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One Outstanding Week In Portsmouth With Kids – A Photo Essay

    portsmouth historic dockyard

    One week in Portsmouth with kids turned out to be much better than we expected. Not much for cities or busy places, we were happy to find that Portsmouth is not only a family-friendly city but a city with more than enough outdoorsy things to do, plenty of green spaces to relax in and a large variety of entertainment options, not to mention the diverse shopping experience on offer.

    Here’s how we spent one week in Portsmouth with kids without swimming in the sea – it was too cold in August!


    One outstanding week in Portsmouth with Kids
    Hover craft ride Portsmouth

    Day 1: Hover Craft Ride to The Isle of Wight

    Treat yourself to a hovercraft ride from Southsea in Portsmouth to Ryde, a small seaside town on the Isle of Wight, with Hovertravel, who claim to be the only year-round hovercraft service in the world. You’re literally flying across the Solent on the fastest ferry service reaching the other side in just ten minutes!

    The Hovertravel office and departure point are next to Clarence Pier Arcade and Amusement Park. There are public toilets and a playground across the road, and plenty of parking along Clarence Esplanade and Pier Road.

    Portsmouth hover craft ride
    Hovercraft arriving in Ryde on the Isle of Wight from Southsea in Portsmouth
    Portsmouth hover craft ride
    Disembarking on the Isle of Wight
    Portsmouth hover craft ride certificate
    Proud holder of a Hovertravel Certificate stating: You have flown today on a 12000TD Hovercraft
    isle of white
    Ryde’s Georgian and Victorian history is evident in its architecture.
    isle of white harbour
    Walking along Ryde’s small harbour to find food!
    Fish & chips on the isle of white
    Found it. Fish, chips and mushy peas. Nice!
    lunch on the Isle of White
    One of us must always order a burger. This one went down very well.

    We had lunch at the food shack by the Peter Pan Fairground and it was good. We can recommend it.

    Isle of White harbour fairground
    Isle of White harbour Fairground

    The Peter Pan Funfair is on the esplanade, a short walk from where the hovercraft disembarks. It’s a permanent fixture and of course, where we spent most of the afternoon with the kids.

    You’ll find it has all the expected fairground rides, games and adventure golf and, we’re happy to report, all are well-staffed and in good working order.

    Isle of White harbour fairground

    One of Rydes main attractions is its long white sandy beaches. The playpark at Ryde Beach was a big hit and the long shallow sea entry makes it a safe choice for families. We stopped and played at Ryde Beach, but you could walk further along the esplanade to Appley Beach, also a family favourite. At Appley Beach, you’ll find Appley Tower, Appley Park and Goodleaf Tree Climbing, where you can climb a 15-meter high tree with a rope and harness.

    Isle of White beach
    Isle of White beach

    We caught a ferry back to Southsea before 5pm. For next time, these are the things we will add to our Isle of Wight must-do list.

    • Haven Falconry
    • Appley Beach & Park
    • Goodleaf Tree Climbing
    • Puckpool Park
    • Isle of White Coastal Footpath
    • Quarr Abbey
    Portsmouth Historic Dockyards

    Day 2: Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

    This is an amazing place to spend a few days if you’re in Portsmouth with kids. You can have a ball without kids if you’re into history and culture. There is so much to explore that one day is not enough. We bought the annual membership ultimate explorer family ticket, which was on offer on Groupon, and we were glad we did because we didn’t get through half the stuff in one day. We chose to come back for round two on our last day in Portsmouth and still missed a few things.

    Portsmouth Historic dockyard parking

    It’s easy to find parking in nearby buildings. You may have a short walk to get to the entrance, but parking shouldn’t be a problem. Get there early to avoid the queue and buy your ticket online before you go to skip the main queue. Currently, I think you can only buy tickets online, but do check the website for updates here.

    Queueing at the Portsmouth Historic dockyard
    Entertained while we queue to get in by a jester and a pirate.

    Her Majesty’s Naval Base Portsmouth (HMNB) is situated next to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Portsmouth Naval Base is one of three in the UK, has been part of the city since 1194 and is home to almost two-thirds of the countries’ surface ships and various new naval protection squadrons. There is a strong police presence and terrorism threat level signs are posted around the dockyard, or there was during the time of our visit.

    Horrible Histories Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    Running to the Horrible Histories pirate exhibit centre.

    Our children love Horrible Histories! They had so much fun doing the treasure hunt, watching the pirate talk and exploring the interactive exhibits and various indoor play areas.

    Horrible Histories Portsmouth historic dockyard

    Start the day at the Pirate exhibition centre if you’re visiting with kids. The treasure hunt game will set them off and take them all over the dockyards in search of clues. We did the treasure hunt twice!

    Portsmouth Historic Dockyards Pirate Exhibition

    So much fun inside the Pirate exhibit. It will keep children of all ages entertained for a good long while.

