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Cork Harbour Festival to Celebrate Maritime Culture, Heritage and Family Fun Activities This June

10th May 2023
Finbarr Hickey (9), Tom Phelan (9) and Aisling O'Leary (8) at the launch of this year’s Cork Harbour Festival, which runs from 2-11 June with over 80 events in a dozen different locations
Finbarr Hickey (9), Tom Phelan (9) and Aisling O'Leary (8) at the launch of this year’s Cork Harbour Festival, which runs from 2-11 June with over 80 events in a dozen different locations Credit: Clare Keogh

Cork Harbour Festival returns this June with Cork’s largest celebration of maritime culture, heritage and harbour activities taking place across 10 days from Friday 2 to Sunday 11 June 2023.

Highlighting Cork's greatest natural amenities, Cork Harbour and the River Lee, the festival programme includes events around, in and on the harbour and river. The main event Ocean to City - An Rás Mór, Ireland’s most ambitious rowing and paddling race adds plenty of colour and spectacle on Saturday 3 June.

This year’s festival offers over 80 events in a dozen beautiful locations across Cork City and Cork Harbour, including Crosshaven, Fountainstown, Monkstown, Passage West, Cobh, Spike Island, Haulbowline, East Ferry, Rostellan and city locations such as Cork City Marina, Lee Fields, Blackrock, Bishopstown, Marina Park and Nano Nagle Place.

Crews pictured at the Ocean to City Youth Event in Cork in 2021 organised by Meitheal MaraCrews pictured at the Ocean to City Youth Event in Cork in 2021 organised by Meitheal Mara

The festival highlights the incredible choice of attractions and activities there are in Cork Harbour, from maritime and land activities, captivating history, heritage sites and cultural experiences, all situated in a unique natural environment. Adventurers are encouraged to get on the water and up close to the harbour coastline, or take part in a shoreline field trip in Fountainstown. History lovers will be fascinated by the popular Lunchtime Lecture Series covering themes from the Irish of the Caribbean to the Irish Naval Diving Service, with the UCC History Department. Those with a creative flair can take part in a unique drawing workshop on Spike Island with artist Sinéad Barrett.

Throughout the festival there are plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, whether kayaking, SUPing, sailing, powerboating or swimming - and you can join a cycle tour along its shore. Water activities, talks, walks, heritage, music, storytelling, art, family games and even a comedy theatre dinner experience and more, for all ages and activity levels, are presented as part of Cork Harbour Festival this year.

Festival Manager, Joya Kuin said: “We in Meitheal Mara are absolutely thrilled with this year’s Cork Harbour Festival programme. It is a real honour to work with 50 Event Partners in Cork City and County in presenting over 80 events and activities on land and on the water. We can’t wait to welcome thousands of festival visitors to the region this June and encourage everyone to dive right in and enjoy all the maritime fun that is on offer’’.

Lord Mayor of Cork City, Councillor Deirdre Forde, said: “Cork City Council are delighted to be a major sponsor of the 2023 Cork Harbour Festival. This festival showcases the best of what the city has to offer, in particular our fabulous harbour. This festival combines heritage and tradition with promotion of physical activity and a healthy lifestyle. Festivals like this are a key attraction for tourists to any city and I would recommend everyone to engage whether as a participant or a spectator.”

On Saturday 3 June, Ireland's premier rowing and paddling event Ocean to City - An Rás Mór welcomes hundreds of national and international participants as they race 28km through the harbour from Crosshaven to the finish line in Cork City. The colourful fleet of 200 boats will include currachs, skiffs, longboats, kayaks, and paddle boards. Many participants travel from places as far as the Netherlands, the United States, and the United Kingdom to compete. There will be spectator vantage points along the harbour, including at Crosshaven, Cobh, Monkstown and Blackrock, with entertainment and festivities both there and at the finish line in Cork City. Registration to take part in Ocean to City – An Rás Mór closes 19 May for rowers and 26 May for paddlers:

Welcoming the launch of the festival, Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Danny Collins said, ‘Cork County Council is proud to be a key sponsor of the Cork Harbour Festival, a unique celebration of maritime culture and heritage. This year, Cork County Council’s sponsorship via the Economic Development Fund, has enabled the hosting of a delightful programme featuring a variety of events across the county. The programme caters for all interests and ages in locations such as Cobh, Crosshaven, Passage West and Monkstown, while also showcasing the superb offering of our harbour region. With the festival attracting many visitors, both domestic and international, Cork Harbour Festival generates significant gains for our local economy. If you’re interested in maritime history, or just looking to try a new and fun activity, I would heartily encourage you to view the fantastic programme for this festival and join us.’

