This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.
If you’re looking for something amazing to do in Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District then I would definitely check out the newly refurbished Windermere Jetty Museum!
It’s an incredibly interesting place that has a huge story to tell about the history of the lake through its boats, steamers and stories.
As well as learning about Lake Windermere through time, you can see and hear about their modern-day conservation projects and you can even treat yourself to a heritage boat ride on the water yourself.
As a bonus, they have a delectable lakeside café that serves up some mouth-watering local food.
But, if you need more convincing, here are all the incredible reasons why you need to visit this unique museum in the Lake District.
Heads up: my visit to the Windermere Jetty Musuem was sponsored by Go Lakes. Although I was a guest all photos and opinions are my own.
Windermere Jetty Museum History
Although the Windermere Jetty Museum has recently been reopened to the public in a swanky new contemporary building. It’s actually been around a lot longer than that.
It used to be known as the Windermere Steamboat Museum that opened up to the public in 1977.
This had a huge collection of steamer boats from George Pattinson and was run by the Windermere Nautical society.
Unfortunately, in 2007 it was closed off to the public when the management switched hands to the Lakeland Arts Trust. Many items from the Pattinson collection were moved over to different museums in the area.
In 2011, the Lakeland Arts revealed a plan to redevelop the museum and in March 2019, it finally reopened to the public.
Today, the Windermere Jetty Museum or “Windermere Jetty: Museum of Boats, Steam and Stories” houses many of the original boat collection.
There are over 40 boats that are kept here from the 18th century to the present day. Plus, a brand new conservation workshop where you can see them restoring in action too!
All the reasons to visit the Windermere Jetty Museum
1. It explains the fascinating history of Windermere Lake
Today Windermere Lake holds the title of the largest natural water lake in England that stretches over a mile wide.
It has many cruise ships sailing tourists around, water buses, boating speed limits, lakeside restaurants, sporting events, boat clubs and more – but do you know why and how it all came to pass?
The lake has a fascinating history to uncover like the very first steamer boats that set sail in the 19th century, water speed records being broken, swimming competitions and seaplanes in the birth of aviation too.
All of these stories and past lives are what make Windermere what it is today.
You’ll find a whole collection of boating paraphernalia and curiosities plastered pretty much everywhere!
You can’t go into any room without the space having something new to discover.
2. You can step into the shoes of Arthur Ransome with Swallows and Amazons
I have to admit, I had never heard of the classic novel ‘Swallows and Amazons’ before I got to the Lake District. Which, I have on good authority from a local, is pretty much a crime around here.
So, I will fill you in on this popular children’s story if you’re in the same boat.
Arthur Ransome wrote ‘Swallows and Amazons’ in 1930 and it concentrates on a story set in and around the Lake District in 1929.
The plot is centred around two families of children who are riding their separate boats ‘swallow’ and ‘amazon’ over a lake.
The two meet on an island and join up to defeat ‘Captain Flint’ and look for treasure.
According to Ransome, every location in his book could be found around the Lake District and the lake was a fictional version of Lake Windermere.
It was made into a BBC live-action movie in 2016.
In the Windermere Jetty Museum, you can check out their latest exhibition on Swallows and Amazons which has a play area, sketches, animations and even a recreation of Arthur Ransome’s desk with views of the lake!
Also, don’t forget to check out the awesome pirate ship outside of the museum that children and big kids alike can play on.
3. They have an amazing collection of vintage boats that have been restored
One of my favourite parts of the museum was checking out the Boathouse. The Windermere Jetty Museum has one of the world’s most important collections of boats related to a single location. So, this is well worth a look while you’re here.
This part of the museum has over half of the magnificent collection by George Pattinson on display with boats dating all the way back to 1780.
You can catch a glimpse at Beatrix Potter’s rowing boat and SL Dolly, one of the oldest mechanically powered boats in the world.
Margaret is the oldest sailing yacht in the UK and it also has some of the world record-breaking speed boats too. Plus, lot’s more heritage steamer boats and sailing ships.
Some of these boats were restored by the team in their very own conservation workshop.
It gives you a great chance to see the history and evolution of wooden boatbuilding as they have every type on display here.
Their flagship boat which is part of the collection is called Branksome built-in 1896. It’s one of the finest surviving steam launches in the entire world, so don’t miss it!
4. You can take a heritage boat ride on an old steamer ship: The Osprey!
A great opportunity at the Windermere Jetty Museum is to take an amazing outdoor adventure on one of their finest heritage steam boats – The Osprey.
It’s a Steam Launch that was built in Bowness in 1902 and it has a long history including being privately owned and playing a role in carrying passengers for the Bowness Bay Boating Company.
The team spent over 10 years working on its renovation and imported parts like the Sissons compound engine from 1901.
