Solent Cruising Destinations: A quick guide

The Solent is the mecca of UK boating and offers beautiful beaches, quaint harbours and historic nautical towns.

It is a beautiful and relatively sheltered place to sail, but can be challenging with variable tides and busy waterways. The Solent is an ideal area to build experience with a range of fantastic destinations all within each reach.

Running West to East, this Solent cruising guide covers both bustling harbours and quiet natural anchorages .


western solent

Totland  |  hurst  |  Yarmouth  |   Lymington  |   Newtown


Totland Bay

With beautiful clear water and a sandy beach backed by a forest of green, Totland Bay, on the Isle of Wight, has a touch of the Caribbean about it on a summer’s day.

This largely sheltered anchorage offers respite from the Solent crowds, while still close enough to nip back in if conditions change.



Totland Bay: Overview for Sailors

Totland Bay is ideal for experienced day skippers who are confident anchoring. It makes for an easy day trip for motorboats from Hamble or a weekend (overnight in Yarmouth or Lymington) for sailors.


Totland Bay: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:41’ N 001:33′.05 W (Off Totland Pier)

Mooring: Anchor (holding good/reasonable). A dinghy, swimming trunks or SUP are required to get ashore.

Navigation: Beware the rocky ledges of Colwell and Warden point. Stay in the Needles channel until you are safe to turn in. Always navigate with extreme care.


Totland Bay: Food and drink

The Waterfront Bar & Restaurant overlooks the beach.



Swim, and enjoy a beautiful anchorage with a sandy beach. At low tide, the Western end of the beach makes for a lovely walk/paddle against the back drop of green cliffs and lots of bleached driftwood.



Hurst Castle

One of the most recognisable landmarks of the Solent, Hurst Castle is overlooked as a destination by many Solent boaters. The impressive Tudor fort was built by Henry VIII and the building today includes additions from the 1800’s through to WW2 when it protected the entrance to the Solent.

Please note there is currently ongoing conservation work. Some areas may be closed.

The hooked shape shingle bank shelters an important area for wildlife.



hurst castle: Overview for Sailors

Hurst Castle is an ideal lunch stop out of the strong currents that go through the Needles channel and a great spot to watch the world sail past.


hurst castle: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:42.584′ N 001:32′.963 W (Centre of pool)

Mooring: Anchor (holding good) in the  pool north west of the light house.

Navigation: Check your tide heights. Head in toward the shore watching your depth until you are about 200m NW of the lighthouse.


hurst castle: Food and drink

If you have a way to get ashore, Hurst Castle has a cafe open 27 March – 31 October. Or bring a picnic.


hurst castle: THINGS TO DO

Enjoy being at anchor and watch the world go by, or if you have means to get ashore, go explore the castle and the spit running to the mainland.




Yarmouth sits at the mouth of the River Yar and contains some of the oldest architecture on the Isle of Wight, making it a real gem of a fishing harbour. The town is filled with a range of quaint cafes, shops, galleries and great local pubs to enjoy a drink as you watch the sunset over the water.



YARMOUTH: Overview for Sailors

Yarmouth’s pretty fishing harbour offers excellent shelter and good access at all states of tide. Navigation is straight forwards, although the entrance to the harbour can get busy in the season when the mainland ferry is in operation. Yarmouth makes for a crew pleasing destination for all experience levels.


YARMOUTH: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:42’.42 N 001:30′.05 W (Harbour entrance)

Mooring: Walk ashore pontoon moorings are available in the marina. Swinging moorings are also available outside the harbour with a water taxi operating on VHF channel 15 to run you ashore.

Navigation: Beware strong tidal streams running at the harbour entrance at mid flood and ebb. Follow the channel and keep a good lookout for the mainland ferry. Black Rock to the West of the entrance is well marked with a green buoy.


YARMOUTH: Food and drink

Yarmouth offers a great range of pubs and restaurants. The George is highly recommended and nestles on the waters edge. If you like a steakhouse, try On the Rocks.

