10 ideas for water-based activity trips

Date Posted: 06/01/2015

Even pupils that don’t like to get their feet wet will soon be won over with activities such as canoeing, adrenaline-filled coasteering or the thrill of sailing on a tall ship.

A raft of residential centres offer watersports, and here are ten ideas to help you take the plunge.

1. Blue Peris Mountain Centre

Situated in the heart of Snowdonia, Blue Peris Mountain Centre takes full advantage of the magnificent mountains, tranquil lakes and coastline on its doorstep.

Courses typically include five full days of activities, but can be shortened as required. Aquatic activities include coasteering, where groups explore the water’s edge through a combination of swimming, rock hopping, small cliff jumps and scrambling over boulders.

The challenging and rewarding sport is an excellent team building exercise. 

2. The Tall Ships Youth Trust

The Tall Ships Youth Trust formerly The Sail Training Association, is a registered charity founded in 1956 that is dedicated to the personal development of young people through the crewing of ocean going sail training vessels.

The trust has a fleet of six vessels – a magnificent tall ship with 18 sails, four Challenger yachts and a catamaran – and offers a variety of unforgettable experiences from weekend tasters to residential weeks and Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. 

3. Grangewaters

Grangewaters is a year-round outdoor education centre set in a semi-rural location in Thurrock. It has developed an extensive series of programmes to encompass learning, and the site of over 70 acres includes two lakes with facilities for canoeing and canoe rafting, which involves two canoes being roped together.

Residential accommodation is arranged in two villages, with heated log cabin sleeping accommodation and a dining cabin.  


Dinghy sailing, windsurfing, paddle boarding and kayaking are just some of the activities offered by the maritime charity the UKSA. The main base is at Cowes on the Isle of Wight, the heart of the yachting world.

Teachers are offered complimentary visits, including accommodation and the ferry crossing, to view the facilities. The UKSA also offers watersports on a 180-acre lake in the Lee Valley, London, with YHA accommodation. 

5. Kingswood

Kingswood has nine centres stretching from the Isle of Wight to Newcastle and across the country from the Liverpool area to Norwich.

Indoor and outdoor water activities can be combined with land-based sessions as teachers pick the centre of their choice and build a programme designed around specific learning outcomes.

The website has a useful ‘barometer’ to help teachers pick activities that range from relaxed to challenging, mental or physical and individual or teamwork. 

6. JCA

Lake and river canoeing, sailing and stand up paddle boarding are all available at JCA, which has four UK centres offering a number of residential multi-activity courses from two to four nights.

Fun, alternative watersports include the indoor Wet & Wacky session of pool-based games, which is suitable for all abilities, including non-swimmers.

Alternatively, try katakanus, which are six-seater canoes that require synchronised paddling and are great for team building. 

7. PGL

Another provider with centres spread across the UK is PGL. Again, water activities such as pool-based Aquafun sessions, body boarding and dragon boating can be combined with land-based adventures and academic sessions if required.

Liddington, a 150-acre site in Wiltshire is one of PGL’s newest and largest sites, and includes three lakes which are ideal for canoeing and rafting. All activities have their own set of challenges designed to bring out the best in each pupil. 

8. Stubbers Adventure Centre

In Essex the 130-acre Stubbers Adventure Centre offers many exciting activities to fill a residential stay and leave no time to feel homesick if pupils are on their first overnight stay.

These include sailing, Jet Ski rides, raft building, bell boating in a twin-hulled open canoe for ten paddlers and wobbly boarding, which is an excellent introduction to the balancing skills required for windsurfing. Stubbers offers self-catering or catered accommodation options.


Lakeside, the YMCA National Centre is one of the largest outdoor activity facilities in the country. Set on the shores of Lake Windermere in Cumbria, the site has more than 50 years’ experience of pioneering and delivering quality training and development programmes to schools.

The YMCA Fairthorne Group, with sites in and around Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight, also offer courses and activities for school groups including watersports.  

10. Longridge

Set in a beautiful riverside location near Marlow in Buckinghamshire, Longridge provides a range of exciting watersports and land-based activities, and residential courses can be tailored to individual needs. It even has its own island for a real Swallows and Amazons experience.

In addition to a new bunk house, Longridge offers camping accommodation. Each year it hosts a Dragon Boat Championship, which attracts schools and youth groups from around the UK. 

School Travel Organiser's Guide