Isle of Wight is not just the largest island in the UK, but it is an excellent location for people seeking a quick getaway from their professional lives. The island is known for its tranquillity and calm countryside. The Isle of Wight also has several resorts and beautiful beaches, which makes it an excellent holiday destination for families with kids. There are also a bunch of affordable hotels on the island for people who might want to extend their stay, which is very common. But where can you take the ferry to the Isle of Wight?
The Isle of Wight is located in the English Channel near the coasts of Portsmouth and Southampton cities separated by the Solent, and unless you own a motorized boat or a yacht, the only way to get to the island safely is by taking a ferry service from Hampshire on the English mainland. Most people prefer to take their cars along with them if they are familiar with the isle while first comers can explore the island by multiple bus and tour services available near the ferry drop-off locations. For those who prefer to walk or cycle, there are numerous pathways possible across the island.
At present, three businesses offer ferry services from a couple of locations, such as Portsmouth or Southampton on the English mainland to several towns on the Isle of Wight. Some important information about the ferry services and their fleet is mentioned below:
PS: If you are looking for a hotel on the Isle of Wight, have a look at my list of the top 15 best hotels on the Isle of Wight! I also have a lot of content on The New Forest if you want to nip by!
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Red Funnel Ferries
The first on our list is the Red Funnel Ferries, which is headquartered in Southampton, Hampshire. The company has a fleet of ferries that are capable of moving vehicles, passengers as well as freight to and from Southampton and the Isle of Wight through the Solent. Red Funnel operates a total of four ferries for transporting vehicles and another three just for foot passengers. Although a car is not mandatory for individual tourists or a couple visiting the island but for families, a private car is a great idea.
Red Funnel Ferries Boats
Red Funnel has three ferries currently in service for transportation of personal vehicles and another for moving freight. The passengers
1) MV Red Falcon
2) MV Red Osprey
3) MV Red Eagle
4) MV Red Kestrel (Freight services)
All vehicle ferries can be boarded at the dedicated Red Funnel terminal near the Southampton vehicle terminal and will transport your vehicles to the East Cowes, a small town on the island. The vehicle ferries can carry at most 200 cars and take anywhere from 55 minutes to one hour to reach the isle.
Foot Passenger ferries
At present, the company operates three high-speed catamarans for transporting passengers who do not wish to take their cars to the island. Red Funnel calls them Red Jets.
1) Red Jet 4
2) Red Jet 6
3) Red Jet 7
All foot passenger red jets can be boarded at the dedicated Red Funnel terminal near the Southampton passenger terminal. Instead of the East Cowes, the passenger ferries drop visitors to the West Cowes, a seaport town on the Isle of Wight. Due to their smaller size, catamarans usually take about 25 minutes to cross the Solent.
Wightlink is another ferry service operating between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight. The company headquarter is located in Portsmouth, Hampshire, and operates the largest fleet of vehicle ferries to and from the island among all three ferry companies. Wightlink is the main competitor of Red Funnel.
Wightlink Ferries boats
Wightlink owns a total of six ferries for moving personal automobiles across the Solent.
1) MV St Faith
2) MV St Clare
3) MV Victoria of Wight
4) MV Wight Sun
5) MV Wight Light
6) MV Wight Sky
Wightlink operates their vehicle ferries on two routes between the English mainland and Isle of Wight. Out of six, three ferries operate between Lymington, Hampshire, and Yarmouth, a port town on the west region of the island. The other three operate between Portsmouth, Hampshire, and Fishbourne, a village on the east coast of the island. The Lymington – Yarmouth route takes about 40 minutes while the Portsmouth – Fishbourne will take up to 45 minutes to cross.
Foot Passenger ferries
Wightlink started the passenger only catamarans in 2009 to meet the growing demand of foot passengers.
1) HSC Wight Ryder I
2) HSC Wight Ryder II
These foot passenger catamarans run between Portsmouth, Hampshire and Ryde, a seaside town on the Isle of Wight. Given the distance, the smaller ferries take at most 22 minutes to cross the Solent and drop the passengers at the Ryde Pier Head near the Island Line rail line, making it easier for those without cars to get around the island by trains or a bus.
Hovertravel ferry to the Isle of Wight
Hovertravel is the only travel company in Britain that operates commercial hovercraft ferry services between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight. It is also the oldest hovercraft operators in the world since other similar companies wrapped up their hovercraft operations and switched to catamarans.
Most people are generally excited and favour Hovertravel over other ferry services for a chance to experience travelling by hovercrafts for the first time.
At the moment, Hovertravel has a pair of 12000TDs hovercrafts called the Solent Flyer and Island Flyer, both were built by Griffon Hoverwork and entered service in 2016. The company does not have a ferry service for vehicles as of February 2020.
The hovercrafts can carry 78 passengers to and from the island and can sometimes hover as high as 1.5m above the surface. Hovertravel operates its services between Southsea in Portsmouth, Hampshire and Ryde. Due to a significantly shorter route, hovercrafts travelling at 40 knots can cross the Solent in about 10 minutes, making this the fastest possible way to reach the Isle of Wight from Hampshire.
Some passengers have complained about the bumpy ride of the hovercraft, which is caused by the uneven lift created by the powerful fans but since it is the quickest path, many are still willing to compromise.
Lieze Neven is a globetrotting travel writer and expat currently based in Nepal. With a passion for exploration, she has lived in Dubai, the UK, and Belgium, alongside her international teacher husband. Her parents live in France and she tries to visit Paris at least once a year. Together, they travel the world looking for the best hotels, experiences and food locations have to offer!