Hayling Island is located between Portsmouth and Emsworth near the Hampshire border with Sussex. It is linked to the mainland by a road bridge that takes you over Langstone Harbour. To the east is Chichester Harbour – making Hayling Island an ideal location for sailing, windsurfing, power boating, jet skiing, kitesurfing and a range of other watersports. In fact one of Hayling Island’s claims to fame is as the birthplace of windsurfing and three miles of fantastic beaches feature around its coastline. Charter fishing boats or try your hand at a range of water-based activities including sailing, yachting and jet ski at Langstone Harbour. Wildlife lovers won’t want to miss a tour of West Hayling Nature Reserve and you can head off on The Hayling Billy Trail, a five mile round trip of the Island.
The northern part of Hayling Island is quieter and contains many of the island’s historic sites. For great views of Chichester Harbour, the Royal Oak pub on the north side of the Hayling Road Bridge is a popular spot. In the village of North Hayling, St Peter’s Church, built in 1140, is a fine example of a typical village church of the Norman period. The three bells are said to be the oldest in England with the tenor bell dating from around 1350 and cast by the Whitechapel Foundry. Traditionally planted yews surround the church and one is said to be at least 800 years old.
West Hayling Nature Reserve
West Hayling Nature Reserve is on the north eastern side of Langstone Harbour. It used to be known as the Oysterbeds as the man-made beds were dug to farm oysters. The farming of oysters on the shores of Hayling dates back to the Roman period. When it ceased the beds became redundant but it wasn’t long before wildlife started taking them over. Conservation work has created saline lagoons, an island and the mud at low tide provides important food resources for a range of birds including geese, waders and ducks. The island provides breeding habitats for common and little terns, black headed gulls, ringed plovers and oystercatchers. The Hayling Billy Trail brings you to the reserve where you can pick up a circular walk alongside the lagoons.
Langstone Harbour lies between Hayling Island and Portsmouth. It is popular for recreational watersports including yachting, dinghy sailing, motor cruising, windsurfing, water-skiing, jet-skiing and canoeing. Licences and permits are required for water skiing and jet skiing – available from the Langstone Harbour Board. Langstone Harbour is also an important wildlife site and a third of the harbour is owned and managed by the RSPB. The mudflats, saltmarsh and shingle ridges provide fantastic habitat for terns, gulls and wading birds such as dunlin, grey plover, black-tailed godwit, redshank and ringed plover. Farlington Marshes Local Nature Reserve consists of low lying coastal grazing marsh that juts out into Langstone Harbour making it an excellent place to do a spot of birdwatching.
Not only can you see the birds mentioned above but a variety of rarer migrants have been spotted here including various species of sandpiper, long-billed dowitcher, marsh sandpiper and lesser yellowlegs and temminck’s stint. Watersports and wildlife come together in the harbour, so to ensure a balance parts of the harbour are restricted to boat traffic. There is also a speed limit of 10 knots in the harbour and restrictions on some activities.
The Hayling Billy Trail
The Hayling Billy Trail is an off-road walking and cycle trail that follows the Old Hayling Railway line from Havant to Hayling. It stretches the length of Hayling Island and is a five mile round trip giving you some fantastic views of Langstone Harbour. The trail is also open to horseriders as well.
The Station Theatre
The Station Theatre is arguably one of the most comfortable and well equipped amateur run theatres on the south coast. Located at the end of the Billy Trail, this spacious theatre was created by converting an old goods shed that was abandoned when the railway line was removed in the 1960s. Hayling Island Amateur Dramatic Society (HIADS) run the theatre and along with other amateur and professional organisations put on a variety of plays, films and music events throughout the year. Parking and a licensed bar are onsite.
Where to Stay
Hayling Island has a variety of accommodation options. Stay in one of the holiday parks with all-inclusive onsite entertainment and leisure facilities perfect for families. Friendly independent hotels sit around Langstone harbour or choose a cosy B&B perfect for that wildlife watching weekend or romantic escape.
Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.