We boarded the Southern Region train right underneath Gatwick airport and had a leisurely ride through some very pleasant green fields of Southern England. With an off peak fare of under 15 Pounds and a journey time of exactly 2 hours, it got us into Southampton at 13.00 hrs - just in time for lunch and in very good time for boarding the Cunard vessel at 16.00 hrs!
We were heading for the pier to board Queen Mary II bound for New York so being some three miles across the town to the vessel took a taxi which were plentiful parked just outside the railway station.
Having never been to Southampton other than in transit, and having some hours to spare, our driver suggested he take up to the ship and although early, could check in our main bags which already had our cabin numbers on them from Cunard. Once free of these and only having hand luggage that could not be checked in, the driver gave us an interesting tour of Southampton and in particular of the famous buildings associated with the maiden voyage of the White Star liner "Titanic" which also sailed from a berth alongside where QM2 was moored and where there is a lot of information around the dock area regarding that vessel.
Well worth letting the train take the strain either from LGW or from London and then being able to take lunch and a very pleasant stroll along the waterfront and into part of the town..
I found the bus a good way of exploring the area around Southampton. An Explorer ticket is available that allows unlimited travel on the network of Bluestar and Wilts & Dorset for a 24 hour period. I was able to travel from Southampton to Lymington, on to Beaulieu, back to Lymington and then back to Southampton in a day. The ticket costs £7 and is a very cost-effective way of seeing the area if you are feeling up to a few trips on the bus. The route from Southampton to Lymington is a great introduction to the New Forest landscape. The bus often has to traverse small country lanes and stop for New Forest ponies, especially around the village of Brockenhurst. Check out the website for timetables and other ticket options.
The easiest way to/from the airport is by train from the 'Southampton Airport (Parkway)' station.
The airport has the shortest plane to train connection of any airport in Europe (apparently 99 steps).
Trains to Southampton city centre and beyond run quite regularly.
Trains to the city centre depart from the platform on the airport side (i.e., don't cross over the bridge).
On the platform, take a left to the self service ticket machine - note, you can only use a credit/debit card with this machines - alternatively, cross the bridge to the ticket office.
At the time of writing, a single ticket to the city centre (Southampton Central Station) costs £2.40
Although Southampton is no longer the terminus for continental European ferries it is still the base for the 150 year-old Red Funnel company which provides ferry services to the Isle of Wight. Two ferries operate the route, the fast catameran service which is for foot passengers only and the slightly slower Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) for foot and vehicular traffic (including bicycles).
At Southampton the ferries leave from two different terminals, both at the Town Quay, with the fast service (journey time about 23 minutes) leaving from Terminal 2 and the Ro-Ro (journey time about 55 minutes) from Terminal 1 at the main dock gate #7.
The ferry terminals are connected to the train station by the freebie Citylink bus service.
For timetables and fares etc the website below has all the up-to-date info:
Southampton City Council contracts the local bus services provider Bluestar to provide a free shuttle service around the city centre. These buses run 7 days a week connecting the railway station to the town quay, via the shopping malls and the bottom end of the High Street. The daytime frequency is every 15 minutes and the link below has the full timetable.
The only caveat is that during peak times the buses can be fully occupied and won't stop unless letting passengers off and so it's best to allow an extra 15 minutes if planning to catch a train or the Isle of Wight ferry.
Southampton Central is the city's main railway station despite being about a mile out of the centre. The station is on the Southwest Trains mainline between London Waterloo and Weymouth, between which there are up to three trains hourly each way. Less frequent services include Southern Trains to London Victoria and Brighton, First Great Western between Portsmouth and Cardiff (with connections at Westbury for West Country services) and CrossCountry running from Bournemouth to the North of England via Birmingham.
Getting from the station to the city centre (if you count the centre as the Bargate) is about a 20 minute walk, up the hill towards the Civic Centre and then down the High Street. There is however a freebie shuttle bus which runs from the station's "Weymouth" side to the city's quayside via the centre with a peak frequency of every 15 minutes and half-hourly later in the evening.
