About Red Funnel Ferries
The Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Public Limited Company was formed in 1861. The Company is the original operator to the Isle of Wight and has a distinguished and colourful history spanning over 140 years. The Company's famous house flag was derived from the names of four steamers that were in the newly merged fleet in 1861- Sapphire, Emerald, Ruby and Pearl.
The story began in the 1820's, when scheduled year-round Packet Services started operating between Southampton, Cowes, Ryde, Southsea and Portsmouth Harbour. Excursion Services were also a mainstay activity during those balmy Victorian and Edwardian summers with daily trips along the South Coast and across the channel to France. In the 1900's, the growing interest in travel provided the Company with an important string to its bow - the provision of tendering services to the great passenger liners.
Many would anchor in Cowes Roads and use Red Funnel's steamers for alighting passengers and transferring all kinds of cargo. In 1885 the Company expanded into Tug Ownership and continued to consolidate its market position throughout the wars. After World War II, recession and changing holiday habits led to the decline of the excursion business and preoccupation with the Southampton-Cowes packet services, particularly in light of growing car ownership and the transfer of cargo onto wheels. Diesel propulsion marked a turning point in the Company's history with the first purpose-built diesel vehicle ferries joining the fleet in the 1950's.
It's rare for a firm to have survived for so long, and the Company is rightly proud of its illustrious history and grateful to those who've played a part.
Red Funnel Ferries Routes
In addition to the scheduled packet services between Southampton and Cowes, Red Funnel also operated a wide variety of popular excursions along the South Coast which ran until the late 1930's. The Company's lengthy name perfectly illustrates the choice of trips available.
Cruises were operated around the Isle of Wight from the outset, stopping at one of the resorts like Yarmouth, Totland or Alum Bay. Where no piers existed, landings were made using the ship's boats or via the services of local longshoremen. As more and more piers were built and the paddler's got faster, longer trips were possible including excursions to France.
To extend coverage further, the Solent Queen and others were based at Poole and occasionally Bournemouth, so intensifying competition with local operators like Cosens & Co. Ltd.
Excursions from Southampton
Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor; the Needles or Round the Island
Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor; Bournemouth, Swanage, Weymouth, or Bognor
Ryde, Cowes, Yarmouth, and Bournemouth
Yarmouth, Bournemouth, Swanage, and onto Weymouth, Torquay, or Dartmouth
Ryde, Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin and Brighton
Ryde, Southsea and Eastbourne
Southsea, Sandown, Shanklin and Cherbourg
Bournemouth and Cherbourg
Excursions from Bournemouth
Yarmouth (or Totland Bay)
Yarmouth, Cowes and Southampton
Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde, Southsea and cruise in Portsmouth Harbour
Yarmouth, Round the Island (with stops at Sandown, Shanklin, Ventnor or Ryde)
Yarmouth, Ventnor, Shanklin, Sandown and cruise to the Nab Tower
The outbreak of war in 1914 signalled the end of many of the piers, and so with it, many of the excursions, some of which had been running for more than 100 years.
A number were revived after WWI including Torquay, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis, In 1934 a day trip to Cherbourg from Southampton cost 12s 6d. Departing at 7.15am, calling at Southsea, Sandown and Shanklin, the ship was alongside on French soil by late morning, typically not departing for England until 4.15pm. By special agreement with the French Government, British excursion passengers were allowed to go ashore with landing cards rather than passports.
Sadly all good things come to an end; in 1939 the last cross channel trip had been run and also the final excursions to Brighton, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Weymouth, Torquay and Dartmouth. Never again were pleasure steamers to call at Seaview or the Victoria Pier in Cowes and never again would Lorna Doone or Balmoral be seen going about their summer duties - a sight that had been part of the Solent scene for more than 40 years. This time it really was the end of an era.
After WWII some of the piers were repaired by 1945, and the Company attempted to restart its excursion business using less suitable second-hand ships. An innovation was trips round Southampton Docks and excursions to witness the arrival and departure of the great liners. However, the holiday market was changing fast and after a few years these fell victim as did sailings to Bournemouth and Swanage in 1952. Remaining excursion sailings decreased year on year until they were phased out completely at the end of the 1968 season.
About Wightlink Isle of Wight Ferries
Wightlink Isle of Wight Ferries run every day of the year on four routes across the Solent and sail up to 230 times a day.
