How to treat yourself to the best maritime adventure in Belfast
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Belfast is full of cultural and heritage experiences and opportunities for all visitors. No matter what your interest, knowledge, experience, age or background there is something for everyone. However, opportunity only truly knocks when you're are prepared to open the door and get exploring.
A golden rule when visiting Belfast is to NOT stick rigidly to the beaten track. It’s easy to get a few quick and easy wins by ticking those ‘I was here’ tourist boxes. But, if you’re busy fighting the crowds with everyone else, you’ll miss what Belfast truly is - a one-of-a-kind location, rich with history everywhere you turn. Exploring a city for the first time can feel overwhelming, but nothing beats that sense of discovery and adventure!
The biggest challenge is going to be fitting in as much as you can on limited time. Holidays can’t last forever, but Belfast’s Maritime Mile is the best place to see Belfast’s nautical history in one location. This mile-long stretch of historic dockland charm lies at the very heart of Belfast’s rich maritime heritage. It's home to many cultural gems, all overwhelmingly worthy of your time and attention.
RMS Titanic is the Maritime Mile’s best-known resident, with thousands of visitors flocking to visit her birthplace. But, this thriving part of the city is home to so much more: centuries of iconic shipbuilding, incredible seafaring stories, fascinating folklore, and amazing history. Belfast, as we know it today, all started here, and it's ready for you to discover.
To help you get started we’ve pulled together a list of all the marvels of the Maritime Mile. Get ready to plan the perfect trip, complete with what you need to see, where to stay and where to eat and drink:
What to see
Beginning at HMS Caroline, Belfast’s best kept secret! She is a one-of-a-kind sole survivor from the Battle of Jutland - the greatest sea battle of all time. HMS Caroline is a huge part of Belfast’s maritime heritage, having been here for 100 years. Now, fully restored to its original 1914 condition as a floating museum, she combines striking antiquity and authenticity with compelling interpretation.
Located right next to HMS Caroline, Titanic Distillers blends the legend of Titanic with Belfast’s whiskey heritage. This is where you’ll experience the workings of a distillery and find out how this tradition has returned to Belfast’s first working distillery in 90 years. Whilst here, you also can enjoy a tour of Thompson Dry Dock where Titanic once stood - a great addition to your HMS Caroline tour.
We’ve already talked about the iconic Titanic Belfast but did you know that it’s heralded as the world's largest Titanic visitor experience? It’s also built on the spot where the luxury liner was designed, built and launched. What’s more you’ll also find the SS Nomadic close by. Another ‘hidden gem’, SS Nomadic was built in Belfast as Titanic’s ‘tender ship', It’s also the largest remaining Titanic artefact and the world’s last White Star Line vessel! Even better, it’s included with your Titanic Belfast tour.
As you venture further into the Maritime Mile take time to walk the historic Titanic Slipways. This is where Titanic and her sister ship, Olympic, were both built and launched over 100 years ago.
Located on the Titanic Walkway, The Great Light is one of the largest lighthouse optics ever built. It weights a staggering 10 tonnes and measures 7 metres tall. This 130-year-old, exceptionally rare, maritime heritage artefact produced one of the strongest lighthouse beams ever to shine.
Speaking of very tall things, you’ll not be able to miss the twin Samson and Goliath Cranes (even if you try). These giants are 348 and 315 feet tall and striking yellow dominating the entire Belfast skyline. They stand out as a cultural and industrial landmark of Belfast and an iconic symbol of its proud shipbuilding heritage.
Take a deeper dive into Belfast’s 400-year maritime history at the Belfast Harbour Office's permanent exhibition: ‘A Port that Built a City'. Its interactive displays and art collection combine to celebrate Belfast’s beginning as a major port and its development as into an industrial hub. There’s also 'Where Belfast Begins', an outdoor exhibition on Queens Quay, that celebrates the thousands of ships built in the city, as well as the tradesmen and women, yardmen, and dockers who worked on them.
If you want even more local history, you’ll find the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) conveniently located along the Maritime Mile. This is also your first point of reference if you want to trace local family tree connections. Just be aware that visits are by appointment only.
