Wednesday 13 February 2019

A Weekend in Portsmouth: Historic Dockyard, Mary Rose Museum & Spinnaker Tower

HMS Warrior at the Historic Dockyard
A few weekends ago we decided to go to Portsmouth. I had been meaning to take Pip there for a while to visit the Historic Dockyard and as we rarely travel west from Brighton (usually north to London or Cambridge), we planned a last minute weekend getaway. Spontaneous trips are often the best! The weather was forecast to be cold and rainy but that didn’t put us off. We visited the main tourist attractions consisting of the Historic Dockyard, Mary Rose and the Spinnaker Tower. We also decided to stay overnight in the Ibis budget hotel which we got for a bargain at £39 for a family room and breakfast!

Just over an hour on the train from Brighton, Portsmouth makes a great weekend getaway or day trip. Portsmouth Harbour train station is located right next to the Historic Dockyard on one side, and the Spinnaker Tower on the other! It’s also right on the harbour so you get amazing views out of the bay and a wonderful view of the HMS Warrior when leaving the station (photo above). The train station is also next door to a huge shopping centre which you need to walk through to get to the Spinnaker Tower. Here are the main attractions we visited on our weekend away.


I’m so glad we finally saw this amazing site. The Historic Dockyard was much bigger than I expected and there was so much to do! I wasn’t sure how much interest Pip would have as he is only five years old but there are so many activities and things to see for both children and adults. The attractions include the HMS Victory, HMS Warrior 1860, the Royal Navy Submarine Museum, National Museums of the Royal Navy, Action Stations, Harbour Tours, HMS M33, Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower, Boathouse 4 and the Mary Rose (although you need a separate ticket for this, see below).

We did not have time to see everything but we did see a lot in one day. Pip is such a great travel buddy - he must take after me and has a real passion for exploring. He can walk for miles and asks a million questions about things of interest, which is usually everything! We arrived at about 10.30am on the train from Brighton and the Historic Dockyard is just a 5 minute walk from the station so perfectly located. From 10.30am till about 5pm we saw the following attractions:

HMS Warrior 1860 

Inside the HMS Warrior
This was our first stop, located just as you come out of the reception area and I loved this boat (pictured above). The HMS Warrior was first launched in 1860 and was part of Queen Victoria’s fleet. I don’t think I have ever been on a historic boat and we explored the 4 floors of the boat! It was fascinating and much bigger than I expected. I wasn’t expecting there to be so much of the boat including the captains quarters with bedrooms and dinning rooms, long decks spanning the length of the boat, many large cannons, the engine and boiler room and a gift shop. You could easily an hour or two just in this boat alone!

Boathouse 4

This is a new attractions in the Historic Dockyard which includes a boatbuilding warehouse, a restaurant and interactive attractions for kids. We played some of the games upstairs including rowing a boat and having a boat race!

Harbour Tour

As some of the attractions are located on the other side of the river it was a toss between choosing things like the Submarine Museum or a Harbour Tour. We decided on the harbour tour as it seemed more of an exciting option and gave us a little break from all of the walking.

We made the mistake of sitting at the front of the boat because I thought these would be the best seats but because of the slope of the boat you can’t really see anything unless you stand up. It’s better to sit at the side by one of the windows or at the back. back! Pip did like sitting by the front window though - he had the best view! You are also free to sit or stand on the deck. We did go up there but because it was chilly we came back inside. I imagine on a warm day that would be a lovely option though.

At the front of the boat on the harbour tour

The harbour tour lasted for about 45 minutes and took us around the whole harbour, with views to all the main attractions and well as those of the other side of the harbour in Gosport.

National Museum of the Royal Navy

Inside the Royal Navy Museum
The Museum of the Royal Navy was fascinating. The museum is full of 350 years of history. They had a museum dedicated to Nelson with videos, models and detailed information about Nelson’s life and surprisingly Pip was hugely interested in this part! I was too and it was enlightening to find out more about Nelson. The rest of the museum is massive and has so much for Navy enthusiasts.

