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Guide to the Portsmouth seaside and holidaying on the seafront

Portsmouth’s Southsea Beach is a long, stunning coastline about 3 km (2 miles) from the city centre. As a matter of fact, the beach is a great destination for a holiday. It’s a thriving seaside resort with the city’s delights not far away.

The Southsea seafront is a great holiday destination for many reasons. Besides relaxing on the beach and taking a dip in the sea, there’s no shortage of other things to do. It’s a perfect blend of fun and relaxation. It’s a welcoming destination whether you’re travelling solo, as a couple or family with young children.

Here’s all you need to know to make the best of your trip to the Southsea seaside resort. You’ll find useful information about the beach in Portsmouth, major attractions, dining and accommodations in the area. Without further ado, here’s the guide. Use the table of contents below to help you navigate through the page.


Getting to the Seaside Resort

Map of the Southsea Seafront

The Southsea seaside resort is more or less 3 km (2 miles) from Portsmouth Harbour railway station and the nearby Hard Interchange for bus and coach passengers. From the Hard Interchange, you can hire a taxi or board one of the local buses that stop at several points along the Southsea seafront.

Stagecoach and First Bus operate several bus routes covering Portsmouth, including services departing from the Hard Interchange. Stagecoach’s Hoverbus stops at the Southsea hovercraft terminal near Clarence Pier. And First Bus travelling on routes 3 and 23 stops near South Parade Pier.

If driving, you can find several designated car parks near the seafront. Locations include Clarence Pier, Clarence Esplanade, Clarence Parade, Canoe Lake and the D-Day Story Museum car park. Parking cost £1.90 for an hour, £3.20 for 2 hours, £4.20 for 3 hours, £8.80 for 8 hours and up to £12.40 for all day.

Check out hotels in Portsmouth – You can find a range of options from the budget-friendly to luxury.

About Southsea Beach

Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England.
Southsea Beach | Oast House Archive

Southsea Beach is a 3 km (2 miles) long coastline, comprising a western and southern section. The western section of the beach runs in a north-south direction, parallel to Clarence Esplanade. The southern section is a longer stretch running east-west, parallel to Eastney Esplanade.

Like most beaches on the south coast of England, the beach in Portsmouth is pebbly. The shore is a rapid slope during high tide. But it’s gentle and shallow with exposed areas of sand during low tide. During the summer months, you’ll find lifeguards stationed near South Parade Pier and Canoe Lake.

The seaside resort may not be in the same class as Brighton Beach. Then again, there’s no shortage of things to do to enjoy a lovely holiday. Besides, it’s not as hectic as Brighton even during the peak of the tourist season. It’s a family-friendly destination, especially so when travelling with young kids.

The seafront is safe, well-maintained and clean. You’ll find public toilets at several locations along the seafront, including the Clarence Pier car park, Southsea Rock Garden and Canoe Lake. And there are public fountains to fill your water bottle so you can stay hydrated during the hot summers.

Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England.
Walking along Southsea Beach | Mattbuck

The coastline is a pretty scene and on a clear day, you can see as far as the Isle of Wight. Walking barefoot on the pebbles may be tempting but a painful experience. So bring along sandals, flip flops or water shoes. Keep in mind that there are no beach mats, deck chairs or parasols for hire here. So, bring your own for comfort.

Swimming on the western side of Southsea Beach (between Clarence Pier and Blue Reef Aquarium) is no longer allowed. The effect of the waves here has turned the slope into a steep drop, making it unsafe to swim. Enjoy swimming on the southern side, along Eastney Esplanade, where conditions are much safer.

Looking for a bit of adventure beyond swimming? Surf Shack, near the entrance of South Parade Pier, offers kayaks and standup paddleboards for hire. Island Feather also provides standup paddleboards which you can hire from their partner at Southsea Beach Café on the southeastern corner of Canoe Lake.

Beyond the beach and the sea, the seafront offers plenty of attractions. Southsea Common is a sprawling park to relax and enjoy. It’s perfect for picnics and there are even designated spots for barbeques. What’s more, the park is the venue for many annual events including music festivals and cultural celebrations.

Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England.
Sunset at Southsea Beach | Colin4C

There are several play areas for young children to release their energy. You’ll find Southsea’s splash pools at Canoe Lake and the south end of Southsea Commons. For the adventurous, there’s a skatepark – also on the south end of Southsea Commons – featuring ramps and rinks for skateboarding, rollerblading and BMX bikes.

