How to Get to the Isle of Wight – Enjoy a Ferry Crossing

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Located in the heart of ‘The Solent’ just off the south coast of England is a beautiful island that many people have either never heard of or considered visiting. The Isle of Wight is a spectacular part of England and having experienced this island on numerous occasions, I would strongly encourage everyone visiting this part of the world to consider paying this a visit. If you are thinking about how to get to the Isle of Wight, hopefully, this will help inspire you to take a trip across The Solent!

how to get to the isle of wight

The best and most common way to reach the island is to use one of the ferry companies that leaves from a variety of ports on the English mainland and we want to share our experience and why this in itself is worth taking a trip across to the Isle of Wight.

isle of wight ferry

Is the Isle of Wight Worth It?

Perhaps the first question you should be asking yourselves is whether the Isle of Wight is worth the time and effort required? The answer is almost certainly yes! From the medieval history associated with Carisbrooke Castle to the gorgeous natural attraction of the Needles in Alum Bay, the Isle of Wight is spoiled for choice when it comes to things to do on this small island.

needles at alum bay

The Isle of Wight Music Festival held annually in June is one of the most popular attractions associated with the island and attracts visitors from all around the world. With legendary artists such as Bryan Adams, David Bowie, The Who and Coldplay having featured on the stage, it’s no surprise to hear that this is a highlight attraction every year on the Isle of Wight.

isle of wight

Another festival iconic to the island may not quite have the stature as the music festival but is equally as popular among visitors. The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival is held outside of Newchurch in the heart of the island and offers an opportunity for locals and visitors alike to show off their most impressive garlic collection, celebrate the summer season and just have fun!

isle of wight countryside

But perhaps it’s the natural beauty that appeals so much about the Isle of Wight. The stereotypical green landscape of British countryside is represented across the island as the untouched landscapes are a sight to behold.

isle of wight

Don’t just take our word for it, consider one of the following options and find out why the Isle of Wight truly is a hidden gem in the English Channel!

How to Get to the Isle of Wight – Port Options

There are currently three different ports on the English mainland that you can depart from in order to reach the Isle of Wight. Depending on your geographical preference or perhaps affiliation with the two ferry companies that sail, this will likely determine which is the best option.

how to get to the isle of wight

Southampton to Cowes

The most popular departure point from England is Southampton. Whether this is because of the iconic significance of Southampton given that it was the departure port for Titanic over 100 years ago, or perhaps because it is more convenient than the other two locations, either way, this was our chosen port to head across The Solent.

maritime museum southampton

While you are waiting in Southampton, take some time to visit the Maritime Museum to learn more about the Titanic voyage and maritime history iconic to this part of England.

how to get to the isle of wight

Red Funnel is the company that operates daily from Southampton to West Cowes and provides a return service from East Cowes to the same port in Southampton. Depending on whether you have a vehicle or simply traveling by foot, you have two alternatives to choose from.

southampton england

The high speed ‘Red Jet’ ferry service is for foot passengers only and makes a swift crossing in only 25 minutes, reaching speeds of 35-40 knots!

red funnel redjet service

For those that prefer the calmer and ‘cheaper’ option, the ferry service allows visitors to the island to take their vehicle across. In just under an hour, you can be on the Isle of Wight using this ferry option.

southampton to cowes ferry crossing

Both options offer a drink service though the vehicle ferry has more options and a dining area to relax and enjoy the crossing. There are crossings throughout the day and night and generally leave every 90 minutes.

isle of wight ferry crossing

Be sure to check out Red Funnel’s website for the latest ferry timetable.

isle of wight ferry

Portsmouth to Fishbourne/Ryde

An alternative route for visitors planning to head across the Solent to the Isle of Wight is via Portsmouth. Fishbourne and Ryde are both destinations on the island that you can reach directly from Portsmouth and the reality is that either is a viable option depending on where you plan on spending time while on the island.

Gunwharf Quays and the Spinnaker Tower in March 2012

Portsmouth is one of the many historic coastal cities in England so you would be advised to spend some time here exploring before heading across to the Isle of Wight. One of Britain’s tallest towers outside of London is located here, the Spinnaker Tower, and offers stunning views across the Solent and city from the observation deck.

HMS-Victory - panoramio

Charles Dickens was a popular figure who walked the streets of Portsmouth during his literary heyday in search of his boyhood home and it’s no surprise to hear that today, this house on Old Commercial Road is easily identifiable. Nelson’s flagship at the Battle of Trafalgar, the HMS Victory is housed in Portsmouth so be sure to visit here before hopping on the Wightlink ferry to the Isle of Wight.

Lymington to Yarmouth

If you would rather get across to the Isle of Wight in the shortest time possible, Lymington will likely be your preferred port given that you can make the crossing in only 35 minutes.

Lymington Harbour 2

Wightlink also services this port and although it may not have the glamor as Southampton or Portsmouth, it is certainly a viable choice given that it offers the shortest ferry route.

The charming market town and yacht haven of Lymington in the New Forest

Gorgeous coastal walks and strolling around the historic market town are certainly appealing attractions of Lymington, especially if you prefer to make the crossing from the quietest of the three ports.

While Southampton and Portsmouth are cities with a plethora of attractions worth visiting prior to boarding your ferry, Lymington is a more relaxing seaside town that will offer a myriad of beautiful natural attractions along this coastline.

Summary

Three different ports, one gorgeous destination waiting for you! The Isle of Wight is worth visiting from any of these ports and either Red Funnel or Wightlink offer an awesome ferry service that will enable visitors to enjoy the Solent crossing before arriving on the island that is frequently left under the radar around England.

how to get to the isle of wight

Regardless of how you choose to make the crossing to the Isle of Wight, we encourage you to visit the island so that you can experience the beauty on offer here.

Car ferries are a great way to allow you to take your own vehicle at an affordable price. I have experienced the Isle of Wight without a car so even if you hop across as a passenger on the ferry, the public transportation on the island offers visitors the opportunity to explore everywhere.

Have you visited the Isle of Wight previously? What are your experiences using car ferries?

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Chris Boothman is the co-founder of A Brit and A Southerner. Born near Manchester, England, Chris moved to USA in 2006 where he soon after met his wife and travel partner in crime, Heather. They have since embarked on an amazing journey of travel as they challenge others to follow in their paths of working full-time but also being able to travel frequently! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact Chris at [email protected]

6 COMMENTS

  1. The Isle of Wight was always a childhood holiday location of ours and therefore still holds a special place in my heart. Even now, we often take my parenta for a long weekend. We have done 2 of the routes – Southampton and Portsmouth- both of which are very much the same, often though we find red funnel to be cheaper.

    If people enjoy good food, scenic walks and don’t mind stepping back in time for a few days this is a great island to visit.

    • We have always preferred to use Red Funnel out of Southampton for that very reason, plus we always felt that Southampton was the better of the three departure ports (personal preference probably). I love how you refer to the Isle of Wight being a perfect, idyllyic spot to take a “step back in time” because I agree it is the perfect way to describe this island. Already making me want to book a trip there sooner rather than later!

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