From heading out on the water on a speedboat and checking out the world’s most luxurious boats, to enjoying exciting demonstrations and soaking up the festival atmosphere, find out why you should visit the Southampton Boat Show.
The Southampton International Boat Show has sailed into Mayflower Park on the south coast of England for its 51st year. I was invited to check it out over the opening weekend, experiencing all that the show has to offer.
Before visiting, I had no idea what a day at the boat show would be like. Was this an event purely for people wanting to purchase their next super yachts or pick up some technical equipment for their boats? Would it be a billionaire’s playground? Would everyone be using lingo I didn’t understand? And ultimately, could a non-boat owner like me enjoy it?!
YES! I had a great day out. It was a bonus that a heatwave hit and the sun was shining all day long, making it lovely to be by the water all day. Forget Southampton, with sleek sun-drenched yachts bobbing around on vivid blue water, I felt like I’d been transported to the Med.
So whether you’ve bought your ticket already, or are thinking of visiting the Southampton Boat Show for the first time, I hope you find my guide to visiting the show useful.
What is the Southampton International Boat Show?
In a nutshell, it showcases the latest in boating and water sports, with over 300 beautiful boats, 600 brands and lots of activities to try. It’s one of the top 10 boat shows in the world, attracting more than 10,000 people over a few weeks. With food trucks, cocktail bars and live music, it’s just as much a festival as a show dedicated to water activities.
Southampton Boat Show – Dates
This year the boat show runs from 13th – 22nd September 2024.
Southampton Boat Show – Tickets
You can check latest prices and book tickets here. It’s worth noting that week day tickets are cheaper than weekend tickets, and if you want to take your kids, under 15s go free! Oh and this is the first year dogs have been permitted into the show, so no need to leave your pooch at home.
11 reasons to visit the Southampton International Boat Show
Try paddle boarding, kayaking or sailing
The boat show is a great place to try out some new water activities. Rockley, a company offering water sports training courses, family adventure holidays and more, have an area at the show where you can don a wetsuit and lifejacket, and hop on board a kayak, paddle board, dinghy or bellboat. It’s free to have a go, and open to anyone over 8 years old.
While I was there I watched lot of people having a go at paddle boarding and kayaking, learning to balance and enjoying getting out on the water in the sunshine.
Watch amazing demonstrations
I visited on the first weekend of the Southampton International Boat Show and was lucky enough to catch an incredible flyboarding demonstration. On my travels I’ve seen a few people having a go at flyboarding, but I’ve never seen someone with skills like this. It was absolutely mesmerising to watch him reach such incredible heights, propelled skywards by a stream of air and water.
He performed in time to a soundtrack too, creating loops in the air, and diving into the water only to reappear and fly towards the sky moments later. The show has a few demonstrations of different activities happenings over the course of the week, so be sure to check what’s on when you’re visiting.
Check out some of the most expensive and luxurious boats on the market
If, like me, you’re fascinated by the enormous luxury yachts, as soon as you arrive at the boat show you’ll probably ask ‘what’s the biggest / most expensive boat here?’
At this year’s show it’s the Sunseeker 86 Yacht. It costs a cool £5.2m for the standard version, but you could probably add a few more million to the final cost once you’ve chosen all the fixtures, fittings and luxurious add-ons. There’s the balcony with sliding doors that’ll set you back £100,000, and plenty more swanky extras from cocktail bars, to giant sunbathing beds.
Going on board a few of the super yachts was fascinating, especially to hear about the variety of features and design trends. At this year’s show, you can also see Sunseeker’s brand new sporty number, the Predator 60 EVO, which can reach speeds of up to 34 knots. Just imagine cruising the Med on that!
Coif champagne and enjoy some delicious food
With such luxurious boats on display, it’s time to truly live the high life! Yes, that means sipping champagne on the terrace overlooking the water.
