With our lovely Harbour at the heart of the city, it’s no surprise that Bristol is awash with water-based things to do. These range from a leisurely cruise on a boat tour right up to a day of adventure on a canoe or stand up paddleboard. Here's 6 of Bristol’s best water-based activities to inspire the water baby in you.

Go stand up paddleboarding

Stand up paddleboarding is one of the most popular activities to have a go at on the Floating Harbour’s historical waterways. SUP Bristol plan experiences, provide the equipment and show you the ropes. They run taster sessions during the week, so you can test the waters (literally) and see how you like life on a paddleboard.

On the weekends, set off on one of their 2.5-hour long Harbourside Adventures, which are a chance to admire some of Bristol’s iconic sights as you perfect your paddleboarding skills. It’s a great way to see the city from a new angle, even if you’ve lived here for years!

If you really want to test your balance, see if you can steady yourself enough for sun salutations and downward dog in a yoga on the water class.

People doing SUP yoga in Bristol

Image credit: SUP Bristol 

Head out on a canoe

Another of the more unusual modes of transport you can glide along Bristol’s waters on is a canoe. Steadier than a paddle board, canoeing with the Adventurous Activity Company can be a relaxing experience and with two or three of you in one boat, it’s a fun choice for couples and groups to do.

You can either spend some time learning the basics before setting off on your own or stick with the Adventurous Activity Company crew for a fully guided tour. 

Get your Early Rider Pass to The Wave

The brand new 200 metre long surf lake hasn’t quite opened its doors yet but now their Early Rider Pass is on sale, the countdown is officially on. Get yourself one of these passes and priority booking privileges will ensure you’re among the first to ride The Wave when it does break into Bristol in autumn. Plus, your first surf session will be completely free!

Additional perks for Early Riders include invitations to pre-launch activity, priority booking on all events throughout the year, a limited edition Early Rider T-shirt and double-insulated water bottle and more. There are a limited number of passes on sale, so if you’re itching to test out the cutting edge Wavegarden Cove technology, buy yours quick.

General bookings are now also open, so anyone can reserve their first ride on The Wave. Find out about the range of sessions on offer here

Boy surfing on wave in a inland surf lake

Image credit: Ed Sloane, Rip Curl and The Wave

Tot up lengths at Bristol Lido

Originally a Victorian swimming pool, Bristol Lido in Clifton dates back to 1850. Today, the 24 metre pool is heated at 20-24 degrees so perfect swimming conditions are guaranteed, whenever you visit. Non-members are welcome to swim on weekday afternoons, although bear in mind you might be met with a queue on hot days!

With a sauna, steam room, hot tub, restaurant and poolside bar, you can easily spend a whole day at the lido, doing as much or as little swimming as you fancy. Just remember you need to book spa experiences in advance. 

The Lido in Clifton, Bristol

Image credit: Bristol Lido 

See Bristol by boat

If you want to spend time on the water but with all the hard work taken care of, a boat trip is your best bet. The variety on offer in Bristol means everyone can find one they’ll enjoy. History enthusiasts will love sailing on The Matthew, a replica of the boat used by John Cabot in the momentous discovery of Newfoundland.

On top of their usual ferry services, Bristol Ferry Boats regularly run themed trips such as taking passengers over to riverside venue Beeses for live music, a wildlife gorge experience and a Brunel-themed tour. You can also ride with Bristol Packet Boat Trips to Beeses, head all the way to Bath or simply cruise around the Harbour. A four-hour long Avon Gorge tour is available with Number Seven Boat Trips too.

The Matthew ship in Bristol

Image credit: Shawn Spencer Smith

Cool off with a wild swim

As soon as we’re blessed with a scorching hot day, there is only one thing on everyone’s minds: how to cool down! Wild swimming is the ideal way to bring your temperature down and explore some scenic spots at the same time.

Warleigh Weir on the edge of Bath in Claverton is a favourite hang-out, surrounded by green fields that make it just as good for picnicking and sunbathing. Its reputation as a picturesque wild swimming spot is well-known, so an early morning dip is best for beating the crowds. While you're in the area, the fascinating exhibitions and picturesque gardens are worth checking out at American Museum, which is just a mile away.  

Less wild but still a top outdoor swimming experience, Cromhall Quarry in Wotton-Under-Edge is officially a diving centre but open water swimmers are welcome on certain days. The former limestone quarry and Site of Special Scientific Interest regularly hosts triathlons and other sporting challenges.

The 11 acre clean water lake at West Country Water Park in Bradley Stoke is another place for an open water swim and you can also canoe, paddleboard and even jet ski there. 

Spend a day in Coastal North Somerset 

Grab a bus or train out to the North Somerset coast to enjoy the beautiful views across the Bristol Channel. Portishead Lido is a community-run outdoor pool with fantastic views across the estuary and out to sea. Just down the coast at Clevedon there is the Marine Lake where you can swim, crab, zorb or row a boat in 15,000 square metres of water. The more energetic might consider a dip in the Marine Lake or Portishead Lido after walking the coast path between the two towns (approx. 5 miles/8km). Just north of Weston-super-Mare is Sand Bay, a quieter beach than in the town itself. In Weston you can sometimes struggle to get as far as the sea at low-tide, but there is the local Water Adventure Play Park for the little ones; open throughout the summer season.

Read next: Splash in the city: 7 hotels with swimming pools in Bristol

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7 of Bristol’s best water-based activities
 

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