This is one of our favourite times to get out and explore! We’ve taken a closer look at family activities in Portsmouth to help inspire your next day out or weekend away. There are historic ships, designer shopping and more, all waiting to be conquered.

A weekend in Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a waterfront playground that fuses fascinating maritime history and futuristic, sky-scraping pursuits. Head to Portsmouth Harbour station, just under 90 minutes from London (direct), and try out some of the best family activities in the area.

Portsmouth Historic Dockyard

First port of call is the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. Nowhere else does naval history quite like this – a sprawling complex of 11 attractions dedicated to all things maritime, including battleships, a submarine and an explosions museum. You can buy a single ticket that covers all the attractions.

Board the HMS Victory, the Royal Navy’s most famous warship and iconic player in the Battle of Trafalgar. Today the ship is a museum that brings the Georgian navy to life and where visitors can meet Captain Hardy, who shares tales of stormy seas and the heroes who fought in battle.

Next up is HMS Warrior, pride of Queen Victoria’s fleet – and rightly so. Powered by steam and sail, she was the largest, fastest and most powerful warship of her day. Join the captain and crew on board to see whether you could cut it as a Victorian sailor.

More recent maritime history awaits on the HMS Alliance, the only remaining WWII-era submarine. Enjoy a tour through the belly of the underwater vessel and learn about the inner workings of life under the surface. Kids will be in awe exploring the control room, where you can see the navigation systems in action, or take a sneak peek through the working periscope to view Portsmouth Harbour.

In April, Horrible Histories® Pirates: The Exhibition lands at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard – a first for the UK. Become a pirate at your peril as you take on interactive displays based on the bestselling Horrible Histories. Command a pirate ship, take part in gruesome games and discover foul facts in this unique pirate adventure for all the family.

The Mary Rose

Raised from the bottom of the seabed after 400 years and restored to form the centrepiece of her very own museum, the Mary Rose is awash with history – and a good dose of mystery too.

Mary Rose Museum Interior
The Mary Rose - © Johnny Black

Built upon Henry VIII’s orders for a flagship vessel to crown his ‘Army of the Sea’, this Tudor ship led the fleet through many fierce battles before sinking mysteriously off the coast of Portsmouth in 1545. It wasn’t until hundreds of years later (including decades of work by divers, archaeologists and scientists) that the Mary Rose re-emerged in all her glory, and now waits to welcome you aboard.

Explore the main gun deck, handle real objects from Tudor life and even say hello to Hatch, the ship’s dog (now in slightly slimmer, skeleton form). It’s an immersive, educational experience that opens a window onto royal maritime life as it once was.

Gunwharf Quays

If you’d rather browse the sales at shops than those on a ship, look no further than Gunwharf Quays. This designer shopping outlet has more than 90 stores within its stylish complex, so there’s bound to be something fit for each member of the family – with up to 60% off high street prices.

Gunwharf Quays at night. The image looks down a main thoroughfare, with shops either side and lights hanging above.
Gunwharf Quays at night

But there’s far more to this place than shopping. You can enjoy high-speed boat trips around the harbour and view the historic Solent forts and the Mary Rose museum from the water. While if the kids would rather take charge of the sailing, head to the Miniport where they can navigate a safe, sheltered stretch of enclosed water in miniature ships.

An outdoor shot of Gunwharf Quays at dusk. The image looks over the main eating area, and the Spinnaker Tower is in the background.
One of the many dining areas at Gunwharf Quays

Back on dry land, enjoy a family meal at one of the Quay’s 30 restaurants and then catch a film at the cinema or a game at the bowling alley.

Spinnaker Tower

Portsmouth also has its sights set firmly on the future, and you can share this forward-thinking vision on a trip to the top of the Spinnaker Tower just half a mile from the train station. This imposing white structure has been designed in the shape of a sail and rises 170 metres above the city, making it taller than the London Eye.

An aerial shot of the Spinnaker Tower, shortly after sunrise. The image is taken from the south side of the tower. Image is courtesy of Spinnaker Tower.
Spinnaker Tower (image courtesy Spinnaker Tower)

At the top you’ll find a range of family-friendly activities, including a 360-degree viewing deck with interactive screens and audio guides that share facts about the fascinating landscape before your eyes. For those who dare to look down, venture across the sky walk – a glass floor where you can peer down on the harbour below – or into the panoramic restaurant which serves a range of meals, including a special afternoon tea.

If you can stomach it, top off your trip with the Altitude experience. This virtual reality simulator recreates the experience of balancing your way around the outside of the tower, with a virtual view of the harbour below. It’s a surprising adrenaline rush. Of course, if you're a true thrill-seeker, the DROP reopens at Easter!

Book your tickets for the attraction online and enjoy 10% off standard ticket price.

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