Our Heritage

Part of Bristol Harbourside
Since 1974

The Bristol Packet Boat Trips Co. was established in 1974 to take passengers on trips around Bristol’s Floating Harbour and onto the Avon, with an old narrowboat and a passenger boat built on the Tyne in 1920. Both boats had been abandoned and lay derelict and unwanted for years. After a great deal of repair, and all kinds of restoration the Board of Trade surveyors passed the boats as sea worthy, and granted passenger certificates, we could then legally carry fare paying passengers.

Bristol has had a long history of pleasure boating. Since 1887 the Campbell’s White Funnel Fleet of paddle steamers had taken Bristolians out of the City into the Bristol Channel, and on to Cardiff, Barry, Ilfracombe and Lundy, for days out. The advent of mass car ownership in the early 60s finished that trade, and all those magnificent vessels were broken up.

There had also been a trade for smaller boats carrying passengers around the harbour and up the river to Mrs Beese tea garden and further on to Keynsham tea gardens. That trade also declined and the last boat the Kingstonion stopped in the mid-1960s. Sunday afternoon jazz and beer trips to Keynsham were just a memory.

 

Early Days

When the newly established Bristol Packet offered trips to Beese’s Tea Gardens, and longer 5-hour adventures to Bath and trips through the Avon Gorge to the Bristol Channel, a small but enthusiastic clientele were keen to get onboard.

A one-hour tour around the harbour was also surprisingly popular. Unlike the rural romance of the upper Avon, or the grandeur of the Avon Gorge the Docks offered dereliction and abandoned buildings, but everywhere the history of Bristol was there just beneath the decaying façade. Fragments of medieval buildings, warehouses representing every Bristol industry, the site of a totally destroyed Norman Castle, rusting cranes, bollards, ancient stone quays once used by sail and steam ships from all over the world.

To entertain our passengers, we told the stories of what lay behind the dereliction, of industries, foreign trade, wars, piracy, slavery the discovery of the new world, the engineering of Brunel, it was all there. It only needed a little imagination to bring it all to life.

Fortunately many Bristolians are passionate about their own history. On summer days when the wind and rain were not sweeping up the Avon valley, we were carrying passengers on scheduled Harbour Tours and River Trips. In the evenings the boats were hired for private parties, River trips with a jazz band and a bar, or a tour of dockside pubs, the last remaining of the many pubs that had once crowded the waterfront of this one time seaport.

At the end of the first season the boats were still floating, the bank manager was happy and we could haul the boats out of the water to continue the restoration.

 

Our passion for Bristol’s maritime heritage has kept our family business going for two generations of sailors.

Katie
Katie
7 May 2024
Great for special occasions, lots of fun! We had such a fabulous time on the Bagheera boat! There were 21 of us for a Hen Party, and it was a blast. The bar was well stocked, the crew were friendly, there was a microphone for us to use for games, and we could play our own music. Perfect! Booking was really simple, and communication great. Thank you!
Lynds
Lynds
3 February 2024
Do it! The boat trip was fabulous, thank you to Jude. There were only five of us for my sister’s hen do. We got to play our own music, chill have fun and not worry about anyone or anything else
S S
S S
18 December 2023
Excellent views of the city I went on one of these boats at the end of a self-guided tour of the harbourside. It was absolutely lovely. I'm not great with mobility, but I was helped onto and off the boat. What a good way to see the city!
David P
David P
8 September 2023
Must do trip when in Bristol We went on the Avon Gorge tour today 8th September. With Will as our guide,Steve the driver and Joe doing everything else. They were all fabulous and the trip well worth the money. Will was balanced giving out really good information through the trip with humour. The views were fabulous and we were very lucky with weather. Would recommend the trip
Esther W
Esther W
28 August 2023
fun fact after fun fact! lovely lil float around the dock learning a lot about the city! went on the 45 min boat ride and it was indeed fun fact after fun fact, cheers jude!
anthony w
anthony w
14 August 2023
Well worth going to the sites from the river and for Neville's commentry The weather was poor but it did not spoil the pleasure of this trip from SS Great Britain to the Bristol Channel. We were treated to an interesting and entertaining commentary from Neville. His knowledge of facts and noteworthy events was superb. But he did not lecture us, it was a delightful 3hrs, thank you Neville.
EmmaSuze1
EmmaSuze1
26 June 2023
Cracking Cream Tea We met friends for the 2 hour cream tea cruise. The scones were delicious and quite possibly the best I have ever had. The lemon drizzle cake and chocolate brownie were also full of flavour. It was a great sightseeing tour and a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon, seeing parts of Bristol we may never have see on foot. Our guide was very knowledgeable and engaged well with the passengers. She was interesting, friendly and funny and pointed out many of the moored boats and their history along the way. This trip made our weekend in Bristol even more memorable.
WalesSam
WalesSam
4 June 2023
Highly recommend… Wanted to do a boat trip around the harbour with my 8 year old Son and saw the good reviews. So glad we chose this trip- 45 mins around the harbour. Only £15 for both of us. Very interesting and enjoyable. Lovely comfortable boat, friendly crew. Would highly recommend and would do this again.
Karen P
Karen P
3 June 2023
Fabulous Evening I arranged a 3 hour boat trip for 30+ work colleagues. The crew were excellent: friendly, helpful and fun. We had 2 pub stops to the Grain Barge and Kings Road where we did not feel rushed in any way to get back to the boat. There was plenty of room onboard and plenty of choice at the bar. Everyone had a fantastic time and I’m sure we will have other trips in future. Thank you Bristol Packet Tours!
tracy s
tracy s
1 June 2023
A perfect afternoon on the water. This 45 minute boat trip is a perfect way to explore Bristol's beautiful and historic harbour. Our hosts George and Archie were fantastic, engaging and knowledgeable. They delivered a perfect tour with great facts and were able to answer our questions and provide a lovely glass of wine. Will definitely be booking the longer pub lunch trip next time we are in Bristol.

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