What is a Pedalo?

Mary McMahon

A pedalo is a type of human-powered water transport which is primarily designed for use in inland waters and calm lakes. Several companies manufacture pedalos for sale around the world, in a variety of designs from the practical to the whimsical. This type of watercraft is a popular tourist attraction on some lakes and rivers, with tourists renting pedalos and using them to tour the water for a few hours.

A girl getting ready to go on a pedalo.
A girl getting ready to go on a pedalo.

These boats rely on a paddle wheel as a method of propulsion. While many people associate paddle wheels with classic steamboats, they can also be moved by pedaling, with the motion of the pedals being transferred to the wheel to get the boat moving. In a single-seater pedalo, one person does all of the work with a set of pedals in the middle of the boat, while multiple seaters offer the opportunity for several people to pedal at once, generating more energy to move the craft.

A variety of materials can be used to make pedalos, including wood, plastic, and composite materials. More ornate versions of the pedalo may be shaped like various aquatic animals such as swans, while simple versions stick to basics, providing a seat, a pair of pedals, and a paddle wheel which may be fully exposed or concealed under a cowling for safety.

While the pedalo is not really designed for long trips, this type of boat can be enjoyable for a jaunt around a waterway. Pedalos are also good exercise, for those who feel thus inclined and can sustain a rapid pedaling rate, as the pedaling will develop the legs and get the heart rate up, providing cardiovascular exercise benefits. Some pedalos also include seats for passengers, allowing people to take turns pedaling.

Most pedalos are in service at boat rental facilities located on lakes and rivers. People can pay a set fee to take a boat out, or a fee based on hours of usage, depending on the policies of the facility. Using a pedalo doesn't require any special instructions, making it suitable for people without boating experience, although boat rental companies may request that people wear life jackets and confirm that customers can swim. People can also buy pedalos for use on waterways near their homes, if they find this type of watercraft particularly enjoyable; often, a good price can be obtained on used pedalos from a boat rental company which needs to reduce its stock.

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Discussion Comments


@Oceana - I wonder if their pedalo was made by the same company that made the dragon pedalo I saw last week on the water! It was bright green with yellow eyes and a yellow ribbed chest, red plastic horns, and a spiky tail. Its mouth was open to reveal sharp teeth and a forked tongue.

There were four people sitting in it, and it actually looked pretty sturdy. The legs of the dragon rested on top of a solid base.

I don’t know if this was intentional or not, but the seats looked like humps. It may have just been a cool side effect of the design.


While out on the lake one day in my kayak, I saw a group of people on a pedalo shaped like the Loch Ness monster! It was the funniest thing I had ever seen!

I rowed over to them to ask them where they got their pedalo. They said they bought it from some online company in the UK, and they paid $4,000 for it.

They told me that it is extremely resistant to abrasion and UV damage. It is a greenish-gray color, and a cowling covers the wheel in between the front two seats where the pedals are located.


My family and I rented a pedalo that could hold five people, though only two of them would be doing any pedaling. This plastic boat had three seats in front, and the one in the middle didn’t have pedals. Two smaller seats in back were for the children.

The boat had been sitting in the sun before we rented it, and I saw the wisdom of having white seats. Had they been a darker color, they would have been too hot to sit on.

We paid a $20 deposit, and my dad had to leave his I.D. at the desk. They charged $15 for the first hour and $7 for each extra hour. Since we could switch up and take turns paddling, we stayed out there for two hours. An afternoon of family entertainment wasn’t a bad deal at $22.


A park near my home has pedalos for rent. They charge a flat fee, so whether you use the pedalo for an hour or all day, you pay the same price. They have both single-person and two-person pedalos, as well as smaller animal-shaped ones for children.

My boyfriend and I rented one that we could both paddle. We were watching my little cousin that day, so we rented a duck-shaped one for her. The park required her to wear a life jacket, which we also rented.

It was a fun way to see areas of the lake that we could not get to on land. Plus, my cousin absolutely loved it. We paddled slowly so she could keep up, and because we took our time, we had the energy to paddle further and see more sights.

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