Tranquil Chichester Marina and the surrounding harbour is the perfect destination for sailors with time to explore this area of natural beauty, as Alison Wood reports

Surrounded by countryside, Chichester Harbour in Sussex is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), covering almost 7,400 hectares.

Distinctive tidal channels lead to a maze of inlets that criss-cross expanses of saltmarsh and mudflats.

An aerial view of yachts moored in a river

Aerial view out to seaward taken from Bosham. Credit: David A Easterly/Alamy

The shoreline is fringed by oak trees and vegetation, and there are centuries-old villages to explore, with mills, fishermens’ cottages and maritime traditions.

With 56 miles of shoreline walks, you can discover Chichester Harbour by foot as well as by boat, especially at low tide when much of the harbour is drying.

Chichester Marina

Chichester Marina was one of the first marinas to be built in the UK, opening in the mid-1960s, with a state-of-the-art boatyard being rebuilt in 2014.

Despite being the UK’s second largest marina its rural setting and low-key architecture add to the tranquil vibe, with nature walks right on the doorstep.

Holder of a Five Gold Anchors award, Premier Chichester marina is home to 1,100 berths, a boatyard with two boat hoists, slipway and boatshed.

Chichester marina through the trees

Chichester Marina sits comfortably in its natural surroundings. Credit: Charlie Ross

On-site services include a chandlery, brokerage, rigging, cosmetic work, valeting and engineering.

The Boat House offers indoor and outdoor eating with harbour views and has a pizza oven which sells out on summer days.

Nearby Chichester Yacht Club is open day and night for food and coffee, and marina berth-holders and visitors have guest access.

A nice walk from the marina along the wooded, harbourside path takes you to Dell Quay, where you’ll find the traditional Crown & Anchor pub.

Facilities at Chichester Marina

Boats can be accommodated up to 22m length, 7m beam and 2.3m draught. Versadock (drive-on floating dock) is available as well as trailer sailer options for smaller craft.

A chart of chichester harbour

Credit: Maggie Nelson

The marina offers secure berth holder parking, luxury toilets and showers and free wifi. For family and friends, or owners not wanting to stay overnight aboard, Premier has nine New England-style apartments ‘The Salterns’ situated within the marina.

Approach to Chichester Marina

Approach by sea is via the west pole beacon – cross Chichester Bar located at the entrance to the harbour. Once inside the harbour, head north-east past East Head and towards Itchenor.

The marina approach channel is dredged to approx. 0.5m below CD – vessels entering the marina should keep to the starboard side of the channel.

Chichester Bar is located at the entrance to the harbour and is dredged to approximately 1.5m below chart datum giving a depth of 2m at mean low water Springs; however, the bottom can vary up to 0.75m.

A tidal gauge in Chichester harbour

One to keep an eye on – tidal gauge indicates sill depth at the entrance to Emsworth harbour. Credit: Tony Cortazzi/Alamy

With an ebb tide and strong southerly winds, exercise caution and cross the Bar between three hours before and one hour after high water Springs.

As you approach Longmore Point ensure your VHF is on Ch80; on passing Birdham Spit pile call the marina using your boat’s call sign, advise your position and request lock entry.

boats moored at Bosham

View of Bosham from across the creek which mostly dries. Credit: Paul Weston/Alamy

The lock keeper will acknowledge your call and either instruct you to proceed to the lock on a green light or, in busy times, join the back of the queue for the lock and enter in turn upon a green signal light.

Day cruises

The Solent is just on your doorstep offering easy access east or west to some of the UK’s most popular cruising grounds.

Within a day’s sail of Chichester Marina you can visit the Isle of Wight or take a long leisurely cruise to picturesque Beaulieu River (with Buckler’s Hard and Beaulieu Motor Museum) and Lymington Harbour.

Weekend cruises

Chichester is an excellent start point for cross-Channel cruises and trips to Premier’s Gosport, Port Solent, Swanwick, Brighton and Eastbourne marinas – where berth holders can use their 42 free visitor night credits.

