A punt is a narrow flat-bottomed boat that somewhat resembles a Venetian gondola with the curve removed. Punts generally seat up to four adults while a fifth person stands at the rear and propels the boat with a long pole.
The design was developed in the medieval period to allow for easy navigation in areas with shallow water. Until recently punts were used by commercial fishermen working the fens of East Anglia, but today they are almost exclusively used for recreation.
Poling along the river looks effortless and easy; a relaxing way to enjoy a quiet summer afternoon. Looks can be deceiving however, as steering a punt is neither as easy or effortless as it looks. For one thing, the pole can get stuck in the mud of the river bottom, and steering from the rear of a punt takes skill and dexterity.
Punting along the River Cam is one of the traditional delights of visiting Cambridge, and something that should be tried - at least once - by everyone! Punts can be hired at Silver Street bridge, Mill Lane, Magdalene Bridge, Jesus Green, Trinity College, or Grantchester.
The cost is in the £15-20/hour range, with a damage deposit generally required. If you are feeling flush in the pocket you can hire a chauffered punt and relax while your paid punter takes you along the Backs, past the historic colleges of Cambridge University. often the chauffeurs are students at the university, and you'll be regaled with tales of Cambridge past and present.
Most boatyards are open Easter to early October.