Thanks to Thames Clippers extending their ferry service to include a stop at Westminster Pier as of 1 August 2016 it’s now much easier to journey fairly directly from Greenwich to Kew. Directly-ish, but at least you can get off one boat and get on another at the same pier now (Westminster) though you will have to leave the pier to get a ticket for the second part of the journey. Note that this is journey is only possible between April and October.
I did the whole trip in reverse last week and it took two hours (on an express clipper, I’d expect it to be 2.5hrs on a regular service but I’d allow three hours).
It’s a two-stage journey:
- Greenwich to Westminster (fast, frequent service with Thames Clippers)
- Westminster to Kew (fewer boats, more leisurely journey with Thames Cruises)
1. Greenwich to Westminster
(RB1 and RB1X [express] ferries with Thames Clippers)
Thames Clippers has a fairly frequent and fast service but you may have to queue for a boat. In fact at busy times you may end up queueing and not actually being able to get on the first boat, having to wait for a later one. At weekends some of the boats are express boats and will get you to Westminster more quickly, missing out some of the pier stops.
From 15 August 2016 the new times (PDF) will be as follows:
0853 (0934), 0923 (1004), 0938 (1015), 0953 (1034), 1008 (1045), 1023 (1104), 1038 (1115), 1053 (1134), 1108 (1145), 1123 (1204), 1138 (1215), 1153 (1234), 1208 (1245), 1223 (1304), 1238 (1315), 1253 (1334), 1308 (1345) – this one is cutting it a bit fine in terms of getting tickets for the Kew boat, 1323 (1404), 1338 (1415), 1353 (1434), 1408 (1445), 1423 (1504), 1438 (1515), 1453 (1534), 1508 (1545).
The ones in grey won’t get you to Kew, the ones in brackets are arrival time at Westminster, starting times are from Greenwich Pier next to Cutty Sark.
You cannot smoke or vape anywhere on Thames Clippers ferries. There are loos on board and a Costa with hot drinks, alcoholic drinks and sweets and biscuits.
Tip: Be sure to allow enough time at Westminster Pier to go to the booking office to get a ticket to Kew as it seems these cannot be bought in advance. They prefer you to be there 30 mins before the sailing.
2. Westminster to Kew
(Thames River Boats)
The rate-limiting-step will be getting a boat from Westminster to Kew because there are fewer boats and the take about one and a half hours. Because the journey involves going under Hammersmith Bridge if the tide is too high the journey will take longer (the boat has to wait for the waters to recede otherwise it’s all a bit scrape-y).
Once at Westminster you’ll need to exit the pier, collect a ticket, then return to the boarding point for the boat. An adult single is about £14 but it’s £8.65 if you have a travelcard (not Oystercard, they don’t seem to be geared up for that as far as I could tell).
Sailing times vary (check in advance) but generally there are four sailings between 10am and 2pm, for example –
- 10.30am (arriving at midday)
- 11.15am (12.45)
- 12.00pm (1.30pm)
- 2pm (3.30pm).
For the first half hour of the journey there’s a commentary over the public address system telling you about the local sites. On the boat I was on (Connaught) there was a bar downstairs serving alcoholic & hot and cold drinks and snacks. You can smoke or vape on the open upper decks. There are loos on board.
There are no stops on the way to Kew but the boat continues on to Richmond and Hampton Court.
When you arrive at Kew familiarise yourself with the chalkboard. The return journey is very tide-dependent so timings can change.
The last boat from Kew Pier is likely to be between 5.30 and 6.30 and again it will take an hour and a half to get back to Westminster. There are plenty of boats from Westminster to Greenwich, even on a Sunday.