Some details on Hayling Island: This was an answer I gave to a guest who was asking about things to do and places to eat on the island, which turned into a bit of an essay! I hope you find it useful. Our favourite experiences and places which we have tried ourselves are those in bold type.
At the northern end of the bridge onto the island (before you cross) there is a pub called the Ship. This is about 5 miles from Southern Bell and so I mention it really as somewhere you may stop when coming on or leaving the island. It is a decent pub for food with a nice location on Langstone Harbour. There is another pub just around the harbour called the Royal Oak, but the best way to get there is to walk from the Ship car park and the tide may be too high for you to do that when you arrive. This is a link to the tide chart for the beach at Southern Bell: tidetimes.org.uk/chichester-harbour-entrance-tide-times
As you cross the bridge, glance over to the right, past the moored boats and you will see the remains of the old railway bridge which used to carry the train line from Havant to the south of the island.
Immediately at the south end of the bridge there is a petrol station on the left which is the last one on that side of the road to fill up on the way on to the island. There are other stations on the other side of the road, including an Esso station that is easier to use on the way off the island.
Also at this southern end of the bridge you will see a car park by the water on the right, which is one end of the “Hayling Billy Trail” which follows the old railway route and now is a walking/cycle/horse riding path that runs the length of the island to the South-West corner. The road that goes left just before the petrol station is Northney Road, which leads to Northney Marina. It is seasonal, but at Northney Marina there is a lovely little café by the marina which does BBQ breakfasts, lunch and afternoon teas (plus wine!): saltshackcafe.co.uk
Northney Road also leads around through a charming part of the island called Northney Village and on to the Meadow Farm nursery and tea shop: www.meadowfarmnursery.co.uk This route eventually comes out via St Peters Road and Copse Lane to join the main road going down the middle of the island.
Explanation of the “Mile Marker” system: In Florida and other parts of America, they use the mile-marker system to mark locations of restaurants and businesses. It works well when there is effectively one main road, such as in the Florida Keys, where Key West is MM0.0 all the way to Key Largo at MM105.0. As Hayling Island has one main road too, I am going to use this system to point things out along the way. But get a passenger, not the driver to do the looking!
Back to the bridge and I’m going to mark that first petrol station as MM 0.0
That makes the Esso station on the other side of the road at MM 0.7
As you go around a bend at MM 1.4, make a note of the Stoke Fruit Farm shop on the right and be careful not to brake too fast as the cars can queue there a bit! The farm shop is a great place to get local produce, some of which is grown on the 350-acre farm they have on the island. stokefruitfarm.co.uk Keep an eye on their Facebook page or ours at Southern Bell in the summer as they have started really great PYO sunflowers in the last couple of years and are always coming up with new ideas for the whole family. stokefruitfarm.co.uk/live-update-on-sunflowers
The BBC visited recently and there is a video here: bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-england-hampshire-53786390/sunflower-fields-provide-instagram-selfie-profits-for-farms
The Yew Tree is the first pub you will come to, on the left at MM 1.6. That has a good reputation and is a nice-looking pub. I have only had a drink in there and not eaten but it seems a good place, but it is inland.
Carrying on down the main road, The Maypole is at MM 1.8. The pub has recently been taken over by new owners who seem very enthusiastic and are also the team that brought the island Sophie’s Pie & Mash, very good East London style pie, mash & liquor.
As you keep going down the main road, look out of the left for a small “Crab & Lobster” sign on the floor at MM 2.0 where there is a turn for the Hayling Yacht Company and Mill Rythe business units (Mill Rythe Lane). There are a couple of guys down that turning (first left by the donkey sanctuary) who sell live local crab and lobster, in case you have a budding cook in your group! They are also very good at removing the sign or crossing out either ‘crab or ‘lobster’ if they don’t have one or the other but I got their mobile numbers the other day so you can always call to see if they have any. They are Tony on 07791588561 and Peter on 07584040599 (St Ruan’s Shellfish.) They specialise in lobsters, which are often around 2lb in weight as well as beautiful brown crab and in the summer, spider crabs and recently for the winter months they have started harvesting live scallops.