Book a table at the nearby Hut at Colwell Bay and they’ll come and pick you up –  “If you are arriving in the bay by boat, please simply drop your anchor, north of the large white buoys and someone will be out to collect you. In the case of bad weather we will contact you, advising you to go to Yarmouth Harbour where we will collect you by Hut Truck”



Yarmouth offers numerous attractions ashore. If you’re just stopping for lunch, make time for a wander round the pretty village and grab an ice cream as you stroll down the pier with views over the Western Solent.

With more time, there are numerous walking trails in the area including the beautiful Western Yar Estuary walk. If you’re staying for a few days, (perhaps with kids) Freshwater and Tapnell Farm are both well worth a visit.




Nestling against the stunning backdrop of the New Forest, it’s hard not to succumb to Lymington’s nautical charms with cobbled streets and a fantastic choice of restaurants and pubs for crew suppers.



LYMINGTON: Overview for sailors

With easy access to the Western Solent, Lymington offers a well protected and picturesque harbour with a wide range of berthing options that include two of the Solent’s largest marinas. Shore side facilities are excellent.


lymington: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:44′.22 N  001:30′.30 W

Mooring: Excellent marina facilities are available at Berthon Marina or Lymington Yacht Haven. Rafting and some finger berths are also available on the town quay very close to the town centre.

Navigation: Navigate with care as you enter/exit Lymington river. The channel is well marked, but numerous shallows exist outside of the buoyed channel. Keep a good watch out for the Isle of Wight ferry to Yarmouth, as you need to move to the side of the channel if the ferry needs to pass.


LYMINGTON: food and drink

You will be spoilt for choice with an excellent selection of places to eat. One of our favourite picks is The Haven Bar and restaurant at Lymington Yacht Haven with stunning views over the Western Solent.


LYMINGTON: things to do

Lymington nestles on the edge of the New Forest with a beautiful green backdrop. If staying at Lymington Yacht Haven, there is a beautiful walk West from the marina across the salt marshes towards Hurst Castle.



Newtown Creek

Newtown, on the Isle of Wight, is a National Trust Nature Reserve, and one of the Solent’s most unspoilt locations. It dates back to the 1300’s when it was a busy harbour with a prosperous saltworks and oyster beds.



Newtown Creek: Overview for sailors

A goo destination for day skippers confident with their pilotage and anchoring, Newtown offers a peaceful lunch or overnight stop midweek, or out of season. Due to it’s beautiful natural surrounds, it can get very busy during peak season weekends.


Newtown Creek: Navigation

Location: 50:43′.75 N    001 24′.89 (W Cardinal Buoy)

Mooring: Anchor carefully with enough depth or pick up a national trust mooring buoy.

Navigation: Leave the cardinal buoy marking the entrance channel to port and head 130° to pick up the leading marks. Beware the red and black danger mark just inside the entrance – it marks a mud bank.

If you’re anchoring make sure you have enough depth for the tidal range.


Newtown Creek: food and drink

There are no shops or restaurants.


Newtown Creek: THINGS TO DO

There is a public landing on the East side of the river at Newtown Quay. From Newtown Quay you can walk across the boardwalk to the historic Newtown village and follow one of several nature trails.


central solent

Beaulieu  |  thorness  |  cowes  |  hamble


Beaulieu River

Beaulieu river, set in the heart of the New Forest, is a beautiful natural environment for just messing about on boats.

Set against the backdrop of rolling countryside it’s a great place to pick up a mooring buoy, pour a glass of wine and let the beauty of nature absorb you.



beaulieu river: Overview for Sailors

Beaulieu river is ideal for day skippers who are confident with their pilotage and tidal calculations. It’s an easy day trip from Hamble for motorboats and sailors alike but we recommend staying overnight.


beaulieu river: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:46′.58 N 001:21′.39 W (Adjacent yellow buoy)

Mooring: Plentiful mooring buoys for visitors or head for the fully serviced marina at Bucklers Hard.