Action Stations

By this point Pip was tired but not too tired to go to the Action Stations! This is an interactive indoor attraction popular for children. I wasn't too sure how much would be suitable for a 5 year old but he did a bit of rock climbing and took part in a soft play course. There were also activities for small children and a lot for older kids.


The Mary Rose is on the site of the Historic Dockyard next to the Victory Ship however you need a separate ticket to visit the museum. You cannot go to the Historic Dockyard without visiting the Mary Rose and I highly recommend it! I studied Archaeology at University and one of my chosen courses was Marine Archaeology. We studied the Mary Rose in some of the lectures so to be able to see the boat close up was amazing. Under the reign of Henry VIII, the Mary Rose was a successful warship for 34 years before sinking in battle in 1545! The ship spent an astonishing 437 years on the seabed before being raised out of the water in 1982!

I was surprised at how much Pip loved the boat and he was amazed with the whole story of how the boat spent so many years under the water. The ship is surrounded by dim lighting to help with the preservation of the boat and this adds to its mysterious history. Did you know 19,000 objects were recovered from the Mary Rose site and many of these are displayed throughout the museum, including a skeleton of the ship’s dog! There are videos, paintings story telling and you have the chance to handle real objects. There is also a costume box and Pip loved trying the captain uniform. There is a cafe onsite where we had our lunch and also a gift shop next door. The Mary Rose Museum is wonderful and I’d happily revisit again!

After seeing most of the attractions in the Dockyard as well as the Mary Rose, we were exhausted! We decided to retreat back to our hotel and return the day next for more sightseeing.


I have to confess I haven’t heard of the Emirates Spinnaker Tower until I googled places to visit in Portsmouth. But I’m so glad we found it. Pip loves tall buildings - he’s already been on the Shard and London Eye and I knew he would love this. Actually this was his trip highlight!

The sun came out on Sunday with clear blue sunny skies so all the better for us. The views from the Spinnaker Tower are amazing. You can see the Isle of Wight clearly, Southsea in one direction, the Historic Dockyard in the other and all the way to Chichester Cathedral along the southern coast. There are 3 floors of the tower consisting on the main gallery area, the garden floor and the cafe. We had already eaten but the view from the cafe and the cafe itself looked lovely! If I ever return I’ll be eating there.

Other that the beautiful view there is a glass floor on the main floor that you can walk over and has views down to the harbour. Even though I’m scared of heights I ended up walking over it - Pip did as well and this became a popular feature of our trip!

We bought some souvenirs from the shop including a miniature Spinnaker Tower model. Pip was so chuffed with his visit that he took the model to school and talked to his class about his weekend in Portsmouth and his visit to the Spinnaker Tower! All in all we had a lovely time in Portsmouth and I’d love to return some day, perhaps in summer when we can also take a trip to Southsea. If you haven’t been I highly recommend visiting!


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Many thanks to the Historic Dockyard, the Mary Rose Museum and the Spinnaker Tower for providing us with press tickets. All words and opinions are my own.

Have you been to Portsmouth? Where would you visit?



  1. Wow! This weekend away ticks all the boxes for us! We'd love to visit!

    1. Thanks Jenna. It's a great place to visit :)

  2. Oh my son would really enjoy this, he want through a phase of being really into the Titanic so this would be right up his street :)

  3. What a fantastic selection of activities for a weekend down south. We'd love to visit the Dockyard and the Museum, so much to see and do. We'd love to visit this Summer

  4. I’ve heard Portsmouth is such a great family destination - looks like you had a great time!

    1. Thanks Talya, despite being cold we had a great time :)

  5. I’ve never visited here before but it looks like a weekend away. You definitely managed to fit a lot in x

  6. I keep meaning to do this as we have a cousin who lives in Portsmouth too. This ready made itinerary is really useful. Thanks. Looks like you had a fab time x

    1. Thanks Cassie. We had a great time and I highly recommend it x


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