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Exeter City Basin

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.

History of the Exeter Ship Canal

The City of Exeter is built on the banks of the River Exe that was navigable, 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 1 ¾ miles long with the first pound locks in Britain and joined the river just below Exeter Quay. The construction of a new weir on the river maintained the water level and as a result, provided water to the new canal. However, the opening in 1566 was not a great success and therefore was improved and lengthened.

Canal Basin

Building the Canal Basin in Exeter during 1830 improved facilities unaffected by flood water. In 1998, the Countess Weir carried out the last commercial traffic on the canal carrying sewage sludge. The Exeter Ship Canal runs for 5 miles from Exeter Canal Basin to the tidal Turf Lock on the River Exe. The Exeter City owned this as they financed the original project. Meanwhile about 1½ miles south of Exeter, the sole lock known as Double Locks can take two ships side by side, which is the only passing place on the canal. The lock keepers cottage is now a popular pub and the A379 crosses the canal at Countess Wear with a unique combination of both a swing bridge and a lift bridge.

Photo: Moored boats and rowers at Exeter Basin on the Exeter Ship Canal by Peter Nickol.

Exeter Ship Canal Notes

Exeter Ship Canal 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 & 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.


Challenge Location

Exeter City Basin

Exeter Ship Canal

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