Ten free things to enjoy along our waterways
You don't need to spend a lot of money to experience and enjoy culture, industrial heritage or a sense of calm. We've got ten things for you to try wherever you are across our waterways.
1. See our street art
Who doesn't like a transformation project? We’ve been busy turning unloved spaces alongside canals into beautiful places, with the help of local artists and community groups across the country. So if you're in Leicester, Sheffield, Walsall, London, Sefton or Manchester, you could check out these makeovers.
2. Picnic with a view
Grab the picnic blanket, pack up some food and find the perfect spot to while away a couple of hours. Our waterways are available all year round, with thousands of green spaces ready and waiting. If you happen to enjoy nature's soundtrack and some wildlife at the same time - then that's a bonus!
3. Make it a school day
With five World Heritage Sites around our network, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), and listed buildings, you could learn some fascinating facts about canal history and take in some incredible views.
On the Leeds & Liverpool Canal is Saltaire – Sir Titus Salt’s groundbreaking (and fascinating) Victorian mill and village. Talking of Liverpool – our Liverpool Canal Link runs the whole length of the maritime Liverpool World Heritage site, including the Albert Docks (where for a smallish cost you can jump on a boat trip!). But for sheer awesomeness you really have to take a walk over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct before popping in to our free Trevor Basin Visitor Centre.
4. Visit our museums and attractions
You’ll find boatloads of free visitor attractions up and down our canals; from the unique Anderton Boat Lift or the highest, longest, deepest tunnel in the UK, Standedge and its free visitor centre. To the steepest, longest, biggest lock flights – including Foxton, Caen Hill, Hatton and Bingley Five Rise.
Not to mention our wonderful museums! (for a small fee)
For a small one-off cost, you’ll get a yearly pass to our museums. They’re places where inquisitive young minds and excited hands can touch, play and explore amazing stories from across our wonderful waterways. You’ve three to choose from: our flagship is the National Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port with its sister museum in Gloucester Docks. Plus, there’s The Canal Museum at Stoke Bruerne – all of them offer fantastic days out.
5. Learn to fish
You’ll find over 200 free local Let’s Fish! learn to fish events for kids this year. Along with canoeing sessions and other fun activities, our licenced level two angling coaches will help your kids catch their first ever gudgeon, perch or bream.
6. Go to an event
Throughout the year, our canals and rivers play host to all sorts of events and activities, from bat walks, guided tours and festivals to boat trips, open days and floating markets.
7. Become explorers
If your kids are into exploring, we've got some great activities to try out, from leaf crowns and waterside bingo to yoga and treasure hunts.
8. Get active
Get back to basics and enjoy our waterways for free by walking, cycling and running.
- Fancy a walk? We've got routes, walking holidays and more on our walking pages.
- Got a bike? We welcome all considerate cyclists to our towpaths, and you don't need a permit. However, make sure you check out our Towpath Code before you take to the towpaths. Visit our cycling page for more details.
- Like running? We've got six great reasons why you should run by water.
9. Try volunteering
If you want to get more involved with us and your local community, you could become a volunteer. Canals need many hands to look after them and by volunteering with us, you can help make even more miles of canal blue, green and better.
10. Go wildlife spotting
Learn more about wildlife, their habitats, invasive species and what you might expect to see along our waterways by visiting our wildlife pages.
Last date edited: 5 August 2022