If this is the first time you have cooked live lobster or crabs we can also arrange a lesson and cooking session for your group, see details below.
The Donkey Sanctuary itself has open days during the year too and have done a lot of work recently to make the sanctuary visitor-friendly. haylingdonkeys.co.uk
At MM 2.4 you will reach a small roundabout where there is now a Lidl. You should turn left at the roundabout (onto Church Road). The hardly-noticeable climb you are now taking is you rising to the highest point on Hayling Island! – St Mary’s Church at MM 2.8 which also has a yew tree said to be some 2,000 years old in the churchyard.
Yes, Hayling Island is very flat and therefore ideal for cycling. If you do not have bikes with you, then you can hire them from haylingbikehire.co.uk or the other option is to look out for a house on Rails Lane, very close to the pet shop who sells bikes on his driveway from about £30 to £50 if you think you will use them all week. He is a lovely guy who has looked after a lot of our guests over the years.
At MM 2.9 you can opt to turn off to the Co-op supermarket at the start of Elm Grove, which has a car park at the back. This is quickly followed by Hayling Cycles at MM 3.0 who do not hire bikes but is worth knowing in case you have brought your own with you and need any spares.
On the right hand side of the road at MM 3.1 is the “old-skool” Hayling Hardware, which you will see is housed in the old bus station. This place is a Tardis and is a great place to find that widget you just can’t get anywhere else. Extremely helpful staff and a good reason to not need to leave the island. We spent a small fortune in there while working on Southern Bell and we have guests that love visiting, just to see what they have in store.
The Hayling Hardware car park is also one of the regular locations for stokedkitchen.uk who sell great takeaway pizzas from the pizza oven in their van. The last time I looked, it was a Friday here from 6pm to 9pm but check their website for this and other days if you fancy a really good pizza. It's also one location for the excellent https://cornishcookhouse.co.uk/home/our-food/ usually on a Monday. There are more details on them below.
Back on the left side of the road at MM 3.2 you will see the Royal Chef Chinese takeaway, which is our favourite. They deliver and you will find their menu at Southern Bell. We have also had good reports about the Golden Dragon on Elm Grove too.
I could go into more details on takeaways, but you will notice you pass a lot on the way to Southern Bell and I only hear good things about them.
At MM 3.3 and just before turning left you will come across a set of shops. This area is known as Mengham and has various good cafes and breakfast spots as well as Groves bar & restaurant https://grovesrestaurant.co.uk/ and a small Sainsbury’s. Chives Café/Mikes Kitchen is one of our favourites, run by Mike & Tonya facebook.com/MikesKitchenHayling
Mengham also has an excellent independent butchers and deli facebook.com/alanraebutchers and a greengrocers. It is the best area on the island for smaller independent shops and easy to reach from Southern Bell. There is also a small assisted-living shop there who are very friendly and willing to give advice on anything you may need. Mick’s, a large fishing tackle shop has also recently moved here from Eastoke Corner.
Hopefully, your SatNav will have suggested turning left into Selsmore Road where you will go past a smaller Co-op which is also good and has a smaller car park and a friendly bunch of staff.
This road turns into Rails Lane where you will see some other shops as well as a garage with fuel, a Post Office and pet shop at MM 4.0.
You will turn left into Southwood Road itself (with a Best One convenience store on the corner) at MM 4.1. There is a small café here called Ollies, while there is also a good pizza takeaway, called Hayling Pizza, which you can order online via Just Eat.
Southern Bell is on Southwood Road after a total of 4.6 miles from the bridge onto Hayling Island, so you have about half a mile to drive down Southwood Road, but as you get nearer, look out for a low white wall on the right hand side of the road. This wall is at 104 Southwood Road, so you need to turn into Southern Bell (no. 102) just before it. If you get to the car park on the right or Creek Road on the left, you have gone too far!