    Fun with pirates in Portsmouth
    lunch at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard cafeteria

    We enjoyed a typical British lunch in the cafeteria. It was busy but service ran smooth and the food was nice.

    Game Centre at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    Mast Pond is situated in front of the Action Stations Entertainment Centre

    Action Stations is our favourite place at the dockyard. Situated in Boathouse 6, it offers a series of physical challenges, simulators and technological experiments that gives you a taste of Naval life.

    Sky Tykes Portsmouth

    Our toddler seriously liked the Sky Tykes challenge and did it more times than I care to remember. B and I took turns watching her navigate the obstacle course while the other explored the rest of what the centre has to offer with the older children.

    Sky tykes at Portsmouth Harbour
    Sky Tykes at Portsmouth Harbour Historic Dockyard – a big hit with little ones!
    The largest warship in the world HMS Warrior in Portsmouth
    The ships on show are just super amazing! The largest warship in the world – HMS Warrior

    We found the onboard tour of the warships truly fascinating. Being able to get on the ships and walk through all the areas to see how masterfully these beauties were put together and to see how sailors lived was just magnificent. It’s one of the most enriching, educational experiences I think we’ve been able to share with the kids.

    Portsmouth historic dockyard ship
    The great ‘Warrior’ was the fastest and biggest warship and the jewel in the crown of the British Navy 150 years ago during the age of steam.
    HMS Warrior at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    HMS Warrior. Isn’t she just something special?
    Inside HMS Warrior Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    Smart swinging beds onboard HMS Warrior
    Captain Megan using the sextant like a seasoned sailor!
    HMS Warrior Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    Interactive stations. Here you learn how to tie knots!

    Onboard HMS Warrior we saw how they slept, worked, ate and relaxed. Everything about living on a warship is shared in this experience and it’s beautiful to see.

    Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    HMS M.33 at Dock 1 – The last fighting ship, is one of just three British warships from World War I still in existence.
    HMS M33
    HMS M.33 – WWI survivor
    To HMS Victory at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    To HMS Victory
    portsmouth historic dockyard
    HMS Victory is Britain’s most famous ship, best known as Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson’s famous flagship from the Battle of Trafalgar

    The 25ft statue of a sailor kissing a girl was unveiled in June 2019 as part of the countries’ 75th D-Day celebrations. It originates from a photo taken at Times Square at the end of the second world war and represents complete surrender.

    Lord Nelson at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    Getting real close to Lord Nelson
    HMS Victory in Portsmouth
    HMS Victory plaque: Here Nelson Fell – 21st Oct 1805
    HMS Victory - Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    HMS Victory, she’s over 250 years old. It’s sort of an honour getting to explore her nooks and crannies.
    HMS Victory visitor route
    HMS Victory visitor route
    Boarding HMS Victory in Portsmouth
    Boarding HMS Victory in Portsmouth for a tour of the ship!
    Research Surname Origin and Meaning Portsmouth Historic Dockyard
    Research surname history and origin booth. We bought the printout of the history of my maiden name (Leach) and found interesting facts about my English heritage. This made a nice keepsake from our visit to Portsmouth.

    Day 3: Play at Clarence Pier

    Clarence pier Portsmouth
    Clarence Pier Portsmouth

    Spend an afternoon bowling, playing arcade games, eating ice cream and going wild in the playground at Clarence Pier.

    You’ll find plenty of off-street parking around Clarence Pier.

    Day 4: Chillax

    We always need at least a day or two during a busy week to stay put and recharge before we explore again. The typical grey, wet British weather often makes the choice of which days to spend indoors fairly easy, as was the case this time.

    Day 5: Explore Portsmouth On Foot

    We set out to see how far we could get on foot with the kids and also, how much there is to see and do in that time. As it happened, we got quite far and had a full day of family-friendly entertainment, all unplanned and within reasonable walking distance from our Airbnb in Southsea.

    Explore Southsea in Portsmouth on foot
    Our walking route in Southsea, Portsmouth

    The route took us through Albert Road, a street lined with independently owned shops that give it a unique vibe and a more traditional high street feel. You can find anything from comic book stores to costume hire and vegetables, as well as a wide variety of food from all around the world.

    Streets of Portsmouth
    Welcome to Albert Road
    Albert Street in Portsmouth
    Albert Road, Portsmouth

    Colourful and authentic, a street with personality. It would be great if all Albert Road shops could be revived with a bit of TLC and a lick of paint, without taking away any of its inherent character and charm of course. I recommend heading to Albert Street to support local shop owners instead of heading to the modern highstreet big-chain stores and malls.

    Portsmouth park
    Canoe Lake Park in Portsmouth
    Canoe Lake Park – Lots of activities for kids.
    Canoe Lake Park – Time to get wet!
    Canoe Lake Park surroundings in Portsmouth
    Canoe Lake Park surroundings in Portsmouth

    We found this great green space on the esplanade where we had lunch (not recommended) and let the kids loose to play and explore before heading further along the esplanade to South Parade Pier.