There’s a variety of places to eat and drink at the show, and an eclectic mix of cuisines on offer including fish and chips, slow cooked meats, Chinese, Thai, Japanese plus a rum bar, gin van, and a champagne and seafood bar. Oh and don’t forget the ice cream vans. There are a few dotted around the site, and if the weather is as lovely as it was during my visit, a 99 flake is an absolute necessity!
Enjoy the festival atmosphere
As you’ve seen, there’s a lot more to the Southampton International Boat Show than people talking about motors, knots and buoyancy aids. I really enjoyed the festival vibes at the show. There was live music throughout the day on the Festival Green Stage, where most people sat with food and drink, soaking up the fun atmosphere.
Pick up some bargains
There are plenty of top brands exhibiting at the show, and it’s a great place to pick up some bargains. I adore paddle boarding, and was seriously tempted by the Two Bare Feet paddle boards, which were reduced from £750 to a special ‘show price’ of just £300. Wow!
There are also plenty of great clothing brands offering special discounts, including Joules, Sperry, Decathlon and Lazy Jacks. I was particularly taken by the colourful travel towels made by Foutala and Hanbury’s wooden-faced environmentally friendly watches.
Get out on a boat
While you might enjoy looking at the beautiful vessels at the show, no doubt you’d love to get out on the water too. I’d recommend visiting the Try-A-Boat stand as soon as you arrive (it’s right by the entrance) and book in for a sailing experience. By the end of the day you could be sailing on a 40ft sailing yacht, a speedy Rib boat or hopping onboard a sailing dinghy.
The best part? It’s all included in the price of your ticket. I’d recommend going on a RIB for a bit of an adrenaline fix. They reach some serious speeds and feeling the wind rushing through your hair as you look back at all the boats moored up is a wonderful feeling!
Listen to some inspirational stories
There are several inspirational talks by legends of the British marine world taking place on the Foredeck Stage throughout the show, as well as a few informal chats at spots around the site. I’d recommend checking out the schedule here ahead of your visit.
Highlights include Max Liberson who will be chatting about his trans-Atlantic exploits on the 45ft concrete yacht he bought for £1500, Nicola Henderson talking about her life as the youngest female clipper skipper and Tony Curphy, a retired lorry driver who is the oldest sailor to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation. Many of the stories are a reminder that you don’t need to have grown up sailing or splurge your life savings in order to follow your dreams of sailing.
Step foot on board a tall ship
When you spot Shtandart you’ll wonder if Captain Jack Sparrow is waiting on board! The impressive tall ship is a full size replica of the ‘man’o’war’ style naval ship, which once served as the flagship of the first Russian Baltic fleet. The original was launched in 1703, but this one is a mere 20 years old.
It’s incredible to step onboard, and take in the minute details, from the huge rigging and dark wooden cabins to the enormous steering wheel and masts. Kids (and big kids) will absolutely adore the experience!
Try diving for the first time
If you’re considering working towards your PADI but have never experienced diving before, this is a great place to give it a go. Just head to the Andark Try-A-Dive stand and book in for a 20-minute session.
Once you’re kitted out in a wetsuit, with a snorkel and breathing apparatus, the instructors will give you 1-2-1 tuition to make sure you’re comfortable under the water. The pool is pretty big too (6m x 13m) and features underwater screens showing sea creatures swimming around, so it’s a great flavour of what to expect if you continue your training.
Enjoy the photo opportunities
One of my favourite things about the show was enjoying the sunshine, being by the water and the festival atmosphere. There were lots of beautiful scenes to take photos of, including yachts with their sails up gliding through the calm waters, newbie paddle boarders discovering their core strength and of course the epic flyboarding pro.
Enjoy wandering around, taking in the sights and sounds while breathing in the refreshing sea air.
Thanks for reading my blog all about visiting the Southampton International Boat Show. I hope it inspires you to take a trip to the south coast for the show this year or when it returns in September 2020. You can find out more information about the show, and book tickets here.
This post has been produced in collaboration with the Southampton International Boat Show, but as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own!
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