You can park anywhere at the front of the house, including on the gravel. Make sure you don’t block between the bin and the other gate, as this is how the bin men pick it up on a Monday morning. You don’t need to put it out and it also takes all rubbish in the one bin. OK, that’s enough ‘trash-talk.’
Welcome to Southern Bell!
There is lots to do in the area, some of which you can see on our website, and we’ll get to the other bits of the island in a minute, but there is also a lot to do if you just want to relax at the beach.
The garden is fully-enclosed with all the gates closed, but please check around to make sure you are happy before letting children and dogs loose!
There is plenty to see and do at the beach and hopefully the first thing you will notice is the view!
The beach faces pretty much due-South and on the left as you look out to sea (East) is the entrance to Chichester Harbour. The land beyond there is the Witterings and Bracklesham Bay leading to the point at Selsey Bill.
The harbour entrance is marked by two markers and the one further out is called West Pole and has a weather station on it whose data you can see at chimet.co.uk It records lower temperatures out there as it is a mile off the coast, but it also has wind speeds, tide heights etc. One for any fellow geeks in your group.
Another one for the geeky and pretty much for anyone is marinetraffic.com or much better, download an app called “Ship Finder” which tracks the radar of any shipping going past. No longer will you need to wonder what that ship is and where it is going. One of the best things to do is to simply watch the ever-changing scenery in front of you, including the ships, which includes small boats from the nearby sailing club, the largest privately-owned yacht fleet in the world, naval ships including the Portsmouth-based Queen Elizabeth and Prince of Wales aircraft carriers and of course the cruise ships, which tend to come past early evening on their way across the Atlantic or to Europe. You can see which cruise ships are due to come by on this link. They tend to pass about an hour after leaving Southampton.
The other big factor for the ever-changing scenery is of course the weather and our stunning sunsets. Hayling definitely has its own microclimate and is one of the sunniest places in the UK. We live just 15 miles north of the island, but the weather is often very different there to at the coast.
Sometimes the cloud on the horizon will be low enough to obscure the land mass that you see across the water. This is the Isle of Wight, which I nickname the “Lost Island” as even on a really sunny day, sometimes it just seems to disappear!
You usually get a particularly clear view of the island in the morning as the eastern sun shines on it. The headland to the left (east) of the IoW is Bembridge, while the larger town to the west is Ryde. The island then seems to blend into the mainland as it moves up to the popular yachting town of Cowes.
In between you and the Isle of Wight are some of the Napoleonic Forts, which are now mainly hotels. The one further west is Spitbank Fort, while the two closer to the Isle of Wight are No Mans Land and Horse Sand Forts.
There is another part-finished fort close to Bembridge, called St Mary’s which is difficult to see because it is so close to the land, while back to the east, the thing on the horizon that looks like a ship that never moves is actually the Nab Tower. The tower was part of a WW1 anti-submarine plan but is now an important navigation marker. There are more details here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nab_Tower
Looking along the beach with the binoculars you’ll find in Southern Bell you will see the Hayling coastline and across Langstone Harbour to Southsea and then Portsmouth, including the Spinnaker Tower, which is at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour and also at Gunwharf Quays, a great outlet shopping and restaurant venue.
The beach is mainly pebble but gives way to sand at lower tides. The beach here is dog-friendly and frankly a doggy-paradise. The sea is OK to swim in with the warmer temperatures, but watch out for varying tides, as the beach shelves into deeper water fairly quickly. This all varies from year to year but there is always fun to be had on the beach from BBQs, fishing (mackerel can be great in the summer and quite often you can see the water ‘boil’ as they feed) or simply relaxing.
