Boats arriving for Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

Port Adelaide BoatFest Review

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Port Adelaide Wooden & Heritage Boat Festival, known as Port Adelaide BoatFest on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th October 2018 finally went ahead after 10 years of lobbying.

With Port Adelaide Sailing Club hosting the event, Port Adelaide was to come alive with a 2-day festival of all sorts of boats, large and small, historical and new. The whole event, together with live entertainment, displays and demonstrations, also showcased some of South Australia’s finest seafood.

Heading to Port Adelaide for longer? Check out this guide to Port Adelaide for water lovers!

Port Adelaide BoatFest here we come!

There was a lot of hype about the BoatFest in Adelaide. And not surprisingly, it took them 10 years to get it here! Entry was free (apart from the associated museums, food, drink, stalls, etc) and really promoted as a family-friendly event. Being locals, we saw a few of the boats arrive, travelling down the Port River and into Newport Quays, where the excitement and anticipation began.

Boats arriving for Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

However, maybe there had been too much expectation about Port Adelaide BoatFest being similar to the Australian Wooden Boat Festival held biannually in Hobart. Which quite rightly is unfair as Hobart host a national festival and not a state one. But people had come from far and wide, expecting somewhat similar to this very successful event.

Boats at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018 waiting for Birkenhead Bridge to open

Although we were in the area on Saturday, we attended the event on Sunday. Our mistake though as Saturdays’ weather was beautiful. Sunday was a washout. From 1 pm onwards, the storm came in.

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Port Adelaide Destination Guide

Newport Quays

Newport Quays and Edgewater Marina did look impressive. And for a marina that is pretty dominant, it was finally alive with sailing vessels, lined up in fashion and ready to show off. The water taxi loop service was well on its way. And it was good to see the ‘Archie’ on the move, which normally only operates during the week for school educational trips.

Overlooking Newport Quays at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018
Newport Quays at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018
Newport Quays, Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

Another way to see the festival from different angles was a walk around the Anna Rennie Loop Path. We took a leisurely stroll, avoiding the pockets of rain and grabbing some photo opportunities. We weren’t joined by too many people, and we must admit, the team serving refreshments looked pretty bored!

Port Adelaide Loop Walk at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

It was a shame the new Portabello River Cruisers weren’t out in force on Sunday! If you haven’t heard, these new donuts of water fun are a new addition to Port Adelaide and hopefully, we’ll be seeing a lot more of them! Sara thought she saw one out on Saturday, and she was right according to their post on Facebook! Check out this great review from GlamAdelaide about this amazing addition to Adelaide!

Hart’s Mill

Back over at Hart’s Mill and the Flour Shed, the main event action was in semi-full swing for Port Adelaide BoatFest. Live entertainment was playing indoors by Critical Soul with their cool jazz, smooth R&B and upbeat funk as people enjoyed their street eat food finds from the number of food vans available. There were some innovative seafood dishes on the menu, seafood demonstrations from Sprout Cooking School, along with Squid INC, a South Aussie favourite.

Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018 Entrance

The Flour Mill was well set up with nautical style. Even the bar was set up as an old wharf with its aged departure times!

Live Music inside the Harts Mill Flour Shed at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018
Critical Soul playing inside Harts Mill Flour Shed at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018
Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018 Bar

There were a number of maritime marketplace stalls and displays around the old mill. From woodcarvers and maritime knots to vintage vehicles and art displays. South Australia Sea Rescue and the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard were also on hand to ask those all important sea safety questions. With the weather beginning to turn, it was a shame to see many of them shut down early. But the wind was getting the better of many of the gazebos.

Displays at Port Adelaide
Runaway Wooden Boat on display at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018
Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018
Port Adelaide 2018

One thing that did stand out for us though, and even with us not having kids in tow, was that there was not enough to keep younger ones occupied. It felt very much aimed at the older generation, the ones who know how old boats were made and work, but nothing from this era or beyond. There was a specific ‘Shipboard Fun for Kids’ on the Clipper Ship on Saturday – 2 individual sessions for $22 each (!!) but there seemed to not be much else. Yes, it is a wooden and heritage boat festival, but some of the wording used to promote Port Adelaide BoatFest led us to believe there would be more, especially for families.

As the Saturday evening weather was stunning and warm, it was a shame the festival finished at an early 4pm. It would have been ideal to keep it going with food vendors and live music on a perfect Spring evening. But part of the festival did go on with the SA Seafood Celebration taking place in the Flour Shed from 7 pm (ticketed event for $85 per person).

McLaren Parade

Wooden Boats on display at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

McLaren Parade saw a steady flow of people over the weekend, admiring the small wooden boats on display.

Wooden Boat on display at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

The Dolphin Explorer was fired up for BoatFest and ready to explore the Port River and its resident dolphins. With two full 2-hour cruises, departing both in the morning and afternoon, there really was no stopping it! The afternoon cruise would have been a great opportunity to see the sailboats leaving, I’m sure many of whom would have waved as they sailed past!

It was great to see the Historic Ketch ‘Falie’ open to the public, which for many years remains with its gangway closed. It was at the far end of McLaren Parade, but there was a constant stream of people coming to have a look and hear the tales of her history. The ‘ST Yelta’, SA’s last working steam tugboat was also open to the public which is another unusual sight.

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Onboard South Australia's 'Yelta'
Falie Open to General Public at Port Adelaide
Yelta Open to General Public at Port Adelaide

We’re not sure what happened to the timing, but the One and All Training Ship headed out on a voyage halfway through the festival! Ironically, they have a full voyage down to Hobart’s Australian Wooden Boat Festival in February 2019. But couldn’t quite make it for the full event on their doorstep!

Wrap up!

We’re not saying for one minute we saw the whole festival. There were special events going on at the SA Aviation Museum, Maritime Museum and National Railway Museum. Also the Parade of Sail at Inner Harbour, an art gallery at Black Diamond Gallery and a Dragon Boat display that we weren’t able to catch.

But for the main event at Hart’s Mill, Port Adelaide, it felt just a little bit lacking in comparison to the hype. Maybe it was just the poor weather on Sunday. But equally, we understand that this was the first event of this biannual arrangement with Goolwa’s SA Wooden Boat Festival. And even that comparison is unfair as Goolwa’s Boat Festival has been going on for several years.

It was still great to see the buzz at Port Adelaide BoatFest. And seeing more vessels on the Port River is always a joy to see. With so much potential, we’re sure this festival will only get bigger and better every 2 years. Roll on 2020!

Boats prepare for departure at Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018

Did you go along to Port Adelaide BoatFest 2018? What did you think? We’d love to know your comments below.

Boats departing at Port Adelaide

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