About the Big Canoe




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About the Big Canoe


History behind our design

Inspired by real adventure and from our own exploration and travel in different countries using Canadian Canoes, the Big Canoe has been developed to enable people of all ages and abilities to experience their own personal adventure first hand.

Based on the size and shape of the traditional voyager canoes used to explore and map Canada and established the trade routes, our Big Canoes are designed to safely carry a full load of up to 12 crew plus our instructors.

The large size and design of the Big Canoes means that they are very stable with a much reduced chance of capsize. However participants must accept that there is still a small risk of capsizing. If a canoe does overturn, it has enough buoyancy to be easily righted and the instructors will take charge to ensure everyone is quickly back on board. The whole crew will have a role to play bailing the canoe and then the trip will continue or, if necessary return to shore.


Instructor guides in The Big Canoe

Our canoeing guides

Each Big Canoe is helmed by an instructor known as the governor. Our governors are chosen for their ability to balance your safety with fun and enjoyment. Sitting at the back of the canoe and using their paddle to steer as well as propel the canoe, the governor depends on his crew to paddle to keep the boat moving. The crew will need to respond to the governor's commands to help with the steering, with individuals on one side of the canoe being asked to paddle whilst those on the other side stop. Crew members will also need to respond to the instructor's request to paddle at pace for 10!


Paddlers having fun on the Big canoe

What do we do on the tour?

As the Big Canoes 'draw' very little they can be paddled, fully laden, in just 10cm of water. This means we can explore the mud flats of tidal estuaries and get in close enough to observe feeding birds in these areas. Able to move almost silently over the water, we can creep past seals and other marine wildlife, providing paddlers with the rare opportunity to feel really immersed in the surrounding natural environment.

The Big Canoe is also perfect as a social activity. All together in one boat, you can have great fun whatever the mood of the group. Choose to paddle gently on a leisurely tour, with plenty of chance to chat or decide to make a frantic dash. The design of the canoe, combined with its large crew of paddlers, makes it is easy to cover big distances and to travel fast.


Big Canoes are wide and stable

How are Big Canoes different to Dragon Boats?

Big Canoes differ from the more widely-known dragon boats, which are raced at events. Dragon boats are longer and narrower, optimised for speed in a straight line. Our Big Canoes are designed to be easily manoeuvred and to float in relatively shallow water. The shape of the sides or tumblehome is curved to make it easy to paddle and the seats are positioned for comfortable touring. The raised bow and stern give the craft its iconic shape, whilst also increasing the height of the buoyancy and help cut through waves.

Our aim is to introduce people to the joy of canoe exploring from a stable, fun and sociable Big Canoe!

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Who can go in a Big Canoe?

BigCanoe-Who0086The Big Canoe has been designed to be a great experience for a wide range of people. You don't need to be particularly fit or strong as the canoes are easy to paddle and there is the opportunity to take rests as you go along.

Each Big Canoe can take up to 12 paddlers plus a governor (instructor).

We cannot accept anyone who is pregnant.



Age Requirements

Book a Boat - The Big CanoeThe minimum age for paddling in a Big Canoe is 5 years old.
Each child under the age of 12 needs a dedicated adult to supervise them on a one to one basis.
Youths (over the age of 12 but under 18 yrs) must have at least one responsible adult per Big Canoe, who is not already supervising a child under 12.

Paddlers with special needs

The Big Canoe wants to support as many people as possible to get on the water and have a good time canoeing.

Some people require more support or different equipment in order for them to get the most out of the experience. It may be best for you to book a boat exclusively for your own group so that your experience is tailored just for you.

If you feel that you or someone in your group will require extra assistance please talk to us prior to booking. We will work in partnership with you to see how best to accommodate you. Please don't just turn up as we want to ensure the safety and enjoyment for everyone on each trip.

Unfortunately the Big Canoe will not be for everyone but with a shared can do attitude we hope to support as many people as possible to participate.

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Where can I go?

Our guided canoeing tours are based in Poole Harbour, Dorset. The exact itinerary will depend on the tide and weather conditions. We have a number of departure locations:


fish-v1RSPB Reserve, Arne Peninsular


fish-v1Brownsea Island. For groups visiting the Baden-Powell Outdoor Centre we operate several Big Canoes from Brownsea Island.

We are also able to offer bespoke tours for corporate groups at different locations, subject to suitability. Please call the office on 02380 284 401 or email to discuss booking a bespoke tour.

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Tour Types

bulletBoat Tours. These are ideal for corporate outings and away days, corporate team building events and hen or stag parties. They are also suitable for groups of friends or several families. You can decide on the type of tour you would like -  from an organised team building event, to a gentle meander with a stop for a picnic or an expedition to explore the stunning foreshores and the wildlife.

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bulletOptions for groups visiting the Baden Powell Outdoor Centre. Boat charter is available to groups visiting the Baden-Powell Outdoor Centre on Brownsea Island. Choose between using a Big Canoe to make the journey from the mainland to the island, to explore the shoreline and Poole Harbour whilst camping at the Centre or to return by canoe to the mainland at the end of the camp.

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bulletOvernight Camping The canoe camping experience is an unforgettable way to spend time with people. Paddle with all your overnight kit to a remote and private location, pitch one of our classic design campfire tents (that allow you to take in the stunning views from your bed) and cook a quality dinner and breakfast over the campfire. Enjoy an evening and morning at camp and then paddle back exploring the harbour along the way. Truly memorable!

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Bespoke tours.  Contact us if you would like to arrange charter of a Big Canoe for a bespoke event either in Poole Harbour or at another waterside location.




Half Day Tour £320 inc VAT

Full Day Tour £600 inc VAT

RSPB Guide for half a day £60 inc VAT

Exclusive Corporate Day £950 ex VAT

Places on The Big Canoe can not be booked on an individual basis.

Note: Your group must include at least 6 adults or youths. Youths (13-17yrs) must be accompanied by at least one adult. Children must be at least 5 years. No more than four children per Big Canoe. Children (5-12yrs) must be accompanied by an adult on a one-to-one basis.



Per person £150 inc VAT