Waterford will host The Tall Ships Races from Thursday, June 30-Sunday, July 3. With 44 Tall Ships from 12 countries berthed on the quays of Ireland’s oldest city and a huge range of free entertainment on offer across the city centre, up to 500,000 people are expected to visit Waterford and the Suir Estuary over the four days. To help you enjoy the experience to the full, please plan your visit and follow the advice of Gardaí and stewards working to ensure a safe event.

When is best to visit?

For those wishing to visit the Tall Ships from 12 countries that will be in Waterford from June 30, they will generally be open to visitors from 10am-4pm on Thursday-Saturday, June 30-July 2, though this will vary to some degree from ship to ship, depending on their other commitments in port.

Families and those with reduced mobility will find daytime best for visits as the quaysides are likely to be less congested. You will also have more convenient access to Park & Ride buses bringing you to and from the city centre. Those with young children may also be interested in participating in a world record attempt to assemble more than 6,000 costumed ‘pirates’ at Bolton St, Waterford from 9.30am on Friday, July 1. A further daytime highlight on the same date will be the Crew Parade at 4pm which will see crews from the visiting Tall Ships march from Ballybricken to the People’s Park.

Free live concerts will begin at the stages on the North Quays; William Vincent Wallace Plaza and John Roberts Square from 4pm on Thursday, June 30; 2pm on Friday, July 1 and 12noon on Saturday, July 2. Performances will continue until 10pm on the three nights with fireworks to follow at nightfall (approx 10.30-10.45pm). There will also be street theatre right across the quays each day.

Based on experience at Waterford in 2005 and in other host ports, the opening day on Thursday is likely to be the least crowded and features a full programme of entertainment through the day and evening, access to ships early in the day and fireworks to close. The official launch by An Taoiseach at William Vincent Wallace Plaza at 3.15pm, Thursday also promises to be a highlight with Keith Barry performing a specially-commissioned illusion. This makes Thursday a particularly good day to visit.

If you have non-urgent shopping or other errands to do in the city centre, you may wish to conduct this business prior to June 30 so that you are not delayed by arrangements related to the Tall Ships event.

What is the best way to get to Waterford city centre for the event?

Walking, cycling or public transport are your best options for stress-free travel to and from the event as the city centre will be largely car-free with a cordon in operation. Extra services are being provided by bus and rail operators while priority is being given to buses travelling on routes that connect suburban Waterford with the city centre.

If you do want to travel part of the way by car, there will also be three large, well signposted Park & Ride sites with capacity for 30,000 vehicles. The car-parks will be colour-coded (red for traffic approaching from the Dublin, Kilkenny and Tipperary roads; blue for traffic approaching from Wexford and Wicklow route and green for traffic from the Cork and Waterford catchment area). The red and blue car-parks will be located at Newrath while the green car-park will be at Carrickphierish. Please note the colour of the car-park you park at to ease your return journey.

For just €10/day, you can park safely and take a bus to the city centre. Those using Park & Ride will also receive a free copy of the event visitor guide valued at €5. In addition, the Park & Ride service will be free before 10am, Thursday-Saturday to facilitate those travelling to work in the city centre.

Park & Ride patrons are advised that while there will be dozens of buses serving each site, it will be necessary to walk back to the sites at peak times after the concerts and fireworks display each night as buses are not expected to run between 10.30pm and 12.30am. With this in mind, the routes have been kept as short as possible and will be well signed and lit to ensure public safety. If you feel the walk (ranging from 20-40 minutes depending on site you’re parked at) may not be comfortable for you then it is recommended that you attend the event earlier on one of the three days so that you can return to your car by bus.

Those using the Park & Ride sites are also asked to have their payment of €10 in cash ready on arrival as payment will be at entry points and there are no credit or debit card payment options.

What’s happening on Sunday, July 3?

The focus on Sunday will switch from the city centre to the River Suir as the Tall Ships leave the quays from 7am for a spectacular Parade of Sail down the Suir Estuary that should see them reach the mouth of the harbour between Dunmore East and Hook Head from 9am onwards. The race to Greenock, Scotland will start from approximately five miles off the Co Waterford coast and the ships will initially head west to sail around the south coast of Ireland.

Where will the largest Tall Ships in Waterford be located?

The 12 larger ‘Class A’ tall ships will mostly be berthed on the north-side of the River Suir (across the river from the city centre). Full berthing plans will be posted at information points on both sides of the river to help you find specific visiting Tall Ships and crews. In addition, Waterford ‘welcome ambassadors’ will be visible across the city centre to help with information while a full colour 100-page brochure will be on sale for €5 and distributed free-of-charge to visitors using the Park & Ride sites.

Do I need tickets to attend?

The only ticketed events are the concerts at the main stage on Bolton St which start on Thursday-Saturday from 7.15pm. All available tickets for these events have now been distributed free of charge. If you don’t have a ticket, rest assured there’ll be lots more free entertainment at the other stages located at William Vincent Wallace Plaza; John Roberts Square and the North Quays as well as acts performing on the city streets.

If I’m staying at a hotel in the city centre, where should I park?

Your hotel should provide you with a permit that will allow you drive inside the cordon so that you can park at their guest car-park. If you have not received a permit from the hotel, please contact them directly with your booking and vehicle details.

What if I need to get to the train station in Waterford while the cordon is in place?

It will not be possible to enter Plunkett Station by car after 7.30am daily from Thursday-Saturday, June 30-July 2. Instead, you will be able to use public transport or the Park & Ride sites to access the city centre and train station. If you use Park & Ride when you are going to the train station, then you can avail of the free service before 10am or – if travelling later in the day – it will be possible to recoup your €10 fee by sending a completed application form and proof of corresponding rail travel to Park & Ride Recoupment, Waterford City Council, City Hall, The Mall, Waterford by July 15. The most important advice is to please ensure you leave extra time for your trip to the train station.

Will there be designated parking spaces for people with disabilities?

Yes, motorists in vehicles with current disabled parking permits displayed will be directed on arrival at approaches to the city to parking spaces at Parnell St which is close to the quayside.

What’s the best way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening while I’m on the way to Waterford?

There will be extensive print, broadcast and online media coverage of the race series in Waterford and live programmes from broadcasters including media partners RTÉ ( and local radio station WLR FM ( In addition, and will carry the latest updates. will also have traffic updates while their information service can be called on 1550 22 22 11 from 7am-11pm weekdays and 8am-11pm at weekends. Calls cost 95c/minute while costs from mobiles may cost more.

After two years of preparations involving an estimated 13,760 hours of voluntary effort, Waterford successfully hosted The Tall Ships Races 2011 from June 30-July 3.
It’s estimated that 500,000 people enjoyed the spectacle in the city and along the Suir Estuary. To all those individuals and organisations that made this huge international event possible and to the people of Waterford who embraced the occasion brilliantly – thank you. To those who visited Waterford, we look forward to welcoming you back soon and invite you to visit to keep up-to-date on what’s happening in Ireland’s oldest city. To the sail training family at the heart of The Tall Ships Races, we look forward to your return!

Here we showcase a small selection of Dylan Vaughan’s photography from four magical days.