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As a last minute decision, I took the Portsmouth Harbour Tour onboard the Gosport Ferry, located in Hampshire, UK. Known for shuttling foot passengers back and forth from Gosport to Portsmouth Harbour on the 4 minute boat journey, this service, which departs every 15 minutes, has bridged the gap across the water since 1875, saving the 14 mile journey by road.
@travelwithnoanchor Gosport Ferry Harbour Tour around Portsmouth Harbour, UK… well recomended, especially for £10! Educational yet leisurely and a welcome breeze on a day pushing 30 degrees! 🥵 #gosportferry #gosport #portsmouthharbour #portsmouth #sunnyday #boattrip ♬ FEEL THE GROOVE – Queens Road, Fabian Graetz
There are many Portsmouth Boat Trips that discover the harbour, local coastline and surrounding waters as well as the active naval docks, however this is the only one to leave from the Gosport side of the water.
During peak periods and school holidays, they run Portsmouth Harbour Tours. These tours last for 2 hours and are great value for money at £10 for adults and £5 for children. If you are travelling from the Portsmouth side to catch the tour from Gosport, you can travel on their shuttle ferry service for free (with immediate return). Tickets are available online, or can be bought with cash as you board – however, there is a risk the tour is fully booked by the time you get there.
The Spirit of Portsmouth
Gosport Ferries have three vessels – for this Harbour Tour, the Spirit of Portsmouth sailed the new and historical sights of this busy harbour. With a maximum number of 300 passengers allowed onboard, there were easily over 150 passengers enjoying this tour today. It initially appeared more due to the 30-degree British heat – most people were out on the open deck, hoping to catch some relief from the sea breeze.
The tour was advertised to come along and bring a picnic. This is such a lovely idea, but in reality, it looked like a bit of a nightmare! There was no space to be able to lay a picnic out unless you wanted one of the sardines that resembled being packed onto the outside deck. There would have been more room inside; however, still not quite the idyllic picnic area some would have been hoping for. Kids were making the most of it though, tucking into fluffy white triangles and bags of fruit, whilst the two ladies next to me popped open a small bottle of rose champagne and delicately poured it into their glass flutes (that were previously protected in kitchen roll!). BYO was welcomed onboard this cruise!
It was difficult to hear the safety announcement just before we set off. This was undoubtedly due to the number of people on the outdoor deck. Throughout the tour, informative commentary could be heard a lot more clearly. It was a good mix of commentary vs. time to soak up the harbour vibes and make up your own stories about what these historic waters have witnessed.
Portsmouth Harbour Tour
We set sail at 10 am, heading straight into the adjacent Haslar Marina to glide alongside some stunning looking yachts. Impressive handling skills from the skipper onboard the Spirit of Portsmouth as it’s not the widest stretch of water to turn the 370-ton, 10-metre wide vessel around in! With 650 berths, there is plenty to look at as you glide along, with informative commentary.
The Royal Navy Submarine Museum at the end of the marina is unmissable, being shaped like a submarine itself. However, it’s the HMS Alliance that catches your eye first. A Cold War submarine that is now the museum’s key walk-through exhibit.
Old & New Portsmouth
Back into the main body of harbour water, and it’s straight into dodging the fleet of vessels that are out enjoying the UK sunshine. I must admit there was a tad bit of jealousy as the super yachts sailed past, people sunbathing on the sundeck, cocktail in one hand, selfie stick in the other! Not a moment of actual scenery was enjoyed by those onboard, so maybe not that jealous!
Over to the eastern side of the harbour and you see Old Portsmouth up close for the first time. I personally love this part of the Solent. It beams with character, keeping its charm with small cobbled streets, historic homes and quaint tea rooms. It stands in peace and with pride as the rest of Portsmouth bustles around it. Learn about its life before heading towards Gunwharf Quays and the Spinnaker Tower, which have since become the new kids on the block.
Both are awe-inspiring and monumental to the city of Portsmouth. Gunwharf Marina oozes with modern yachts and pound notes. Not a bad parking spot whilst you go designer outlet shopping and alfresco dining along the striking waterfront. The Spinnaker Tower stands in all its glory, being seen for miles along the encompassing coastline. It’s mesmerising being so close underneath it, looking up at its 170m of sheer beautiful architecture. It’s the Sail of the Solent and moves approximately 150mm in high winds!
Portsmouth Naval Base
Portsmouth Naval Base is home to almost two thirds of the UK’s surface Navy Fleet. It is one of three operating bases in the UK. As you enter the body of water, you can’t miss the Police Boats on patrol, protecting any other vessel from coming within 50 metres of one of the helicopter carriers. It almost has a menacing feel as you head further into the base, surrounded by aircraft carriers, destroyers and frigates. Game of Battleship anyone?! Note, that this is not to be confused with the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.
If you are into history, this is a great viewing platform to see the Naval Base from this angle. You can’t see much when travelling by road, and I honestly had no idea there were that many ships, and active ships at that, based here. It’s breath-taking in a way – to think of their history but also to consider what future lies ahead for them.
Round to Whale Island, home to the modern Navy Command Headquarters. It is also home to HMS Excellent, the oldest shore training vessel. Portsea Castle is over in the distance, and you can find out how it helped protect these waters before heading back to Gosport Wharf.
The waters are calm in this inland part of the harbour. There were plenty of paddle-boarders and kayakers raising their paddles to say hello! The Police RIB team must have been feeling a bit cheeky as they decided to circle the vessel, wave jumping their own waves and giving a big thumbs up as they headed back to base!
Harbour Boat Tour Summary
The commentator on this Portsmouth Harbour Tour was extremely knowledgeable. He also made it extremely relevant to its audience. Kids and adults were both taking in the information and views. Similar to playing a game of eye spy, your head turns left to right, looking out for the talking point. The lack of Dad jokes was a welcomed surprise though, as I thought these were obligatory on most tour commentaries.
Docking back at 12pm, it was time to go and explore Gosport by foot. Even though I’m not overly into history, this was a great little Harbour Tour. There was a good level of old and new information that was both engaging and entertaining. It was great value for money. The Harbour Tour ran from the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is just a 45 minute tour included in a much higher ticket price. The idea of taking your own food and drink is a nice little touch. Just be prepared to eat it off your lap!
Are you considering going on a Portsmouth Harbour Tour? We’d love to know in the comments what you think when you get back!
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