It took just one word to get our son excited about visiting the Golden Hinde, London: pirates! We had a hunch that the ship might be one of the best things to do in London with kids. He loves exploring new places, and if somewhere has a backstory like this, all the better.

 

It helps that our Little Man is a very imaginative player. So the Golden Hind (as it is also spelt) was one of the first places to visit in London that we chose on our extended trip there. All the signs were promising, but how would it turn out? Would the Golden Hinde turn out to be one of the most fun activities in London for children, or a five-minute flop?

 

WHAT IS THE GOLDEN HIND, LONDON?

 

Image of the Golden Hinde ship in London

The Golden Hinde in its dry dock next to the River Thames

The Golden Hind or Hinde that you now see in London is a replica of a ship that was sailed around the world in the late 16th century. It was captained by Sir Francis Drake, an experienced seafarer employed by England’s Queen Elizabeth I.

All very official sounding, so where does the pirate part come in? Well, Drake was engaged in what amounted to state-sanctioned piracy. England and Spain were two of the strongest powers in the world at the time. They became rivals while accumulating colonies in what was known as the ‘New World’: the Americas.

Drake set sail in 1577, sailing around the tip of South America, before heading north to what is now California, harassing and attacking Spanish shipping along the way. He eventually sailed east across the Pacific, then south around the Indian Ocean, returning to England in 1580. On his return he was knighted for his achievement in becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the world.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ORIGINAL GOLDEN HINDE?

 

Image of the exterior of the Golden Hinde ship in London

A close-up of the exterior of the Golden Hinde

Queen Elizabeth I ordered that the ship should be preserved for posterity. However, within a century its condition had deteriorated badly. It was kept in Devon, England – and eventually two replicas were built. The other replica can be seen in Brixham Harbour in Devon.

 

The London version of the Golden Hinde has travelled far more than the original. It has completed five voyages around the world, compared to the original’s single trip around the globe.

 

WHERE IS THE GOLDEN HINDE?

 

It’s in St Mary Overie Dock, on the south side of the River Thames. It’s one of the main London Bridge attractions, very close to Southwark Cathedral, Borough Market, the Shard and of course, London Bridge.   

 

The nearest Tube station is London Bridge. Otherwise a whole host of buses cross London Bridge – you’ll rarely have to wait more than a few minutes for one.

 

WHAT ABOUT GOLDEN HINDE TICKETS?

 

The walk-up cost is 5 GBP per adult or child aged 3 and over. A family of four can visit for 15 GBP, and under 3s go free.

 

OUR GOLDEN HINDE EXPERIENCE

 

Image of child exploring the Golden Hinde ship below deck

Sam exploring the Golden Hinde below deck

The pirate backstory had really excited our Little Man. He wasn’t especially impressed with Borough Market, other than some raspberry macarons which he devoured. He wanted his adventure on the high seas, even if it was in a dry dock. It was one of the places of interest in London I had yet to visit myself, so we were both really looking forward to it.

We were once given a personal guided tour of Government House in Sydney, a rare privilege indeed. The little fellow ran through the whole place in three and a half minutes flat, prompting much laughter. The same thing happened here. We had said goodbye to Mama in the Cathedral refectory next door at midday. It looked like we were going to be back by ten past the hour. He went through three decks in three minutes. Suddenly this did not augur well.

I needed a Plan B. This was one of the most unique things to do in London, and it had filled a few measly minutes. I adopted my cod-pirate accent and enquired,”Cap’n Samuel, where be my treasure?”

“Oh, I forgot.”

“Some pirate you are, forgetting the treasure. No more raspberry macarons for you: you can walk the plank instead.”

“Alright then, we’ll find the treasure!”

And so this fine old London ship came to life for him.

 

WHAT YOU SEE ON BOARD THE GOLDEN HINDE

 

Image of child exploring below deck on the Golden Hinde ship

It’s dark down below deck…

You’re free to explore most of the ship – the outdoor decks and three lower decks inside. Outdoors, you can climb the decks and pretend to steer the ship with the huge wooden wheel.

However, downstairs is where it becomes most interesting. You descend short steep flights of stairs to reach each level – it’s advisable to do so backwards! Inside it’s dark and sparsely lit, and it didn’t take a great leap of the imagination to picture it creaking its way around Cape Horn, lashed by storm force winds.

Image of cannons below deck on the Golden Hinde ship in London

The Golden Hinde was well stocked with state-of-the art weaponry

Sir Francis Drake’s ship would have been packed with sailors, food stores, water and other provisions. You see a few chests where this would have been kept, but much of what you see is weaponry, from cannons to cutlasses. After all, piracy was the main purpose of this epic voyage, not exploration.

If you’re tall like me, prepare to duck down low. The first and third lower decks involved plenty of crouching down, as the ceilings were too low to allow me to stand up straight. The middle (second) lower deck has the lowest ceiling, around 4 feet (1.2 metres) above the floor, so crawling was a necessity!

 

WHAT ABOUT THE TREASURE?

 

Image of the treasure chest on board the Golden Hinde

There be treasure!

Once we had started the search, the Little Man was captivated. He discovered the treasure chest on his second circumnavigation of the ship. The treasure is tantalisingly out of reach behind a locked door, visible through a door window.

This was only part of the fun. He loved exploring the Golden Hind ship so much he did so deck by deck, five or six times over.  He had been on pirate ships like the one at the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, but this was the real thing.

 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO VISIT THE GOLDEN HINDE?

 

Three minutes doesn’t quite cut it. We spent overran hour and a half there. During this time at least three sets of visitors came and departed. Half an hour is enough for most kids.

 

OUR VERDICT

 

I thought the Sir Francis Drake ship would be one of the most exciting places to visit in London with kids. For me, it was. But for a while our Little Man wasn’t quite so captivated by it all.

However that soon changed, and with the hook of a quest for treasure he explored every nook and cranny of the ship. We both loved it, and only signs of big fatigue made me decide to leave.

If you’re looking for unusual things to do in London, then the Golden Hinde is, hands down, one of the best London attractions for kids.