Ideas for a nautical birthday party

Written by deborah stephenson
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Ideas for a nautical birthday party
(naval flags image by Anton Kozlovsky from

If you need a great theme for a summer birthday party, throw a breezy nautical party for a breath of sea air. This theme is adaptable for all age groups or mixed ages and works best as a daytime party. If you live near a lake or river with a public pavilion, it would also work well there—natural flowing water adds wonderful ambience and is a decoration in itself. A pool party is the next best thing, even if it is only a paddling pool for the kids.

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Print boat-shaped invitations on card stock and write date and time information on the back, or print a free template like those available from Hoover Web Designs (see References). Another idea is to print plain cards in blue and white but enclose confetti boat and seashell shapes or a pinch of white sand to lend a nautical flavour. Invitations should begin with “Ahoy there!” “Anchors Away” or a similar nautical phrase.

Interior Decorations

Print nautical flags and tape them to strings to drape on walls, over doors or elsewhere. Hang fishing nets, life preservers and printed paper starfish, shells and fish. Draw portholes on poster paper; cut them out and tape to walls to simulate looking out from the inside of a ship. Paint far off waves on the window portions if desired. Make a large cardboard ship’s wheel to put on a wall near the head of the table, behind the birthday person.

Exterior Decorations

Continue with nautical flags on strings and nets as above. Add a tall lighthouse or build a large ship facade from cardboard boxes. If you have a pool, so much the better—put the lighthouse and ship on the opposite side from the house and make paper waves from the pool edge to the cardboard cutouts to give the illusion of real water. Hang paper seagulls with fishing line from trees or roof edges so they appear to be flying. Buy sand and sprinkle it liberally around the pool for a beach. Add potted palms or cardboard palm trees for extra ambience.

Food & Table Decorations

Use blue table cloths with white runners (to simulate white capped waves) and sprinkle sand and small seashells on the table for extra oomph, as suggested by Reason to Party. A large ship model makes a great centrepiece amid platters of tropical fruits and cheeses. Serve sparkling waters (or champagne) in plastic wine glasses. Seafood is a must for the menu (fish fingers for the kids or for finger foods), as are fish-shaped crackers in big bowls, served with exotic dips—try a cream cheese and pineapple combination with a touch of hot pepper for real zip. A ship’s wheel birthday cake is easy to make with a tube cake pan for the centre and several mini loaf pans to make the spokes.

Kid’s Games

Have kids make their own sailor hats from construction paper or let them colour boat pictures downloaded from free colouring pages like those at Print Free. Buy small windup plastic boats and have boat races in the pool (or paddling pool). Nautical-themed puzzle and trivia games are good quiet time games.


You can get CDs of nautical music (from the Love Boat theme to South Pacific) at any music store. As an interactive bit of entertainment, have guests perform as if they were on stage on a cruise ship and give people’s choice awards for best, funniest, most unusual and other categories. Give packets of lifesavers candy or rubber fish as silly nautical prizes.

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