I got to take a tour onboard this amazing ship while I was here and when talking to the team I found out that it takes a whole hour to fire up the ship in order to take the boat out on the lake!
So, it’s definitely worth going on a trip if you get the chance while you’re in the Lake District. Tickets for a ride on the Osprey are £10 per person.
5. Watch the team restoring old boats in the Conservation Workshop
If you’re curious to find out more and see how the teamwork to conserve old boats, then you should check out the Windermere conservation workshop.
Here is where the magic happens and you can see the experts working hard to restore boats to water with their six-step process.
What I loved about this is that you weren’t just an observer here, the team are also on hand to answer any questions you may have about it too.
They staff regularly hold talks where they will explain the journey to you. Just look out for when this will be at reception when you enter.
In winter you can find this inside the workshop and if the weather is nice you can see them working outside near the boatyard.
6. Treat yourself to lunch in the Windermere Jetty Café
A culinary highlight is a visit to the café that sits on the lakeside here.
As well as their seating area has spectacular views of Lake Windermere, you can treat yourself to breakfast, lunch or a tea break.
Their menu incorporates local food sourced from businesses and farms around Cumbria and all their dishes are inspired by the Lake District.
Branksome Broth, Jetty pasties, salads, toasties, sandwiches and speciality dishes are on the menu daily but their special Sunday Lunch is really special.
I popped in to sample their roast dinner and it was absolutely incredible. It was beef with lashings of gravy, crispy potatoes, a yorkshire pudding, veggies and cauliflower cheese.
Included in the special was some of Cumbria’s finest sticky toffee pudding.
If you didn’t know, Cumbria is famous for it as this is where it originates. Another special dish to try here is a Lakeland tea bread that comes served with local Cumbrian rum butter. A tradition that has been held for centuries.
7. Take in the magnificent views from the Windermere Wharf
The main highlight for me as I was walking around the museum was the absolutely gorgeous setting that surrounds it!
As you’re strolling around the exhibitions, eating lunch or just wandering outside you really cannot forget that you’re surrounded by Lake Windermere.
The contemporary building has let a lot of the scenery shine through the large windows so it’s anything but stuffy, even on a sunny day!
Whilst enjoying the views outside, you can take a walk around their wharf, along the jetty, visit the model boat pond and the Old Fire Station from 1890.
There really is so much to do and something for all the family while you’re here. Don’t miss out on your visit to Bowness-on-Windermere!
Windermere Jetty opening times and ticket prices
The Windermere Jetty Museum is open from 10 am – 5 pm in March to October and 10 am – 4 pm in November – February.
Tickets are £9 per adult for entry and £6 for children. Single Family tickets are £18 and family tickets £27. Under 4’s are free of charge.
Entry to the Café and their gift shop is also completely free.
How to find the Windermere Jetty Museum in there Lake District
The Windermere Jetty Museum is located in Bowness-on-Windermere on Rayrigg Road, and can easily be accessed from the main town. There are a number of ways to travel to the museum;
By cruise ship: In the summer season, many of the local cruise companies stop right outside the Windermere Jetty Museum on the pier!
So, if you were planning a day out on the lake by boat, this is the perfect opportunity to stop off. With Windermere Lake Cruises this stop is included on their red route from Bowness-on-Windermere to Ambleside. Click here for more information.
Also, you can moor there for FREE for up to 3 hours if you have your own boat!
By Car: The full address for the museum is Rayrigg Road, Windermere, LA23 1BN so you can plug this into your SatNav on your visit.
But, it is well signposted on the brown tourist signs as soon as you pull into Bowness. On the Rayrigg Road, this is in the direction towards Ambleside.
On Foot from Bowness-on-Windermere: If you’re heading to the museum directly from the Windermere train station, it will take you around 30 minutes. Head out from the train station along the A591, navigate onto the A592/Rayrigg Road via Queen Adelaide’s Hill. Head in the direction towards Bowness Bay and it will be on your right.
By Bus: From Grasmere and Keswick you can catch the Stagecoach Bus Service 555, or from Penrith you can take the 508 Stagecoach service to Windermere. There is a dedicated bus stop right outside of the museum! Click here for more information.
Windermere Jetty Museum Parking Charges
The car park for the Windermere Jetty Museum is run by Park With Ease. Which means that your licence plate will be recorded as soon as you enter!
Parking is FREE for those who buy tickets to the museum and/or make a purchase from the café.
But, you do need to remember to pick up a code from the staff at the reception before you leave to make sure your parking is free of charge.
Once you get to the machine in the car park, follow the instructions. Find your licence plate on the list, insert your code and you’re free to go. You may get a hefty parking charge if you forget to do this.