“We’re going on a boat trip!” I told Roma excitedly as we made our way along the South Bank towards London Eye (Waterloo) pier.
“What, like with pedals?” she asked, recalling a recent pedalo outing.
“Nope, not on a pedalo. Today we’re going on a boat that’s like a bus, but on the water.”
“Oh,” she said, visibly disappointed.
Roma isn’t a huge fan of the bus, but once she realised that this wasn’t going to be the floating double decker that she’d first imagined, she perked up no end.
“This isn’t a bus!” she laughed as we boarded our first Uber Boat by Thames Clippers of the day. “Silly Mummy.” And she was right, it’s not a bus – in fact if anything it’s even more convenient. For a start, 20 out of the 23 piers are fully accessible, with no awkward kerb navigation to deal with (plus lots of buggy-parking space, so you’ll never have to wait for the next one because the buggy/wheelchair area is full). Second, you can touch in (and out) with your Oyster or contactless just as you would with any other TFL service – or alternatively purchase tickets or carnets via the easy-to-use app (the Family River Roamer covers a family of two adults and three kids aged 5-15 for a whole day across the entire network for the price of two adult tickets). Third, and possibly best of all, all boats have an onboard café, with drinks and treats available to order from the comfort of your seat via QR code – and we can’t say we’ve ever been on a bus that offered that.
So, what was our river excursion in aid of? Well, to celebrate the official unveiling of the amazing new Prospect Park playground at Battersea Power Station, which officially opened yesterday, the 24th of March, Uber Boat by Thames Clippers asked us to round up the 10 best playscapes on their route. Never one to turn down a playground crawl, we gladly accepted their challenge, and were pleasantly surprised by how quick and easy it was to hop from one playground to the next on the boat (not that I’m suggesting you do all 10 in one trip – though obviously you can if you like). If you are short on time and can only fit a small number of playgrounds into your trip, I fully recommend you include Prospect Park (just a short walk from Battersea Power Station Pier). The playground is a vision of colour with its squishy rainbow tarmac and was designed by landscape architects LDA Design. Open daily from 8am-8pm, Prospect Park playground has been designed to feature areas suitable for all ages so children can discover fun new elements as they get older. There’s an easy-climb staircase providing access to the larger of the two treehouses, plus a basket swing and wobbly roundabout, and an adjacent play area for younger kids. The new
riverside neighbourhood at Battersea Power Station is excellent for families, with loads of kid-friendly eateries, clean public toilets and regular free family-friendly events, plus it’s just a short walk from the beautiful Battersea Park and all it has to offer.
But while Prospect Park might be the newest playground on the route, it certainly isn’t the
only good one. Check out our nine other tried-and-tested favourites, stretching all the way
from Putney to Royal Wharf. Happy sailing!
Bishops Park Play Area – Putney Pier (10-minute walk)
This sprawling play area is at its best in the summer, when the play fountains are turned on and the large sandpit becomes littered with a hundred buckets and spades. There’s an older kids’ area with a climbing frame and slide, an area for younger ones with a classic red play train, a large skate park, a popular café, and decent toilets – plus it’s right next door to Fulham Palace, the historic home of the bishops to whom the park gives its name.
Vauxhall Park Playground – Vauxhall (St. George Wharf) Pier (7-minute walk)
Following a 2020 redesign, Vauxhall’s eponymous park offers pretty much everything you could want in a playground. Design-wise it’s nothing spectacular, but what it lacks in inventiveness it makes up for with space and variety of equipment. Half the site is dedicated to tinies – think mini trampolines and a sensory music zone – while bigger kids will love the Viking swing and castle play frame. Check out the model village while you’re there.
Horseferry Playground – Millbank Pier (5-minute walk)
Sunken wooden horses, a hidden roundabout, dance chimes and a giant sandpit are just a few of the components of this idiosyncratic playground, which is sandwiched between the Palace of Westminster and Tate Britain, on a site that’s housed a play area for nearly 100 years. As well as some great bits of play kit, this toddler-geared playground boasts a drinks kiosk, a gorgeous view and – most importantly – clean toilets. We’d very happily stay all day.
Jubilee Playground Play Area – London Eye (Waterloo) Pier (1-minute walk)
The challenging climbing structure that dominates this bankside beauty means it’s generally regarded as an older kids’ playground, but there’s a decent array of toddler equipment too. That it’s reliably packed on weekends has a lot to do with its prime position – right in the shadow of the London Eye – but this impressive play spot still manages to hold its own against the lofty landmark, and a South Bank stroll wouldn’t be complete without a visit.
Victoria Embankment Gardens Play Area – Embankment Pier (3-minute walk)
This small, newish play area might only offer a few toddler distractions – a baby swing, a big-kid swing, a tiny hillside slide, a mini balance course and a play boat complete with a pair of binoculars – but the relative scarcity of playgrounds in Central London makes them very welcome indeed. The park itself is a pretty spot for a picnic and with Somerset House just a five-minute walk away, this petite playground’s a must.
Pearsons Park Playground – Doubletree Docklands or Greenland (Surrey Quays) (1-/15-minute walk) – N.B. Doubletree Docklands is only accessible via ferry from Canary Wharf Pier
This unusual and underrated play spot boasts a plethora of exciting equipment for younger children, from an old-school wooden pirate boat to a pair of metal walkway apparatus and a striking jumble of brightly coloured concrete blocks poised for clambering over. The beautiful Stave Hill Ecological Park is immediately behind the playground, and Surrey Docks Farm and the Brunel Museum are both just a short walk away.
Millwall Park Playground – Masthouse Terrace Pier (11-minute walk)
This newly refurbished playground is particularly good for older ones with its challenging tower slide structure, rope bridge and Viking snake swing, but there’s still loads for younger kids to love about this place, from hillside slides to wooden playhouses and spinning cups. The adjoining Mudchute City Farm is also a must, being easily the best farm of its kind in London thanks to its variety of beasts and spectacular views over the Isle of Dogs.
Greenwich Park Playground – Greenwich Pier (11-minute walk)
One of the coolest new playgrounds to pop up in the last few years, this maritime-themed site is inclusive, sustainable and everything else a modern playscape should be. Just a short walk from Greenwich’s famously family-friendly museums in what is arguably the capital’s prettiest park, this dreamy kids’ wonderland features water pumps, bouncy boats, slides, swings, wooden tree houses and sandy rock pools. A proper destination playground.
Thames Barrier Park – Royal Wharf Pier (14-minute walk)
Looks-wise this playground itself is nothing to write home about, but the Thames Barrier Park’s hedges – and the Barrier itself – are a sight to behold, and there’s plenty to occupy little ones in this handy play spot post-ogle: think trampolines, curly tube slides, roundabouts, play frames and lots of stuff to spin and bounce on. On less clement days, head to Macaroni Penguin for chic indoor play and Taiwanese bubble tea.
Paid Partnership with Uber Boat by Thames Clippers