Cowes, Isle of Wight, UK

Get to know what it’s like to visit this destination.

Getting To Know Cowes – Cruise Port Guide


Cowes is located on the beautiful Isle of Wight and there’s an abundance of things for you to see and do during your time here. Our Cowes cruise port guide is filled with ideas, hints, tips and even expert comment from a leading cruise industry figure, so you need look no further. Whatever you plan for your time here, you’ll likely leaving wanting to return again and experience more.

Cowes sits on the west bank of the estuary river and faces the smaller town of East Cowes. They’re both linked by a very interesting floating bridge, also known as a chain ferry – it’s probably the quickest ferry journey you’ll ever experience in your life. The beauty of Cowes is what it has on offer and its residents. If you want to spend a day just seeing where you end up, then this is the ideal place to do it and you can stop along the way for excellent seafood or even a slice of homemade cake. If you’d rather have a plan in mind and delve into some of the history of the Isle of Wight, then you could consider visiting places such as Cowes Maritime Museum and Library, Northwood Park or St Mary the Virgin Church. The Wight Military and Heritage Museum is also certainly worth seeing and this can be found in Northwood Camp.

Even without visiting any of the above, you’re already walking in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, as the entire island and surrounding waters were awarded the title by the United Nations Man and Biosphere Co-ordinating Council in Paris on the 19th June 2019. Over 50% of the Isle of Wight is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and its people and the natural environment coexist harmoniously.

One of the biggest attractions of the year for many visitors to the Isle of Wight (aside from the Isle of Wight Festival) is Cowes Week. It’s one of the longest running regatta events in the world and has been held in August every year since 1826. There are around 40 daily sailing races with up to 1,000 boats and 8,000 competitors taking part. These range from hobby sailors to Olympic greats. It’s an event that is constantly buzzing and if you’re lucky enough to visit during this time, you’ll soak up every ounce of the electric atmosphere. If you ship was sailing from Southampton during this time, we’d recommend arriving the day before and heading across to the island on the RedJet for the day.

 Travel Tips:

Cowes is best explored on foot

It can get incredibly busy on the island during Cowes Week

The Visit Isle of Wight website has a dedicated page filled with special offers and downloadable maps

Cowes Tourist Information Point is located within Aqua Marine Gifts on the main High Street

East Cowes Information Point can be found at the East Cowes Heritage Centre on Clarence Road

Gurnard Bay

Key highlights of Cowes

  • Classic Boat Museum
  • Thorness Bay
  • Cowes Week
  • Cowes Maritime Museum & Library
  • Northwood Park
  • Wight Military and Heritage Museum
  • East Cowes Heritage Centre
  • Titchfield haven National Nature Reserve
  • Gurnard Bay
seabourn no fly cruises

Regular cruise line visitors

  • Seabourn
  • Tradewind Voyages

Cruise Expert Insider 🔎 Cowes Port by Lynn Narraway

lynn narraway no fly cruises seabour HAL

I have spent so many happy times with my husband and daughters on the Isle of Wight

The island has everything you need – and more – for an old fashioned family holiday. There are sandy beaches, boats (a must for Paul), museums, natural attractions, and even fossils and dinosaur remains.  And of course there’s the famous Needles – three huge, white chalk spikes, guarded by a 19th-century lighthouse.

Cowes is pretty and small, with a world-class marina just a stroll away from a high street that’s full of pubs, restaurants and shops.  We were thrilled that Seabourn Quest was able to tender off Cowes in 2020 – and will be returning there in summer 2021, so that guests may enjoy a day ‘on the island’.

Nearly in East Cowes is famous Osborne House, where Queen Victoria escaped to for her royal retreats. Designed partly by Prince Albert in the ‘Italian Style’ there are some fascinating insights into their lives – from the replica Swiss Cottage where their children played to the Indian style Durbar Room, a tribute to the queen’s love of the continent.

One of the prettiest places on the island is Steephill Cove just south of the Victorian seaside town of Ventnor.  As well as a sandy beach there are just a handful of cottages, beach huts, old fashioned deck chairs and lobster pots – it’s like stepping back to a simpler time. As well as exploring rock pools, go sea glass collecting. We also enjoy going to Wheeler’s Crab Shed for the best crab or mackerel pasties and enjoying the biggest yummiest carrot cake at The Cove Coffee Shop.

Nearby are the Ventnor Botanical Gardens, on the site of the old ‘National Hospital for the Diseases of the Chest’ that was demolished in 1969.  A great place to wander around some amazing subtropical plants.

I would love to (and still may be able to) call ‘the island’ my second home… as it’s just a convenient ferry or RedJet boat ride from Carnival House in Southampton, where Seabourn’s UK office is based!

Lynn Narraway

Managing Director UK & Ireland, Seabourn & Holland America Line

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