Navigation: Beaulieu is a tidal river with less than 1m off the entrance at low water springs. Make sure you have double checked your tidal heights! The river is narrow in places and you need to navigate with care – follow the withies!


beaulieu river: Food and drink

Book a mooring at Bucklers Hard for a drink and a bite to eat at the Master Builders Hotel (pictured).

The Master Builders is a charming country hotel/restaurant/pub on the water’s edge and set at the end of a row of picturesque and historic cottages originally inhabited by 18th century shipbuilders.

Treat yourself to a delicious cream tea or tuck into a light lunch at the Captain’s Table. They also serve all-day snacks and hot drinks.


beaulieu river: THINGS TO DO

Maritime Museum and Bucklers Hard Story – Originally founded as a free port for the trading of sugar, Buckler’s Hard actually flourished as a naval shipbuilding centre and has become famous for building warships for Nelson’s Navy, including three vessels that took part in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Explore the river – Bring a tender or paddleboard and spend some time exploring this beautiful river. Gently winding your way along the river banks under your own steam is good for the soul!



Thorness Bay

On a Summers day in the Solent, the anchorage at Thorness Bay, on the Isle of Wight, makes for an easy lunch stop in a tranquil and uncrowded setting.

A mile or so to the West of Gurnard and Cowes, Thorness Bay offers a pebbled beach backed by agricultural land.

There is a shallow ledge of less than 1 metre extending some way from the beach, making high water at the Western edge of the Bay the best for anchoring.



thorness bay: Overview for Sailors

Thorness Bay is ideal for skippers who are confident anchoring. It’s an easy day trip for all boat types from Hamble.


thorness bay: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:44’.63 N 001:21′.88 W (Yellow spherical buoy)

Mooring: Anchor (holding good/reasonable) well off the beach to avoid the ledge. Dinghy with outboard required to get ashore and enjoy having a beach pretty much to yourself.

Navigation: Study your chart carefully to understand your position in relation to the ledge and make sure you have double checked your tidal times/heights. Always navigate with extreme care.


thorness bay: Food and drink

None – bring your BBQ!


thorness bay: THINGS TO DO

Relax at anchor. If you’re really keen and have brought your dinghy or paddelboard, you can head ashore to the pebbly beach which is normally fairly deserted.




Cowes is renown as the mecca of yachting around the world – and with good reason. Classic races set-off off from here including Round the Island, Rolex Fastnet and Cowes week.



cowes: Overview for sailors

From the moment you step ashore on to Cowes charming high street the history and character of yachting here is unmissable. With a wide choice of bars, restaurants and nautical shops, Cowes makes for an easy day trip and is always a crowd (crew) pleaser. If you have time, head further up the river past Cowes for lunch at the Folly Inn.


cowes: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:46′.08 N    001:17′.93 W (Harbour entrance)

Mooring: Good marina facilities are available at Cowes Yacht Haven, Shepherds Wharf and East Cowes marina.

Navigation: Cowes offers unrestricted tidal access. A new breakwater has been added in recent years, providing a new well marked channel when approaching from the East. If entering Cowes via the more Westerly main channel be aware of strong cross tides running at the mouth of the river. The main channel is usually busy in season with ferries and pleasure craft.


cowes: food and drink

You will be spoilt for choice with an excellent selection of places to eat. The Smoking Lobster is excellent next to Cowes Yacht Haven. The Anchor Inn is a lively spit and sawdust sailors pub on the High Street. Coast bar and restaurant also gets good reviews.


cowes: things to do

Just enjoy the historic yachting atmosphere. Wander on the high street and indulge in a little retail therapy, or grab a bite at one of numerous bars and restaurants. Cowes is a great place to stop with kids, as the high street is just a short walk from the marinas.

With 2 separate sites (1 in both East & West Cowes), the classic boat museum is well worth a visit if you haven’t yet satisfied your boating fix!