Portsmouth’s Southsea Beach offers more to enjoy. Clarence Pier and South Parade Pier are 2 beloved pleasure piers featuring lots of fun. Blue Reef Aquarium takes visitors up close to the amazing world under the sea. Southsea Castle is a historic castle built during the reign of King Henry VIII and overlooks the sea.

The D-Day Story Museum tells the history of the invasion of Normandy in 1944. Southsea Rock Garden is worth a visit with its lovely plants, waterfalls and pools. Canoe Lake is a charming park featuring a man-made boating lake. Within is the Model Village with its pint-sized buildings set in a pretty garden.

Dining on the Southsea Seafront

Restaurant on Clarence Esplanade in Southsea Beach, Portsmouth, England.
Café Clarence Esplanade | Hassocks5489

The combination of beach fun and seafront sightseeing is sure to whet anyone’s appetite. The Southsea seafront isn’t exactly overflowing with food outlets. But there’s a fair amount of outlets that you’ll never go hungry. Besides, there’s a good variety to satisfy a range of tastes from classic fish and chips to falafel.

Clarence Pier and South Parade Piers offer lots of tempting options in one place. It’s a range of outlets that includes food kiosks, cafés and restaurants. Whether for a light snack or a hearty option, you can find varieties of foods including many British seaside favourites and there’s no shortage of choices.

A few minutes walk south from Clarence Pier, lies the Beach Club offering an array of options from handmade pizza to vegan burgers. Deep Blue comes recommended for its fish and chips, with outlets near Blue Reef Aquarium and South Parade Pier. Brinny, near Southsea Rock Garden, is popular for its varieties of seafood.

Near the western edge of Canoe Lake, Southsea Beach Café beckons foodies with its diverse menu including vegan and vegetarian options​. Nearby is Indian Food Hut, a takeaway offering tasty samosa, biryani, kebab rolls and more. Also nearby is Burger and Chips, with its classic comfort foods such as burgers, hotdogs and chips.

Clarence Pier

Clarence Pier | Unisouth

Clarence Pier is a pleasure pier nestled along Clarence Esplanade. Opened in 1861, the pier suffered significant damage during World War II. It was later rebuilt and reopened in its current form in 1961. Unlike most pleasure piers in the UK, Clarence Pier doesn’t extend into the sea but along the seafront.

The pier opens 7 days a week, though opening times vary throughout the year. It’s free to enter, and you only pay for the amusements. There’s a host of outdoor rides that kids and even adults can enjoy including roller coasters, a water ride, traditional bumper cars, a teacup ride, a carousel and a pendulum ride.

In addition to the outdoor rides, there are also 3 large indoor arcades that offer plenty of fun activities, rain or shine. You’ll find varieties of entertaining video games including racing and shooting games, not to mention classics like pinball and air hockey. Other favourites include penny pushers and toy grabbers.

There are plenty of food and drink outlets here. To name a few, Wimpy serves a range of beef, chicken and vegan burgers. Coffee Cup has a selection of coffee, tea and chocolate drinks as well as toasties, paninis, baguettes and pastries. Vanilla is popular for ice cream and also offers gelato, frozen yoghurt, milkshakes and waffles.

South Parade Pier

South Parade Pier in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.
South Parade Pier | Geni

South Parade Pier, on South Parade, is another delightful pleasure pier. While Clarence Pier runs along the coast, South Parade Pier features a promenade that juts into the sea. Opened in 1879, this classic Victorian pier boasts loads of family attractions for a fun-filled day at Southsea Beach.

Like Clarence Pier, South Parade Pier also opens all year round and you only pay for the amusements. Fairground rides include a roller coaster, mini drop-tower, helicopter ride, pirate ship and car rides. There’s also an indoor arcade with more than 100 game machines, including video games.

Strolling on the pier, you’ll come across lovely shops selling local art and crafts, traditional sweets, souvenirs and gifts. The edge of the pier offers lovely views of the sea and the Isle of Wight in the distance. It’s also a popular fishing spot. Fish caught at the edge include pollack, mackerel, mullet, bass and flounder.

There’s a variety of what to eat on South Parade Pier. Old Pier Hut offers pizza, wraps, baguettes and burgers. Sourdough Bakehouse serves sandwiches, cakes and pastries. Deep Blue is famous for its fish and chips. Coffee@The Pier offers paninis, breakfast rolls, cakes and muffins. These are just a small sample, you’ll find a lot more.

Blue Reef Aquarium

Blue Reef Aquarium in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.
Blue Reef Aquarium | Peter Facey

Blue Reef Aquarium is on Clarence Esplanade and near Southsea Castle. The building looks unassuming from the outside but is home to an amazing collection of aquatic life from around the world. There are creatures from the waters of the British coast, the Mediterranean as well as the coral reefs of the tropics.

