Punting is a favourite summer pastime among both students and visitors, but handling a punt – a flat-bottomed boat ideal for the shallow waters of the Thames and Cherwell rivers – requires some practise. The punt is propelled and steered with a long pole, which beginners inevitably get stuck in riverbed mud. Pulling over to the banks of the water for a riverside picnic is an essential part of the experience.
There are two central boat rental places: Magdalen Bridge boathouse, beside the Cherwell at the east end of the High Street; and the Thames boat station at Folly Bridge, a short stroll south of the centre along St Aldates. In summer, the queues soon build up at both, so try to get there early – at around 10am. At both boathouses, expect to pay about £16–20 per hour for a boat plus a £30 deposit; ID may be required. Punts can take a maximum of five passengers – four sitting and one punting. Call the boathouses for opening times – which vary – or if there are any doubts about the weather. Both boathouses also rent out chauffeured punts. You’ll also find rowing boats and pedaloes for rent, although these aren’t nearly as much fun.