Nothing could be nicer than a day afloat on one of the most beautiful rivers in England. This stretch of the Thames has been imortalised in Jerome K Jerome's classic Three Men in a boat and Kenneth Graeme's Wind in the Willows.

Nowadays you have a range of choices from the simple to the grand and below is our guide for getting afloat.

You can start by taking a scheduled sightseeing trip with any of the following companies that operate from Windsor, Henley and Marlow. You can pick and choose you journeys to suit. Salters Steamers | French Brothers | Hobbs of Henley

But if you want independence then the simple option is to hire a rowing boat for a half hour or so and try your hand. Boats can be hired in the summer months from Higginson Park in Marlow and from Hobbs of Henley. They charge by the half hour and you need to leave a cash deposit of about £20 with them.

The next step up is to charter a self-drive motor launch for a little longer - normally a half day minimum, but with a picnic onboard it is a perfect way to discover the river. For standard motor boats try Hobbs of Henley but if you'd like something a little more elegant then Rivertime have a selection of electric launches that are easy to handle and very comfortable. For something a little more romantic Hambledon Charter offer a classic electric powered canoe that you can pick up from their yard at Hambleden and cruise the Henley stretch.

If you are planning a special day with family or perhaps with colleagues or clients then you could hire a traditional boat & skipper. The Lady Florence offers capacity for 12 guests in style and comfort as well as fine food served aboard, or you can even hire a house boat called Gyspy Willow that gives you the most wonderful amount of space and comfort whilst ambling along the river. To enjoy the Henley scene in summer you can always hire a slipper stern launch called Wenonah for parties of up to 5.

If you are a guest at the Cliveden House Hotel you can take your pick from their fleet of traditional launches fully crewed to help you. The Compleat Angler has a more modern launch available for guests, while Red Roofs at Oldfields has a traditional launch for guests.

If you are organising a large event with more than 12 people then you need to turn to the big boats. Many people hire these boats for wedding parties, family celebrations, reunions and corporate entertaining. The very best of these boats is SS Alaska a magnificently restored steam driven boat but both SS Streatley and Maidenhead Steam offer wonderful experiences. For more modern boats try any of the following Salters Steamers | Hobbs of Henley | French Brothers