The river Hamble is the ‘boating capital’ of the UK with a wide choice of marinas and shoreside services. The quaint village of Hamble is home to a charming selection of restaurants and pubs.


boat share club in hamble


hamble: Overview for sailors

With easy access at all states of tide to the central Solent and an array of great destinations, it’s easy to see why the river Hamble is widely regarded as the capital of UK boating. Please note that the tidal streams can run hard on the River Hamble – see our guide to Hamble tides.


hamble: Navigation

Location: 50:50′.15 N    001:18′.66 (S Cardinal Buoy)

Mooring: A wide choice of marinas stretch all the way up the river. For easy access to beautiful Hamble village, we recommend Port Hamble marina.

Navigation: Take care not to stray too close to the shallow banks to the East as you approach the entrance to Hamble. From the southerly cardinal marking the end of a shingle spit, the well marked channel leads you up the river.


hamble: food and drink

A wonderful choice of places for crew suppers. Both a short walk from Port Hamble marina on the High street, the King and Queen and The Bugle are both offer excellent menus. If you want to stay overnight ashore, the Royal Southern Yacht Club has rooms available.


hamble: THINGS TO DO

If you have time, catching the pink ferry across the river to Warsash is a nice trip to while away a few hours. From there, you can walk North along the toepath enjoying beautiful views of the river and the bustle of activity on the water. On your return, grab a pint at The Rising Sun in Warsash.


eAstern solent

portsmouth  |  priory bay  |  bembridge  |  chichester



Steeped in maritime history, and with a range of marinas to choose from, Portsmouth offers excellent shelter in all conditions and plenty to do ashore.



PORTSMOUTH: Overview for Sailors

Portsmouth is ideal for day skippers who are looking for full service facilties. It makes for an easy day trip for motorboats from Hamble or for sailors with a spring tide.


PORTSMOUTH: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:47’.00 N 001:06′.35 W (No. 4 Port buoy)

Mooring: A selection of excellent marinas including Gunwharf Quays Portsmouth), Haslar Marina and Royal Clarence (Gosport) and Port Solent (Portchester).

Navigation: Read your almanac carefully. The entrance to the harbour is busy and narrow with strong tidal flows. Boats under 20 metres must use the small boat channel. If crossing the harbour to access Gunwharf Quay, permission to cross must be requested from the harbour master.


PORTSMOUTH: Food and drink

Gunwharf Quays offers a wide range of bars and restaurants. A short walk from Gunwharf is the Still & West pub in old Portsmouth with stunning views of the water. If you’re staying at Haslar on the Gosport side, don’t miss the Lightship in the marina.



Portsmouth’s historic dockyard is home to a wealth of nautical history including the Mary Rose, Warrior and the Victory. Nearby, Gunwharf Quays offers a small marina with a lively backdrop of shopping, bars and restaurant. If you’re looking to stretch your legs, take a wander to old Portsmouth and beyond to Southsea seafront.



Priory Bay

Priory Bay is probably the Solent’s finest beach, although it’s relatively uncrowded most of the year. This picture-perfect sandy beach backed by greenery is perfect for lounging and swimming – bring your BBQ and bucket and spade.

The Easterly facing anchorage is well sheltered – although the shallow shelving means any boat with draught needs to anchor a little way off.



priory bay: Overview for Sailors

Priory Bay is ideal for experienced day skippers who are confident anchoring. It can be a day trip for motorboats from Hamble or a weekend (overnight in Bembridge) for sailors.


prior bay: Navigation

Location: 50:42′.88 N, 001:4′.78′ W  (Yellow spherical buoy)

Mooring: Anchor (holding good/reasonable) off the beach in accordance with your draught and similar vessels. A dinghy, swimming trucks or SUP are required to get ashore.

Navigation: Coming from Hamble, take care navigating past No Mans Land Fort and the shallows off Seaview.


priory bay: Food and drink

None – bring your BBQ!


priory bay: THINGS TO DO

Relax at anchor and or swim to the beach!