While looking out to sea or down at the beach, look out for seals that quite often visit from the harbour. Just the day before I wrote this, I was at Southern Bell watching an adult seal just 10ft from the shoreline who had caught a huge ray. He bobbed about enjoying his hard-earned lunch for about 20 minutes or so. In fact, in 2018 Hayling Island was named as the best place in the UK to spot seal pups, although that will be in the nearby harbour where the grey seals live. Later on I’ll mention the Rosie K who host boat trips in Langstone Harbour and often spot seals. 2020 was a record year for new grey and habour seal pups being born in the harbours.
Hayling is also a popular area for birdwatching and you will often see ornithologists with spotting scopes walking along the beach. In recent years there has also been a reintroduction of White-Tailed Sea Eagles to this part of the south coast and Isle of Wight, so I am sure they are always looking out for them too! The nearby Langstone Harbour nature reserve attracts many species of seabirds and this is a good guide to what you may see: rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/langstone-harbour
Don’t forget to also look up! and keep an ear out for the clear rumble of a Rolls-Royce Merlin engine powering one of the many Spitfires which operate pleasure flights out of nearby Goodwood airfield. These are not at all rare and your day on the beach or morning mug of tea in the garden may well be accompanied by a Spitfire fly-past!
For all ages, a bit of beach scavenging can quite easily find “Lucky Stones” – stones which have had a natural hole formed through the middle. You’ll see at Southern Bell where previous guests have strung them together and it’s great for children young and old to make their own collection. You may also come across a colourfully-painted stone or two linked to Hayling Rocks
facebook.com/groups/188884781675376 If you do, remember to post a picture online and re-hide it for someone else to find. In extreme cases you may come across a stone with a microchip in it. If you do, take a look and pop it back as these are there to measure how the tide moves shingle and stone along the coast.
It’s also become a lovely tradition for guests at Southern Bell to leave their own painted stones in the garden and you will see lots of these by the garden sea-wall.
If you are looking for something different for your group to try, here are some ideas which I may be able to arrange for you, so let me know if you are interested in finding out more:
1. Touring the local vineyards of the nearby South Downs sparklingsouthdowns.com
2. Wine tasting at home, including an introduction to different types of sparkling wine, including Prosecco, Cava, Champagne, and English Sparkling wine.
3. A meal cooked at home for you, by a Leith’s cookery school graduate
4. Cook and learn how to ‘pick’ local spider crabs and lobster
If all that seems like too-much activity, you can always relax in the hammock or slide the patio door open and simply listen to the waves on the beach.
Through your private gate to the promenade and beach there are some great opportunities for a couple of short walks. Turning right out of the beach gate will take you to some shops, pubs and restaurants I’ll mention shortly, while turning left along the beach will take you to great scenery, nature reserve, sandy beaches and eventually to a bar/restaurant at Sparkes Marina. (The bar is called Drift and is a great spot for a drink, lunch or dinner while looking at the boats.)
Walking along the beach in that direction will bring you to the entrance to Chichester Harbour – one of the busiest and most famous sailing locations in the world. The grey rocks on the beach along the way were imported from Norway and are part of relatively-new sea defences. It was interesting watching them arrive by ship and barge (called “Charlie Rocks”) and over a combination of high and low tides they were dropped onto the beach then moved into position.
The beach gets progressively more sandy as you go around into the harbour and in recent years the sea has formed a lovely shallow lagoon at the right level of tide, just before the harbour entrance about a 10-12 minute walk along the path or beach from Southern Bell.
The entrance to Chichester Harbour is marked by a big sand bank, called the Chichester Bar, which in recent years has become a bit of a surfing spot both for Surfers and Stand-Up-Paddleboarders as incoming tide waves break over the bar. SUP is something you can try out yourself on the island too, details are below.
There is a nature reserve to the left where you may see grazing highland cattle and this follows the beach as far as the active and friendly Hayling Island RNLI station where you can see the two Inshore lifeboats for this wonderful service for which I am proud to say we have helped to raise more than £38,000 over the years.
Beware, the tide can be extremely strong along this stretch of the coast so while the sand is lovely, it is not a safe place to swim.