Wightlink also have the fastest and most comfortable fleet on the Solent sailing the following routes:
For a quote or to make a Wightlink Isle of Wight Ferry online booking please use the secure online booking engine above.
Portsmouth / Fishbourne
Portsmouth / Ryde
Lymington / Yarmouth
Fishbourne / Portsmouth
Ryde / Portsmouth
Yarmouth / Lymington
39 Per Day
41 Per Day
37 Per Day
39 Per Day
41 Per Day
37 Per Day
Wightlink's Lymington to Yarmouth route is the shortest car ferry journey across the Solent and takes just 30 minutes. Each ferry offers café-bar facilities, a spacious lounge and observation deck. This crossing is ideal for foot passengers with mainland rail services arriving at the terminal and Island bus connections at Yarmouth.
Wightlink's Portsmouth to Fishbourne journey takes 35 minutes. There are café-bar facilities, spacious lounges, observation decks and frequent round-the-clock sailings all year.
Wightlink's Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head route is a foot passenger only route and takes around 15 minutes on Wightlink's our high-speed catamarans. There are onward rail connections at either port. Rail and coach services connect Portsmouth Harbour with London, Brighton, Bristol and the Midlands whilst trains along the pier connect the Pier Head and Ryde Esplanade with the popular resorts of Sandown and Shanklin.
About Wightlink IOW Ferries
Wightlink Ferries, with its predecessors, has been operating ferry services for over 160 years.
From as early as 1796 ferries have been operating across the Solent linking the Isle of Wight to the mainland. In the early nineteenth century the poor road systems encouraged people to travel by sea between Lymington, a beautiful port in the New Forest area, and Portsmouth.
Originally, steam ferries operated a circular route around Lymington, Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde and Portsmouth. The rail companies themselves became involved in the operation of the ferries with individual routes appearing between Lymington and Yarmouth and Portsmouth and Ryde.
In the modern era, Wightlink Ferries has progressed the service from its early pioneering days of steam travel to operate a modern fleet of eight car and passenger ferries between Lymington & Yarmouth and Portsmouth & Fishbourne (historically, the youngest of the routes) and four high-speed catamarans between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier. There is also a seasonal service between Lymington and Cowes running during the world’s premier sailing regatta - Cowes Week.
Wightlink Isle of Wight Ferries History
From as early as 1796, ferries have been operating across the Solent, linking the Isle of Wight to the mainland. In the early nineteenth century, the poor road systems encouraged people to travel by sea between Lymington, a beautiful port in the New Forest area, and Portsmouth. Originally, steam ferries operated a circular route around Lymington, Yarmouth, Cowes, Ryde and Portsmouth, the rail companies themselves became involved in the operation of the ferries, with individual routes appearing between Lymington and Yarmouth and Portsmouth and Ryde.
Ownership of the ferries eventually passed from the British Railways Board to Sealink UK Limited. In 1984, when Sealink UK Limited was de-nationalised, the operating name became Sealink British Ferries and was subsequently bought by the Bermudan based ‘Sea Containers Limited’. In 1990 Stena Line bought Sealink British Ferries, but the Isle of Wight Ferries remained with Sea Containers, who then renamed the company ‘Wightlink’.
In June 1995 the company was the subject of a management buy-in and became a private company until 2005, when it was acquired by the Macquarie European Infrastructure Fund. The company has progressed from its early pioneering days of steam travel to operate a modern fleet of eight car and passenger ferries between Lymington & Yarmouth and Portsmouth & Fishbourne (historically, the youngest of the routes) and four high-speed catamarans, between Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde Pier.
In 1982, Wightlink Holidays was established, offering an easy to book package of holiday accommodation combined with the return ferry crossing.
Now, Wightlink carries over 5 ½ million passengers, over 1.3 million cars and almost 200,000 coaches and freight lorries annually on its three routes to the Island. With twelve ships in the fleet, a revenue of some £50 million per annum and a DSCR of 1.22, it is a large and important business.
About The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is the largest Island off the British mainland and a truly unique holiday destination. The Island’s mix of breathtaking countryside, golden beaches, fabulous attractions and a head-spinning number of things to do will make your holiday there an experience you’ll never forget.
