Best harbours on the Solent

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Portsmouth Harbour by SarahTZ via Flickr

The Solent is a great sailing destination whether you’re you just starting out or you’re looking for somewhere new to visit. With a range of large ports including Portsmouth and Cowes as well as tiny marinas dotted along the coast there really is a selection of excellent places to moor. Whether you want to take on the trip over to the Isle of Wight or sail the gentle tides of the Hamble, here’s a guide to the best harbours available on the Solent.

Portsmouth

Portsmouth features one of the largest natural harbours in the UK and you’ll have the chance to see everything from luxury yachts to tiny vessels sharing the waves.

Perhaps the biggest challenge with visiting Portsmouth Harbour is actually a big part of its appeal – it is one of the busiest in the UK. With strong tidal streams, a narrow entry point and fairly strict regulations, it adds up that Portsmouth is not perhaps the easiest port to visit and attempting it should be left until you have some experience. However, once you are moored here it’s a wonderful place to be.

With world-class facilities, you’ll be able to find just about anything you like here. You can berth in a number of different areas but wherever you go you’ll easily be able to find a great range of pubs, restaurants and entertainment options.

Yarmouth

Yarmouth is an easier approach than some of the harbours on the Solent, but remember that this is still an exceptionally busy port for ferries. When the harbour is full to capacity a red flag is flown on the head of the pier and you should steer clear until it is safe to approach. However, most of the time Yarmouth is an easily navigable port in an excellent location.

Hamble

With no tidal restrictions, the Hamble might be the ideal access point to the Solent. You’ll find an array of little marinas along the banks of this sleepy river so you can choose a convenient place to set off from. Once you are in the water you’ll simply need to sail on the river until you reach the Solent were you’ll have full access to the ports of the south coast.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot for leisurely sailing or are just looking for something different from the large harbours, this is a great place to come. You can stop off at Port Hamble, based in the charming village of Hamble le Rice where you’ll find restaurants, bars and a surprising variety of pubs.

Cowes

Undoubtedly one of the most famous sailing spots on the Solent, Cowes sits on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight right at the mouth of the Medina River. Iconic in the yacht racing community, Cowes can be visited any time of year but is best avoided early in August because the Cowes Week attracts more than a thousand boats and sees up to 40 races occurring every day!

The rest of the year this is a great spot to visit with all the facilities you would expect from a high quality port. Fuel and gas can be easily obtained, and once you are moored you can get out and experience the best that the harbour and town has to offer.

Lymington

If you’re looking for an attractive town and a pretty harbour that isn’t as busy as some of the major ports, Lymington is a lovely place to dock. Found a little way to the west of Portsmouth Harbour, the only drawback is the number of ferries found here. The well-used route between Lymington and Yarmouth is definitely worth sailing for the opportunity to visit two great stops in one trip.

Article provided by Mike James, an independent content writer working together with Portsmouth-based luxury yacht charter company Pure Latitude, who were consulted over the information contained in this post.