Voted 2019 village of the year by Countryfile, Bembridge, on the Isle of Wight,  boasts a beautiful natural tidal harbour and a host of different things to do on and around the water.

With beautiful beaches and great waterside dining, make sure you leave time to relax and look around.

We have a Sailor’s Guide to Bembridge in our Club Life section.



bembridge: Overview for Sailors

Bembridge is ideal for day skippers who are confident with their pilotage and tidal calcs. It’s a day trip for motorboats from Hamble or a weekend for sailors.


bembridge: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:42.51′ N 001:05′.01 W (Just N of tide gauge)

Mooring: Duver Marina (online visitor booking available) with a very informative website:

Navigation: Check your tide heights. Head in toward the shore watching your depth until you are about 200m NW of the lighthouse.


bembridge: Food and drink

Try The Best Dressed Crab: Local, fresh seafood served in a contemporary barge on the harbor.

The Pilot Boat Inn is a local village pub close tot he harbour serving excellent ale brewed on site and great pizzas.

If you head through the village to Bembridge ledge you can choose between the Crab and Lobster Pub or the Beach Hut at Forelands Beach.


bembridge: THINGS TO DO


Duver/St. Helens beach with the Baywatch café is just a 5 minute walk from the marina. Just around the corner are the sands of Priory Bay.


It’s worth bringing a dinghy or SUP to explore the harbour – great fun for all ages.

Lifeboat Station

Pay homage to the RNLI at their flagship lifeboat station. Check timings on their facebook page and you might get to watch a launch of the offshore boat from this iconic building.




Chichester’s natural harbour is an area of outstanding natural beauty and a haven for boating, bird watching and walking.

The estuaries and rivers of the harbour make for boating paradise. Whether you prefer the tranquillity of a mooring buoy or the bustle of a marina, Chichester harbour will accommodate you.



chichester: Overview for Sailors

Chichester is ideal for day skippers who are confident with their pilotage and tidal calcs. It’s a day trip for motorboats from Hamble or a weekend for sailors.


chichester: Navigation

Initial fix for approach: 50:45’.45 N 000:56′.38 W (West Pole Beacon)

Mooring: Plentiful options from anchorages and mooring buoys to fully serviced marinas.

Navigation: Chichester is a tidal harbor with a bar – normally dredged to 1.5m below chart datum – but the bottom can vary markedly – prudent to assume 0.8m below chart datum. Beware the 6knt ebb on Springs!


chichester: Food and drink

The Anchor Bleu (Bosham) is a charming pub on the water’s edge. Moor on the quay (HW) or tender required.

The Ship Inn (Itchenor) is an honest, local village pub. Use the Itchenor water taxi to get ashore.

The Crown & Anchor (Chichester) is an award-winning 16th century pub on the water’s edge. It’s an Ideal supper stop if you’re overnighting in Chichester marina.


chichester: THINGS TO DO

East Head

Tucked just inside the entrance to Chichester harbour, the anchorage at East Head offers easy access to a beautiful sandy beach  – bring your BBQ and bucket and spade.

The Northerly facing anchorage is fairly well sheltered – although it’s worth tucking in as far as the tide allows for the flattest water and easy access to the beach. Anchor off the beach in line with draught. You need a dinghy, swim gear or SUP to get ashore.

Bosham river

Bosham river is a wonderfully peaceful and picturesque spot but is often missed by over-nighting yachts because the quay wall dries at low tide even though deep water swinging moorings are available.

Tucked away in an area of outstanding natural beauty within Chichester harbour, Bosham offers an air of tranquillity that busier moorings just don’t deliver. If you’re feeling adventurous, take the tender to the pubs at Itchenor or Bosham quay (at HW).

The quay wall dries so contact Chichester harbour master who will allocate a vacant residential swinging mooring.


Mooring buoys and alongside pontoon services. Water taxi service available to get ashore to the Ship Inn.