Canada Water overview
This area guide covers Canada Water, Surrey Quays and Rotherhithe.
What’s it all about?
The pleasant marinas, wildlife reserves and new build homes clustered around the Thames is worlds apart from the area’s industrial heritage. The first dockyard on this part of the Rotherhithe peninsula was built in 1696, a manmade network of canals, timber ponds and docks heaving with ships. Canada Water is the only freshwater lake in Docklands, once forming part of Canada Dock. Pockets of Victorian streets, pubs and some sought after 19th century warehouse conversions recall the area’s history, but the docks were almost wiped out in World War II and subsequently closed in the early 1970s. The area was redeveloped in the 1980s and the overriding feeling is modern. There are gorgeous walks and cycle rides to be enjoyed in both directions along the river and two Thames Clipper docking points, so many of the Canary Wharf workers who call this area home commute by boat. Those having a go at kayaking at the watersports centre here will find it hard to believe that they’re moments from Central London. For most people it is all about location: the proximity to the City and Canary Wharf attracts City workers, but as the nearby attractions of Bermondsey spill into historic Rotherhithe, it increasingly brings in young media professionals too.
- The Pilgrim ship, Mayflower began its voyage to America from Rotherhithe in 1620, but the area’s maritime history is even older than this. The word Rotherhithe is Anglo Saxon in origin and means ‘landing place for cattle’ or ‘sailor haven’.
- The Thames Tunnel that runs from Rotherhithe to Wapping was the first under river tunnel in the world, and a major engineering feat and visitor attraction in its day. Conceived by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the tunnel opened in 1843. It is now used by the Overground network, which shuttles commuters to Shoreditch in a flash.
- Michael Caine and Alfred Hitchcock were both born in the area.
Architecture and property
After wartime damage to the docks and their subsequent demise, regeneration began in the 1980s when warehouses were demolished and waterways filled in, making this a good place to look for modern property. Some 5,500 new homes were built on the reclaimed land, ranging from modern terraced housing, large apartment complexes, some warehouse in style, to smaller terraces with gardens. If you’d prefer to own a slice of the area’s heritage, Rotherhithe Village and St Mary’s Church are the landmarks to look around, here you’ll find a limited number 19th century warehouse conversions. This is a conservation area and its properties are highly sought after. A further phase of development took place here in the noughties and there’s still room for more.
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Eating: The Yellow House bar and restaurant, close to Surrey Quays station, is a reliable option for upscale pub grub, while the cafe at the Brunel Museum is a good stop off for tea and cake. The Canada Water Cafe, next to the Tube, serves up flat whites, hearty breakfasts and lunch specials during the day and doubles as a pizzeria open until 11pm. Head to nearby Bermondsey for its excellent weekend food market and first rate cafes and restaurants.
Drinking: The Mayflower pub is a charming 17th century Thames side inn with a small bar, cosy upstairs restaurant and wooden deck overlooking the river. A blue plaque marks the spot from which the Pilgrim Fathers set off on their journey to the Americas. Other popular destinations include The Old Salt Quay with its large two tiered riverside terrace and the quirky Wibbly Wobbley pub, set on a barge in Greenland Dock. For an unusual cocktail experience, take a trip to the Midnight Apothecary on the roof garden of the Brunel Museum, where ingredients from the museum garden are used in the drinks.
Shopping: Surrey Quays Shopping Centre has a selection of chain stores. For more one of a kind finds, the nearby markets at Greenwich offer plenty of choice as do the boutiques and independent shops of Bermondsey Street, a short bus journey away.
Walkers will find that the Thames Path is particularly picturesque and full of historical interest at Rotherhithe. For more on the Thames Tunnel and the life and work of its architect Isambard Kingdom Brunel, visit the Brunel Museum.
- The latest landmark to appear in Canada Water is a £14m library and cultural centre designed by Piers Gough. The building resembles an inverted pyramid and the aim of the design is for visitors to ascend from the busy ground floor cafe to the quite of the library above.
- There is a large Tesco Extra at Surrey Quays Shopping Centre.
- Surrey Quays Leisure Park has an Odeon cinema, ten pin bowling at Hollywood Bowl, and the very popular Cafe East.
- The Sands Film Studio houses an extensive collection of costumes for hire, and the Rotherhithe Picture Library is open to the public.
- Kids and adults alike will enjoy the animal interaction at Surrey Docks Farm.
As well as attractive stretches of the Thames Path, residents are close to Southwark Park, a Green Flag award winning park that has a wide range of sporting facilities, including a cafe, art gallery, boating lake and gardens. Elsewhere in the area, much ex-industrial land has been given a green makeover. Russia Dock Woodland is flourishing on land reclaimed from the old docks and features elements of old maritime architecture, while the five acre nature reserve Stave Hill Ecology Park has lovely views over the river.
Canada Water on the river
Rotherhithe boasts the distinction of being home to the oldest put on the River Thames. Now a gastro pub, The Mayflower opened in the sixteenth century and is named after the ship chartered by the pilgrims who left for America in 1620. Those looking for more active pursuits are spoilt rotten by Surrey Docks Watersports Centre, which offers rowing, kayaking, sailing, powerboating and windsurfing, as well as a gym.
Find out more about the perks of living on the river here.
Change is in the air with new developments including Maple Quays, a Barratt Homes development of 900 flats. British Land has promised a £34 million investment and extension to the Surrey Quays Shopping Centre, as well as buying the site of Associated Newspapers printworks for redevelopment.
Tube: Canada Water (Zone 2) is on the Jubilee Line and provides a quick route to Canary Wharf and Stratford in one direction, and Westminster and Bond Street in the other.
Overground: Surrey Quays, Rotherhithe and Canada Water stations all connect to the Overground network. Trains from Surrey Quays to Whitechapel take less than ten minutes.
Bus: Local bus routes include 1 (to New Oxford Street), C10 (to Victoria), 47 (to Shoreditch), and 188 (to Russell Square).
Boat: There are two Thames Clipper river taxi services – leaving from Greenland Dock and Hilton Docklands.
Cycling: A cycle route roughly following the Jubilee Line from Canada Water to Blackfriars is to be designated a ‘Quietway’.
Getting away: London City Airport is around 20 minutes by car and just over half an hour via the Jubilee line and DLR.
Various state primary school options in the area include St Joseph’s Catholic Primary, Albion Primary, Rotherhithe Primary, Alfred Salter and St John’s Roman Catholic Primary. In terms of secondary schools, local favourites include Bacon’s College while St Michael’s Catholic College and Harris Academy in neighbouring Bermondsey both have good reputations. The Cavendish School specialises in providing a balanced education for children who have been excluded from mainstream schools.
Please see our schools tab for more information on schools in this area.
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