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Nautical Ice Cream Party Station – Styling Tips

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Nautical Ice Cream Sundae Bar Ideas

Did you know that there’s such a thing as National Hot Fudge Sundae Day? Seriously – you can google it!

Personally, I think any day is a great day for a hot fudge sundae, but if someone wants to give me a good excuse to enjoy one, that works too. 😜

Anyways, I love a good theme and thought a nautical twist felt very fitting for a summer ice cream party, so I invite you to scroll on down and *set sail for shakes and sundaes* with me today. 😉

Ice Cream in acrylic tubs

Ice Cream Party Printables

My Nautical Sundae printables are available in our store! Use them to add instant style and personalized details to your party. 🙌 You can edit the custom text yourself – right on the website – whenever (and as often as) you need to! Click here to buy this collection.

Ice Cream Party Printables


The first thing you’ll need to do is map out the basics:

1) flavors of ice cream made from Real California Milk
2) mix-ins and toppings
3) serving vessels

For a shakes and sundaes bar, I’ve found that it’s best to keep the ice cream options simple. Serve just 2-3 flavors so that you have plenty of room for toppings & mixers. 😋

In addition to cups & sundae bowls, it’s nice to include ice cream cones for the people that love them… like me! ;)

ice cream sundae bar ideas

Quick Styling Tips:

  • I found the plastic bowls pictured above at Target for .79 each. They’re technically kids bowls, but perfectly sized for ice cream sundaes!
  • Wooden spoons were customized with patterned paper on the handles (except for one printed design I had that already matched).
  • Bottled toppings like flavored syrups and hot fudge got a quick makeover too, with ribbon + printable papers & labels.
  • This station is equipped with everything you need to make milkshakes, floats, ice cream sundaes, and even an Ice Cream Sundae Milkshake (!) like this one:

hot fudge sundae milkshake

Don’t be afraid to get creative with the way that you serve toppings too. Several of the toppings in my “Sprinkle Station” were served in a cute white container that’s actually a kid-friendly art supplies organizer:

ice cream sundae bar topping ideas & sign

Speaking of kid-friendly, this was one of those projects that my own little ice cream lovers couldn’t wait to get their hands into too… they made a beeline for the Sprinkle Station station the second I let them loose. ;)

nautical ice cream party

DIY Ice Cream Sailboat

My favorite part of this table was the Ice Cream Sailboat centerpiece. In a nutshell, this is a (very simple!) makeshift sailboat that looks like it’s carrying the ice cream:

diy ice cream sailboat

To make the sailboat, I used a red planter from Ikea as the boat base. It’s filled with acrylic containers full of Vanilla, Strawberry, and Chocolate ice cream + ice to keep them cold.

The sail is made from foam core cut into a triangle shape, covered in fabric & embellished with a printable sign. You can download the printable sail sign here.

The finished sail is hot glued to a tall wooden dowel. The dowl is inserted into a small, floral-foam-filled container that’s sitting directly behind the red planter. (The planter had a slight angle to it, so it was hard to attach the dowel rod directly to it without the sail tipping forward. Putting it in a separate container solved that problem instantly!)

I also channeled this “ice cream boat” idea within the printables:

free printable ice cream banner

Details, Details!

Nautical themes always make me think of the “message in a bottle” idea… so for this table, we had “MIXERS in a Bottle”. 😉

ice cream party mixers

The mixer bottles and milk carafe are embellished with colored duct tape, twine, and printable triangle-shaped labels.

milk carafe - nautical theme

The hot fudge and caramel topping bottles were decorated in a similar way, except they’re wrapped with patterned paper instead of duct tape:

hot fudge topping - ice cream party

Cups for the milkshakes were also embellished with baker’s twine, and I hot glued mini party flags to wide straws (from Ikea). The straws were shortened a bit as well.

nautical ice cream party printables

Helpful Tip: Even though milkshakes are traditionally served in tall soda fountain style cups, I recommend using short tumblers or smaller cups for a milkshake bar. It takes a LOT of ice cream to make even a small milkshake, so this size should satisfy most people. Guests can always make a 2nd one (possibly in a different flavor!) if they’re hungry for more.

ice cream bar sprinkles station

For the nautical Sprinkle Station, I loved the idea of showcasing a cute whale shooting sprinkles out of its blowhole. Quickly realizing that would take quite the effort to create in 3D form, I settled for the simpler solution this time around and added colorful paper details to a cute wooden whale instead. 🥳

Coffee Sleeve Sailor Hats

The little DIY “sailor hats” made from coffee sleeves are a fun craft project that the kids can help with too… just trim standard coffee sleeves a bit to make them shorter, then add a square of patterned paper in the middle. Glue paper “sprinkles” to the front for a fun, ice-cream inspired touch. (I also used this idea in my Little Sailor Birthday Party for Pottery Barn Kids!)

red marquee letters and nautical milkshakes

Milkshake Flavor Combos

Pictured above are a few examples of the different milkshakes you can make from a standard ice cream bar: (clockwise from top left) Bananas for Caramel, Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Cherry, Coconut-Vanilla-Fudge Sundae, and Chocolate Malted Crunch.

The sky’s the limit for your own station though… that’s the best thing about a make-your-own ice cream bar!

Ice Cream Party Printables

Printables are my favorite *secret weapon* for adding unique style to any celebration! Click here to customize my Nautical Sundae collection for your own party – instantly, online. 🤗

Ice Cream Party Printables

This post is sponsored by California Milk Advisory Board. Make sure to look for the Real California Milk seal when shopping for your ice cream! 




Vendor Credit


  1. […] friends! I designed these ice cream inspired printables recently to use in a Nautical Ice Cream Bar created for California Milk Advisory Board. I hope you can have some fun with them too! The […]

  2. @JSGEvents July 24, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Set Sail for Shakes & Sundaes! {A Nautical Ice Cream Bar} http://t.co/UouaGVDFLA

  3. @HiFarmersUnited July 25, 2015 at 10:35 am

    Cute Party Idea; brought to you by American Farmers. What would we do without Ice cream, #Milk and Hot fudge I… https://www.hwtm.com/2015/07/how-to-set-up-a-nautical-ice-cream-bar/

  4. @RealCalifMilk July 28, 2015 at 11:42 am

    @LindaOBrien7 @coopermunroe We #love these! Here are themed #nautical #party ideas w/ #CAicecream f/ @HWTM_jenn – https://www.hwtm.com/2015/07/how-to-set-up-a-nautical-ice-cream-bar/

  5. @RealCalifMilk July 28, 2015 at 12:56 pm
  6. […] feeling in a chocolate-y (or boozy!) mood you can check those out here (Cocktail Milkshakes) and here (Nautical Shakes & […]

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