Pick a break at one of the Island’s most spectacular walks and must-see shops or take part in all kinds of sports - from paragliding and kitesurfing to golf and horse riding. Whether you want to unwind or refuel, you’ll find our list of the great restaurants and pubs dotted throughout the Isle of Wight unmissable.
The Isle of Wight offers a huge amount of tourist attractions for days out and short breaks. There is something for everyone and the many tourist attractions on the Isle of Wight include museums, such as the Bembridge Maritime Museum, the Smuggling Museum in Ventnor and the Isle of Wight Bus Museum in Newport.
If you're into steam trains, you can visit the Isle of Wight steam railway in Ryde. For children, there are a huge amount of tourist attractions including the Isle of Wight Zoo and Dinosaur Isle in Sandown and Godshill Model Village.For those seeking arts and culture, visit Alum Bay Glass, Barton Manor Gardens & Vineyards as well as Osborne House in East Cowes.
Appley Beach forms part of the three-beach, six-mile Ryde stretch, many of you considered Appley to be a beach in its own right. And when asked to nominate your absolute favourite, Appley came fifth, well ahead of several more established Isle of Wight resort areas. Rated the cleanest beach, Appley’s fabulous expanse of golden sand is best experienced at low tide. Parking and Access: beach access from the road, parking in Appley Park. Public Transport: Take Southern Vectis bus along Esplanade. Amenities: Picnic area in Appley Park, nearby canoeing lake. Dogs: Not allowed May-September.
Arreton Down is the largest area of unimproved chalk downland on the central chalk ridge of the Isle of Wight. It is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), supports an abundance of chalk grassland plants and butterflies and has superb views to the south over the Eastern Yar Valley. Arreton Down one of the many wildlife reserves managed by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. It covers 19 hectares (48 acres) of land. Grid Reference SZ 538 871.
Bembridge Beach is a candidate for best beach year round, walkers – especially those with dogs – and beachcombers love the peaceful atmosphere of this extensive beach, which adjoins the lively harbour and marina of a renowned sailing centre. Surrounded on three sides by the sea, with access to the shoreline at several points, Bembridge beach varies from sand to pebble and is a great place to collect shells or explore rock pools at low tide. Parking and Access: Several access points to the beaches, including main entrance by marina, car parking near harbour, Lane End (by Lifeboat Station) and Forelands. Public Transport: Southern Vectis bus from Ryde to Bembridge Crossway (30 mins approx). Amenities: Café, toilets, good pubs and restaurants in village and harbour, Shipwreck Museum. Dogs: No restrictions.
Butterfly and Fountain World has landscaped indoor gardens with free flying exotic butterflies. Brilliant fountain displays. Small world jumping jets and italian and japanese water gardens with Koi carp. Gift shop, Hungry Catterpillar café with associated garden centre. Opening Dates: Apr to Oct Opening Times: 10.00am to 5.30pm
Flamingo Park Wildlife Experience is an award winning wildlife park features a unique hands on programme of events with entertaining keeper presentations. There is an incredible array of tame and exotic animals. Tortoiseshell Bay café and gift shop. Opening Dates: March to Oct Opening Times: 10.00am to 5.00pm
Ryde Beach is not one but three sandy beaches stretching six miles – with views out to the Solent and its busy boat life – have made Ryde one of the UK’s best loved resorts. Busier at the pier end, safe, shallow waters make Ryde a great choice for families with younger children and at low tide there’s a huge expanse of clean sand for digging castles. Blue Flag Award Parking and Access: Parking along Esplanade and at Canoe Lake. Easy access to beach along Esplanade. Public Transport: Easy walking from the Wightlink FastCat terminal on Ryde Pier Head or hop on a bus along Ryde Esplanade. Amenities: Large seafront esplanade with amusement arcades, playground, bowling alley, canoeing lake and paddling pool. Town cafés, pubs and restaurants nearby. Toilets. Lifeguards patrol beach in summer. Dogs: Not allowed May-September. (See also Appley Beach)
Seaview Beach is the newest entrant into Wightlink’s top ten beaches, Seaview was voted best beach for winter visits and was second only to near neighbour Bembridge for walkers. Primarily a sailing village, Seaview doubles up as a traditional family resort with three attractive beaches – Springvale, Seagrove Bay and Priory Bay. At the village end, the beach is sandy at low tide, revealing large areas of crab and shrimp-rich rockpools. Parking and Access: Limited parking in Seaview village and Seagrove Bay. Parking for around 100 cars at Springvale beach, including spaces for the disabled. Public Transport: Southern Vectis buses from Ryde to Springvale and Seaview (5-8 mins) Amenities: Various cafés and bars in Seaview village; café at Springvale. Toilets, including facilities for disabled people at Springvale. Seaview Wildlife Encounter close to Springvale. Dogs: Restricted May-September.