As stations go this is quite compact but has most of the facilities expected of a UK mainline station and ticket office staff are particularly helpful in assisting with journey planning and can often find routes much cheaper than those available using the various websites.
My only personal bugbear with the station is that when changing trains here it's also about a mile away from the nearest pub!
The best place to watch the ocean liners and cargo ships coming in and out of port are Mayflower Park and 5 minutes away Town Quay Pier. At the end of the pier is a car park but great viewing up and down the river as these giant behemoths glide past at walking speed.
Southampton airport must be one of the smallest international airports I have ever been too!
It deals with 13 airlines which fly to 48 destinations, however, when I visited, it seemed as if at least 95% of the flights were with FlyBE.
The airport is easily reached by train (see separate tip) but there is also a car park and frequent bus links.
You enter the Duty Free shop immediately after leaving security. The only other shop of note is a W H Smiths selling newspapers, magazines and sweets.
On the upper floor is a bar - it might be worth stocking up on drinks and snacks here for your flight as I imagine very few (if any) flights from Southampton would provide free food and snacks onboard can be expensive.
The airport does have a viewing area but generally all you will see is a few Dash 8s and the odd Bae 146.
Interesting (some would say geeky!) fact: the In 1936 the first test flights of the Supermarine Spitfire took place at the airport. This was commemorated in 2004 with the erection of a Mk V Spitfire at the road entrance.
I took a cheap flight with Fly BE from Liverpool to Southampton.
Flight was about 45 minutes and offered great views over the English countryside.
Our flight was on a DHC Dash 8 Q400, a prop driven plane which was a wee bit noisy and had more vibration than a jet but, hey, its the only time I've been in a prop flown by someone other than myself!
Snacks were available on board but I didn't bother, hardly seems worth it on such a short flight.
Its also worth paying a few extra quid to pick your own seat, saves the scramble at check in.
Lots of info from out captain during the flight - can't be faulted
When I was studying in Southampton I often in the weekend visited cities in the area. I went to Stonehenge, Winchester, Bournemouth, ectetera... everytime by bus, there are really good busschedules, so don't worry if you do not have a car, travelling around the area is easy!
Blue Funnel Cruises departs from Ocean Village and provides a variety of different harbor cruise. The most popular is a one-hour cruise costing 5 pounds for adults and 1 pound for children. This sails up the Southampton Docklands viewing any liners that may be moored at the Ocean Terminal (the "QE2" was there during our visit) as well as the old berth of the "Titanic". The Two Rivers Cruise, lasting about 90 minutes and costing GBP6.50, includes a voyage up the Rivers Itchen and Test in addition to the Docklands. There are also various longer cruises including a four-hour round-trip voyage to the Isle Of Wight and a day-trip to Portsmouth. We took the one-hour trip and enjoyed it immensely; the commentary was very informative and entertaining.
OPEN: 09:00-17:00 Mon.-Fri.; charters available
Direct train services link Southampton with many parts of the UK. South West Trains operates daytime fast service between London Waterloo and Southampton Central. The journey takes about an hour.. Convenient connections are available at London Waterloo with Eurostar services to and from Paris, Brussels and Lille.
South West Trains, South Central Trains and Virgin Trains operate regular services along the south coast. U can book tickets between South West Trains and First Southampton services with a joint rail and bus ticket available for a small add-on fare.
Southampton benefits from direct links with major cities throughout the UK and Europe, through its extensive road, rail, sea and air services.
A free shuttle bus operates around the city centre. The City Link operates between Southampton Central Station, West Quay Shopping Centre and Town Quay Ferry terminals during shopping hours.
First Southampton, Solent Blue Line, Stagecoach and others offer frequent bus services throughout the city and surrounding area, including Eastleigh, Fareham, Portsmouth and Southsea, Chandlers Ford, Totton, and the New Forest.
SCA Community Care Services offers transport services to frail, elderly and mobility impaired people who may find it difficult or impossible to use conventional public transport within Southampton.