The beach carries on to the large Hayling Island Sailing Club (HISC) where various Olympic sailors, including Sir Ben Ainslie have been raised and just past the club there is a lovely sandy spit. If the tide is out when you are here, watch out for the sand near the water’s edge as it can be very soft and you may lose a flip-flop!
The harbour is home to Chichester Harbour Conservancy, who are based across the water in Itchenor and hold various events and boat trips through the year as well as keeping us up to date on wildlife in the area such as the reintroduction of Sea Eagles to the south coast conservancy.co.uk and offering advice such as walks around the harbour, some of which start/end on Hayling www.conservancy.co.uk/page/Walking
Also over by the Conservancy is itchenorboathire.co.uk who hire RIBs and other small boats to people with boat-handling experience. I have not asked them recently, but if you fancy that there is a chance they will deliver to/from Sparkes Marina jetty.
Alternatively, a company called JetVenture are base at Sparkes itself and do Jet Ski experiences and tours. They are on 07578 509659, while www.sandypointwatersports.com have started hiring windsurfing and SUP boards from the Sparkes Marina jetty (although note they are about to move to somewhere else on the island). They are on facebook and also email@example.com or 07732 50 142. One great-looking (or amusing, if you happen to have my level of balance) is the SUP Yoga sessions they have recently started doing in the harbour.
Sparkes marina is just a mile from Southern Bell and in the same location as Drift bar, while another recent addition to the island is Sandbar SUP who will deliver stand-up paddleboards for rent to Southern Bell. Their Facebook page is facebook.com/sandbarsup or they are on 07824 632997. Another new alternative for SUP or kayak hire is www.haylingislandwatersports.co.uk as they are just east along the same pathway as by your gate to the beach, while there is also www.haylingwatersports.co.uk as well.
Fishing boat charters are available locally from several of the marinas. We have been out on a fishing boat called “Malaki” from Sparkes Marina on Hayling Island which was great fun (and takes up to 10 people), while I have also had great fishing trips with Kelley’s Hero Fishing Charters www.facebook.com/KelleysHeroUK
Also around the harbour and reached by going back over the bridge to the mainland is facebook.com/pooklaneridingschool who offer fun horse and pony rides around the harbour, which we have not tried but looks great fun and they now offer horse riding on the island along the coast of Langstone Harbour.
To get to Sparkes Marina via the beach, just after the RNLI station and before HISC there is a path/road and a small bridge which leads back inland and past some 1930s art-deco style houses. If you go over this and turn right down the first residential street, it will take you to Sparkes Marina where you can see the boats and also to “Drift” which is a great bar/restaurant and one of the closest to Southern Bell. Via road (rather than the beach) this is a few minutes drive or about 20 mins walk and serves great food, including smaller plates and pizzas from its wood-fired oven. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for special offers like £5 pizzas, 2 for 1 cocktails or £15 Prosecco facebook.com/DriftHayling/
It’s really close, but you can always get a taxi there or anywhere else on the island. Hayling taxis are relatively cheap in my opinion and the main operators are Hayling Cars on 02392 422828 or “Andi Cars” on 02392 472472. Andi Cars also have a Uber-like app, which I find useful, while we are starting to get some Uber taxis on the island too so it is worth checking.
Don’t overlook the bus service as another option to get around the island, particularly if you fancy a drink. There are two services 30 & 31, which effectively go around the island either clockwise or anti-clockwise and both start/finish at Havant Bus Station, which is a short walk from Havant train station with direct services to London Waterloo, Portsmouth Harbour, Southampton and Brighton. The closest bus stop is right by the nearby car park and buses are scheduled about every 15 minutes.
The other good non-driving way to get around Hayling Island is to cycle. The island is very flat and there are now lots of off-road pathways including one that will take you along the beachfront to the Hayling Ferry, which is an excellent foot-passenger and cycle ferry over to Portsmouth which I’ll mention shortly. Aside from that path there are many others you can see on this website cyclehayling.org.uk/the-map
OK, so let’s get back in the “car in my mind.”