Isle of White Sailing and Cowes Week
The Isle of White is internationally renouned for sailing with the coverted Cowes Week being a highlight on every yachting calendar.
The Royal Victoria Y.C. is a friendly, family Club situated at the mouth of beautiful Wootton Creek on the north coast of the Isle of Wight and just five miles eastward from the famous yachting centre of Cowes and host to the Cowes Sailing Week.
Gurnard Sailing club is home of Cowes Dinghy Week. It is a championship venue and is a RYA Recognised Training Establishment. Visitors and New Members are welcome. It offers a fabulous Solent sailing location and regular social events.
The Junior Offshore Group is a club that organises offshore races for IRC yachts racing from the Solent. JOG races are typically intended to be completed in a weekend, including any return voyage. We also run an Inshore series of races which consist of races round marks in or near the Solent, again ending in a nearby port.
For novice sailors there is The United Kingdom Sailing Academy that is a registered charity and a non profit making organization that offers residential courses in Dinghy Sailing, Windsurfing, Kitesurfing, and Kayaking from 8 years upwards. Located on the Isle of Wight, they have access to some awesome training venues suited to all levels of ability and all within easy reach from their base in Cowes. For further info call Wez on 01983 203045 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cowes Corinthian Yacht Club was established in 1952 by the late 'Tiny' Mitchell as a club for local yachtsmen. It has evolved largely through the voluntary labours of it's members to become a popular venue for both racing and cruising yachtsmen. It is the only club in Cowes that can provide marina berths and shoreside boat storage facilities to it's members.
Wighltink Isle of Wight Ferries provides special additional sailings to Cowes during the major yachting and sailing regatta season.
Isle of Wight Ferry & Tourist Information
Help for the Disabled Traveller - Wightlink Ferries staff will make every effort to ensure your journey is a comfortable and pleasant one. If you require assistance in any way, please inform a member of staff when you arrive at the terminal, or on board, and they will be only too happy to arrange for someone to help you. The Portsmouth-Fishbourne ferries have lifts from the car decks to the passenger lounge, where you will find disabled toilet facilities and all our terminals have wheelchairs available. If you wish to arrange assistance in advance, please call (023) 9281 2011.
Safety and Security - The security of the vehicle and its contents is the responsibility of the driver or owner. Loose articles should be locked away or removed and you are advised to retain possession of anything valuable, such as cameras and binoculars. Sporting guns or other firearms are not permitted on the Portsmouth Harbour-Ryde Pier Head service. On car ferry crossings these items must be declared upon entry to the terminal area prior to boarding. (NB: Ammunition may not be carried, other than shotgun cartridges).
On the Car Deck - Please remember to deactivate car alarms. You are not permitted to carry petrol in cans, nor empty cans which have contained petrol unless they have been thoroughly cleaned. Vehicle fuel tanks should not be overfilled to cause spillage. Gas cylinders to the maximum of three per vehicle may be carried in the user vehicle provided they are adequately secured and turned off at source. Up to twelve small expendable cylinders may be carried but they must not be open or part-used. Any compressed gas should be declared upon entry to the terminal.
Smoking - Please note that Wightlink Ferries operate a no smoking policy. Smoking is not permitted on board our vessels except on the open sundecks and is strictly prohibited on the car decks.
Mobile Phones - Please note that for safety reasons mobile phones MUST be switched off whilst driving on and off all ferries.
Travel Insurance - A special insurance scheme is available to all Isle of Wight ferries customers. Customers are advised to take out travel insurance when making their Wightlink Ferries booking.
To check availability and reserve your Wightlink Isle of White Ferries and Red Funel Ferries ticket online please use the secure ferry ticket booking engine at the top of this page.