An armada of landlubbers and salty sea dogs will be pointing their prows towards Steveston this month for Metro Vancouver’s favourite annual seafaring celebration. Anchored in and around the riverfront heritage buildings of Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site, the family-friendly Richmond Maritime Festival is packed like a pirate’s treasure chest with fun-loving activities and performances.

Best of all, there’s no need to spend a single galleon of your hard-earned cash to have a good time here: entry to the two-day event is entirely free.

Running from 10:00am to 6:00pm on both July 28 and 29, the festival is celebrating its 15th anniversary in 2018. Expanding over the years like a well-fed ship’s cat, new attractions have been added since the early days, while beloved features have been retained—including the event’s must-see flotilla of vintage wooden boats.

If you’re a first-timer at the festival or you haven’t been for a while, what do you need to know to make the best of your visit this year? Read on for our insider’s guide to planning the perfect voyage to this event—sea legs not required.

Richmond Maritime FestivalShip boarding is a popular activity at the Richmond Maritime Festival. | Photo: Tourism Richmond 

What is there to see at the festival?

The Britannia Shipyards site—with its wooden boardwalks and village-like complex of historic buildings—will be studded with exhibitor displays and demonstration stands. The best way to take it all in, is to give yourself plenty of time: slow down, wander the site and explore every corner. You’ll find everything from carving demonstrations to boat building exhibits and fascinating historic displays that bring Richmond’s long-held connection to the water to life.

Are there any hands-on activities?

As in previous years, the festival will have plenty of crafts and other activities for you and your family to check out. These include making your own mini sailing flag, creating a name tag using the ‘nautical alphabet’ and even enrolling in pirate school to learn the timber-shivering skills of knot tying, cannonball loading and walking the plank!

It looks like there’s plenty for kids to do—what else can they check out?

The Richmond Maritime Festival is very family-friendly, with lots of activities and performers to keep your children entertained for the duration. Aside from hands-on activities, these junior seafarers should also look out for wandering mermaids and stilt walkers, as well as storytelling and other live performances. The Puppet Stage will be particularly popular, with regularly scheduled shows on both days including Rikki the Rat and Tabby the Cat. Many kids will also love hopping aboard a real boat or two.

Richmond Maritime FestivalYou may even see jellyfish at this particular festival. | Photo: Richmond Maritime Festival

Can you tell me more about these boats?

As in previous years, the 2018 festival is a rich celebration of old-school boat culture. Alongside fascinating boat building and crafting demonstrations, there’s also the chance to view and board some lovely heritage vessels (starting at 11:00am). Accessible through the site’s Seine Net Loft building and its adjoining 600-foot dock, these include the 1903-built sailing vessel Providence; the rare steam-powered tugboat SS Master; and the 1944-built Delta Lifeboat

Will there be any live music or other on-stage performances?

The festival has a full menu of live performers to check out on both days. Aside from it’s kid-focused Puppet Stage, the Octopus Garden Stage sees shows from Dan Propp, Rogue Crows, Red Drop, and more. On the Main Stage, acts include the Wild Moccasin Dancers, Beauty Shop Dolls, and the Boom Booms—check show times here.

The Boom Booms will perform at the Richmond Maritime Festival.The Boom Booms will perform at the Richmond Maritime Festival. | Photo: ​City of Richmond

Will there be anything to eat?

There will be a full fleet of food trucks here, which means you won’t have to rely on your own supply of ship’s biscuits for sustenance. Bring your appetite and you’ll have a choice of everything from crepes and burgers to mini-donuts and locally made German sausages. And be sure to look out for Mr. Bannock, the region’s first Indigenous food truck. Steveston also has a full menu of excellent restaurants and cafes to explore.

How do I get there?

If you’re planning to drive to the festival, parking at Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site (by donation) is limited. Instead, park in Steveston Village and take a scenic stroll along the Fraser River directly to the site.

Alternatively, take a bike ride to the site or plan your journey via transit: from the Canada Line’s Richmond-Brighouse Station, take the 401, 402, 407 or 410 to Steveston, and then walk for a few minutes along the riverfront trail to the site.

Richmond Maritime Festival Event Details

Dates: July 28 & 29, 2018
Time: 10:00am - 6:00pm both days; ship boarding starts at 11:00am
Location: Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site
Admission: FREE

Photo: Richmond Maritime FestivalCrowds enjoying the party atmosphere at the festival. | Photo: Richmond Maritime Festival