This underwater safari features more than 40 tanks. Among the sea creatures are seahorses, jellyfish, pufferfish, clownfish, starfish, eels and spider crabs. There are even razor-sharp teeth piranhas from the Amazon jungle and snapping turtles with their powerful beak-like jaws.

The highlight is the underwater glass tunnel, which passes through a giant tropical fish tank. From the tunnel, you’ll see hundreds of colourful tropical fishes as well as sharks, rays and eels. Don’t forget to attend at least one of the daily talks or feeding events. You’ll find them fascinating and very insightful.

Southsea Castle

Southsea Castle in Portsmouth, England.
Southsea Castle | Geni

Southsea Castle is a few minutes walk from Blue Reef Aquarium. This historic fort overlooks the sea and was built in 1544 on the orders of King Henry VIII. It was part of a network of forts to defend Portsmouth from French assaults. It lost its military value after World War II and in 1960, was acquired by the Portsmouth City Council.

This tourist attraction on the Southsea seafront is free to enter and is open to the public from March to October. The courtyard though opens year-round. The castle features a central keep surrounded by a rampart. Inside the keep is a host of displays including artefacts, explaining the history of the fort.

Climb up the stairs and walk on the ramparts. As you walk around, you’ll notice several old cannons. From the ramparts, you can catch lovely views of the sea and the Isle of Wight. You can also see the courtyard below, where you’ll find a charming restaurant serving British classics and international dishes.

D-Day Story Museum

D-Day Museum in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.
Exhibit outside D-Day Museum | TimSC

D-Day Story Museum is another attraction near the Blue Reef Aquarium. It’s the only museum in the UK devoted to the history of the Allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. After all, Portsmouth was where General Eisenhower planned the invasion. History buffs with a keen interest in World War II will find the museum very engaging.

Outside the museum is a large landing craft tank, once used to carry Allied troops and vital supplies across the sea. On board, there’s an American Sherman tank and a British Churchill tank. There are also short films and touch screens on board, where you can learn more about this historic landing craft.

Inside the museum are a host of interesting exhibits including uniforms, personal equipment, memorabilia and photos. And there’s a reconstruction of the operations room used by General Eisenhower at Southwick House in Portsmouth. There are also interactive displays and audio-visuals that bring the history of D-Day to life.

See entry tickets for the D-Day Story Museum – Learn about the event that changed the course of World War II.

Southsea Rock Gardens

Southsea Rock Garden in Portsmouth, England.
Southsea Rock Garden | Tim Sheerman-Chase

Southsea Rock Gardens, on Clarence Esplanade, is nestled between Southsea Castle and South Parade Pier. Created in the 1920s, it was part of a government “back to work” scheme to provide jobs after years of economic depression following World War I. Today, the picturesque rock garden is a beloved landmark on the seafront.

This tranquil oasis covers 1.4 hectares (3.3 acres). It’s a beautiful rock garden decorated with large rock formations and varieties of shrubs, trees and stunning floral displays. The rock garden is a lovely place for a stroll, with plenty of seats along the pathways to sit back, relax and soak in the views.

There’s a charming fountain and 2 small ponds. Both ponds are surrounded by lush greenery and vibrant flowers that provide a picturesque setting. There are seats near the ponds, offering tranquil spots to relax. Be sure to take a close look at the ponds, where colourful goldfish make their home.

Canoe Lake

Canoe Lake in Southsea, Portsmouth, England.
Canoe Lake | Colin Babb

Canoe Lake is located east of South Parade Pier. It’s a charming park with a boating lake. Small canoes and pedal boats are available for hire, which are especially popular with families with young children. The lake is also home to various wildlife including ducks, swans and other waterfowl.

There are other attractions at the park. There’s a play area for young children equipped with slides, swings, seesaws, climbers, a sand pit and a splash area. Visit the Rose Garden, home to 40 different types of roses. It’s a beautiful sight, particularly in June and July when the roses are in full bloom.

Model Village (there’s an entry fee) is a delightful miniature replica of an English village. There are pint-sized forts, castles, houses, shops, gardens and a post office. There’s also a waterfall and bridges across a winding river. And there’s a railway model passing through the village, complete with passengers waiting at the stations.

Canoe Lake’s many attractions are guaranteed to leave you feeling hungry. Head to Canoe Lake Café for simple options like sandwiches, burgers, potato fries and ice cream. Another is Café Fresco, serving an artisanal menu of baguettes, quiche, salads, homemade cakes and tasty shortbreads.

