If you hate the idea of driving down from London to Kent, getting stuck in traffic and eating chicken and mayo sandwiches that don’t taste of much from a service station, you’ll soon be able to take another mode of transport down to The Garden of England.

Thames Clippers, the London boat service that’s been running for over 20 years, is now expanding its route down to Gravesend Town Pier in Kent. The route has been a while in the making, but is now set to finally open later this year. After a number of trial runs, the service is set to become permanent, and is part of a general expansion of Thames transport being developed.

If you’ve never been on a Thames Clipper, they’re not just a small dinghy that goes at a snail’s pace and is cramped like nothing on Earth. These things are large, and feel more like a plane on the inside, with fancy seating. They’re spacious enough to walk around in comfortably, and there is (usually) a bar on board serving drinks.

Not just a small dinghy that goes at a snail's pace...

The Clippers are also pretty speedy, going at 32 mph at maximum. That may not sound super fast, but once you’re on board, it feels it: you’ll not be wanting to try and dive off one of these. The many landmarks and bridges of London whizz by, and you’ll remember those on land trundling in traffic on trains or in cars and smugly think “I might still travelling by London public transport… but I’m on a boat.”

You’re also able to stand or sit at the open air back of the boat (is the back the bow or stern? I forget) and see the Thames snaking behind you, leaving great froths of water in your wake. But enough waxing lyrical about boats, you’re probably wondering about the cost. The Clipper service allows both contactless and Oyster, and a number of day and season tickets for single travellers or families. For the limited trial runs of the Kent service, single journeys for adults have cost £11, with returns costing £19.50. Considering the mode of transport and amenities on board, that’s not bad.

The Gravesend Town Pier has existed since the 1830s, and is apparently the oldest surviving cast iron pier in the world (fancy that?). Travelling by boat on the Thames (including down to Kent) was popular in the Victorian era, so whilst you’re onboard you can embrace your fantasies of standing around in a big hat feeling generally snooty about the world.

Regardless of whether you want to masquerade as a posh Victorian, the Thames Clipper service down to Kent will become a permanent route this year, with the sale of the Gravesend pier to Uber to be completed shortly. The Clippers are worth a ride at least once, and a certainly a fun alternative way of getting around.


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