account arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right closecontact-us emailFacebookheart instagramjoin linkedin phonepinterestplaysearch twitteryoutube

Exeter City Basin, Exeter Ship Canal

Accessible for local, portable and trailable craft

Silver Propeller Challenge



Visit Exeter City Basin on the Exeter Ship Canal by boat or canoe.

It has been chosen as a Silver Propeller Location to encourage boats to visit the canal and to support the Friends of Exeter Ship Canal. A photo of your boat or canoe in the city basin will be a good proof of your visit.

Complete our challenge by visiting 20 locations from our list and you will receive our exclusive plaque and goody bag.

About the Exeter Ship Canal

The City of Exeter is built on the banks of the navigable River Exe, giving the city a prosperous port. In the late 1200s, the first of two weirs were built by local landowners, which provided water power for Fulling Mills, but prevented navigation.  Restoration only happened in 1550, when the river silted up.  Subsequently, the city traders employed John Trew of Glamorgan to build a canal to bypass the two weirs.  This was 1¾ miles long with the first pound locks in Britain and joined the river just below Exeter Quay.   A new weir was built on the river to maintain the water level and provided water to the new canal.  Opening in 1566, it was not a great success and was subsequently improved and lengthened.  The Canal Basin in Exeter was built in 1830 to give improved facilities unaffected by flood water.  The last commercial traffic on the canal was sewage sludge carried by the Countess Weir in 1998.

[The photo shows moored boats and rowers at Exeter Basin on the Exeter Ship Canal  –  by Peter Nickol.]

The Canal Today

The Exeter Ship Canal runs for 5 miles from Exeter Canal Basin to the tidal Turf Lock on the River Exe.  It is owned by Exeter City as they financed the original project.

The sole lock, about 1½ miles south of Exeter, is known as Double Locks as it can take two ships side by side; this is the only passing place on the canal.

The former lockkeeper’s cottage is now a popular pub.  The A379 crosses the canal at Countess Wear with a unique combination of both a swing bridge and a lift bridge.

[The photo shows Double Locks pub and garden]

Notes for visitors


Postcode: EX2 4DE

What3words /// shares.kinks.nobody

Boat Dimensions

The maximum size of boat that can navigate the Exeter Ship Canal is:-

  • Length: 122′ 0″ (37.18m)
  • Beam: 26′ 0″ (7.92m)
  • Height: 32′ 10″ (10m) M5 Bridge
  • Draught: not known

Permission should be sought for visiting boats from Exeter City Council, the navigation authority. Turf Lock is not navigable at low tide. 

Canoeing, trip Boats and Boat Hire

Canoeing is encouraged on the Exeter Ship Canal and no licence is required.

Saddles & Paddles hire canoes and paddleboards from Exeter Quay.

AS Watersports hire canoes and paddleboards from the canal basin.

Stuart Line Cruises offer occasional trips up the Exeter Ship Canal from their base at Exmouth. 

Exeter Cruises run regular trips from Exeter Quay to Double Locks.


Also see…

Butts Ferry is a hand-operated pedestrian cable ferry that crosses the River Exe in Exeter. The crossing has been in use since at least 1641, but the name is more recent. The ferry is named after Mr George Butt, who fought to keep the ferry open when the City Council attempted to close it in 1971.

The ferry is currently operated using a 27 feet (8.2 m)-long aluminium-hulled ferry-boat that was new in 2005, and was custom designed to replace the previous wooden built ferry.  The boat is manually pulled along a cable across the river, which is about 150 feet (46 m) wide at this point, by its operator.

More information at Exeter Memories website.

Challenge Location

Exeter City Basin

Exeter Ship Canal

Discover more nearby

Related activities

Waterway underfunding

Hundreds of miles of waterways – along with their unique heritage and habitats – are currently starved of funding and rely on constant lobbying by us to safeguard their future.

Sustainable Boating

We want boating on canals and rivers to be more sustainable and – even though the current overall contribution to UK carbon emissions is very small – we want to help reduce emissions on the waterways.

Waterways Heritage at Risk

Britain’s canals and rivers are a unique, living heritage. But that heritage is at risk – from urban development, lack of protection, loss of skills and knowledge and climate change.

You can help Save Waterways Heritage.

Waterway restoration

Restoring the UK’s blue infrastructure – our inherited network of navigable canals and rivers – is good for people and places.