You can also walk the full length of the Maritime Mile and take in the sights. A great way of doing this is with the following the Glass of Thrones Walking Trail, which celebrates 10 years of filming Game of Thrones® in Belfast. The Trail features six huge stained-glass windows located along the route, each depicting the show’s most famous families, characters and scenes. The Trail passes Titanic Studios, home to the iconic Game of Thrones sets, and finishes at HMS Caroline.
There’s also W5, Belfast’s award-winning science and discovery centre. With exhibits and experiences covering climate change and nature, film and TV production, optical illusions, engineering and medical science. The Maritime Mile is also where you’ll find SoundYard, a playful art installation inspired by the sounds of Belfast's shipyards, and Belfast's Window on Wildlife (WOW), home to more than 100 species of birds and wildlife from all over the world.
If you’re looking to experience some of Belfast’s nightlife then it’s worth checking out what’s on at the Odyssey / SSE Arena, Belfast’s premier live entertainment venue. It’s also home to the Belfast Giants, the city’s hugely popular and successful ice hockey team, so go check out a game while you're here!
Where to stay
One of the best ways to enjoy everything that the Maritime Mile has to offer is to stay in one of the conveniently located hotels in the area. If you want to fully embrace Belfast’s maritime culture then look no further than the Titanic Hotel. This historic building was once the legendary Harland & Wolff Headquarters and Drawing Offices, where Titanic was created, designed and built. If you’re hungry, the Wolff Grill serves up the finest locally sourced ingredients or you can enjoy an Afternoon tea, served in the hotel – just be sure to pre-book!
For a taste of luxury complemented by an exceptional riverside location, you could opt for Marriot’s AC Hotel Belfast. This 4-star hotel has an attached restaurant, Novelli, named after the Michelin starred chef who runs it. What’s more, pets are welcome to stay at the hotel, so your furry friend can also enjoy the good life.
There’s also the Premier Inn: Belfast Titanic Quarter hotel, is located at the beginning of the Maritime Mile. This budget friendly option might not have all the bells and whistles of the other hotels, but it cannot be beat for easy access to the Maritime Mile. Great for getting an early morning head start to get ahead of the queues.
All three hotels are rated 4 or higher on TripAdvisor, so whichever you choose you know you’ll be in safe hands. Also, if you wanted to venture further into Belfast, they’re within easy reach of city centre shopping, attractions, bars, cafes and local transport connections.
Where to eat and drink
One of the best things about exploring new cities is discovering amazing, local, places to eat. In the Maritime Mile you’ll find some of Belfast’s best refreshment breaks, lunches, afternoon tea, and evening meals. With a wide range of in tasty locations, you can enjoy the best of Belfast’s hospitality while savouring the sights, sounds and atmosphere of this unique location.
The Maritime Mile is stuffed with quick stop options full of local charm, such as: the Dock Café, Paper Cup, the Snooty Owl, Heritage Café at PRONI, and Benny’s Café. All are superb picks for teas, coffees and cool drinks, while most also serve breakfast and lunch.
The Linen Lounge at Belfast Metropolitan College is the perfect place for a relaxing morning coffee, a bistro lunch or fine dining experience. Or you can sample the finest local seasonal produce at the Pantry. Or you could venture a little further and treat yourself to tapas delights and specialty cocktails at River Rooms, or try Gnostic - a cosy, intimate restaurant and bar well known for its cocktails.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this digital tour of the best of Belfast’s Maritime Mile. However, the best way to experience all this and more is too actually make the trip yourself! We’ve included links to all the locations referenced, so you easily can plan your perfect day – but did you know that any tickets you purchase to HMS Caroline are valid for an entire year?
That’s right! For as little as £9 per person, you can enjoy a year of unlimited trips to HMS Caroline. If you want to know more about what to expect from this one-of-a-kind historic vessel then you can read all about what makes HMS Caroline Belfast’s best kept secret or why she was crowned a ‘Flagship of the Year’ in 2023 .
Want to know more about the National Museum of the Royal Navy? You can find out more about our mission and our incredible range of locations all across the country on our website