York River Cruise | Morning, Lunch, Dinner, & Self-drive Tours

(18 customer reviews)


Last updated on July 14, 2024 6:39 am
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The walled city of York in England, founded by the Romans almost two thousand years ago, is filled with historical sites and attractions. The city is safe and popular amongst tourists who walk The Shambles and visit the York Minster cathedral. Consider visiting the Ye Olde Starre Inne, which has been serving ale since 1733.

While most visitors enjoy walking through the historic district within the city’s walls, you can take to the water to explore upstream. Choose from sightseeing boat rides, an evening meal on the water, or try your hand at skippering your own boat for the day.

We list a variety of different options suitable for romantics and families alike.


  • Explore the city from the water
  • Enjoy a picnic onboard
  • Many attractions within one square mile

Know before you book:

  • River can be too shallow to cruise
  • Crowded during peak season
  • Staying in the historical city can be pricey

Sit back and soak in the views of York during a cruise on the River Ouse. Learn about the city’s history, the river’s flooding, and how Romans and Vikings navigated the river. With a variety of boat trips offered in York, you can rest assured there is an activity suited to you.

Most cruises head upstream, visiting the city’s northern outskirts before heading downstream to the southern outskirts of the town. The notable sights include York Minster, Clifford’s Tower, Guildhall, and the Millennium Bridge.

Prices of York River Cruises

The cost of a river sightseeing cruise starts at £12 ($16 USD) and can increase to £47 ($64 USD) depending on the vessel and the distance traveled. The duration of the tour and whether you receive a meal or drink can also affect the ticket price.

Compare prices across the ticket providers below:


Many of the tours are conducted by City Cruises York and are typically between 45 minutes and one hour long. You can book most sightseeing cruises on the day. However, specific tours such as lunch or dinner cruises may require booking in advance.

Monday – Sunday: 9am – 7pm

Best Time to Go

The best time to go on a York river cruise depends on the type of experience you would like to have. If you are hoping to capture photos of the city’s historic buildings, then an early morning sightseeing tour may be for you.

The best time to visit York is from June through late August, when the weather is warmer and drier. The average temperature during this period is 27°C.

6 York River Cruise Options

There are incredible options for activities along the Ouse River in York. You can wake up early to explore the historical sights on foot before sightseeing, enjoying a lunch on the water, or an early evening cruise.

Choose your style of cruise and set off to see the sights from the water. Here are the best options for your York River cruise.

Self-Drive Red York Boats

This tour lets you take control. If you have never skippered a boat before, this is a fun and easy first time to try. The red boats are suitable for up to 6 passengers and let you enjoy the riverscape at your own pace.

This tour requires you to navigate up the river and is best suited for adventurous individuals. But don’t worry, you will receive instructions on operating the boat to meet the river rules. Life jackets are included and are compulsory for children under the age of 11.

What we liked: Great for if you want to self-drive.

  • Freedom to explore on your own time
  • 1-hour river cruise
  • Space for 6 passengers

  • Snacks and drinks
  • No smoking or alcohol
  • Tour guide

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instructor briefing self-drive tourists

Ouse River Sightseeing Cruise

Settle into a 45-minute cruise accompanied by commentary on the Ouse River. Discover details about the history and culture of York while enjoying unobstructed views of the landmarks. You can look forward to seeing Clifford’s Tower. This tour departs from King’s Staith and operates several times throughout the day.

What we liked: Informative and affordable.

  • Local guide onboard
  • 45 minute cruise
  • Open deck above

  • Snacks and drinks
  • Translation of commentary
  • No pets

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york city cruises red boats

70-minute Evening River Cruise York

This 70-minute cruise along York’s Ouse River gives you views of the buildings lit up by the boat’s floodlights and the illuminated city skyline. Celebrate the occasion while sipping on a complimentary glass of prosecco or non-alcoholic drink with your partner. Doing the river cruise in the evening leaves you a full day to explore the historic city and its sights on foot first.

What we liked: A perfect evening activity for up to six people.

  • Complimentary drink
  • 70-minute cruise
  • Infant seats available

  • No pets
  • Commentary
  • Snacks or meals

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sightseeing york river at night

River Ouse Early Evening York Cruise

Relax for an hour-long cruise on the River Ouse while taking in the sights from a different perspective. This early evening activity takes place during the perfect time to take photos of the landmarks in a golden light. Thanks to a fully stocked bar on board, you can listen to the informative commentary while toasting to the occasion.

What we liked: Ideal evening activity for more than 6 people.

  • Heated room downstairs
  • Fully stocked bar
  • Live commentary

  • Snacks and meals
  • No pets
  • Commentary in other languages

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bridge over ouse river in york

York: River Ouse Cruise with Lunch

Settle in for a two-course meal while sailing down stream on the Captain James Cook boat. While on the largest boat on the River Ouse, you can enjoy a freshly cooked lunch and dessert followed by a tea or coffee.

The cruise sets off from King’s Staith Landing at 11:30 am and turns around at Bishopthorpe Palace.

What we liked: A unique dining experience.

  • Main course and desert
  • 1.5-hour cruise
  • Tea or coffee

  • Alcoholic drinks (can be bought on board)
  • Wheelchair access
  • Baby changing facilities

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table layed on york river cruise

York: Evening Dinner Cruise

What could be more romantic than a delicious three-course meal while taking in the views of historic castles and palaces along the Ouse River? You’ll be delighted with this evening dinner cruise experience as you toast to the occasion with a glass of wine. The tour includes sightseeing commentary interspersed with music.

The cruise departs from Pontoon 2 in King’s Staith at 7:15 pm.

What we liked: An extensive cruise along the Ouse River at night.

  • Complimentary glass of wine
  • 2.5 Hour cruise
  • Three-course meal

  • Wheelchair access
  • No baby changing facilities
  • Commentary in other languages

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orange skies at sunset over the ouse river in york

8.1Expert Score
Cruises on the Ouse River are the ideal way to explore the historic city of York and are a perfect day trip from London. The river played an essential role in the development of the area and offers an incredible array of activities. Visit the castles, museums, and art galleries before sitting down to enjoy a lunchtime cruise.
Value for money
Level of activity
  • Unique way to sightsee
  • Guided tours and self-drive
  • Affordable options
  • Only one river to explore
  • Not operating during low water levels
  • Rowing and boating events can affect services

18 reviews for York River Cruise | Morning, Lunch, Dinner, & Self-drive Tours

4.3 out of 5
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    Had a really lovely time, it was a nice chilled end to the evening even in the rain! The staff were all great! Definitely woth doing when in york.😊

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    It was a very pleasant cruise along the river. Guide seemed to know his stuff. And enjoyed my glass of Prosecco and music along the way.

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