When we go on holiday, just N and I, it’s usually a last minute booking and decision on where we’re going. I tend to look for places near the coast because we’re so central, it’s the only chance we get when going away for a few days. Thankfully N is used to our visiting lots of places in a short time. Both of us whizz round and we rarely spend all day in one place. But we have started chilling out a bit more (the influence of going camping with friends who’ll be happy to spend several full days on the beach).
With our few days on holiday, there was plenty of opportunity for just mooching round and exploring Southsea. The day we arrived was the bank holiday after the Victorious Festival. Our hotel overlooked Southsea Common where the festival was held, so over the week we spent time watching the stages and tents being taken down.
To get our bearings we headed into Southsea centre to grab some lunch first. There are old fashioned shopping parades along with a few cafes and coffee shops. But it was the sea front we wanted.
We walked along the esplanade, towards Southsea Castle and the military vehicles. So much of Portsmouth is still focused on its naval history, there’s plenty to see if you’re a history fan.
A quick melting ice cream – our first couple of days away were hot – then we headed up to the Blue Reef aquarium. I’ll share more on that in another post, but there’s great views of the boats at sea from the large play around the back, then we continued our walk towards Portsmouth along the front.
You really can walk for miles along the straight esplanade. Where we were was really busy being a bank holiday – everyone was out on the front, walking, playing and having picnics on the common, or visiting the few attractions there.
After a couple of hours out in the sun, we needed to get back to the hotel to check in and cool down a bit. Straight across Southsea Common and we were back at the hotel. A great location, and a lovely park if you want to get out with friends and play ball games, Frisbee or have a picnic. There were lots of people barbecuing as well which I was surprised to see. It was sad to see so much litter left over the next few days – N was not impressed! But I suppose with the festival clear up and then a hot bank holiday, there was always going to be a lot around. Although it didn’t help keep the crows and seagulls away.
There’s a nice playground on the common too, which because N’s favourite place. Even after dinner, we’d head back to the hotel but then he’d want to head out to the playground again. All for 2 pieces of equipment.
The swings. N only learnt to swing himself this summer, but the swings in Southsea swung so high and so easily, he loved them so much.
And the ‘zipwire’ that wasn’t. There was a bar and a hanger for children to hang off and travel along from one platform to the other. It was a little hard for N to reach so I would initially lift him up to hold it, swing him across, and often there was an older girl helping her younger sister who would catch him onto the platform. So sweet of her. The other times, I would have to walk along as he swung across to make sure he ended up on the platform and not falling off. It was another highlight of his days away.
N isn’t a fan of shingle – he’s not fussed about paddling and doesn’t get skimming stones, so we stood on Southsea beach to watch the hovercraft coming in and leaving, or sat to have our fish and chip dinner one day. There’s always plenty of ferries to watch coming in and out of the docks too, although I couldn’t encourage N to agree to a short hovercraft trip over to the Isle of Wight on our last morning. He’s really anti-boats at the moment for some reason.
As well as the main area of beach near Clarence Pier, further up and out to the other end of Southsea was a wilder shingle beach area. More for walking as far as we could tell, although I had to hop out of the car to take a photo of these pretty pastel beach huts!
We didn’t make it to the canoe lake and splash area further down but it looked really busy when we went past. There’s certainly plenty to do if you can find somewhere to park. Getting a hotel there was a good idea, and having the scooter made it easier if we were just walking rather than heading to restaurants or the funfair.
Southsea might not have had the sandy beach, but it has an old school British seaside pier complete with souvenir shops, amusement arcades, funfair and cheap and quick places to eat. We avoided the huge Wimpy above the amusement arcades, but did stop at the fish and chip stand one evening. N was very disappointed because we’d only gone there for him to have fish and chips, but they didn’t do child sized portions of fish. I don’t like fish, so he had a sausage and chips (huge portion) instead, and I had a burger. It was lovely to eat it sitting in the old Victorian shelter alongside the beach.
The funfair then called. It’s token payment and there were plenty of good deals if you didn’t want to just pay 50p a token. Rides ranged from 1 to 6 tokens. I thought N would want to try more, but he had a few goes on the bouncy slide and played on hook a duck. Sigh – at least he got a prize although the soft banana he chose was a surprise!
*Contains affiliate links
We returned the next day and he decided the dodgems was an essential. Usually I moan because I have big camera, handbag, and various other things I’m lugging round, but with only one bag I said yes. For the bargain price of 5 tokens (£2.50) a car, we were well away. It won’t be long before N’s legs are long enough to drive his own dodgem, but for the time being I get to drive. We had great fun, N’s face was brilliant. Next time I think we need the gopro* with us because obviously I have no photos.
As well as the rides, there’s also Pirate Crazy Golf. It was around £7 for the 2 of us to play and they had children’s sized golf clubs. We went round the ‘easier but more fun way’ as recommended by the girl behind the till. For an early evening it was reasonably busy but with a choice of 2 routes, there weren’t too many hold ups. N is enthusiastic rather than patient, which means he’s happy hitting the ball but doesn’t really stop and take things easy before aiming wildly. We had a lot of fun playing, and I was so close to getting the bonus cannon shot to win another game.
I was a little worried being a bit outside Portsmouth city centre for our hotel, but actually it worked out really well. We were within walking distance to all the places we wanted to go (just unfortunate that our walk up to the dockyards turned into driving because of the rain forecast). There was plenty of other things to do in the other direction as well. I’d definitely recommend staying in and exploring Southsea if you’re going to be wanting British seaside fun without having to stress finding a space or pay a lot of money for parking each time.
Have you been to Southsea before? What British seaside towns do you recommend?
Why not take a look at these similar posts.