There is not a lot of land left on the island if you turn right out of Southern Bell but it does lead down to the nature reserve as well as Drift bar & restaurant. As I say elsewhere, keep an eye on their Facebook page for special offers like pizzas, Tomahawk Steaks, Bottomless Ribs,2 for 1 cocktails or Prosecco facebook.com/DriftHayling/
Before then and very close to Southern Bell is the Cornish family burger van, which sets up in the Creek Road/Nab car park at lunchtimes in the summer until at least 3pm, possibly 5pm or later on some days if they still have fresh stock to sell. We tried this recently and the burgers were excellent. I had their cheeseburger, which was clearly home-made, very tasty and easy to eat. Here is a link to their menu https://cornishcookhouse.co.uk/home/our-food/ The salt beef bagel is also good, while the tacos are some of the best I have eaten anywhere in the world. You can see I am working my way through their menu, purely for research purposes of course! Check their website and Facebook pages to see where they are going to be as they tell me they will be making some seasonal changes and will vary their locations.
If you turn left out of Southern Bell and then turn left at the end of Southwood Road you are immediately in an area called Eastoke Corner. The convenience store immediately on the left is your second-closest to Southern Bell. The other convenience stores are in Creek Road along with the traditional Up the Creek Café if you fancy a proper breakfast cooked for you.
Eastoke Corner also contains the Olive Leaf pub, some takeaways and shops. This is also where you get to after walking about 10 mins if you turn right out of the beach gate at Southern Bell onto the promenade.
Next to the convenience shop is No.18 a small gin & wine bar open in the evenings and also the very popular Virdee’s Ice Cream Parlour (this was called “Pepperelli’s” before) as well as a new takeaway chicken place.
On one side of the corner is the Terracotta Pot Shop, which is a great spot for holiday gifts, while on the beach side you will see an open area where some concerts take place in the warmer months. Look out for signs for what is on.
Next to this is one of two open-air “fitness” areas with workout machines and a small football/basketball court plus children’s play area. In all honesty, the children have also taken over the fitness area! There are also public tennis courts available for use at the Community Centre in West Town.
On the other side of the road you will see a small amusement arcade with a small café and also the award-winning and great fish & chip shop; The Coastguard Café. There is almost always a queue outside in the summer, but with good reason. There are other good fish & chip shops on Hayling but our personal favourite is the Coastguard.
The two pubs here are the Lifeboat, and further along the Olive Leaf (named after Hayling’s first lifeboat!) Both of these are good in my opinion but for different reasons. The Lifeboat is a local’s pub with good beer but no food. I like it as a spot to watch the rugby as they have a lot of TVs across two bars. The Olive leaf is also a good locals place for drinks and food, recently taken over by new management who are doing a lot of nights like an open-mike night and quizzes. The restaurant there is small, but I like the food and it’s a friendly place and like pretty much all bars on Hayling, both are dog-friendly. The Olive Leaf has been gearing up for the summer adding more events and also a garden bar during 2023, plus extending their food hours including a very good breakfast menu at the weekend from 10am. You can double-check the latest online on their Facebook pages.
Of course, back on the beach-side of the road there is also the Hayling light railway! haylingrailway.com which has a regular timetable to take visitors along the beach to Beachlands and the Funland Amusement Park and Arcade. You’ll see the route as you carry on driving past Eastoke and the big car park towards Beachlands, but there are also a few other places worth pointing out along the way.
On the left by the beach is the small colourful beach hut of Pebble Beach Café, which does teas, coffees and a great bacon roll. This is another friendly place and I like it, but as you will see it is effectively a large beach hut, which adds to the charm along with the mis-matched drinking mugs and plates, so expect an alfresco cupper on the beach rather than a restaurant.
