Yacht charter in the Solent: discovering the UK’s south coast
Many people imagine that yacht charter is all about the fabled superyacht hubs of the Mediterranean, the vibrant rum-soaked islands of the Caribbean and the far-flung archipelagos of the Indian Ocean. But believe it or not, England’s south coast is one of the best places in the world for luxury yacht charter. The Solent brings access to famous mainland hotspots like Beaulieu, Lymington and Hamble – and across on the Isle of Wight, bustling destinations like Cowes and Yarmouth resonate with both current and historical yachting significance. With Princess Charter offering a range of yacht charter itineraries in and around the Solent, from Poole in the west to Portsmouth in the east, we are in the perfect position to bring you insider knowledge on the south coast’s most precious and memorable highlights. Discover more about chartering a yacht in the UK.
Solent Yacht Charter: creeks, bays and anchorages
Some of the Solent’s best destinations are also of course some of the busiest – and with its position at the very heart of the action, the iconic yachting hub of Cowes is a case in point. Even when it’s not playing host to world-class festivals and yachting events like Cowes Week or the Round the Island Race, it enjoys a very lively yachting community. It’s a similar story for Lymington, Southampton and the River Hamble, where thousands of boaters gather together to enjoy the sheltered waterways, the first-class marina facilities and the simple thrill of being a part of the yachting throng. But if you favour a more relaxed and intimate escape, there are still plenty of options available.
The Beaulieu River, for instance, which cuts up into the New Forest National Park on the mainland’s south coast, is a very appealing destination. The Buckler’s Hard Maritime Museum, halfway up the river, delivers a wonderful snapshot of Britain’s shipbuilding history, and the village of Beaulieu, with its genteel pace, its elegant buildings and its excellent motor museum, is a fantastic place to visit by tender.
The secluded National Trust estuary at Newtown Creek, on the northwest coast of the Isle of Wight, is also a fine place for a tranquil anchorage, with an idyllic setting among the prolific wildlife of the historic salt marshes. If you want something similar on the other side of the island, the tidal estuary at Wootton Creek, between Cowes and Ryde, is another popular place to drop the hook, put your feet up and enjoy the view. And if you’re keen to head a little further afield, Alum Bay, beneath the fortified headlands of the Isle of Wight’s westernmost point, is a great place to anchor up and enjoy a swim with lovely views of the Needles.
Solent Yacht Charter: great pubs and restaurants
Where you find sailors, you also tend to find some wonderful waterfront sailing pubs – and the Solent is blessed with scores of them. Those who land in Cowes often gravitate toward the Pier View to talk all things nautical, but the Cowes Ale House on Shooters Hill is also a great place for beer lovers. The Folly at Whippingham, further up the River Medina, gets a lot of happy reports from visiting boaters but for an even better setting, the Hut at Colwell Bay on the Isle of Wight’s far western shore is something special. In addition to lovely seafood, huge sea views and deeply enthusiastic staff, this relaxed beach restaurant even comes with a resident tender to help ferry diners back and forth from their anchorages.
To the east of the Solent, there is always plenty of entertainment to be had at Portsmouth’s Gunwharf Quay and, if you venture out that way, it’s also worth timing the tide and exploring the lovely walks and eateries in and around Emsworth. On the other side, to the west of the Solent, there are of course plenty of great places to eat among the A-list haunts of ultra-exclusive Sandbanks, but if you want to stay closer to the Solent itself, the options are just as rich. The Mayflower, right next to Lymington Yacht Harbour, has done a brilliant job for many years, providing easy access to the water as well as to the lovely, bustling seafarer’s hub of Lymington itself. The Jolly Sailor at Bursledon and the Master Builder’s Hotel in Beaulieu are also famed as must-visit sailing retreats – and both the Bugle and the King & Queen at Hamble-Le-Rice are tremendous spots to nestle in for a pint and a meal. The King & Queen, known by many as ‘The Rum Pub’ and previously singled out for praise as ‘The World’s Best Yachting Bar’, enjoys a great location on Hamble’s cobbled High Street. With a garden for the summer, a log fire for the winter and a self-service laundrette to keep visiting sailors spick and span, it’s fully deserving of its fame.
Solent Yacht Charter: great marinas and stopovers
With seven marinas along its length, the River Hamble is a brilliantly bustling stretch of water and yet it still feels very rural and genteel. Swanwick Marina and Hamble Point Marina are undoubtedly two of the best places to tie up your yacht but if you want to be at the heart of the Solent’s urban hub, it’s tough to beat Ocean Village Marina. Perfectly positioned in the middle of Southampton for easy access to the pubs and cafes of modish Oxford Street, as well as to the cruising grounds of Southampton Water and the Solent, its reputation as one of the region’s key ‘destination marinas’ means it also offers a lot of bars, restaurants, entertainments and services directly on site.
If you want something that feels more private and personable, Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour presents a radical contrast. It sits on a pretty curve of the Beaulieu River, which has been carefully preserved by the Montagu family for more than 400 years and remains one of the very few privately owned rivers in the world. Despite its modest scale, the site is well set up for visiting yachtsmen – and if you’re looking for something further west, Lymington Yacht Haven gives you great access to the western Solent, to the iconic Needles, to the southern side of the Isle of Wight and to the cruising grounds in and around Poole Harbour, including Sandbanks and Studland Beach.
Across on the Isle of Wight, Cowes Yacht Haven is a great way to put yourself right at the heart of the action – and Island Harbour Marina, further up the River Medina, takes you deep into the island’s scenic interior. Shalfleet Quay in Newtown Creek is another highly favoured spot and Bembridge Harbour, on the eastern coast of the island, offers plenty of visitor berths, as well as tidal moorings with a water taxi service. As a Site of Special Scientific Interest, with nearby RSPB reserves, it’s a good spot for scenic walks – and it’s also the perfect place to settle in for a bottle of wine and a shellfish platter at the ‘Best Dressed Crab’ on Fisherman’s Wharf.
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