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The Classic and Wooden Boat Festival (CWBF) is set to return to the museum on the first weekend in May 2020. With over 100 unique craft from around Australia afloat and ashore in the Darling Harbour precinct, this unmissable event is special for both boat lovers and curious enthusiasts. 

With over 33,000 visitors across the weekend in 2018, we are expecting even more people to descend on the heritage precinct in 2020. 

Friday 1 May to Sunday 3 May 2020 will mark a celebration of the beauty, elegance and diversity among classic and wooden boats. On display will be the glorious varnished and gloss-white SY Ena – a living example of a handful of steam yachts built in the Edwardian era – along with its cousin Lady Hopetoun and the magnificent sailing schooner Boomerang.

Classic Wooden Boat Festival 2016. Masted wooden boats  pictured moored together with the Pyrmont Bridge in the background.  Andrew Frolows (ANMM)
Classic Wooden Boat Festival 2016. Masted wooden boats pictured moored together with the Pyrmont Bridge in the background. Andrew Frolows (ANMM)

Another outstanding feature set to return in 2020 are the large fleet of Halvorsen cruisers – the only one of its kind in the country. The Halvorsen name is recognised both nationally and internationally for the elegant pleasure cruisers that the family designed and built in their Sydney boatyards. Motor cruises and yachts of various sizes and periods from the historic firm will be proudly on display. 

We are currently taking registrations for the festival, with about 150 craft to be displayed both in the water or onshore. There will be classic yachts with their elegant overhangs, graceful looks and colourful history; tall ships with tall stories of life at sea; needle-like racing sculls; stylish power craft from our best builders and navy workboats from all around Australia.

Surrounding the boats is a hive of activity. The favourite and frantic ‘Quick n Dirty’ boat building competition will be held, where practical design seems to give way to creativity and fun. Practical demonstrations and workshops are held in the Shipwright’s Village, as well as a symposium of presentations and curated talks by preeminent sailors, boat builders and owners. With food, market and trade stalls, kids and family activities and other entertainment – CWBF is a unique celebration combining action, sound, colour and much more!

CWBF is set in the waterside setting of the museum with our own collection of heritage craft and maritime objects on display. As museum director Kevin Sumption said previously:

The festival is one of the key events in the museum’s calendar, where we celebrate the beauty and diversity of Australia’s heritage vessels and the amazing people who keep them going … The museum is extremely proud to have managed the Classic & Wooden Boat Festival for the last 20 years and we are delighted that we have the strong support from Australia’s boating community in planning and delivering these outstanding festivals.

Be sure to keep Friday 1 to Sunday 3 May 2020 free so you can come to Darling Harbour and immerse yourself in Australia’s most extraordinary classic craft. If you are interested in registering your vessel or model boat for the 2020 CWBF, or are interested in performing at the event, make sure you register your details. 


David Payne

David Payne is Curator of Historic Vessels at Australian National Maritime Museum, and through the Australian Register of Historic Vessels he works closely with heritage boat owners throughout Australia researching and advising on their craft and their social connections. David has also been a yacht designer and documented many of the museum’s vessels with extensive drawings. He has had a wide sailing experience, from Lasers and 12-foot skiffs through to long ocean passages. Since 2012 he has been able to work closely with Aboriginal communities on a number of Indigenous canoe building and watercraft projects.

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