The Isle of Wight is just a few miles from the UK mainland and unless you’re travelling on a yacht or private plane, your trip to the Island will start with a ferry crossing. It’s quick and easy, you can come by car or on foot and you don’t need a passport!
So how do I get to the Isle of Wight?
The Island is served by three independent ferry operators. Wightlink, who operate car ferry and passenger routes from Portsmouth and Lymington, Red Funnel, who operate car ferry and passenger routes from Southampton, and Hovertravel who run a passenger service from Southsea.
How long does it take to get to the Island?
Not long. All the car ferry routes take less than an hour to cross the Solent.
Lymington to Yarmouth with Wightlink – 40 minutes
Portsmouth to Fishbourne with Wightlink – 45 minutes
Southampton to East Cowes with Red Funnel – 55 minutes
You should arrive at the ferry terminal at least 30 minutes before your crossing departs but no more than 60 minutes before. Remember that Portsmouth and Southampton can be busy cities, especially at the weekend. Wightlink’s Lymington to Yarmouth route is the fastest car ferry crossing but the drive through the New Forest to get to Lymington can also be slow moving on busy days.
How does it work if I’m a foot passenger?
Wightlink’s FastCat brings passengers from Portsmouth to Ryde Pier, with journey times around 22 minutes. The route is well connected, with the Portsmouth passenger terminal just a short stroll from Portsmouth Harbour railway station. You’ll arrive on the Island at Ryde Pier Head, from where you can catch an Island Line train to destinations including Sandown, Shanklin and Lake.
Red Funnel’s Red Jet service brings passengers from Southampton to Cowes, with journey times around 25 minutes. The nearest rail station to the ferry terminal is Southampton Central, with a frequent connecting bus service, free to ferry ticket holders.
Hovertravel offer the fastest cross-Solent trip, on board a hovercraft! Hop on at Southsea and you’ll arrive at Ryde just 10 minutes later, where you can pick up connecting bus and train routes. There’s a connecting bus service between Portsmouth’s The Hard Interchange to the Southsea Hoverport.
If you’re travelling by train, you can book a through ticket that includes your passenger ferry crossing, with some Railcard discounts available.
Foot passengers can also travel on the car ferry routes, if you wanted to arrive in East Cowes or Yarmouth, which are both popular destinations for holidaymakers. The Fishbourne ferry terminal however is very much a transport interchange and isn’t on a bus route or within easy walking distance of a town.
Do I need to book my ferry?
If you’re travelling by car, definitely. Book your specific crossing on-line, in advance, at the ferry operator’s website. If you’re travelling on foot you can turn up on the day and get the next passenger crossing. Always check the timetable before you travel, especially during off-peak hours.
Are the car ferries accessible for specific needs?
Both car ferry operators provide tailored booking services if you have a disability, reduced mobility or require passenger assistance.
Can I stay in my car on the ferry? What facilities are on board?
You can’t stay in your car for safety reasons. All passengers must travel in the ferry lounges or on the open decks. The ferries sell hot and cold food and have toilets with baby changing facilities. In the summer, the outdoor sun decks make for a memorable way to travel, with plenty of fresh air and great views.
Will my ferry be affected by the weather?
The car ferries are rarely affected by the weather and run in most conditions. High winds can mean revised timetables and slower crossing times. Passenger services are more likely to be impacted by high winds, in which case your ticket will be valid on the car ferry. You can check the operating status of each route via the ferry company website as well as their social media. If you’re booked on a car ferry you should be contacted via email or telephone regarding a change in your booking.
How much does it cost?
Ferry prices will depend on the time of year, the time of day and the length of your stay. Some crossings are more popular and convenient than others and that’s reflected in the pricing. In the summer ferry prices can be more than £100 and school holidays will be more expensive. In the winter you’re probably looking at around £50. If you’re not travelling alone it’s probably going to be more cost effective to bring the car rather than travel as on foot, as passenger return trips are around £20 each.
Can I get a deal on the ferry?
If you’re flexible when it comes to travel times you can save money. Booking in advance helps, and weekdays are usually cheaper than at weekends. Nowhere is that far on the Island – the car ferry terminals are all around 20 minutes’ drive to Newport, the capital town at the centre of the Isle of Wight – so shop around and compare prices and times between Red Funnel and Wightlink. Ask your accommodation provider too. Many hotels, cottages and holiday parks (including Away Resorts and Parkdean Resorts) can book the ferry as part of your stay, often with discounts. It’s easier (and cheaper) to book on-line, as both ferry operators charge a £5 booking fee if you pay over the phone or at a ticket office.
ARE THE FERRIES PET FRIENDLY?
Yes. Pets travel for free and you don’t need to book them in advance. The car ferries have designated Pet Areas although your four-legged friend won’t be allowed on the seats. Pets are your responsibility and should be well-behaved and dogs should be on a lead. You could be charged if your dog makes a mess so we recommend exercising them at the terminal before they go on-board.
CAN I BRING MY BIKE?
Yes you can. Bikes travel free on the car ferries if you’re travelling as a foot passenger. You can bring your pushbike on Wightlink’s Fastcat and Hovertravel services, although Red Funnel’s Red Jet can only accommodate fold-up bikes.
Where are the car ferry terminals?
Stick these postcodes in your Satnav if you’re heading to the Island…
Red Funnel Southampton terminal: SO14 2AL
Wightlink Portsmouth terminal: PO1 2LA
Wightlink Lymington terminal: SO41 5SB
And if you’re leaving the Island to back to the mainland…
Red Funnel East Cowes terminal: PO32 6RA
Wightlink Fishbourne terminal: PO33 4EU
Wightlink Yarmouth terminal: PO41 0PB
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CROSSING?
We like them all! The ferry routes have all enjoyed significant investment in recent years, meaning you’ll be travelling on a modern, environmentally friendly ferry with great facilities and plenty of options to keep the kids occupied. The foot passenger hovercraft from Southsea to Ryde is the fastest and probably the most memorable way to cross the Solent. Wightlink’s Lymington to Yarmouth route is the fastest car ferry and one of the most picturesque crossings. Red Funnel’s car ferry also offers great views of the cruise ships at Southampton dock and then Cowes and the River Medina when you arrive on the Island.
DO I NEED A PASSPORT?
Seriously, I don’t need to bring a passport, do I? My mate said that I do!
No. He’s having you on! The Isle of Wight is part of the UK and you don’t need to show a passport. While we’re here, we drive on the left side of the road and we use Pounds Sterling, although some places will take Euros too.