Longer distance

A little further afield you’ve got the West Country, Channel Islands, Cherbourg and the Brittany coastline.

Local attractions

Nestled at the foot of the South Downs, Chichester has many sandy beaches, fishing villages and family attractions including Goodwood House and Racecourse.

Chichester Marina is just four miles from the historic city of Chichester, with its theatres, galleries, 900-year-old cathedral, and the Novium Museum, charting 500,000 years of life in the city.

A boat beached

A Southerly 49 takes the ground on the beach at East Head. Credit: Michael Austen/Alamy

A short drive away is the village of Fishbourne, with the remains of a Roman Palace and gardens.

Further around the harbour takes you to the quaint village of Bosham with its village green and arts and crafts centre.

In addition to the small beach by the marina – where you can swim at high tide – there are the sandy beaches of East Head and The Witterings, with long unspoilt coastline stretching from West Wittering Beach to Bracklesham Bay.


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Local Knowledge about Chichester Marina and harbour

Peter Draper has a Dunkirk Little Ship

If you’ve a high-speed powerboat, Chichester Harbour isn’t for you. If you have a yacht or like to potter it’s ideal.

It’s a beautiful place: safe, secure inland cruising with many little creeks, and places to visit such as Emsworth and Bosham.

There’s a plethora of wildlife, and it’s also great for dinghy sailors.

I own a 1927 pilchard fishing boat, Caronia – which helped in the World War II evacuation of Dunkirk.

I’ve spent over a decade restoring her with my son and love to sail out of Chichester.

The harbour is a wonderful place to be. It’s what I consider the garden gate to the West Country.

Once through the gate you’ve got the safety and security of the Solent.

There’s Cowes, Bembridge on the Isle of Wight, and Lymington on the other side. Gosport is good for a night out, and then if you want to go further, have a stopover over in Yarmouth and you can do Poole or even Weymouth in a day’s sail (say 6 or 7 knots).

From there, you’re a day away from Dartmouth. Of course in a motorboat you’re in the West Country in a day.

  • Peter runs Navigator’s Marine, based in Chichester Marina, His book Restoring a Dunkirk Little Ship: Caronia SS70 is available on Amazon

Gilbert Park has a Trusty T23 motorboat

If you can get to Emsworth Town Quay and be prepared to leave on the tide, it’s a marvellous place to visit.

There are lots of shops and lovely pubs and eateries, including a Michelin restaurant.

There’s a visitor mooring 1km away at all states of the tide, where you can dinghy in. West Head is extremely popular because of the sandy beach.

If I want to take my grandchildren there I’ll go in a boat that dries out in the morning and leave in the afternoon. It’s wonderful.

You’ve got all the facilities on the beach, and there’s an anchorage too.

For peace and quiet and a wonderful sunset, I go to Itchenor – there’s a lovely anchorage there.

If you prefer marinas, then Chichester Marina has all the facilities you need.

Traditional boats like to go to Birdham, and my grandchildren particularly like Northney Marina because it has a play area and barbecue spot.

Bosham is very pretty and dates back to the time of the Bayeux tapestry. Chichester is also a great place for birdwatchers.

We get all sorts of migratory birds stopping here, as well as lots of seals.

Adam McMenemy sails a Sabre 27

I have a fin keel boat so I have to be a bit careful about where I go. I like to explore the stretch of water from Chichester marina to Itchenor.

Bosham creek is beautiful too. There are visitor moorings there and you can stay overnight.

My favourite spot is Hayling Island Sailing Club. It’s a beautiful little club, and has sandy beaches, fantastic views, good food and the bar’s always open.

Visiting yachtsmen are welcome at the club.

From Hayling Island it’s not too far to Birdham Pool, which is a great place to have lunch. I work as a marine electrician out of Emsworth Yacht Harbour in Emsworth Marina.

It’s a really nice village.

The marina is tidal, but it has a sill, so once you’re in you’ve got water.

East Head beach is half an hour’s walk from West Wittering so it’s mostly only sailors who go there.

There’s a sandy beach with dunes around it, and you can anchor overnight.

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