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Taking a boat trip from Southampton’s Town Quay on Hythe Ferry has been one of those things that we’ve been meaning to do for ages! And now we’ve finally done it!
Was it worth it? Absolutely. Not only to get our dose of water wellness whilst crossing the Southampton Water, but also to realise how much history is connected to this experience. Whilst not being history buffs, it did make for an interesting and pleasant experience on a Saturday afternoon. We loved it so much that it’s one of our favourite water activities in Southampton.
Hythe is very much the older, unrushed family member to Southampton. It’s a world apart from the city scene; it just enjoys being a pretty village and is proud of its maritime heritage with no intention to change.
This car free experience allows you to slow down, enjoy the walking pace with full accessibility and take in all the surroundings. Dogs and bicycles can travel for free, however there is no cycling on Hythe Pier. The ticket prices are reasonable, but understandable for the amount of maintenance needed to offer the service. It also saves the hassle of the 30 minute (13 miles) drive from Town Quay to Hythe. There are discounts for children, families, concessions, students and multi-buy fares that all include the Pier Train ride. Return tickets are valid for 30 days from purchase and the service is also part of the Solent Go travelcard scheme across South Hampshire.
Hythe Pier, Railway and Ferry
This public transport service connects Southampton City at Town Quay to the pretty Hampshire village of Hythe – known as where the ‘New Forest meets the sea’. Run by operators Blue Funnels Cruises, who do leisure and party boat trips around Southampton, the ferry carries passengers and bicycles (with plenty of room for both), taking just under 15 minutes to cross.
There have been a number of previous ferries to operate this service. However in 2022, the Hythe Scene (formerly known as Great Expectations) and the Jenny Ann are the two vessels to run. The Hythe Scene is the larger, mostly used catamaran boat with plenty of shelter and indoor seating. Being a catamaran and Southampton Water being relatively calm, it’s generally a smooth crossing with the odd ride of a small wave. In severe weather, the ferry service will temporarily stop for safety.
Hythe Pier stretches for 640m (700 yards) from the centre of Hythe village. This makes it the 7th longest pier in the UK. It accommodates the electric Hythe Pier Train – believed to be the oldest continuously operating public pier train in the world. It adds to the charm of this experience as it waits patiently for you to step aboard so it can trundle you along to the other end of the pier. You can of course walk along the pier if you wish. There are a number of information points along the side highlighting the history of the pier and surrounding area.
With 4 passenger coaches, its driving cab pushes and pulls it along all day. There is also a four-wheel flat car for baggage and bicycles to be transported.
If you are walking the pier or taking the Hythe Pier Train without the use of the ferry, there is a £2 donation. This helps support the Save Hythe Pier cause, run by the Hythe Pier Heritage Association.
Southampton to Hythe Ferry
The ferry to Hythe departs from the same terminal as the high spead passenger Red Jet service to the Isle of Wight. Located opposite the vehicle Red Funnel ferry, there is plenty of indoor space to wait for the next service. The ticket booth is located inside to the left of the terminal, just before the ramp for boarding.
If you are early, why not grab a drink from the nearby Starbucks, soak up the marina vibes or take in the views of Southampton Water. If watching the activity on the water is your thing, watch the ferries coming and going, spot sailing vessels cruising by or if you are lucky, see one of the many cruise ships leaving for their destination, or arriving home safely. With not long to wait until the next ferry, there are enough things to see and do at Town Quay to keep you occupied.
There is plenty of room to move around onboard. At both ends of the boat are fully enclosed seating areas, which do have steps down into this area. The middle part of the boat is sheltered but not fully enclosed from the elements.
If you are relying on the Hythe Ferry to be bang on time, don’t! As the day goes on, the timings get further out but this ferry isn’t meant to be an all-day commuter ferry! It’s a leisure ferry for the best part of the day. It feels like this is partly due to the railway train on the pier, which takes a little longer than you may first expect!
The ferry service runs between every half an hour during peak times, to hourly for the rest of the day. They run earlier on weekdays and extra, later services are provided during the summer months. There are well-timed links between the Red Jet service to zoom you to the Isle of Wight, with other connections to the New Forest Bus Tour during summer.
Hythe Ferry to Southampton
The quaint ticket office for the Hythe side is located just inside the pier entrance.
The trip back to Town Quay was about 10 minutes late leaving. But this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. As we meandered our way along the pier, it was evident that there was some activity on the water from the slight waves of music coming from the port direction. As we looked over, we could see the Sky Princess cruise ship had started her Sailaway Party in fine style! It was quite an experience to see and almost be a part of, especially as it was moving incredibly slowly! There were two families who had walked the pier to wave off their loved ones as they drifted off to The Canaries Islands. Both had managed to pinpoint each other’s location, and if it wasn’t for the use of a mobile phone to help, it would have felt like a scene from The Titanic.
If you do arrive early, there are many ‘Memory Planks’ scattered towards the pier head which are lovely to walk along and read. The old waiting room is also available which is still full of its original character.
The journey back to Town Quay was just as pleasant and tranquil as the journey there. The vessel was quieter with passengers but there was a lot more activity on the water as it had turned out to be a beautiful weekend afternoon. The sun was glistening across the water as water enthusiasts wound down their sails after their adventure across The Solent. Before we knew it, the Red Jet speeder was heading out as we gracefully dodged its waves and headed back into the quay.
Connecting Services and the New Forest Bus Tour
Hythe Ferry is well aligned to the Red Funnel Ferry services. The Town Quay terminal is right next to the Red Jet fast passenger service, or steps away from the Red Funnel Car Ferry service. The Red Jet goes to West Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The Red Funnel service travels to East Cowes. Both are connected by a chain ferry. With the number of crossings from all ferry services, there isn’t long to wait for the connection. Tickets for connecting services can be bought from Hythe Ferry Ticket Office.
There is also a QuayConnect bus service which loops into Southampton centre. There are various drop off and pick up points including the central train station. The bus stop is located just outside the terminal doors at Town Quay.
During the summer months, enjoy the connecting New Forest Bus Tour. Hythe is wonderfully located right on the edge of this outstanding and magical landscape. There are 3 different bus routes to enjoy with the benefit of being able to hop on and off each route. Join the green route right outside Hythe Pier and explore local villages and towns. These include Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Lymington, New Milton and Fordingbridge. Perfect for the whole day out!
Have you made the crossing on the Hythe Ferry? We’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
Water loving British girl who moved to Australia and seriously caught the travel bug! Loves to explore and share destinations that inspire others to spend more time on the water and in the great outdoors. Typically, you’ll find her on a boat or next to the ocean, often in a daydream!