I’m really making the most of the wild swimming in Hampshire, starting with my hometown of Southsea.
One of the reasons I decided to move to Southsea, in Portsmouth on the south coast of England, was to be surrounded by water. I wanted morning swims in the sea before breakfast and evening strolls on the beach.
I LOVE being by the sea, in fact, I’m just back from a lush swim at the beach.
Wild swimming, or open water swimming, is easy, and cheap. Two of the main reasons why I love it. I’m a confident and competent swimmer – one of my favourite things to do on holiday is boat trips, just so I can jump off into the water.
– Post in collaboration with SimplySwim
– Finland, not Hampshire, but same same
There are over 60 social wild swim groups in the UK, all enjoying spontaneous dips, secluded beauty spots, rivers, lakes and the sea around England.
The biggest blockade for me though, is the COLD water.
After my travels in Finland and Denmark, where I learnt about the physical and mental benefits of plunging in cold water, and actually did it, in an ice hole, I vowed to do this more.
So, I’ve followed through with my promise and love to just get out there and enjoy some of the best open water swimming spots in Hampshire.
Wild swimming in Hampshire
Let me take you through the best open water swimming spots in Hampshire. This post has been super popular over the summer of 2020, but don’t let the dark days stop you. Be prepared, go with friends, and you can keep your Hampshire wild swimming up until the end of the year.
Although, if you do, you’re braver than me!
– Lots of amazing places to go wild swimming in Hampshire!
1. Wild swimming in Portsmouth and Southsea
There’s so much opportunity for open water swimming in Portsmouth – thanks to the fact we have the full length of Southsea Beach and Eastney Beach to enjoy.
Southsea Beach has lifeguards from June 30th to September 2nd, so safe. Check out my full guide to Southsea Beach here, and there’s a video in there too.
The Southsea Cold Swim Club meets on Eastney Beach at 10am on a Sunday, if you want some friends to enjoy your wild swim with. There’s also the Portsmouth to Hayling Island swim.
It’s just 1/4 mile, so this is where I started. Especially as it’s really close to my house and there’s a huge car park nearby.
– Southsea Beach from the drone, a great choice for some wild swimming in Hampshire right?
After that, on the other side of Hayling Island, you can swim the mile to Wittering. A beautiful swim with Sandbanks to explore, and an arrival on a brilliant sandy beach.
Back to Pompey (Portsmouth), and the Hilsea Lido is another great spot if you’re just warming up to the idea of outdoor swimming in Portsmouth. Although, gotta watch out for all those kids up there.
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2. Wild swimming on the Isle of Wight
Given that it’s an island 23 miles by 13, there are lots of spots for open water swimming on the Isle of Wight. Nearly all of them are in the sea, although there is the outdoor pool at Ryde – wild swimming for beginners.
The Isle of Wight is just 2-3 miles off the Hampshire coast (depending on the tide), reachable by boat and ferry, or, by swimming! I think this will be my goal with wild swimming, to be able to swim over to the Isle of Wight.
– Sandown Bay on the Isle of Wight, great spot for some wild swimming
Ryde, Fishbourne and Seaview all have great sea spots to swim outside, as does Sandown Bay (with lifeguards) and Newton Creek. And if you can brave the cold, then Blackgang Naturist Beach is the place to be if you really want to feel the freedom.
I’m a big fan of the Isle of Wight. It’s a totally underrated place for the uninitiated – with sprawling fields, beautiful coastline and some great beaches. Enjoy that coastline!
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3. Wild swimming in the New Forest
Hampshire is home to the wonderful New Forest. Over 219 sq km of woodland, heathland and grassland, and also home to 26 miles of England’s beautiful coastline. New Forest wild swimming is just something else.
Calshot Beach is a popular place for wild swimmers, as is Lepe Country Park. Both have both been rated ‘excellent’ for water quality. The shingle beaches at Milford-on-Sea, Barton-on-Sea and Highcliffe have too. There are lots of opportunities for wild swimming in the New Forest.
– Milford on Sea in the New Forest
Tanners Lane in Lymington is one of the most popular spots for open water swimming in the New Forest. In the summer families and friends like to paddle at ‘Brockenhurst Beach‘ too – you’ll see everyone down by the Balmer Lawn Hotel – but just be warned that this is downstream of a sewage works so you won’t catch me there.
And if you’re just warming up to the idea of open water swimming in the New Forest, the historic Seawater Baths in Lymington have salt water, but are decked out like a modern pool facility. They have huge inflatables, changing rooms and paddleboards to rent too.
Just outside the New Forest you’ll find Hampshire Open Water Swimming Centre. It’s not really one for the ‘wild’ swimmers, but it’s definitely a good one if you want to swim outside. They have a 600m circuit set up with lifeguards on Monday evening and Saturday morning.
New Forest river swimming is a great way to get outdoors in the fresh air.
