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Published: August 1, 2023

Experience Unforgettable Summer Holiday Activities at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

The summer holidays are finally here and with them a whole range of unforgettable adventures are waiting for you at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.  Just a hop, skip, or jump (or car, bus, or boat) away from home you’ll find an incredible world of history and excitement just waiting for you to discover in August.  

From cooking with the Commando chef to learning how to fire a bow and arrow Tudor-style, we’ve got incredible experiences for kids (or kids at heart) during the holidays.  With flexible return tickets you and the family will be spoilt for activities this summer holiday – so here’s a handy guide to just some of things you can do:  

One of the 10 rare Armada Maps on display at The National Museum of the Royal Navy Portsmouth Historic Dockyard © Harvey Mills 2023


Best for: Map lovers and Spanish Armada aficionados 

Do you think you know the story of the Spanish Armada inside and out? Our brand new, limited-run exhibition may have a few surprises for you!

Discover the genuine story of how the Spanish Armada was defeated 1588 by the much smaller English fleet and how a string of inter-connected events changed the course of history forever. The Armada Maps National Treasures exhibition is home to genuine maps dating back to Tudor times, which chart the events of the battle step by step.  This is the first time all 10 maps have been displayed, with a specially created exhibition to bring the story to life.  

If you want to see the Armada Maps National Treasures exhibition in person you only have until the 8th of August to do so. Can’t make it in time? There’s also a fully interactive website for you to explore so everyone can enjoy Armada Maps National Treasures.  


Best for: Mary Rose stans and cinema fans

Get up close and personal with the story of how world-famous Mary Rose was recovered, with the immersive 4D Experience, Dive the Mary Rose 4D.

Descend into the Solent and join the divers as they discover the first timbers of this infamous Tudor warship, starting her journey from the seabed to being displayed for the world to see. 3D footage brings you right down into the depths of the Solent, with real wind and bubbles enhancing this immersive experience, bringing it into the fourth dimension. Be transported back to this major time in maritime archaeology. 

Entry to this experience is included with a valid Mary Rose ticket. 

Audience enjoys Dive the Mary Rose 4D Experience © Harvey Mills 2023
The Waterbus and Harbour Tour at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard


Best for: Over-water explorers

If you’ve taken a look at our ‘plan your visit page’ you’ll see we have not one but two fantastic museums over the water in Gosport. One of the perks of a ticket to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is that they last a year, meaning you can break up your visits or return to your favourite attractions again and again.   This is where our water bus really shines, as you can travel to both the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower with a short boat trip over the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour. The water bus service is free if you want to visit our Gosport sites, so what better reason is there to make the journey and discover a new world of submarines and Royal Navy armaments. 

If you’re looking for a longer boating experience, then there’s also our Harbour Tour (also sailing from near the entrance of Portsmouth Historic Dockyard). This 50-minute trip around the harbour includes a live tour by the captain, so no two trips are the same. Access to the Harbour Tour, and both the Gosport locations, are included in an Ultimate Explorer Ticket 


Best for: Secret story lovers and naval tech newbies

Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower lives up to its name! Built inside a former naval armaments’ depot in Gosport, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower charts the personal stories of the workers who carried out incredibly dangerous jobs in turbulent times.  

Our latest exhibition tells the story of the Night Hunters, the Royal Navy’s Coastal Forces, who operated in high-speed wooden craft during the Second World War, carrying out deadly missions. Get up close to two of the boats and learn all about the high-risk, high-reward adventures of this relatively unknown division. 

For smaller adventurers we have our family friendly cheese trail taking place over the summer holidays. Help our museum staff rescue their cheese from the naughty museum mice, as you search our exhibitions. The trail is a free activity with a valid ticket to the museum and all mice-hunters get a sticker for taking part.  

Inside the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower museum at Gosport
Two costume interpreters stand outside the Mary Rose Museum at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

5. MIND YOUR TUDOR MANNERS (10/8/2023 TO 12/08/2023) 

Best for: Elegant Tudor Princes and Princesses (or those who might need a lesson in manners) 

The Lords and Ladies of the Tudor Court would like to extend a special invitation to those visiting the Mary Rose Museum over the summer holidays. You are cordially invited to join them to hear their tales and learn all about manners and etiquette during Tudor times. With elaborate costumes, live performances and demonstrations of music and dancing, you’ll get to feel like real Tudor royalty. If you are lucky, you may be able to dress up yourself. The first rule of Tudor manners? It’s rude to turn down an invitation! 

After taking part in the festivities, you can learn all about the Mary Rose crew in the museum. The crew came from all walks of life, from ordinary sailors and skilled archers to rich and powerful gentlemen such as the surgeon or the Mary Rose’s captain. Regardless of station, manners were important, even if some people had to follow the rules more than others.  

This event is free with a valid ticket. 

6. Get creative with food on a real Second world war submarine 

Best for:Wannabee submariners looking for a pot mess playdate

Ever wanted to know what life is like on early submarines? The Royal Navy Submarine Museum is home to everything submarine-related, including HMS Alliance, a genuine submarine that took part in the Second World War. Easily accessible by waterbus, you can see HMS Alliance, HMS Holland 1 (the first ever submarine built by the Royal Navy), and much more.  

New for the summer holidays, you and your family can also enjoy our brand-new pot mess play trail. Find Sniff the Polar Bear’s paw prints and learn about the weird and wonderful food submariners would use while out at sea. Access to the trail is included with a ticket to the museum.  


A child explores HMS Alliance at the Royal Submarine Museum
Commando Chef giving a live cooking demonstration


Best for: Health-conscious chefs and foodies 

If you’re still hungry after learning about a submariner’s pot mess, then join the ‘Commando Chef’ Royal Marine, Mike Beaton, for some foodie inspiration.

With operational tours of duty in places such as Northern Ireland and Sierra Leone, an MBE, and experience as a former GB athlete, Mike is a Royal Marine chef travelling the country to inspire enthuse and educate with food. Mike will be showcasing delicious, healthy and easy meals with tasters available.

Demonstrations will be taking place inside Action Stations. This event is free with a valid ticket and takes place from 11am to 12pm and 1:30pm to 2:30pm. 


Best for: Tudor history buffs and historical weaponry handlers

Ever wanted to know what it was like to be a Tudor archer? Back before firearms were widespread (although there were some early guns aboard the Mary Rose) English archers were considered among the best fighters in the world.  

Meet authentically costumed archers only at the Mary Rose Museum and learn about the life of a Tudor archer. But it’s not all chit-chat in Henry VIII’s army, live archery displays are needed for practice, which you can watch throughout the day. For the archers-in-training there is also our ‘have a go archery’ children’s activity. If you’ve already studied your Tudor manners then you’ll know it’s rude to refuse an invitation, and that is doubly so if the invitee has a bow and arrow! 

 This event takes place between 11:30am and 3:30pm. Meet and greets will be held throughout the day with live arrow shooting at 12:30pm and 3pm. A valid ticket to the museum is required. 

Purbrook archers firing flaming arrows


Our Ultimate Explorer ticket is the best value, offering 12-month entry to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, which includes the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, alongside the exciting Harbour Tour. Visit throughout the year and return for brand new events, experiences and exhibitions.