Hilbre Explorer boat trip – a special way to explore the stunning Wirral coastline

The Trip

The trip, which is run by Wirral Sailing Centre, offers passengers the opportunity to discover Hilbre Island and the surrounding area from a different perspective. Aboard our manoeuvrable RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) we get up close and personal with the wildlife, enjoy the magnificent scenery and learn a little about the fascinating history and geology of the area. All from the ever changing environment of the tidal waters that make up the Dee Estuary.

The idea was conceived in 2010 following a conversation with Dave Cavanagh, the popular Coastal Ranger who looked after Hilbre at the time. Initially we wanted to offer our passengers a closer look at the colony of Atlantic Grey Seals which can be seen hauled out on Hoyle Bank when the tide is out – curious by nature, we knew the seals would reciprocate! An exploratory trip with Dave, however, opened our eyes to the wealth of riches on the estuary, and the following year the trip (fondly nicknamed “DeeTour”) opened to the public.

Every Trip is Different

Every trip is different according to the changing seasons and the weather. Although it’s wonderful to be on the water in glorious sunshine we’ve learned that we’ll see considerably more seals on an overcast day. We usually find them early in the trip, feeding in an area of choppy water just off Tanskey Rocks. The big bull males, with their large Romanesque noses (their Latin name ‘Halichoerus grypus’ translates literally as ‘hook nosed sea pig’!) regard us with big, brown eyes. If we are especially lucky we may also spot harbour porpoise – related to the bottle nosed dolphin. These elusive creatures can be spotted when they surface for air, their dorsal fins cutting through the surface of the water in an elegant arc.

Early autumn is a dream come true for bird watchers; the islands are important as a stopping-off point for the twice yearly migration of birds along the west coast of Britain, as well as being a high tide roost when the vast expanse of mud flats is covered by water. Huge colonies of oyster catchers, dunlin and knot congregate both on the islands and on the shoreline of West Kirby beach. Binoculars are a must!

Whats Included?

We take some time to explore Little Eye, Middle Eye & Hilbre. Passengers can hear tales of lost love by Ladies Cave and of smuggling and wrecking as we pass the Devil’s Hole – without giving too much away (in case you’re thinking of taking the trip) did you know there used to be a pub on Hilbre called ‘The Seagull’? By all accounts the landlord, who took full advantage of the Wirral’s treacherous waters, was a very wealthy man.

A trip on a RIB is not complete without a short joyride! We are, of course, careful to drive the boat sedately in the vicinity of any wildlife, but once well clear of the islands we throttle up, to the delight of our passengers! It’s not uncommon to hear a few whoops! We usually find the time to visit Thurstaston before concluding the trip with a close look at the colourful boats on the moorings at West Kirby.

With Several Seasons Under Our Belt

With several seasons under our belt the Hilbre Explorer has consistently received excellent feedback. It’s proved especially popular with our more mature customers (some of whom find the walk out to Hilbre a little too far these days) but definitely has something for everyone. The boat is licenced by the Maritime Coastguard Agency, carries full safety kit and the crew are experienced, knowledgeable and friendly. We look forward to welcoming readers aboard this summer!

“Sealtastic!”

“Excellent, entertaining, educational” D.Andrew

“We thought it was going to be good, but it was fantastic!” D.Taylor

Just a taste of the enthusiastic feedback we’ve received from passengers who’ve taken the Hilbre Explorer boat trip.

Hilbre Island
Atlantic Grey Seal

For further details please contact Wirral Sailing Centre on 0151 929 7707.

Please note, we also offer a full range of water sports courses; choose from sailing, windsurfing, stand up paddle boards, kayaking or power boating. Call the centre on the number above to find out more. Wirral Sailing Centre is an RYA Training Centre and is operated by Wirral Borough Council.

View Wirral Sailing Centres Web page & Facebook Wirral Sailing Centre for more information.

Photo Credit: Ron Thomas