Oxford Canal Boats: An Affordable Accommodation Option?

Home > Articles > Enjoying Oxford

Oxford Canal Boats: An Affordable Accommodation Option?

Oxford Canal Boats: An Affordable Accommodation Option?

Oxford canals are some of the prettiest in the country. So, have you ever considered living on a boat or renting a boat around Oxford? You’d be surprised to hear both options are not just possible; they are also an affordable way to be closer to the city. In this article, I will share everything you need to know about living or renting an Oxford canal boat.

How Many Canals Are There Around Oxford?

If you’re in Oxford and you go for a walk, you will probably come across one of the city’s canals. There are several canals in and around this area, but the most well-known and popular are the Oxford Canal and the River Thames.

The Oxford Canal runs for approximately 78 miles from Oxford to Coventry and passes through several towns and villages along the way, including Banbury and Rugby. The River Thames also flows through Oxford and is a popular destination for boating and river walks.

In addition to these, there are also several smaller waterways and tributaries in the area, including the Cherwell River, the Grand Union Canal, and the Kennet and Avon Canal, among others.

What Is It Like to Live on an Oxford Canal Boat?

Living on a canal boat can be a unique and rewarding experience, but it is not for everyone. However, if you’re coming to Oxford and you’re considering different options, it’s definitely worth looking into what it actually means to inhabit a narrowboat. 

When asking yourself the question, “Should I live on a canal boat?“, consider the following points:

  • Space: Canal boats are generally smaller than traditional homes. This means, of course, that the space you’ll have available will be more limited – and you might need to get creative with storage and organization. So, the first consideration before deciding to live on an Oxford canal boat is: You should be comfortable with living in a smaller space.

  • Mobility: Now, living on a canal also offers quite a unique advantage: You can move your home from place to place along the waterways. This can provide a sense of adventure and freedom, but it also means that you’ll need to be comfortable with navigating the waterways and mooring in different locations.

  • Maintenance: Like any home, a canal boat requires regular maintenance and upkeep. So, when moving to a canal boat in Oxford, you’ll need to be prepared to do some DIY work or hire a professional to maintain the boat’s mechanical and electrical systems and keep it clean.

  • Community: Living on a canal boat in Oxford can provide a strong sense of community, as you’ll be staying among other boaters who share a similar lifestyle. However, this can also mean that you’ll need to be comfortable with a more communal way of living and sharing resources, such as water and electricity.

Overall, living on an Oxford canal boat can be a rewarding experience for those who are looking for a simpler way of life. This choice will also bring you close to nature – but you should be ready to deal with some of the unique challenges that come with living on the water.

Renting a Canal Boat in Oxford

Many visitors coming to Oxford choose to hire boats. This is also a good idea if you’re considering the lifestyle, but you’re not yet sure what it exactly entitles. Nothing beats the actual experience of living on an Oxford canal boat. 

Here are some local companies you can contact if you’re looking for an Oxford canal boat hire:

  • Oxford Canal Boat Hire. This is a UK-wide site that allows you to rent narrow boats. All you need to do is tell the site how many people you’ll be bringing, for how many weeks, and on which canal (for example, the Oxford Canal).
  • College Cruisers: Oxford Canal Boat Hire. College Cruisers organises canal boat holidays and narrowboat holidays on two waterways in Oxford: The Oxford Canal and The River Thames. They have ten comfortable narrowboats you can use to explore the English waterways – and you can bring your pet!
  • Black Prince Holidays. This boat hire is based in Lower Heyford and allows you to enjoy boat trips along the South Oxford Canal and stretches of the River Thames. They have a selection of short breaks (like weekend and midweek narrowboat short trips) and a lovely two-week cruise down to Hampton Court Palace (and back). 
  • Canal Junction. If you’re looking for family firms, this portal is the place to check. The site lists direct contact information (like telephone numbers and emails).
The Balliol narrowboat from College Cruisers coming alongside On Oxford Canal.
The Balliol narrowboat from College Cruisers coming alongside On Oxford Canal.

How Much Does it Cost To Rent a Boat for a Week?

The cost of renting a narrowboat in Oxford for a week can vary depending on a number of factors such as the size and type of boat, the time of year, and the rental company. However, a basic narrowboat rental for a week in Oxford can range from approximately £800 to £1,500 per week.

This cost typically includes the rental of the boat, essential equipment and supplies, and insurance, but may not include additional fees such as fuel or mooring charges. Always read the rental agreement to understand any other terms and conditions, such as the required deposit and the cancellation policy.

Bringing Your Own Canal Boat to Oxford

You can bring your own canal boat to Oxford and explore the city and surrounding waterways. There are several mooring locations along the River Thames and the Oxford Canal where you can berth your boat, both in the city centre and in the surrounding countryside.

Before bringing your own canal boat to Oxford, it’s important to check the rules and regulations for boating on the local waterways. You may need to obtain a license or permit, and there may be restrictions on where you can moor your boat.

It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the local waterways and any potential hazards, such as low bridges, locks, or shallow areas. Additionally, you should ensure that your boat is equipped with all the necessary safety equipment, such as life jackets, fire extinguishers, and navigation lights.

Narrowboats along the Oxford Canal. Imge courtesy of Richard Szwejkwski via Flickr Commons.
Narrowboats along the Oxford Canal. Imge courtesy of Richard Szwejkwski via Flickr Commons.

Long-Term Canal Boat Mooring in Oxford

If you are looking for long-term boat moorings in Oxford (sometimes called home moorings or permanent moorings), you got nothing to worry about, for there are plenty of good options. In fact, the Canal & River Trust website explains everything you need to know about mooring when you’re not continuously cruising. 

Now, as it happens with many other areas of life, canal mooring in Oxford is ruled by supply and demand. The more popular the area, the more people will want to bring their canal boats or narrowboats – and/or the higher the price will be. 

You can use this tool to find long-term mooring locations in the whole of the UK – including Oxford.

How Much Does a Mooring License Cost?

There are very few permanent mooring spaces around Oxford. Often, you will need to wait for a space to come up and participate in an auction. 

The price of mooring varies depending on many factors, such as the length of the boat. For storage, you should pay around £100 a month (you cannot live on the boat, though). Permanent mooring locations start at about £2,000 a year. 

Short-Term and Overnight Canal Boat Mooring in Oxford

Depending on the location, it can be difficult to find a mooring space. Luckily, many marinas, boatyards, and even pubs offer short stary moorings around Oxford. The UK Waterways Guide has a map and lists all locations where you can moor overnight in the area. As a quick reference, the mooring locations for the Oxford Canal are:

  • Braunston Marina Ltd
  • Fenny Marina Ltd
  • Forge Farm
  • Granthams Bridge Boat Services Ltd
  • Hillmorton WHarf Marina
  • Twyford Wharf Narrowboats
  • Wharf at Bridge 190

Explore new and familiar locations, visit the parks, step into a college, or drop by one of the many quirky shops Oxford has to offer. Browse All >

Our collection of articles with ideas for things to do and see, the history of this incredible city, the University, its museums, literature and movie inspirations, filming locations, and much more.