Every two years, Hobart’s waterfront comes alive with tall ships, wooden sail boats, floating musicians, seafood, nautically-themed theatre, boat building displays, model ships and punters wearing hats bearing slogans such as “Ancient Mariner” (my Dad, wearing a hat that I gave him a few years ago!). The Australian Wooden Boat Festival is my favourite event on Tasmania’s festival calendar for several reasons.
There is something awe-inspiring about stepping aboard a beautifully crafted and lovingly restored boat, especially when she has travelled half-way around the world to be there. Today, I boarded (for free! Thank you!) the Young Endeavour, the Australian Navy’s showpiece sailing boat, and she was magnificent: decks swabbed, ropes coiled, fixtures gleaming, masts soaring into the sky. I highly recommend that you have a look at her tomorrow if you can or, if you are young enough, consider applying to be a volunteer crew member. It really would be an experience of a lifetime!
There is something for everyone at The Australian Wooden Boat Festival. Old-salties sit aboard their ships, sharing stories with the neighbours. Boat builders skillfully demonstrate their craft (check out the perfectly finished boat-like folding tables near the Waterside Pavillion). Students hammer boats together, ready for the “Quick ‘n Dirty Boat Challenge” race on Sunday at Kings Pier (watch it: it is very entertaining, particularly if a boat doesn’t quite pass muster…). Children are treated to a variety of performers on Parliament House Lawns. Best of all, you can wander past the boats with a drink in one hand and an icecream in the other, looking out across the water at boats in full sail (or back through the rigging of the tall ships towards the mountain), listening to the music echoing across the water from whatever watercraft they’ve built for the band. This year, it’s a shed. Last time, it was a dingy with an in-built piano!
I have always been fascinated by model boats, and not just the pretty ones. While there is, sadly, a much smaller model boat display at this year’s festival, my favourites are still there: the huon pine boat baby cradle, the freighter, the tugboats and the model Enterprize. This year, the model boats are located in the Waterside Pavillion. You can also board many of the tall ships (for a fee) or even sail on them (for a larger fee). Another brilliant exhibition is the Water Ways exhibit in Salamanca’s Long Gallery. You’ll find paintings of the tall ships and Tasmanian waterways, as well as sculptural pieces, all by local artists. You can vote for your favourite piece in the People’s Choice Award and can enter a raffle for an atmospheric Roger Imms painting. On the way to the Long Gallery, pop in to Nutpatch Chocolates, the iconic Kettering store with a brand new (opened three days ago!) waterfront location at the Murray Street Pier.
Entry to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is FREE. Excellent! You’ll need a bit of cash handy for the food stalls and for entry onto the tall ships (this is only available at certain times of the day). For more information and to download the festival program, see the the Australian Wooden Boat Festival’s website.
The Australian Wooden Boat Festival is located in Hobart. The festival stretches from the Princes Wharf around to Victoria Dock and it is well worth seeing everything (wear comfortable shoes!). Parking is tricky as the Hobart Regatta takes place on the same long weekend but you can park for approximately $8 on the Regatta Grounds, for free on the Queens Domain if you don’t mind a walk or you can pay to park in a multistorey car park (if you can remember to get your car out before the car-park closes!). Once you’ve parked, wander down to the docks and enjoy my favourite Tasmanian festival!
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