An armada of landlubbers and salty seadogs 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 galleon of your hard-earned cash to have a good time here: entry to the weekend-long event is free.

Running from 11:00am to 6:00pm on July 27 & 28, 2019, the popular festival is now in its 16th year. Expanding since those early days like a well-fed ship’s cat, several features have been added over the years—including a unique opportunity this time around to take to the water on two special evening excursion options.

If you’re a first-timer at the festival or you haven’t been for a while, read on for our insider’s guide to planning the perfect voyage to this ship-shape event—sea legs not required.

Richmond Maritime Festival
Ship 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 live music to boatbuilding exhibits and fascinating historic displays that bring to life Richmond’s long-held connection to the water.

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. In the past these have included making your own mini sailing flag, creating a name tag using the ‘nautical alphabet,’ and even enrolling in pirate school.

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

The 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 storytellers and puppet shows. And many kids will also love hopping aboard a real boat or two!

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

Tell me more about the boats?

As in previous years, the 2019 festival is a rich celebration of salty maritime culture. Alongside fascinating boatbuilding and crafting demonstrations, there’s also the chance to view and board some lovely heritage vessels—accessible through the site’s Seine Net Loft building and its adjoining 600-foot dock. This year, there are also two amazing replica 18th-century tall ships at the festival: the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain. Experiencing the boats close-up is a very popular part of the festival, so you’re advised to make this a priority when you arrive at the event.

What about the boat excursions?

You can also take your festival experience one step further this year by setting sail for an amazing evening on the water. There are two options available: a thrilling tall ships gun battle and a delightful sunset dinner cruise.

The tall ships battle takes place between the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain and passengers on either vessel will share in the action as these beautiful boats duke it out—cannons included. This unique three-hour experience is offered from 6:00pm (note that boarding starts at 5:30pm) on two evenings: Friday July 26 and Sunday July 28. Tickets are $80 each and must be booked in advance here.

The three-hour Fraser River dinner cruise is available on Saturday July 27, also from 6:00pm (boarding starts at 5:30pm). Aboard the replica paddlewheeler M.V. Native, guests will tuck into a delicious buffet dinner while watching the sunset over the glittering water. Tickets are $130 each and can be booked here.

Richmond Maritime Festival
This year's event includes a tall ship battle. | Photo: Richmond Maritime Festival

Can I watch the tall ships battle from the shore?

Yes! The aquatic gun battle will take place just off the shoreline of Steveston’s Garry Point Park on the evening of July 26 and July 28. Anyone can watch the battle for free from this popular waterfront park, where there will also be more than 20 food trucks adding to the festive atmosphere on both evenings.

Will there be any live music or performances?

The festival has a full menu of live performers to check out on both days. Aside from a plethora of kid-focused shows, the Imperial Landing Stage will welcome acts including Jessica McMann, Lola Parks, Flint & Feather, and Bottom Shelf Bourbon Trio.

On the larger Main Stage, scheduled acts include the The Seabillys, Beauty Shop Dolls, Wooden Horsemen, Tetsu Taiko, and more. Check out the full schedule here.

Richmond Maritime Festival
Vancouver band Wooden Horsemen will be performing on the Main Stage. | Photo: ​Wooden Horsemen

Will there be anything to eat?

There will be a full fleet of food trucks serving the festival on both days, which means you won’t have to rely on your own supply of ship’s biscuits for sustenance. In addition, Steveston 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 the scenic stroll alongside the Fraser River directly to the site.

Alternatively, you can bike ride your bike to the site (you can store your bike at the Wheel Watch station near the public parking lot on Westwater Drive), or plan your journey to the village on public transit via the TransLink website.

Richmond Maritime Festival Event Details

Dates: July 27 & 28, 2019
Time: 11:00am - 6:00pm both days
Location: Britannia Shipyards National Historic Site
Admission: FREE
*Note that the Tall Ship Battles take place on July 26 & 28, starting at 6:00pm at Garry Point Park.*

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