On a recent vacation where we stayed in Woodstock and had some time to spend in nearby Oxford, we chose to take our family on the “Oxford Experience” cruise to see part of the city from a different perspective.
The cruise departs from Folly Bridge on a small island right in the center of the Thames, and it doesn’t take long for Oxford’s bustling downtown atmosphere to disappear into peaceful waterways surrounded by meadows. We saw a few other boats and punts being rowed by, but it still made for a serene ride through very picturesque scenery.
The skipper told stories of Oxford’s history and the significance of landmarks along the river. It was interesting to see how many rivers exist in Oxford below other buildings, running out to the main river under houses and roads built over canals. Some of the houses are especially significant, including one which was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s “Mad Hatter”.
Our trip took us right through the section of the Thames used by Oxford colleges for the regattas, which are the sporting highlights of their college year and cause the whole area to explode with activity. Each team has a boat house along the river with its own colors and style, which fun to see.
All in all, we and our kids found the Oxford River Cruises to be a fun afternoon activity, and its one-hour length was about the right length to hold everybody’s attention.