In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, we see Harry and the rest of the first-years riding boats up to Hogwarts when we're first introduced to it.

According to the wikia (emphasis mine):

The Hogwarts boats are traditionally used to transport the first year students, accompanied by Hogwarts gamekeeper Hagrid across the Black Lake from Hogsmeade Station to the castle at the start of the school year. At the end of the school year, first years take the boats back across the lake to Hogsmeade Station.

During the Hogwarts graduation ceremony, the seventh-years ride the boats back across the lake as they leave the school for the last time.

So Harry and Co would take a ride both to and from Hogwarts at the beginning and end of their first year, and the graduating class gets one last go as well before leaving.

What is the significance or meaning of these boat trips? Who started this tradition and why?

  • 5
    I just assumed it was a delaying tactic since everyone else got to the school and was waiting on them when they arrived for sorting.
    – eshier
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:26
  • 3
    Oddly enough, where I went to college we did a riverboat ride as freshmen before everyone else arrived and again as seniors between exams and graduation. Happens in real life, too.
    – eshier
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:31
  • @eshier What was the reason for your school's tradition? Jul 5, 2017 at 19:34
  • 1
    Uh...fun? Basically it was something that would be interesting & fun and for the freshmen to get to know each other. As seniors, it was so we could get drunk. That and convenience, since my school was close to the Mississippi river.
    – eshier
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:37
  • 1
    In practical terms, it might allow everyone else to arrive at the hall and be in place and waiting when the First Years arrive, providing a more impressive spectacle... but that's probably neither in- nor out-of-universe.
    – gowenfawr
    Jul 5, 2017 at 19:43

2 Answers 2


It's symbolic, apparently. JKR doesn't say what it's symbolic of, other than denoting general symbolismness.

JN: You know, what I'm curious about now. What I think is one of the neatest things about the Hogwarts tradition is the entrance ceremony, from the whole riding the boats to the castle to the Sorting ceremony. What kind of traditions is there for graduation and leaving Hogwarts?

JKR: D'you know, John, I'm really glad you asked that, because I felt a huge sadness that I wouldn't write a graduation scene. You know, I really did. I knew-- I mean, I knew from early days that we would never see them graduate. I knew that he would-- well not he, they, all three of them, would not. We would not see them at school during what would've been their final year of education. But I really, during the final book, I kept thinking it would've been-- I felt sad that the book wasn't gonna end with that Feast scene, the graduation scene. But it couldn't, you know, it just couldn't. That's not the way it could've ended. It would've felt far too trite and-- you know, a lot of people felt the Epilogue was too sentimental, I think to have a graduation scene on top of what just happened would've been an absurd bit of anti-climax.

JN: Did you have ideas for what kind of traditions that they would do? Like ride the boats back out of Hogwarts, obviously, I think it's the cutest thing...

JKR: Oh yeah, definitely. No, I think the boats would've been the most poetic and beautiful way to get-- for them to leave. And symbolic in that they-- Harry wouldn't have seen the thestrals again, you know what I mean? It would've been a return to innocence, really. And passage over water is so symbolic, you know, in the history of magic, so, yeah. That would've been great.

PotterCast Interviews J.K. Rowling, part one.

  • I feel that this answer would be a good addition to your other one. Rowling is bad at completing a thought and finishing a sentence. Jul 31, 2017 at 16:32
  • 1
    @DCOPTimDowd - Hehe. Although the question was asking what she admits to being bad at, not merely what she's bad at.
    – Valorum
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:33
  • You could add it to the part about her being bad at public speaking (was this taken from a public presentation?) Jul 31, 2017 at 16:40
  • @DCOPTimDowd - I believe I've already mentioned that.
    – Valorum
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:42
  • I know. I meant it could add to your example. Jul 31, 2017 at 16:56

I believe it is to signify a transition period or change which would explain why they leave that way when they graduate. It would help to show there entering or leaving a new part of their life. I found the same question on another site that has similar answers. https://www.quora.com/Why-do-first-years-at-Hogwarts-take-the-boat-and-everyone-else-takes-the-carriages

  • All of the answers in your posted link are OOU. I'm looking for a reason specific to Hogwarts. Jul 5, 2017 at 19:51

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