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Some things in life pleasantly surprise you, and this treasure hunt in Southsea was unexpectantly one of them! We took the Southsea Mystery Adventure as a way of exploring more of an area that we have visited many times but not actually ventured further than the seafront. Every time I drove down the main high street in Southsea, I would always say, “I must walk down here one day” and today, I did exactly that and more!
The adventure starts at Portsmouth City Museum. This gorgeous heritage building is where you can collect your Mystery Adventure guide. Welcomed by a lovely volunteer, we were asked if we parked the car within the museum’s gates (parking is available, you just need to tell them!). There is plenty of public paid parking around the museum and along the seafront. There is a small cute cafe within the museum grounds with plenty of outdoor undercover seating. What a great way to start your adventure, especially in the sunshine.
Now we weren’t expecting much from this Mystery Adventure. I’m being brutally honest. It was something fairly cheap to do but gave us a different purpose for visiting Southsea. Our usual visit consists of a walk along the Southsea seafront as it is one of the best beaches in Portsmouth, a visit to the arcades and a different spot for food and drink, followed by obligatory ice cream! One time, we did make it up to Southsea Parade Pier – an adventure in itself from our usual Clarence Pier favourite.
This adventure walk is genuinely interesting as it shows Southsea off in a much better light! And you really don’t need to be totally geeked up on history to enjoy it!
The Mystery of Southsea’s Laughing Sailor
Back to the Southsea Mystery Adventure, and we found ourselves standing outside the museum with our new tour guide in our hand. The adventure booklet is much thicker than I expected. As I flicked through the pages quickly, I seriously thought we would be here all day! At this point, we nominated a narrator between us the two of us to guide the story with some consistency!
We found ourselves calling it a treasure hunt in Southsea, but that’s not actually the case. This is a well written story where you follow clues to resolve the mystery. I guess that is the treasure somehow – but it does feel like you’ve won something because you do get captivated by this tale. There’s also the added bonus of discounts on food and drink in a selected few pubs along the way – a sure way to keep hold of some of your already well earnt treasure!
From the first clue, I honestly believed that maybe this was a bit of a mistake. The clue related to more logic rather than what was around us. I seriously thought you could be doing this from a bench seat along the seafront! How wrong was I!
As the story evolves, it takes twists and turns, often with comical value – making you really look at what is around you. I couldn’t help but think that the person who created it must have had a great time searching for unknown clues at the time. The adventure booklet format follows Southsea’s true facts for every new location, clues to help solve the mystery, narration of the story as it unfolds and clear directions to your next suspicious area!
Smiling throughout this mystery tour!
We found ourselves smiling – lots! It was both refreshing and exciting. We wouldn’t have been walking around these back streets of Southsea aimlessly, but we were doing it because we had a purpose! Southsea itself gets a bit of stick for being the ‘not so nice part of Portsmouth’, but there is some genuine character and charm tucked away off the main streets. Beautiful houses. Quirky shops. Gorgeous boutiques. Unusual street food. If you lived here, you probably wouldn’t see it anymore. But for us, it was like being a kid in a candy store. We’ve already arranged a trip back to go exploring, but more on our own adventure.
Who knows what you might find!
Pie & Vinyl anyone? We had no idea this little delight was tucked away on a pedestrianised street. We stopped in for a few minutes to have a look – enough to warrant a trip back to spend more time here. In fact, we’ve already made a list of places we want to go back and visit. Yes, mainly of the food kind, obviously, but also some of the unique stores that we know we’ll end up parting cash with! Some of the menus of the eateries along Palmerston Road are worth stopping to look at. Check out The Southsea Village and some of the names of their dishes!
We also timed it with the Southsea Market taking place. It was rude not to buy a little piece of homemade cake to keep us going along the way!
You don’t need to be into history
If you are being put off by this being a history mystery adventure, don’t be. Neither of us are overly into the past, yet we found the facts highlighted interesting! You don’t have to read them if you don’t want to, but it adds to the atmosphere being created as part of the adventure. If kids aren’t too keen, you don’t need to delve too far into the history part to still have fun. The story around the mystery adventure is separate from the historical part and is entertaining in its own right.