Festival Highlights:

On the Water:
There are so many water activities happening during Cork Harbour Festival. Enjoy an exciting 2 hour Evening Rib Tour of Cork Harbour with Cork Harbour Boat Hire (2 & 9 June); Explore the Wildlife & Coast of Cork Harbour with Cork Sea Safari (4 & 5 June). Take an introductory lesson in stand-up paddle boarding at the Lee Fields with Atlantic Offshore Adventures (5 & 11 June); Get behind the wheel of a powerboat with SailCork (3, 6, 7 June). Or, kayak under the bridges of Cork and see the city like you never have before with Atlantic Sea Kayaking (2-11 June).

Family Events:
Join Ireland’s Funnest Family at Marina Park with Let’s Play Cork for free family entertainment. This is a playful twist on ‘fittest families’ presenting a mixture of made-up games for all the family to enjoy (11 June). Come to Haulbowline Amenity Park and enjoy super fun games at Play in the Park with Cork Sports Partnership (10 June). The ever popular Cork Ghost Tour is back this year for more hilarious frights and hysterical delights for all the family (7, 8, 9 June). Or enjoy a high-octane comedic dinner theatre experience unlike anything else in Ireland with Hysterical Histories Cork (6-10 June). As part of the pre-festival event, Make a Model Boat Project, kids are invited to make a model boat at home from recycled materials and bring it to The Lough on 19 May. All prize winning boats are exhibited in Cork City Library during the festival.

Environmental Themes:
Visit a floating classroom with marine biologists on board the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group’s research vessel Celtic Mist and learn about whales and dolphins in Ireland (3, 4, 5 June). Explore the rocky and sandy shoreline of Fountainstown and Minane River estuary on a field trip with Cork Environmental Forum and Coastwatch (9 June). Join subowti and Clean Coasts to clean-up the Lee on your kayak, canoe or paddle board (10 June).

Cobh based a-cappella buoy band The Mologoggers will perform both traditional and new sea shanties in the beautiful Goldie Chapel in Nano Nagle Place (3 June). Artist Sinéad Barrett will facilitate a unique drawing workshop on Spike Island, in collaboration with Spike Island Development Company (8 June). Echoes of Isolation, an exhibition of work by Sinéad Barrett will be available to view on Spike Island throughout the festival run. The exhibition explores the emotional and psychological impact of isolation, both in the context of historical punishment and in the modern world.

Cllr. Kieran McCarthy presents two free walking tours which look at Cork’s rich and unique maritime heritage and history: an introduction to Cork City’s historical development (6 June) and the history of the city’s docks (11 June). The popular Lunchtime Lecture series, presented by the UCC History Department returns this year, covering fascinating topics such as Emerald Isles of the Caribbean? (6 June); The National Army’s Amphibious Attack on the Cork Coast, 1922 (7 June) and The Ninth Ship: The Irish Naval Service Diving Section, 1964-2014 (8 June). Cobh Heritage Museum, Spike Island, Titanic Experience Cobh, Passage West Maritime Museum and Elizabeth Fort will also be open for visitors.

In association with the UCC Civic & Community Engagement Department, there will be a free online roundtable discussion with local and international thought leaders exploring the theme of Arts, Culture & Creativity in Docklands Regeneration (7 June). This is the third in Cork CityLabs ‘Future of Port’ Seminar Series. Join Ó Bhéal, either online or in-person, for their June poetry event with poets John O'Donnell & Sarah Hymas (12 June).

See the full festival programme of events at

Published in Maritime Festivals Team

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