You don’t have to be beside the sea to enjoy a spot of water sport on your city break. Step out of your Manchester hotel and head south to Sale Water Park. This man-made lake in the middle of 152 acres of parkland offers a raft of adventurous activities to try - although they do all involve getting a bit wet.
Sale Water Park lies in the Mersey valley, a green belt that runs from Sale to Stretford and, with woodland, meadows, riverside walks and a spectacular restaurant to enjoy, it’s a great way to spend the day. But star of the show here is the 52-acre artificial lake. Once a gravel pit, the lake was made in the 1970s when the M60 was being built and they needed a way to raise the motorway above the flood plains. The pit was excavated for its gravel and then flooded. It’s about 90 ft deep in some places and rumour has it there’s an abandoned digger still lurking at the bottom.
All-year-round the lake is busy with everything from canoes to strange-looking rafts, courtesy of the Trafford Water Sports Centre run by Peak Pursuits. But if you didn’t bring your towel, why not stroll through the grassy meadows or along the banks of the River Mersey instead? There’s lots of wildlife to admire at the wetland area called Broad Ees Dole in the north-east of Sale Water Park. Spot migratory birds from its covered bird hides and look for the famous cormorants who perch on electricity pylons - umbrellas are advised when you’re walking underneath them.
All of this lakeside fun is just five miles from the city centre as the crow (or cormorant) flies, but you could stay even closer to the action, by booking into the Premier Inn hotel near Sale Water Park. Our Manchester (Sale) hotel is less than a ten-minute drive away and offers comfy beds, hearty meals and hot showers to warm up in after a day spent messing about on the water.
A hub for outdoor activities in Greater Manchester, Sale Water Park offers everything from walking and wildlife watching to water sports.
While various water sports courses are available, you can also just hire boats by the hour. Canoes, kayaks, paddleboards and rowing boats are available at weekends, bank holidays and school holidays and cost between £10 to £20 per hour. You don’t need to book in advance and you’ll also get paddles and life jackets, too.
Open water swimming
Fancy a swim? You can brave the chilly waters of the lake every summer. Open Swim UK run four sessions of open water swimming every week between May and September costing £5 for adults, £3 for children. There’s indoor changing rooms and hot showers - and you can cheat by hiring a wetsuit for £5.
A 5k ParkRun event is held every Saturday at 9am. Watch the runners or take part yourself and, while you’re there, take a look at the skiers from the Sale Water Ski Club. The Friends of Sale Water Park organise tree spotting walks and children’s activities such as pond dipping. See their Facebook page for details.
The perfect place for a walk, the path around the lake is 2.6 miles long. Take some crusts for the Canadian geese but be careful - they can get nippy and try to take the bread straight from your hands.
You’ll find Sale Water Park on Rifle Road, Sale M33 2LX. If you want to find out more about water sports, call 01782 722226 or visit the Peak Pursuits website.
Sale Water Park has lots of good paths suitable for wheelchair users and disabled toilets can be found at the Boathouse, or a Cafe Metro near the Metrolink tram stop.
Extend your walk slightly further and you get to neighbouring Chorlton Water Park which also has its own lake. Manchester's first designated local nature reserve, it’s great for wildlife lovers with everything from kingfishers to orchids to spot.
If you’ve had enough of the great outdoors for one day, what about some shopping? Jump in the car and you can be at the intu Trafford Centre in less than 15 minutes. This huge mall is the place to shop in Manchester and it’s packed with more than 200 stores from designer boutiques to high street favourites.
There’s a small cafe at the Metro line end of the car park. Called Cafe Metro, it’s a great place for bacon butties, coffee and cake. But if you fancied something stronger (or more substantial) there are two popular places nearby.
Finish your walk in style by booking a table at the Boathouse Restaurant. Nestled on the edge of the lake, you’ll get a great view of all the water sports action going on below you. Everything here is homemade and tasty, from light bites like salads and sandwiches to huge roasts and steaks. Be sure to leave room for dessert though because both the cheesecake and the sticky toffee pudding are to-die-for.
Johnson’s Boat is well worth the short walk along the banks of the Mersey from Sale Water Park. Dating back to Jacobean times, this traditional boozer serves pub classics like steak and ale pie and has a large beer garden to enjoy, as well as a play area for the kids. There’s all the usual wines and spirits, while real-ale lovers should sample the pub’s own Jackson’s Boat Ale brewed by Beartown Brewers.
Sale Water Park is just five miles from Manchester city centre and easy to get to by public transport.
Sale Water Park is less than half a mile from junction 6 of the M60, making it easy to get to from just about everywhere. There are three large car parks to choose from when you get there.
While the Metrolink tram is the easiest way to get to Sale Water Park from the city centre, local bus services do stop there. You can take the 23, 23A or 25 from the intu Trafford Centre.
Sale Water Park is on the Airport Line which runs from the city centre to Manchester Airport via Wythenshawe. The journey only takes about 20 minutes - hop on at St Peter’s Square.
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