We were being followed!
Of all the times to start this Southsea mystery adventure, we couldn’t believe it when we realised that a family was completing the treasure hunt just behind us! Two older kids with a Mum in tow with their eager puppy! We saw them once and then again, but this time they were reading the story out loud to each other! What were the chances? With a few smiles and laughs exchanged between each clue, it shows how popular this experience is becoming. Soon everyone will be looking for Southsea’s Laughing Sailor!
A pub crawl with food and drink discount
One of the great benefits of this Southsea treasure hunt is the discounts on food and drink along your adventure. This is definitely part of finding the hidden treasure! For this hunt, enjoy 20% off lunch at The Queens Hotel (Mon-Thurs), 10% off food and drink at The Jolly Sailor and 10% off drinks at The Phoenix.
Along with these establishments offering their own rewards for completing, there are a number of other charming, old pubs, delightful restaurants and quaint cafes you wander past, so you really could make this an all day pub crawl if you wanted to!
For one of the clues, it looked like you would need to find a marking on one of the outdoor dining tables. I had this horrible thought of going into a busy outdoor dining area to lift unexpecting people’s dinner plates to find the clue. Thankfully this wasn’t needed!
How far did we walk, and how long did it take?
From Portsmouth City Museum to the final destination, my Apple Watch clocked up 4.86km in just under 2 hours. However, this was slightly rushed. We started later as planned, and our lunch pit stop was planned near where the car was parked, close to the museum! We didn’t ponder too long at the clues, so we missed out a little on exploring in more depth. Places like the Southsea Castle, D-Day Museum, and all the delightful tea rooms and cafes would have been worth more of our time!
The booklet suggests a 4.5km walk, so this wasn’t far off. Some of our extra steps were ducking in and out of a few stores, around the Southsea market and whilst looking for signs! It is all completely flat, which makes for a more leisurely walk. Taking your 4-legged family member along would also be a great idea. You could complete this mystery adventure on a bike, but also on one of the Voi e-scooters – bearing in mind the rules and regulations of both these modes of transport. Each new clue was supported by a welcoming bench!
There is one twist to this though. The final clue puts you at 1.6km away from your starting point. So this could easily lead to a 6km walk. We ended up walking 9km that day, and trust us, that wasn’t our intention!
Where cities turn into outdoor escape rooms
We have no doubt there will be more and more of these outdoor adventure activities popping up all over, not only the UK but the world. They are a great way to find time together, learn, have some fun and explore new places – all at a really good value for money. You could make the whole day of these adventures for less than a few £’s each.
Along with Southsea Mystery Adventure – Southsea’s Laughing Sailor, other cities in the UK where these mystery adventures are already located are:
- Portsmouth: Treasure Hunt Mystery: Nelson’s Stolen Diamonds
- Brighton: Treasure Hunt Mystery: Who Smashed Brighton Rock?
- Winchester: Treasure Hunt Mystery: The Bishops Golden Tankard
- Oxford: The Bullingdon Burglar Treasure Hunt Adventure
- Bristol: Self-Guided Sabotaged Balloon City Treasure Hunt
- Bath: Treasure Hunt Mystery: The Prince’s Stolen Statue
Overall mystery experience, and would we recommend it?
This Southsea treasure hunt experience is excellent value for money when you are looking to do something different and engaging. It also takes you on a tour of many old pubs around Southsea – you could almost suggest it was an educated pub crawl!
This mystery adventure is ideal if you don’t fancy a guided tour or too much history thrown your way. Complete it at your own pace. Come back another day if you want to finish it off. Wander off into side streets. Skip the history bit if it’s not for you. It really is your adventure.
Being pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed this mystery experience, we highly recommend it and are already planning another mystery adventure in another city!
Are you thinking about doing this Southsea Mystery Adventure? We would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.
Featured image credit: Southsea Mystery Adventure booklet – Get Your Guide
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