Skip to content

Drake’s Island

drake's island plymouth

Relive Naval History at Drake’s Island in Plymouth Sound

Steeped in over 400 years of maritime history, mysterious Drake’s Island makes for a fascinating family day out in Plymouth Sound’s crystal waters. Once an important naval fort defending the harbour, today it’s open for guided tours that vividly bring the island’s illustrious past to life.

Kids will love playing soldiers in the island’s network of tunnels and clambering over the battlements of the ancient fort. Here’s everything you need to know for an immersive family day out uncovering Drake’s Island’s captivating stories.

deake's island

Getting There

Reached only by boat, scenic Drake’s Island sits 600m offshore from Plymouth’s historic Barbican area. Regular passenger ferries make the 10 minute crossing from the Mayflower Steps on the Barbican. The ferry is £7.50 for an adult and £3.50 for a child.

It it important to note that you can only book a place on the ferry if you are also booked onto a guided tour of the island, which needs to be booked separately.

The Barbican area has limited parking but there are city centre car parks a 5 minute walk away. Plymouth is also easily reached by train and bus.

Opening Times

Drake’s Island is open for guided tours between March and October:

  • Tours run every half hour from 10am – 3.30pm

Closed outside the main season, but they have occasional special events over Christmas. Check website for updated openings before visiting.

Tickets and Prices

The boat crossing and island tour are booked together:

  • Adult – £18
  • Child (5-16) – £7
  • Dogs – £3

Concessions and annual passes available. Advance booking is essential.

drake's island

The Island’s History

The island’s name is linked to the renowned Elizabethan seafarer Sir Francis Drake, who is believed to have used it as a vantage point to observe the Spanish Armada’s movements in 1588. While there is no conclusive evidence of Drake’s direct involvement with the island, its association with the celebrated naval hero has contributed to its historical allure.

In the following centuries, Drake’s Island served various purposes, including military fortifications. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the island was fortified to defend Plymouth Sound against potential invasions. Throughout its history, the island has housed military barracks, a prison, and even a religious retreat. The structures on the island, such as the Royal Citadel on the mainland, played a crucial role in safeguarding the strategic naval port of Plymouth.

In the 19th century, the island became a venue for military trials and housed convicts awaiting transportation to Australia. Over time, the military significance of Drake’s Island waned, and it eventually became a training ground for the Royal Marines during the two World Wars.

In recent years, Drake’s Island has undergone various ownership changes and restoration efforts. There have been proposals to transform it into a luxury hotel and spa, highlighting a shift from its military past to a more commercial and recreational future. The island’s multifaceted history, marked by military exploits and strategic significance, contributes to its status as a site of cultural and historical importance in the Plymouth region.

Drake’s Island has played an important strategic naval role for over 400 years. The guided tour brings its key events to life:

Costumed guides really make the tales come vividly to life as you explore the fort and tunnels.

drake's sialnd

Tour Highlights

Must-see highlights of a Drake’s Island tour include:

  • Climbing up onto the historic parapets for panoramic views over Plymouth Sound
  • Seeing the cannons and experiencing the Barracks room as soldiers did
  • Entering the tunnels to imagine plotting wartime naval strategy
  • Learning about lifesaving FNLS experiments by inventor Henry Smith here
  • Discovering the remains of the officers’ gardens
  • Hearing tales of Drake’s Island’s ghosts and folklore

Frequently Asked Questons

Are dogs allowed on Drake’s Island? – Yes, dogs are welcome as long as they are on a lead. They cost £3.

Is the island wheelchair accessible? – Yes, the island is well paved and accessible for wheelchairs.

How long does the tour of the island take? – The tour lasts for 2 hours

drake's island plymouth sound

Nearby Attractions

Combine Drake’s Island with other family-friendly Plymouth attractions:

  • Tinside Lido – Iconic art deco outdoor swimming pool on Plymouth Hoe offering scenic swimming. Also has a cafe.
  • Saltram House – Elegant Georgian mansion with impressive interiors and gardens designed by Capability Brown. National Trust property.
  • Plymouth Aquarium – Family friendly aquarium housing over 40 exhibits showcasing local and exotic aquatic life. See sharks, rays, fish and more.
  • Plymouth Boat Trips – See the sights of Plymouth from the water including the breakwater, harbour, and Mount Edgcumbe.
  • Plymouth Gin Distillery – Tour the oldest working gin distillery in England and enjoy tutored tastings. Cocktail making classes too.
  • Royal William Yard – Grade I listed former Royal Navy victualling yard transformed into shops, restaurants and galleries.
  • Mount Edgcumbe House – Scenic country house with impressive grounds, gardens and orangery set across the River Plym from Plymouth.
  • Buckfast Abbey – Working Benedictine monastery with medieval church, monk’s herb garden and grounds. Shop sells homemade produce.
  • Devonport Dockyard – Historically important Royal Navy dockyard. Home to the Submarine Museum, ships and historic boatyard buildings.

Bring Plymouth’s rich naval history alive with an immersive family day out uncovering Drake’s Island’s centuries of secrets and strategical significance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *