Five Must-Visit Seaside Towns in and Around Hampshire

Five Must-Visit Seaside Towns in and Around Hampshire

Thanks to its proximity to London, as well as a beautiful AONB coastline, Hampshire is a great staycation option for short break holiday-makers. The seaside towns and resorts that populate this county’s idyllic shores are especially noteworthy. They include the yacht centre of Lymington, the historical maritime centre of Portsmouth and the Victorian holiday resort of Southsea. Read on for further information about five of the county’s loveliest towns.


This one-time shipbuilding centre began to flourish as a holiday destination during the 19th century due to its proximity to the New Forest and connections with the Isle of Wight. The town features two large marinas that attract yachtsmen from nearby Cowes and far beyond.

Top Visitor Attractions

St Barbes Museum and Art Gallery on New Street celebrates the history of Lymington with a wide array of paintings, photographs and exhibits. Its Time Line Gallery is perhaps the museum’s centre piece, charting the town’s progress as a shipbuilding and salt making centre. There’s additional information about the local railways which were key in transforming Lymington into a prosperous place.

Easily accessible form Lymington is the New Forest National Park – a wildlife haven and walker’s paradise. Its varied, picturesque landscape is best viewed on foot or by bike, although horse riding has become an increasingly popular alternative. Open-top bus tours are available too, operating via Lymington, Brockenhurst and Bealieu on a circular route.

Food and Drink

The family-run Lanes restaurant, housed in a former church, offers a unique ambience and serves seasonal dishes at reasonable prices. The Verveine Fishmarket Restaurant is also well worth a visit for its convivial atmosphere and contemporary British cuisine.

As far as watering holes go, the Red Lion is one of Lymington’s standout pubs. Dating back to the 15th century, this ancient watering hole is a winner of multiple awards and features a beautiful beamed interior with log fires, as well as a large garden area. Its homemade pies and puddings are top-notch. The 16th century Chequers Inn, very popular amongst yachtsmen, is another historical establishment that’s known for its seasonal a la carte menu and cask ales.


Portsmouth is the Royal Navy’s main seaport. Dating from the 1100s, it has the most storied maritime history in the UK and was an embarkation point for both the D-Day landings and the Falklands carrier task force. The town, a short distance from Southsea resort on Portsea Island is replete with historical seafaring attractions.

Top Visitor Attractions

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard pays homage to the illustrious history of the Royal Navy and features three majestic ships: the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose. The dockyard is also home to the National Museum of the Royal Navy, which comprises five galleries of models, paintings and artefacts celebrating Britain’s daring do on the high seas, with battles such as the Battle of Trafalgar vividly brought to life.

The Mary Rose Museum is an equally popular visitor attraction. It offers a fascinating insight into both the 16th century warship herself and the salvage operation that reclaimed her from the Solent. In addition to a large preserved section of her hull, many of the recovered treasures are on display, including two huge bronze guns and a vast collection of every-day Tudor objects that were found in the wreck.

Portmouth’s Spinnaker Tower is another iconic attraction and the town’s most distinctive landmark. Built in 2005, it stands at over 170m and is the United Kingdom’s tallest accessible structure. The tower, resembling a billowing sail, includes three observation decks and a vertigo-inducing glass floor that affords incredible views of the coast and city.

Food and Drink

Some of Portsmouth’s best restaurants can be found on Gunwharf Quays – one of ten Loch Fyne restaurants is to be found there. Renowned for its locally-sourced seafood, emphasis is placed on simple, vibrant dishes that are fished and farmed to the highest standards. Also see the nearby Brasserie Blanc – an upscale brasserie specialising in modern French cuisine.


Southsea became a popular holiday spot during Victorian times and retains many features of that period, including two piers and a long esplanade. Its sand and shingle beach still proves popular, as do the traditional seaside amusements found along the seafront.

Top Visitor Attractions

Clarence Pier forms part of a large entertainment complex featuring a selection of funfair rides including a carousel and dodgems. There’s also a Blue Reef Aquarium on the esplanade, home to a variety of exotic marine species like sharks, stingrays and octopuses.

Southsea Castle is one of the town’s most prominent historical attractions. Constructed at the behest of Henry VIII, the 16th century fort was intended to repel invaders and is part of an elaborate coastal defence. The castle is largely intact and houses a 19th century lighthouse.

Food and Drink

The acclaimed Soprano’s Restaurant on Palmerston Road offers fine Italian food at good prices – they specialise in traditional dishes although contemporary influences are also evident. As far as good pubs go, try the timber-framed Fawcett Inn. It plays host to a variety of live acts in the week including live music on Saturday nights. The King Street Tavern is also worth a mention for its large selection of guest ales and superb home-cooked food.


Ventnor is a Victorian seaside town on the Isle of Wight’s south coast, some 4 miles from Sandown and about a mile from Shanklin. Perched on the wooded slopes of St Boniface Down, the highest point on the island, the town developed into a holiday destination following the introduction of the Isle of Wight Railway. It has a sandy beach backed by an attractive esplanade.

Top Visitor Attractions

The Botanic Garden is Ventnor’s prime attraction, showcasing a multitude of plant species that thrive in the region’s unique microclimate – the town is sheltered from cold northerly winds by high chalk downs. Visitors can also learn about the garden’s history and enjoy a variety of exhibitions run throughout the year, celebrating the work of local artists and craftspeople.

A small, Victorian garden with cascading waterfall fringes the path leading from the town to Ventnor’s Blue Flag beach. The beach itself offers excellent facilities for visitors and a range of activities such as fishing and boating – a local charter provides cruises and a ‘sea safari’ on local waters.

Families will enjoy the nearby amusement park Blackgang Chine with its eclectic mix of rides and activities, among them a cliff-top roller coaster, a giant maze and a pirate fort.

Food and Drink

The Spy Glass Inn is a must-visit. This quirky pub is choc-full of seafaring bric-a-brac and serves excellent seafood, not to mention an extensive selection of lagers, ales and bitters. Of equal repute is the cosy Taverners in nearby Godshill. It too prepares locally sourced pub food and features a large family-friendly garden.


Shanklin is situated on the Isle of Wight’s east coast, a short distance from Sandown. It is one of the most popular seaside resorts on the island and features two beaches, Small Hope and Hope.

Top Visitor Attractions

The seafront is populated by an assortment of jingling amusement arcades and crazy golf. Shanklin old town provides a delightful contrast with its thatched cottages and quaint tea rooms. The old village is located away from the busy, touristy seafront and offers a genuine taste of old England with its collection of historical thatched buildings.

Food and Drink

The Black Cat Restaurant specialises in authentic Thai cuisine, while Vernon Cottage Restaurant on Eastcliff Road serves a delicious menu of cream teas and cakes.The Crab Inn, with its delightful thatched roof is one of Shanklin’s best loved pubs although it’s rivalled by the Steamer Inn – a popular establishment serving a good selection of draft lagers and an excellent range of local beers and ales.

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