How to go punting in Cambridge – and look good doing it!

Punting down the Backs, the water meadows of the River Cam, is the classic Cambridge activity and has been enjoyed by students, residents and visitors alike for centuries. Fancy giving it a try? Here’s everything you need to know about punting in Cambridge!

How to go punting in Cambridge, England - and look good doing it!

Pick your location

There are several locations where you can sample the full punting experience, and it just depends on your mood. In the city centre there are a number of places where you can rent a punt yourself, join a punting tour, or just hire a punt with chauffeur! The popular spots are, of course, busy, and although you will be gliding past the classic college views and water meadows you will also be sharing the water with a lot of other people, most of whom have no idea what they are doing. But it’s all part of the fun! Alternatively, you can do as the locals do and head further out of town where the views are less historic, but there is much more peace and quiet. You can punt down the River Cam as far as Grantchester if you really want to experience the river and take your time.

Choose your punt

There are various shapes and sizes of punt, and you can choose the best size for your party: from small boats seating up to 5 people, perfect for a small family or a romantic moment with your beloved, to big 12-seater punts suitable for large groups (these have to be piloted by a professional, so you can lay back and enjoy the ride!). A common sight is groups of friends on stag or hen (bachelor/bachelorette) weekends, enjoying the sunshine with a cooler of beers or wine to get the party going. Those punts are probably best avoided unless you are in the group yourself!

Do it the Cambridge way

The two ends of a punt are not identical. One end has a large, flat platform, and it is here that the punter stands. This is also the back end of the boat; your passengers are at the front. Don’t be tempted to stand inside the punt at the other end – that is the Oxford way, and not how things are done in Cambridge!

Steer it like a pro

Punting is about more than just putting your pole on the riverbed and pushing. Bend your knees and get right down as your pole hits the bottom, and give as big a push as you can. Then straighten, raise the pole slightly and let it drag in the water behind you. Let the pole drift to the left or right as required to steer the punt. Watch the professionals and you will get the idea!

Don’t lose your pole!

Of course, the most common punting fail is to push your pole so hard into the riverbed that you can’t get it back out again, and you sail away downstream with your pole stuck in the mud behind you. There should be a paddle in your punt for just this situation, allowing you to go back and retrieve the pole before the embarrassment gets too much! But it’s also a great way to make friends on the river, as other punters come to your rescue and bring your pole back to you. Be sure to do the same if you see it happen to anyone else!

How to go punting in Cambridge, England - and look good doing it!

Punting in Cambridge – Practical information

Who can punt?

Punting is an activity for pretty much anyone: no particular fitness level is needed. You do, of course, need to be able to stand on the back of the punt without falling off! Minimum age to operate the punt is normally 16 years.

Where to hire your punt:

See the map below for details of punting companies and locations.

How to go punting in Cambridge, England - and look good doing it!

How much does it cost?:

Prices vary from company to company, but as of June 2017 you can expect to pay around £79 for a 50 minute private tour for 6 people Monday-Friday, or £99 for up to 12 people (prices: Let’s Go Punting). Prices are higher at weekends.

Shared tours start at £12 for adults and £4 for children (more at weekends; prices: Let’s Go Punting). On these trips you will share your punt with other visitors to make up the numbers.

Or hire your own for around £28 per hour (up to 6 people) or £110 for the whole day (prices: Scudamore’s). You need to be at least 16 years old to hire a punt. Be aware that in windy weather you may need to demonstrate that you are competent at punting.

How to go punting in Cambridge, England - and look good doing it!

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How to go punting in Cambridge, England - and look good doing it!


Hi! I’m Jill, and I’m a British travel blogger who has been travelling for more than 15 years, visiting over 60 countries on 6 continents. I love to travel both solo and with groups, and to discover the cultures and peoples of the countries I visit. And I love to share a good story or two along the way!


  1. This looks so much fun but I know it would be my luck to fall in or something. Cambridge is a lovely city, I’ve only ever been the once. If like to go back and give this a try though.

  2. Maybe this makes me a tiny bit dense, but I have never heard of punting! Maybe we don’t have this across the pond. And you can use it as a noun AND a verb! Looks like a fun day out. I will definitely have to check this out if I am in England

  3. Hehe I don’t think I would punt myself! I’ve done the boat tours before where someone else does the punting and that means that I could sit back and drink a g&t!

    1. Ooh yes, G&T! I was going to suggest Pimms in the post, but G&T works too! Yes, the punting looks precarious to me, but nobody fell in so I gather it’s not that hard!

  4. This reminds me of the gondolas in Venice, but with sturdier watercraft 🙂 Cambridge looks like a punters paradise! I’ve almost lost my paddle in the mud while kayaking, so I can imagine how easy it could be to loose it there. I’d love to try it though- looks fun!

  5. I have never heard of punting before reading your article but it sounds amazing! I would definitely want to try it someday, especially in Cambridge! Seems like a great idea!

  6. What a great little guide – and after all my years of punting in Cambridge (it’s a bank holiday tradition for us) I never knew that it was slightly different positioning in Oxford : You learn something new every day!

  7. I first learned of this word from my friend settled in London who went punting in Cambridge:-) British lexicon is way cooler than American cause punting sounds sexy, boating or rowing is so blahhhh:-)

  8. I love all water sports and I didn’t even know this existed. Now I WANT TO DO IT!! I should make it to Cambridge before next year and believe me, I’m going to punt!!

  9. So I literally had no idea what this was about since punting in America is kickng a ball. LoL. But I quickly got the gist of it and think that this looks super fun. I wish more Americans did this. Looks like a great way to spend a sunny day.

  10. This looks like so much fun! I can’t believe I’d never heard of punting before, it looks like such a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Cambridge! I’ll have to try this when I return to England.

  11. I had previously read about the boats in Cambridge and I LOVE the idea of doing it myself. I can’t wait to try this out when I visit Cambridge

  12. I used to live in Cambridge and I absolutely love the city. It’s such a beautiful place to go punting, especially if the weathers good too! I never knew that there was a Cambridge way and an Oxford side to punt, that’s really interesting.

  13. Hello,

    Interesting article. Just a couple of points I would clarify – the small punts actually seat up to 5 passengers. The large (12 seater) punts can only be piloted (for want of a better word) by professional chauffeurs.


  14. Punting looks so much fun! I would love to try one day! It’s also great to learn that there is Cambridge way for doing that and do it right when the time comes. Your tips are also very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  15. I was born and brought up in Cambridge so it’s so nice to read articles about the city, which I love returning to at every available opportunity 🙂 I never knew there was an Oxford and a Cambridge way to punt!

  16. This makes me miss Cambridge!

    We used to always buy a few bottles of prosecco and plenty of strawberries and then eat/drink while we’d take turns punting. The problem with drinking and punting is that someone might fall in. The Cam is truly stinky if you do fall in!!

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