Cowes Harbour (Image credit:

Cowes Harbour

Cowes is the Isle of Wight's main port on the North Coast, and one of the world's premier yachting centres, where the annual Cowes Week sailing regatta event is held every August. There are actually two towns that make up Cowes; West Cowes on the western side of the River Medina (although it is more usually just called Cowes) and East Cowes on the east side of the river. The Cowes Chain Ferry connects the two sides of the town. East Cowes is famously the location for Queen Victoria's much loved residence, Osborne House.

Things to Do

Cowes is a world class sailing centre with a fascinating yachting heritage. Find out more at the Cowes Maritime Museum which exhibits a range of model boats as well as Uffa Fox's famous yacht Avenger. It also holds a comprehensive photographic and paper archive that tells the story of yachting and shipbuilding in the area. A good place to start your tour of this world famous sailing centre is the Tourist Information Centre handily located at the ferry terminal in the centre of Cowes. West Cowes is a charming traditional seafaring town with pretty narrow streets. Many of the shops and restaurants hint at the cosmopolitan clientele that are attracted to the town for anchorage and sailing competitions.

Cowes Week & Sailing Events

Cowes Week annually in August is the biggest event in the yachting calendar and is the oldest annual sailing regatta in the world - running since 1826. The event attracts thousands of visitors including royalty, celebrities and mariners from around the world. Races are real spectacles and the event includes free sailing taster sessions, street entertainment, live music and a host of pop up eateries and bars. Cowes hosts numerous high profile championship sailing events and competitions through the year. Just before the big August Cowes Week, the town hosts the Cowes Classics Week in mid-July, a leading regatta for classic racing sailboats.

Cowes Ferry Services

Red Funnel Ferries run the Red Jet Hi-Speed passenger catamarans service to Cowes. It's a foot passenger ferry service only and you don't even need to book - just turn up and travel. The journey takes around 25 minutes and runs throughout the year, seven days a week. Red Funnel also operate the car ferry service from Southampton to East Cowes which carries any size of vehicle which can fit under a motorway bridge, as well as foot passengers.

Cowes Chain Link Ferry

The Cowes Ferry connecting the East and West of the town is a chain link ferry also known as the Floating Bridge. It operates every day of the year. The ferry takes foot passengers, cars, lorries and motorcycles until around midnight. No need to book, simply turn up and board. Crossings are free to foot passengers and cyclists. Tolls are applicable for vehicles and are collected on board.

Gurnard Bay Beach

Gurnard Bay has a Seaside Award and is located just south west of Cowes (around a 15 minute stroll). It's a small traditional settlement with a pretty pebble and shingle beach popular for family bathing and watersports such as sailing, windsurfing and dinghy sailing. Gurnard Sailing Club welcomes visitor membership during peak summer months. Mostly green beach huts line the beach and there are wonderful views across the Solent from here - large ships passing off shore often create waves which can be fun, but little ones will need supervision. A cafe and pub provide refreshments and there's a slipway for launching boats.

Accommodation in Cowes

  • Ryde   (3.5 miles from the centre of Cowes)
    Prices from
    Per week (seasonal) sleeps 4-8
    Luxury, self-catering lodges on the Isle of Wight. 6 available, sleeping 4-8. Premier lodges have outdoor hot tub. Fully fitted kitchen. Open plan lounge. Families welcome.
  • Cowes   (0.2 miles from the centre of Cowes)
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    Per week (Seasonal)
    When you stay at Sun Hill Cottage in Cowes, you'll be by the sea and minutes from Sir Max Aitken Museum and Island Sailing Club. This guesthouse is within close proximity of Cow...
  • Cowes   (0.6 miles from the centre of Cowes)
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    Per Room (B&B)
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 283 reviews
    Rating from 283 reviews
    Cowes B&B providing accommodation in luxurious, spacious en-suite rooms on the Isle of Wight. High-speed WiFi. On-site parking. Nearby beach and golf course.
    TripAdvisor traveller rating from 283 reviews
    Rating from 283 reviews
  • Gurnard   (2.3 miles from the centre of Cowes)
    Prices from
    Sunnycott Caravan Park in Cowes on the Isle of Wight is a small, quiet, rural, family owned and run Holiday Park consisting of 20 self-catering caravans. The Caravans have gas a...
    no star
    Holiday Park
  • East Cowes   (1.1 miles from the centre of Cowes)
    Sleeps 6
    Prices from
    Per week (seasonal), sleeps 6
    This attractive, end of row holiday home offers stylish accommodation, peacefully located within a residential development close to the scenic marina where ever-changing nautica...
  • Cowes   (1.0 miles from the centre of Cowes)
    Sleeps 9
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    Per week (seasonal), sleeps 9
    Ideal touring location
  • Wootton Creek   (4.0 miles from the centre of Cowes)
    Sleeps 2
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    Per week (seasonal), sleeps 4
    Approached by 12 steps this attractive and comfortable modern apartment is located within a development of similar apartments and houses which overlook peaceful Wootton Creek. T...
  • West Cowes   (0.4 miles from the centre of Cowes)
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    Per week (seasonal)
    Nautical themed townhouse in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, just a short stroll from the high street with 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms. Outdoor dining space, WiFi and one pet welcome.