That’s also close to Hayling’s COPP memorial, remembering the heroic work of the Combined Operations Pilotage Parties set up on Hayling Island in 1943 under Lord Mountbatten to train frogmen and canoeists for covert beach reconnaissance and other essential clandestine operations prior to the Allied landings on enemy occupied territory. It’s one of those often-forgotten periods of a proud history and a great addition to the beachfront. coppheroes.org
We will carry on down this road, but the right-hand turn marked to Mengham takes you back to the road you came down on the way onto the island, with Mengham shops and Hayling Hardware etc.
You soon reach a larger roundabout at Beachlands, which is where a large car-boot sale is often held and is also where the large Funland amusement park is located funland.info
There are a couple of different food options around the amusement arcade, including a traditional fish stall located in a small shed, selling prawns and other ready-to-eat fish, while a new addition to the island very close to my heart as an East-End boy is Sophie’s Pie, Mash & Liquor https://www.facebook.com/Sophies-Pie-Mash-and-Liquor-105456365345324
There are some other shops here as well, including a beach-goods shop you can’t really miss, plus Mad Hatters Tearoom and also Andy Biggs Watersports andybiggs.co.uk
Hayling Island is officially where windsurfing was invented in 1958 (there was actually a court case to prove this in the 1980s) and is still a major centre of the water sports world and considered one of the best places in the world for windsurfing, kitesurfing and also newer sports like SUP. The main area for this is to the West of the island, or straight ahead at this roundabout where we will continue.
The main water sports area starts a little way down this road where you can turn left for both the beach, Hayling Skate Park and also the large sea-front Inn on the Beach innonthebeach.co.uk/ This is another great venue on Hayling. Occupying the site of the old coastguard station, it has a huge outside terrace which is lovely in the summer when they also open an additional beach shack for snacks and has waves crashing over it in the winter. Inside, the recently-refurbished bar & restaurant command lovely views across the water sports area of the beach which sweeps around to the massive Eastern sandbank.
This is a fantastic area for a walk, to watch the kitesurfing, see dogs loving the beach or horses galloping across the sand at evening low tides (horses are only permitted on this area of the beach before 10am or after 7pm) hayling.co.uk/sports/horse-riding. Remember the Pook Lane Riding Centre mentioned above if seeing the horses whets your appetite for having a go yourself, although they mainly operate elsewhere in the harbour.
At extreme ‘spring’ tides an old shipwreck from 1850 apparently also sticks out from the end of the sandbank (called the East Winner Bank) at low tide.
Hayling gets spectacular sunsets all year and especially in the autumn and, along with Southern Bell, this is another great location to watch the sun go down. The food here is very good and they also sometimes have special evenings like lobster nights and “mussel mania.” This is 2 miles (8 min drive, £5 taxi or 45 min walk) along the beach from Southern Bell.
From the Inn on the Beach you’ll also spot the lovely 1930s building of the Hayling Island Golf Club. I’m not a golfer, but I am told this coastal links course, established in 1883, is a gem haylinggolf.co.uk/visitors There is also another golf club at Tournerbury tournerburygolfcentre.co.uk
Carrying on west down the road, you’ll pass some of the old WWII defences put in place in case of a land invasion. These are open to walk around. Apparently one of them was disguised as pub during the war!
The road passes the links course and the “Kench” on the north side of the road where some small house boats sit on land that dries out at the entrance to Langstone Harbour.
This road eventually runs out at a couple of car parks, one of which is for the Ferry Boat Inn, which is a family-friendly pub, part of a chain and with a varied menu classicinns.co.uk/theferryboatinnhaylingisland
There is a public boat slip here by the Harbour Master’s office and jetty, which is also home to the Hayling Ferry and The Rosie K, which pulls up on the shingle by the pub.
The Hayling Ferry haylingferry.net is a great service which takes foot passengers and bikes across the harbour entrance to Southsea where you can then get to Portsmouth and Gunwharf Quays via the new 25 bus service. If you are cycling it is great as there is a quiet road at first and then a busier but dedicated cycle path all the way across the Victorian Southsea Seafront.
