Our recent visit to the Cutty Sark in Greenwich, South-East London, made for a fun afternoon out, not only for the opportunity to climb aboard the 19th century tea clipper and learn about her impressive history sailing around the world, but also for the many interactive displays offering a hands-on learning experience to involve Little T! A real effort has been put into creating immersive activities through discovery and exploring.
Built in 1869 to carry tea back from China for the Jock Willis Shipping Line and considered the speed machine of her time, Cutty Sark is the world’s last remaining tea clipper. Cutty Sark traded tea and then wool for the British until steamships came to dominate the trading routes. In 1895, Cutty Sark was sold to a Portuguese company (Ferreira and Co.) and continued as a cargo ship before being sold to retired sea captain Wilfred Dowman in 1922 to be used as a training ship operating from Cornwall. After his death in 1938, Cutty Sark was transferred to the Thames Nautical Training College in Greenhithe to become an auxiliary cadet training ship. In 1954, when she was considered no longer useful for training, the ship was moved to permanent dry dock at Greenwich for public viewing.
Cutty Sark underwent several years of restoration and conservation work, before re-opening to the public in 2012 with a new platform that had the ship lifted by over three meters to allow visitors a unique view from underneath her hull.
Perched on the glass and steel viewing area that resembles a large ocean wave and with her bow pointed directly at Canary Wharf across the Thames River, Cutty Sark is a stunning sight to behold!
Cutty Sark offers a dedicated Toddler Time that includes songs, stories and playtime on board. Currently, this is being held on Wednesdays during term-time (except 27 May) from 1400 to 1600. Have a look at the What’s On section on their website for the latest dates and times.
There is also plenty for you to explore with your little one of your own. I asked where they normally hold the Toddler Time activities and was directed first to the Tween Deck and then the Main Deck. If you’re bringing a stroller, it’s easy to move around the ship with elevator access available on each level.
The Tween Deck offers a variety of entertaining activities, exhibits and displays for visitors to learn more about Cutty Sark‘s trading history and life aboard the ship, such as guessing what’s inside these crates using sight, touch and smell.
Then getting to work scrubbing the deck.
There’s a makeshift ship for little ones to steer a big wheel, pull the ropes for the mast, turn the compass and peer through binoculars…
… as well as this game to level out the ship by moving around the “tea chest” weights.
This wooden ship with the shape sorting spaces to fit the cargo through was an excellent activity to keep Little T entertained – he kept coming back to it time and time again while we were on the Tween Deck.
For older kids and adults, there is also a chance to try to beat Captain Woodget’s fastest passage back from Australia with an interactive digital steering game.
After a trip up the elevator, we walked out onto the main deck to admire the work that went into preserving each detail of the ship. We wandered around the deck, looking up at the mast and rigging towering over us.
We had a look at some of the crew’s quarters, which included a display showing the typical contents of a seaman’s chest and some rain gear for the young ones to try on.
And there were a few tools for the little ones to give a helping hand on board!
On our way out, we took the elevator to the lower deck to walk underneath the ship for the unique look at the hull – and the awe-inspiring structure holding up this 963-ton ship!
In the Lower Deck area, there is also a café to enjoy a hot or cold drink, snack or lunch.
Once outside, we took a quick walk over to the river to take in the view along the Thames River of Canary Wharf, HMS Belfast and part of the City…
Visiting Cutty Sark offers a unique look into the history of ships and trading, with well-designed hands-on activities that involve children and provide a fun learning experience. Cutty Sark has been beautifully conserved and the lower deck viewing platform allows for a unique perspective. We spent about an hour and a half altogether, with most of the time spent on the Tween Deck. Little T was in awe exploring a big ship for the first time!
In addition to the on-site Evan Keel Café, there are plenty of restaurants nearby, including a riverside Nando’s at the front of the ship. There is a restroom with a baby changing table just off the Main Deck in front of the elevator and more restrooms and baby changing facilities in the Lower Ground level.
Cutty Sark Clipper Ship, King William Walk, Greenwich, London SE10 9HT
Opening Hours: 1000 – 1700. Last entry 1600.
Closest Tube Station: Cutty Sark [DLR]
Tickets: Adult tickets are £13.50; children 5+ tickets are £7.00, children under 5 years go free. Membership, special discounts and combination tickets with other Greenwich museums available – more details here.
Good to Know:
- Call ahead of time if you’d like to visit for Toddler Time. If they don’t have enough interest, they might cut the session short.
- Time permitting, make the most of your visit and see what else Greenwich has to offer, such as visiting the nearby free National Maritime Museum or purchasing a Combo Ticket to visit both Cutty Sark and the Royal Observatory (and stand on the world-famous Meridian Line) on the same day at a reduced price.