Exploring Hampshire’s selection of magnificent marinas
- Credit: Image supplied by MDL Marinas
Frustrated sailor EMMA CAULTON goes in search of on-shore adventure in Hampshire’s multitude of marinas
Along Hampshire’s coastline, tucked into natural harbours and beside riverbanks are waterside communities that are rarely visited by landlubbers like me. Otherwise known as marinas, you may not have considered exploring them, unless you’re in need of a berth.
Some of these waterside enclaves have the vibe of an exclusive club. Others are like leisure parks with sailing schools and watersports activities. Some are villagey, lively with cafes, shops and events. Yet others are more like industrial estates with chandleries and sail lofts.
This is Hampshire’s coastal counterculture. They are where the shore-stranded, like me, can go for a lungful of fresh, breezy air, perhaps take a class in dinghy sailing or sip a sundowner and imagine a life on the ocean wave without leaving shore.
It seems to me that they are one of Hampshire’s lesser known, but more important assets. Typically found away from main thoroughfares, these waterside communities feel like safe harbours (pun intended).
With staycations likely for many this year, they offer a holiday destination on the doorstep. Plus, having eateries with outside areas, such as decks and terraces, against a backdrop of yacht masts, they offer the opportunity for relaxed al fresco dining while following government guidelines.
Hospitality is something marinas do well. They’re accustomed to meeting the needs of crews - a sociable bunch spilling out of their boats in search of all day casual dining, from breakfasts, elevenses and lunch through to supper and late night drinks.
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In lockdown many of these eateries launched takeaway menus. Post-lockdown their laid-back, whatever, whenever approach has had to be curtailed. Undeterred they’ve adapted – introducing booking and social distancing measures.
The Deck is overseen by Ed Collison, round the world yachtsman turned restaurateur who has created a relaxed, waterside environment.
Ed says, “I chose The Deck, back in August 2016, because it had so much potential. We have undertaken a huge renovation, expanding our covers, and it has been amazing to see The Deck blossom into what it is now. We definitely have the best view in Emsworth, out of any of the places to eat, with our balcony looking over the harbour!
“With lockdown we adapted into a takeaway and delivery service which has been a huge success, and we are so grateful for the support of our customers. Since then we have decided to launch a full-time delivery service with hopes in the future of having a wider menu and delivery radius.
“Throughout August our opening hours are Tuesday to Friday 12 to 4pm, and Saturday to Sunday 10am to 3pm – with booking required. We may launch evening hours in August, but this is still to be confirmed. We are, however, running our takeaway and delivery service Tuesday to Saturday 5 to 8pm.”
At the western end of Hampshire’s coastline, where the Beaulieu River flows into the Solent, is Lymington, the popular yachtie resort. Here, hidden in Lymington Yacht Haven and near the sea wall walk, is The Haven.
This bar and restaurant has a nautical theme, floor to ceiling windows and first floor dining terrace, both with views across the marina.
Long-time Haven stalwart Helen Wood, who has been running the restaurant since July 2017, comments, “The Haven is all about serving food and drinks that are on a par with our stunning marina views!”
In response to post-lockdown restrictions, Helen has also launched new services. These include the Haven To Go takeaway service, available seven days a week since the beginning of July, so customers can enjoy freshly cooked food onboard their boat, on the go, or at home.
The new takeaway menu includes many Haven favourites, such as dressed crab with lemon mayonnaise and fries. In accordance with The Haven’s sustainability ethos, takeaway dishes are served in environment-friendly, compostable boxes and sealed in recyclable paper bags ready for collection.
Also new is table-service only for drinks, with guests greeted, seated, and drinks brought to the table.
Between the two, Emsworth in the east and Lymington in the west, are myriad marinas. In particular, there’s a cluster along the River Hamble – among them Swanwick Marina with The Boat House Café and Port Hamble Marina with Banana Wharf bar and restaurant.
Another is Universal Marina at Sarisbury Green on the east bank of the Hamble and discovered down a treed tunnel.
Universal is owned by Avia Willment, World Champion 8 metre Class sailor with Shelley Jory-Leigh, British and World Record Powerboat Champion, BBC Presenter and berth holder, as Marina Ambassador.
Avia, a passionate sailor and entrepreneur, bought Universal, then a run-down shipyard, back in 1997. In the intervening years she has transformed it into an elegant, tranquil marina.
Partly in line with continuing redevelopment, partly inspired by post-lockdown restrictions, Universal are launching a new restaurant concept later this year.
Shelley explains: “We are opening an al fresco dining restaurant serving surf and turf in the gardens, overlooking the river.”
This will be dining with a difference with ka’tiki-style huts providing private, individual seating areas. In the meantime, a new takeaway café called Ernie’s will have opened by 1 August.
In addition, activities on site for people to enjoy include paddle boarding and jet ski club, plus Aboard Boat Coaching, for professional powerboat training.
Similarly, many other marinas are home to training centres, boat clubs and RIB and yacht charter for those interested in more than just sitting and watching others mess about on the water.
At Lymington Yacht Haven, a relatively new boat club allows members to enjoy boating without the responsibility of ownership. For a fixed annual fee, people have a choice of fully-serviced and maintained motorboats where you just pay for fuel.
Haslar Marina in Portsmouth Harbour welcomes everyone who wants to be in, on or by the water with on-site activities including RIB charter, yacht charter and RYA sail, motorboat and powerboat courses. Meanwhile Emsworth Yacht Harbour is the location of Emsworth Navigation School, which provides RYA approved shore-based courses for all levels.
3 More Marinas
Hythe Marina Village, Hythe
On Southampton Water’s western shore, Hythe Marina Village feels very much like a community with its waterside homes, shops, restaurant and new gym, Victory Lap.
Plus, there’s an active residents’ association (Hythe Marina Association) which pulls together a lively events programme that has included a live showing of Last Night of the Proms with picnics, singing and flag-waving.
Mercury Yacht Harbour, River Hamble
MDL Marinas has made substantial investment in its Riverside Holiday Park next door to Mercury Yacht Harbour, including nine new holiday homes with decking areas for guests to enjoy views across the marina and River Hamble.
With waterfront Gaff Rigger restaurant and watersport activities, this makes Mercury (originally built by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first sailor to circumnavigate the world single-handed and non-stop) something of a holiday destination.
Shamrock Quay, River Itchen
Shamrock Quay, tucked down Southampton’s back streets, feels like a secret. It takes its name from the yacht Shamrock V which was built on this site in 1931 to challenge the America’s Cup.
Today it is still a centre for boat building as well as home to some 40 businesses including sail makers, nautical-styled Bistro with outside seating area and J&S Fresh Fish Market.