There are a few things worth heading to Southsea for. If you time it right, why not join a tour at the Portsmouth Distillery in Fort Cumberland: theportsmouthdistillery.com head over there you will pass the Royal Marines Museum, Model Village and canoe lake, and the Southsea Beach Café is a great spot for lunch southseabeachcafe.co.uk but you will need to book (if you can, or be ready to wait) as it gets busy.
The cycle path continues along the whole of the Victorian sea front of Southsea with its two piers, including the “Pier of the Year” South Parade Pier, which has seen millions in investment, lots of amusements, Sea Life Centre, war memorials, Southsea Castle, D-Day Museum and right by Clarence Pier – the Hovercraft which gets to Ryde on the Isle of Wight in a fun and fast 10 minutes. It is simply worth watching the hovercraft run up onto the beach if you are there at the right time.
From here it is back onto the roads, but it is still only a 10 minute cycle to the shopping and bars of Gunwharf Quays. Remember, you have to get back though! I think a taxi back from Gunwharf is about £30+ or you can get a train to Havant.
We are not enthusiastic shoppers and around two shops into any shopping trip we are heading for the nearest bar, coffee shop or restaurant, but even we admit that Gunwharf Quays is a winner. Maybe it’s because there are a bunch of bars, coffee shops and restaurants! or it might just be that the designer outlet shopping is genuinely good with Ralph Lauren, Animal, Quicksilver, Fat Face, Jack Wills, Boss, Barbour, Musto, Oakley, Quba, TM Lewin, Timberland, L’Occitane, Whittards, Links and Denby among the many shops. Also at Gunwharf, which is located right on the quayside of Portsmouth Harbour, there is a cinema (Vue), a bowling alley and the Spinnaker Tower.
If you get to the jetty but don’t fancy going “overseas” back to the mainland, you can also book a short trip around the harbour with the lovely guys on the Rosie K who for £10 for adults and £6 for children (last time we checked!) take you out on their boat and can explain some of the history of the area and also often spot seals. Please do check in advance if they are still running though, as they were not sure the last time I spoke to them. rosiekboattrips.co.uk
When coming back from the ferry point and close to the Inn on the Beach, turn left up the perfectly-manicured Staunton Avenue, which will take you towards West Town.
At the end of Staunton Avenue, you will see the Station Theatre, built on the site of the old South Hayling Railway Station when there used to be a train line onto the island, known as the “Hayling Billy.” The theatre has an active schedule of events which you can see on their website at stationtheatre.co.uk/whatson.php
This is also the start of the Hayling Billy Trail, which is the foot and cycle path right back up to the bridge, taking in nature reserves along the way.
Nearby here and well worth a visit is the excellent Bakery, www.locoloaf.com We only recently discovered this gem, but their signature white sourdough loaf, the Saratoga we had was just great. The bakery is in a unit at the end of the road just to the right of the theatre, PO11 0FG gets you right there. Follow to the end of the road and turn right into the small Furniss Way Business Park.
They also have www.foldandflow.com above the bakery, which is one of the exhibitors in the Hayling Arts Trail and their website has information on workshops you can do in both art and baking, which looks great and are worth looking at before you stay.
Turning right by the Station Theatre takes you into West Town.
West Town has other takeaways, a good Thai restaurant niyomthai.co.uk and also a small Tesco. It has a pub there called the West Town Inn and another water sports shop cbk-haylingisland.com CBK also do SUP and other water sports lessons. There are also public tennis courts available for use at the Community Centre in West Town, which is also where the annual Hayling Island “ale-ingfest” Beer Festival takes place early October each year: ale-ingfest.co.uk
A new addition to West Town is the impressive zero-waste store and gift shop, Wey to Go www.weytogohayling.co.uk If you follow that road to the end (by the Barley Mow) a right hand turn will take you back to the Funland amusement park, while a left turn will take you back to the main road off the island.