    Portsmouth beachside walk
    Portsmouth beachside walk to South Parade Pier
    Portsmouth beachside walk
    Portsmouth beachside walk

    South Parade Pier has roadside parking along South Parade Road, as well as Clarence Esplanade and Eastney Esplanade. There is also a small car park just 500 metres to the east of the pier, near the Model Village and Canoe Lake.

    South Parade Pier Portsmouth
    Enjoyed a warm coffee on a windy day at this quant little place at the very end of South Parade Pier.
    portsmouth pier
    South Parade Pier Portsmouth
    South Parade Pier Portsmouth
    South Parade Pier Fairground
    South Parade Pier Fairground

    More irresistible fairground attractions on South Parade Pier and an amusement centre to keep the kids smiling from ear to ear.

    Portsmouth coast
    A short scenic coastal walk to Portsmouth Castle
    Brian Kidd Way, Portsmouth
    Brian Kidd Way, Portsmouth

    Southsea Castle was built in 1544 by King Henry VIII, but it was barely completed when he stood inside only to watch his flagship, the Mary Rose, tragically sink at the Battle of the Solent against the French in July 1545.

    Fort in Portsmouth
    Southsea Castle is open to tourists from March to October and entry is free of charge.

    During our visit, entry was restricted due to a wedding taking place, so we could appreciated it from the outside only.

    Brian Kidd Way, Portsmouth
    The perfect place to cycle and skateboard. No, just kidding – it’s not allowed. But if I were a kid, it would be the ideal place for it;)
    Streets of Portsmouth
    Walking back home through the high streets of Southsea delivered a lovely spot of shopping.
    Walking Portsmouth
    On our way to find dinner near our Southsea Airbnb

    You will be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining in Portsmouth with kids. There are restaurants for every nation from across the globe. Our favourite restaurant, not only because we found it close to our apartment, was Umami Street Food.

    Dinner at Umami, Portsmouth
    Dinner at Umami was easy, hassle-free and delicious, which incidentally is the meaning of the name ‘Umami’.
    Umami Street Food, Portsmouth
    Good Food at Umami – highly recommend!

    Day 6: Retail Therapy at Gunwharf Quays

    Having dipped our toes in a bit of shopping the previous day on our walk, we decided to visit what seems to be the main shopping attraction in Portsmouth, Gunwharf Quays.

    Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth
    Emirates Spinnaker Tower at Gunwharf Quays

    Gunwharf Quays is situated next to the Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth Harbour and the Historic Dockyard. The weather was particularly dreadful this day, but with parking and designer outlets all or mostly undercover, we were, well, covered.

    Browsing through a shopping centre with nearly a hundred designer outlet stores and lunch at one of over 30 restaurants is more than enough for us for one day. Actually, it’s more than enough shopping for me for a long time! If shopping is your thing, Gunwharf Quays is the place to go.

    Portsmouth Harbour largest war ship in the world
    Portsmouth Harbour largest war ship in the world

    Day 7: Back to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

    We spent our last day in Portsmouth with kids at the Historic Dockyard again, just because there is so much to do! As it stands, we need another day or two to get everything done. The kids just enjoyed the treasure hunt so much that we did it with them a second time on this visit instead of ticking off the other attractions we were still due to visit. The Action Stations centre got a big chunk of our attention too and we took Matt on the Warrior and Victory warship tours because he missed the first visit.

    Attractions we have still to see at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard include

    • Boathouse 4
    • Henry VIII’s The Mary Rose
    • National Museum of the Royal Navy (if only to see the rare 18th century Jolly Roger flag in the Sailing Navy gallery.)
    • Harbour Tours boat ride
    • Dockyard Apprentice Boathouse 7


    There! That’s how we spent one week in Portsmouth with kids, despite the nasty weather we had during that week of our 2019 summer holiday. And I’d say that that’s the big advantage of going to Portsmouth, is that you’ll have an abundance of cool things to do at your fingertips come rain or shine.

    I hope you enjoyed this photo essay and that you can see how much we loved exploring in Portsmouth with kids. We wouldn’t hesitate to visit Portsmouth again for a weekend break-away or to perhaps spend a week on the Isle of Wight in summer or spring. I think it would be a super family holiday for anyone now that I can see why Queen Victoria loved the Isle of Wight so much.

    When you visit Portsmouth, we suggest you choose accommodation with allocated parking. That was the one thing we struggled with while staying in a residential area. Parking was very limited and well monitored by police. We had to move the car at certain times of the day, especially when permit holders arrived from work. It was an inconvenience that kept B busy, driving around the area in search of parking. In the end, a 3-minute overstay in a parking area in front of the apartment resulted in a fine. Be warned.

    Have you been to Portsmouth? What did you enjoy most?

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    One Outstanding Week In Portsmouth With Kids - A Photo Essay

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