Hotels Near the Seafront

Queens Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England.
Queens Hotel near Southsea Beach | Colin Smith

With good transport links, you can get to the Southsea seaside resort from almost anywhere you’re staying in Portsmouth. Besides, you’ll find a range of accommodations to choose from. Then again, you may prefer a place to stay that’s closer to the seafront to spend more time at the beach.

There are several good Southsea hotels near the seafront. Many are 3 and 4 stars but you’ll also find good choices of guesthouses and private apartments. Some overlook the sea but most are within a few minutes walk. Here are some suggestions near the seafront. You can also use this link to find more hotels in Portsmouth.

3-Star Hotels (⭐⭐⭐)

Premier Inn Southsea

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Premier Inn Southsea – This 3-star hotel is near Clarence Pier and the hovercraft terminal to the Isle of Wight. Old Portsmouth is 10 minutes walk from the hotel. The rooms are modern and spacious with comfortable beds. Family rooms are also available. The onsite restaurant is open for breakfast and dinner.

The Royal Beach Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

The Royal Beach Hotel – Located a stone’s throw from South Parade Pier and the beach. The hotel is a Victorian-era building but the rooms are contemporary and equipped with modern amenities. Some rooms have direct views of the sea. The restaurant serves traditional English and international cuisines.

Southsea Rocks Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Southsea Rocks Hotel – The hotel is in a quiet area on Florence Road and is a short walk from South Parade Pier and Southsea Castle. A variety of rooms are available including family rooms. All have a TV and free WiFi. The hotel has an outdoor patio, luggage storage and secure bicycle racks.

Esk Vale Guest House

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Esk Vale Guest House – This guesthouse is a charming Victorian building on Granada Road. It’s less than 5 minutes walk from South Parade Pier and Canoe Lake. Rooms are comfortable and equipped with TV, coffee/tea maker and free Wifi. Onsite parking is available (first come basis). Breakfast is included in the rates.

4-Star Hotels (⭐⭐⭐⭐)

Holiday Inn Portsmouth

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Holiday Inn Portsmouth – This modern 4-star hotel is a few minutes walk from Clarence Pier and Old Portsmouth. The rooms are modern, bright, spacious and equipped with a range of amenities. Besides a restaurant, the hotel also features an indoor swimming pool, fitness centre, sauna, steam room and spa pool.

G Boutique Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

G Boutique Hotel – This 15-room hotel on Feisting Road is close to Canoe Lake. The rooms are quirky and funky if that is what you’re looking for. Each room has its own unique design and all are ensuite. Free breakfast is included in the rates. Take note that the hotel has an adults-only guest policy.

The Queens Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

The Queens Hotel – Located opposite Southsea Commons and a short walk from Clarence Pier. The hotel is an Edwardian building featuring rooms in the grandeur of the era. All have a TV, coffee/tea maker and free WiFi. The onsite restaurant has received many positive reviews from past diners.

Q8 Boutique Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Q8 Boutique Hotel – This family-run hotel, on Clarence Parade, overlooks Southsea Commons. The 17 rooms are stylish, modern and spacious. Room amenities include a TV, coffee/tea maker and free WiFi. An ironing facility is also available upon request. Free breakfast is included in the standard rates.

Florence Suite Boutique Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Florence Suite Boutique Hotel – Located on Malvern Road, and a short walk from Southsea Castle and South Parade Pier. The rooms are bright, spacious and luxurious. Each has a unique design and is equipped with a range of amenities including free Wifi. Free parking is available for guests.

Stattons Boutique Hotel

Hotel near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Stattons Boutique Hotel – This Edwardian building on Florence Road is in a quiet location. It’s a short walk from the beach and many of Southsea’s seafront attractions. All the rooms are individually designed. The rooms are luxurious with Edwardian-style furnishing. Free parking is available for guests.


Stones Throw From The Beach

Vacation rental apartment near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Stones Throw From The Beach – This apartment unit overlooks the sea and is very close to South Parade Pier. The unit has 2 bedrooms (double bed) and a sofa bed in the living room. Features include a living room, dining area, private bathroom, equipped kitchen and washing machine. Free WiFi is available.

Modern One Bedroom Apartment

Vacation rental apartment near Southsea Beach in Portsmouth, England

Modern One Bedroom Apartment – The apartment unit is located at Mary Rose Court on South Parade, not far from the beach. The unit has a spacious living room with a sofa bed, bathroom with shower, dining area, fully equipped kitchen, washing machine and ironing facility. There’s free WiFi.