind! Windermere is the most popular location for yachting in the Lake District.
Wakeboarding in the Lake District is limited due to speed restrictions on all the lakes. However, a purpose-built private lake in Haverigg, South Cumbria, offers exciting wakeboarding opportunities. Port Haverigg Wakepark boasts a two-tower cable pulley system to assist in learning the water sport, while a third cable for air tricks and a good selection of obstacles will keep the experienced wakeboarder entertained!
In wakesurfing, you follow behind a powered boat - without actually being pulled by the boat - and ride the waves created by its movement. It’s an immensely fun activity and the closest thing you’ll find to surfing in the Lake District. Wake and Surf run the activity on Ullswater or, if you’re staying around Windermere, get in touch with Windermere Wakesurfing.
Open during the summer months, The Lakes Aqua Park is an amazing way to spend an afternoon - especially if you’ve got some excitable kids you’d like to tire out! This is a fantastic water obstacle course just outside the Lake District, close to the sandy beaches of Haverigg. You’ll climb, slide, bounce and splash your way through the day!
Though it is technically possible to water ski on Lake Windermere, do be aware that a speed restriction is in effect here and you will need to follow local bylaws. For beginners, this is a potentially viable option while learning but will not provide adequate speed for many more experienced water skiers.
White water rafting
Join Lake District White Water Rafting for an adrenaline-packed adventure down the river! Get ready to journey through woodland, over waterfalls, and through rapids on an activity that will have you smiling the whole time! There are different options depending on the ages and daring of your group, but you can be sure to get very wet, whatever you do!
There has been a boom in this activity in recent years, with many taking to the wild waters of the Lake District to relax, refresh, and challenge themselves. For finding the best locations to explore, a guide such as Suzanna Swims in the north-west Lakes or Colin Hill at Ullswater can offer invaluable advice and brilliant guidance.
Lake District wild swimming spots
If you fancy both sailing and surfing, but can’t choose between the two, windsurfing is the perfect compromise! A combination of these two activities (sort of), it’s a huge amount of fun, as long as you’re prepared to fall in the water quite a lot! Derwentwater Marina and Windermere Outdoor Adventure Centre both offer windsurfing sessions. Coniston is also a popular place for windsurfing in the Lake District.
Self-catering cottages in the Lake District
When you’ve spent the day on the water, you’ll want somewhere comfy to dry off and relax. Browse our range of holiday cottages to find your perfect place. Some even have boat storage, parking and launching available!
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.