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CLICK HERE: BEST SPOTS FOR PADDLE BOARDING IN HAMPSHIRE
4. Wild swimming on the South Downs
Petersfield Open Air Swimming Pool is heated and a good one to get started. It has modern facilities, and so of course, charges to get in.
For more open water swimming on the South Downs you could also try Puttenham Common Ponds, near Farnham.
Near Winchester you have the Garnier Road swim at St Cross. It’s a shallow swim in a strong current, and a beautiful one with amazing flora and fauna lining the route. At Compton Loch there’s a natural pool, which in the summer will have lots of children swimming and jumping in, but that shouldn’t stop you having some wild swimming fun too.
More wild swimming spots in Hampshire to try
– Freezing water snorkelling in northern Sweden!
– Lakeside Country park in Eastleigh
Sessions run every Thursday evening 18:00 – 21:00 and Saturday mornings 6–12.
– Ellingham Lake near Ringwood, New Forest
The lake has 500m, 750m and 1200m loops. Open every Wednesday and Saturday morning 6–8.
– Andark Lake, Southampton
They have a few sessions, and there’s a charge to get in. Check the current times and rates here.
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– Ensign Way Beach, Hamble le Rice
It’s a pebbly beach, and the water bed isn’t the most comfortable so you’ll need shoes for this one. Pretty place though.
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Open water swimming in Hampshire
One of the best things about wild swimming in Hampshire, is that you’re never too far from an afternoon tea, a delicious brunch, or a pint with a view to warm you back up again. Also, many of the spots are within walking distance of beautiful castles and attractions
Safety while wild swimming
Part of the excitement, and the danger, in wild swimming, is that you don’t know what you’re going to encounter. Obviously, it’s not like just going to the local pool safe in the knowledge that the lifeguards will look after you if anything goes wrong.
You need to exercise extra caution in wild swimming.
– West Wittering Beach, not technically Hampshire but I’d love to swim there from Hayling Island
1. Don’t go alone. Join one of the many clubs where you can swim in numbers. If you have to, then make sure someone knows where you are and when you’ll be back.
2. Whether you’re with friends or not, make your own assessment of the conditions before you get in.
3. Never swim in open water after drinking, and wait a while after eating.
4. Always check tide times, rip tides and the weather before setting off on a wild swim.
5. Be aware of sudden, hidden deep holes.
6. Warm up before and after going for a wild swim.
7. Don’t swim near boats or fishermen.
8. Swim breaststroke to keep your head out of the water.
9. Get some footwear to make getting in and out of the water easier.
10. Wear a wetsuit for extra buoyancy, Simply Swim have a great selection of reasonably priced ones.
For more tips and advice check out the Outdoor Swimming Society
More things to do in the New Forest on my YouTube channel!
You can check out more of my videos here.
Explore more of England
NEW SITE: I recently launched a brand new website dedicated entirely to days out in England.
It’s called… DAY OUT IN ENGLAND. Ha!
It’s packed full of local knowledge, awesome things to do, and more.
Few of my favourite posts for you: how about the best zoo in England, or checking out the best days out in Leicestershire, or Somerset’s best days out, or even the best New Forest pubs. Check them out – you’re guaranteed to learn something!
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Saturday 11th of March 2023
I live in Gosport and I am very interested in finding a wild swimming club to join.
Monday 16th of January 2023
I live in Petersfield Hants and would love to hear of any wild swimming near me Thankyou irene lawes
Friday 5th of August 2022
Hi Vicky Thanks for this article. I'm a little late to the party but I highly recommend Stokes Bay, Gosport, as a great swimming spot. Lee on Solent is popular, too, but I prefer the bay (and not just because it's my local spot). You don't tend to see many people swimming in Alverstoke Creek (except teenagers jumping off the bridge) but it is extremely popular with kayakers and especially paddleboarders.
Wednesday 24th of August 2022
Great, thanks for the tips Anthony. More places for me to try out!
Sunday 31st of January 2021
Thank you for the lovely article. It was very informative as to where I can go. Not being a native of Hampshire it’s difficult to know where to go. I would like to point one piece of information out about the river Itchen at St Cross. Below Garnier road is private waters which belong to Winchester College and leased the Serviceman’s Fly Fishing Association. If you are discussing north of that which I believe are council waters then please forgive me but if it is below that then please show some restraint. There’s nothing worse than coming off deployment and finally being able to get out to find people swimming or Kayaking on our waters. It’s a great escape for servicemen who deal with enough.
Thursday 16th of July 2020
You would need to be very cautious about tides.The stream can rip in and out of Langstone/Chichester harbours at speeds in excess of 6 knots. There's probably only half an hour of slack water. Wind against tide can set up large standing waves. Also the channels are very busy with shipping and fishing boats in particular don't always pay enough attention.
Tuesday 6th of October 2020
Yeah definitely. Always pay attention to the rides and rips, and look at the weather before you go! Tried to include lots of safety advice in the post to reiterate this.