Over the past five decades, Bristol Packet Boat Trips have provided boat trips to the people of Bristol, and beyond, and are proud to have played a roll in some of the most important moments in people’s lives.  From school trips to platinum wedding anniversaries and bustling club nights, they’ve hosted it all on their boats.

A Bristol Packet Boat Trips boat sailing through Conham River Park in East Bristol - credit Bristol Packet Boat Trips
Image - Bristol Packet tour along the River Avon

Where it all started

Bristol Packet Boat Trips was established in 1974 by Nick Gray with Redshank; a 72-foot, town class narrow boat that had previously worked on The Grand Union Canal. Then in 1977, Bristol Packet became a fleet when Redshank was joined by the Tower Belle, a historic passenger boat from the river Thames. Tower Belle had previously laid derelict for years but after a great deal of restoration the Board of Trade Surveyors passed the boat as seaworthy, and she could legally carry fare paying passengers.

The newly established Bristol Packet offered trips to Beese’s Tea Gardens, five-hour adventures to Bath and trips through the Avon Gorge to the Bristol Channel. These unique offerings, dormant since the 1960s, attracted a small yet enthusiastic clientele who were eager to board.

To great surprise the one-hour tour of the harbour also proved extremely popular. Unlike the rural romance of the upper Avon, or the grandeur of the Avon Gorge, the Docks offered dereliction and abandoned buildings. However, beneath the decaying façade Bristol boasted a fascinating history, rich in maritime heritage. It only took a little imagination and an entertaining commentary to bring it all to life!

A Bristol Packet Boat Trips boat in Avon Gorge - credit Bristol Packet Boat Trips
Image - Bristol Packet's Avon Gorge cruise

The expansion of the fleet

In 1980, Bristol Packet was acquired by the Thomson and Dunstan families and under their ownership the fleet has expanded to include five boats; The Flower of Bristol was welcomed in 1995, Bagheera in 2002, and Hydrogenesis (the UK's first hydrogen-powered passenger vessel) in 2021.

Then in 2017, Bristol Packet launched its latest endeavour: a floating cafe-bar created from Redshank's old Butty Boat, Greenshank. Once utilised for storage, Greenshank has been refurbished into a stylish floating cafe with an outdoor sun terrace made from an adjoining barge. It now resides outside Bristol Packet HQ, serving revellers throughout the spring and summer months.

Today, Bristol Packet Boat Trips continues to be operated by the Dunstan and Thomson families, with multiple generations from each family frequently present aboard the boats and along the quayside. Their iconic red and white fleet can be spotted on the Avon hosting trips year-round.

Whether it’s hordes of waving children, old school friends catching up over a cream tea or passengers having a boogie on the deck, Bristol Packet are always delighted to host customers onboard!

A view on board a Bristol Packet Boat Trips boat sailing through Conham River Park in East Bristol - credit Bristol Packet Boat Trips

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