If you’re searching for Amsterdam’s best private rental boats then read on, Eco Boats Amsterdam makes cruising the canals an absolute joy and best of all, you’re the captain!
Nothing, truly nothing makes me happier than floating along Amsterdam canals on a sunny day with friends and/or family. Breathtakingly beautiful and surprisingly peaceful, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing when the sky is blue and the waters under the bridges glisten. However, in all my years of coming to Amsterdam I have never captained a boat on the city’s canals.
I’ve travelled on the Rondvaart boats, a fabulous guided boat and have even taken a whisper boat out on the waters of Giethoorn, but I was always too nervous at the prospect of steering a self-drive boat in the heart of the city, fearing that the traffic would make it complex and the responsibility too great. I was wrong.
On a stunning late-Summer day we arranged to rent one of the city’s highest rated boats for an unforgettable adventure.
Eco Boats are experts in the business of boat hire. No need for a skipper – you are in charge after a short but comprehensive briefing. The boats are hired out for a minimum of two hours and are fully electric so they glide silently through the water and, as the name would suggest, avoid pollution at the same time.
There are boats for 8 or 12 passengers available with high sides and a steering wheel, making them feel far more secure and comfortable than many of the smaller alternatives available.
Four of us arrived at the pick up point at 10am (me, my 11 and 12 year old sons and my mother in law Jenny) and were welcomed warmly by Paul. The location is at the Westerdok which, as per the name is to the west of the city centre. It is easy to find and is less than 15 minutes walk from Central Station.
We were helped on board our lovely boat and provided with cushions and blankets. There is heaps of storage and we had the option of using life vests if required – naturally these are available in children’s sizes too.
We were then given a great (waterproof!) map of the canals. We opted for the two hour route – travelling along the (one-way) Prinsengracht and back along the Keizersgracht. It’s also possible to return via the Herengracht or indeed opt for a three hour tour with time to explore further afield. For those looking for a more active experience guests can choose ‘plastic fishing’ and will be given tools to help recover waste from the water.
Guests are more than welcome to bring food and drink on board. Alcohol is fine so long as the captain remains sober. It’s also worth mentioning that you must be 18 or over to steer the boat. Amsterdam canal regulations are few but clear – no loud music is allowed and naturally one-way routes must be strictly adhered to. Larger boats have priority over smaller boats which must keep to the right and stop or slow down before the bridges to make sure it is safe to proceed.
So, armed with our trusty map, our picnic bag and comfy cushions we set off towards the canals.
The boat is incredibly easy to steer. Power wise, even on full throttle it moves gently through the waters although with two hours it is highly recommended that you go even more slowly as there is more than enough time allowed for the route.
It was heavenly. We glided gently towards to the Prinsengracht taking in the beauty of a quiet Amsterdam morning. It was astonishing how little other canal traffic there was – all my misgivings about the complexity of negotiating around other vessels were dismissed. It could not have been a more relaxing experience.
The highlight was probably gliding under the bridge towards the Westertoren just as the church bells rang, but there were so many other wonderful moments.
Osc prepped snack bowls for us whilst Zacy took charge of the map. He navigated us to the Amstel with aplomb whilst my lovely mother in law enjoyed the views and vistas.
We passed hardworking tourists on pedalos and bored looking tourists on large rondvaartboots and were so pleased to be on our own comfy cruise, exploring at our own pace.
The sun shone and Amsterdam showed off its finest. Tourists took pictures of us as we sailed under our favourite bridges and we negotiated the turning at the Amstel with ease.
Heading back along the Keizersgracht we spotted moorhens and swans. The boys grabbed my sunglasses and relaxed under blankets in the sunshine for the last stretch.
We ducked under bridges, and pointed out the sights and then before we knew it we were heading back to the Westerdok where we were guided in carefully and helped smoothly off the boat.
I immediately promised to rent the boat again, full of the wonders of one of the world’s most beautiful cities, seen from its best angles. The two hours flew by and although we were gifted this experience by Eco Boats we wouldn’t hesitate to book and pay for this special experience another time, showing friends and family the glory of Amsterdam from the water.
You can book your own experience on their website here: Eco Boats Amsterdam.
The 12 person boat can be rented for an extremely reasonable €60 per hour and the 8 person boat for €50 per hour, both with a minimum of two hour rental. Naturally on event days (gay-pride etc.) prices vary and boats should be booked well in advance.
We will definitely be back. Captain Abraham and the crew at your service…