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.