Making a splash on Hobart's waterfront

There is no doubt that the 2023 Australian Wooden Boat Festival (AWBF) went off with a bang, or cannon launch. Held across Hobart’s waterfront, boats, talks, exhibitions, films, music, demonstrations and family friendly activities were abound. There was something for everyone.


21 February 2023

Starting in 1994 from humble beginnings, this biennial festival of wooden boats and maritime culture, and has quickly become the largest celebration in the southern hemisphere. The Festival was born from the idea of a group of boating enthusiasts and friends and was made possible through the assistance from the Tasmanian State Government and a host of local sponsors.

Originally held in November, the public response has always been outstanding, attracting unprecedented crowds, even during Tasmania’s unpredictable weather. After the 1998 event, a decision was made to move the Festival to the February long weekend, creating a three day event to compliment the long running Royal Hobart Regatta. The response to this change was immediate and positive, with more boats registering for future Festivals.

Over time, the Australian Wooden Boat Festival has evolved into the four-day festival we know today, filling Hobart’s waterfront with a mix of music, demonstrations, food and entertainment.

AWBF Facts

Boats afloat

At the heart of the Australian Wooden Boat Festival is the celebration of wonderful wooden vessels and their custodians across Sullivans Cove. In 2023, the festival expanded their fleet of vessels with a ‘boats ashore’ exhibition, with Australian dinghy designs and beautiful model boats showcased at City hall and across the festival site.

As well as a chance to view these magnificent vessels, visitors to the Festival could find everything they needed for their own boat in the Maritime Market. Over 60 stallholders were present over the four-days, selling everything from new wet-weather jackets, bronze portholes, and even new boat engines.

AWBF Hobart Waterfront

One of the biggest drawcard of the festival, for locals and visitors alike, were the 11 local and interstate Tall Ships berthed across Sullivans Cove. Sailings were offered on these magnificent vessels, in addition to open boat tours. The 11 Tall Ships also took part of the Parade of Sail, where the Tall Ships were flanked by over 200 wooden vessels. Starting at Sandy Bay Long Beach, the vessels sailed up the River Derwent and officially launched the Festival as they arrived into Sullivans Cove.

AWBF Parade of Sail

While some of the vessels showcased during the event have strong ties to Tasmania’s colonel history, Tasmania’s Indigenous maritime history was also celebrated at this year’s Festival. As part of the Festival opening, the Tasmanian ningher watercraft – A Living Art Form - project was launched. A collaboration between Festival organisers and Sheldon Thomas, palawa man and Indigenous canoe builder. The project celebrates Tasmania’s Indigenous maritime traditions, with the maritime environment a crucial component of Country for many Indigenous Tasmanians. A respected artist and canoe builder, Sheldon teamed up with the Festival and Chris Ganabarr, yolnga man and Aboriginal youth worker, to build the largest canoe to feature along Hobart’s waterfront.

AWBF Vessels

Supporting Local Festivals

TasPorts has proudly supported the Australian Wooden Boat Festival since the Festival’s inception in 1994, providing in-kind use of Sullivans Cove at the Port of Hobart, as well as providing critical support and infrastructure to ensure the safe and smooth running of this iconic Festival.

As well as supporting the opening of Sullivans Cove to pedestrians and the Maritime Market, we also work with Festival organisers to ensure everyone has somewhere to berth during the Festival. A main docking plan within Kings Pier Marina, Franklin Wharf, Constitution Dock and Elizabeth Street Pier, is planned months in advance with the Festivals Boat Manager, Dock Master, Watercraft Operations and Dock Crew. Our operations team on standby throughout the Festival to open Victoria Dock and Constitution Dock at regular intervals for berthing of vessels.

AWFB Stu Gibson

Tour with TasPorts

During the 2023 Australian Wooden Boat Festival, we held four sold-out tours of the Port of Hobart. Attracting over 350 people over one day, each tour provided an insight into the history of the Port, including Sullivans Cove and the Macquarie Wharves, providing information on some of the key wooden boats visiting for the festival.

Each tour travelled north under the Tasman Bridge to discuss the Lake Illawarra incident and how our pilots work, then up to see Selfs Point before swinging into Shag Bay to discuss the HMS Nelson, the largest wooden ship built in England at its time.

AWBF Tour with Tas Ports

The next Australian Wooden Boat Festival will be held in February 2025.