There are several companies offering scenic river cruises and boating trips on the River Avon.
Several different companies offer boating and sightseeing cruises on the River Avon. These cruises are a good value and allow you to see Stratford from a different perspective. These cruises go under the Clopton and Tramway Bridges, past the Royal Shakespeare Theatres and the Recreation Ground and into the Warwickshire countryside just outside town.
Avon Boating operate 40-minute cruises departing from their base on the eastern bank of the River Avon near the Swan’s Nest Hotel. They use traditional open-top Edwardian vessels that are a lovely way to travel on the river when the weather is good. These cruises operate mid-March to late-October and cost £7.
Avon Boating also operate a gin cruise in conjunction with the Shakespeare Distillery. This one-hour cruise includes a guided tasting of three different gins from the Shakespeare Distillery plus a gin and tonic in a souvenir glass to take home. The gin cruise costs £22.50.
Bancroft Cruisers depart from their mooring near the Crowne Plaza Hotel. They use an enclosed canal barge that features a fully-licensed bar and you can have an afternoon tea or cream tea as part of your cruise. The 45-minute cruise costs £7.
As the name would suggest, Canal & River Tours operate not just on the river but also along the canal. This company operates with a newer purpose-built boat that is fully-enclosed making it a better option if the weather is not so great. The 40-minute cruise departs from the canal basin at the northern end of Bancroft Gardens. Cruises with Canal & River Tours cost £7.
The Countess of Evesham is a 21m- (70ft)-long restaurant cruiser that operates a 1½-hour River Avon cruise from Stratford-upon-Avon to Luddington and back. This cruise is more expensive than the others (£23.50–39.50 depending on the meal and the day of the cruise and it is cheaper at lunchtime on weekdays and more expensive on Saturday evenings) but it is a longer cruise than the others and the price includes a proper meal.
What is the best River Avon sightseeing cruise for you?
The best of the sightseeing cruises depends on what you want from your cruise.
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced cruise then you should consider the Avon Boating cruise if the weather is nice but opt for the Canal & River Tours cruise if it looks like it may rain.
If you want a cruise with a meal, then Bancroft Cruisers is a great option for afternoon tea or cream tea and the Countess of Evesham is a great choice if you want a full meal. If you’re not after a meal but would like a drink, then Bancroft Cruisers is a good option as there is a bar on board and Avon Boating’s gin cruise is a great option if you love gin.
If you prefer to do it yourself, you can rent rowing boats, punts and small motorboats from Avon Boating.
Rowing boats are a delightful way to explore the River Avon and Avon Boating also rents Cambridge-style punts that hold up to six people. Rowing boat and punt rental both cost £7 per person per hour.
If you prefer to take it a little easier, you can rent an outboard motorboat or an electric launch. Outboard motorboat rental costs £25 per half-hour but this can include up to five people and electric launches cost £50 per 40-minute period, which includes up to six people.