A local’s guide of things to do in Southsea

PUBLISHED: 10:26 30 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:39 30 July 2019

South Parade Pier –- a traditional seaside pier that was requisitioned during WWII for D-Day preparations

South Parade Pier –- a traditional seaside pier that was requisitioned during WWII for D-Day preparations

Emma Caulton

Southsea has a rich history and it played a key role in this year’s D-Day events; but it also has a creative and independent spirit

Quirky. Vibrant. Hip. That's Southsea. This suburb of Portsmouth grew as a fashionable seaside resort in the Victorian period - Hampshire's answer to Bournemouth and Brighton complete with promenade, pier and park. This description makes it sound traditional. It is anything but. Southsea is quite possibly cooler than anywhere else in Hampshire.

There are seaside entertainments, from fish and chips to fun fairs. However, it also has history (the new D-Day Story museum has been shortlisted for European Museum of the Year 2019) and a creative vibe (including art studios in a converted church). It is possibly best known for its vast common adjacent to the seafront, popular for picnics and kite flying and the venue for Victorious Festival. Meanwhile its elegant streets are packed with idiosyncratic independents including antiques and collectibles, tailors and vintage clothing boutiques, bike stores and piano specialists.

Southsea is particularly adventurous when it comes to food and drink with award-winning butchers (Buckwells), artisan bakers (Bread Addiction), characterful street corner pubs, such as The Phoenix, its garden adorned with vintage signage, quirky eateries like Pie & Vinyl, Good Food Guide-recommended Restaurant 27, and every cuisine from Belgian to Japanese.

Samantha Worsey, Southsea Bathing Hut

Samantha grew up in Southsea, so when she decided to turn her soap-making hobby into a business, her home's seaside location was the inspiration for the name of her natural skincare range. She started out trading on market stalls, but her product range - all natural, vegan and cruelty free - proved so popular, she was able to open a shop on Southsea's much-loved Albert Road. As well as her own products, she has a range of specialist skincare and associated artisan-made goods. You can see products being made by hand on-site; she also offers workshops, spa parties and she has a boutique treatment room.

Samantha's Local Life

"The best thing about Southsea is our seafront; it is beautiful and not overcrowded."

- Secret Southsea: "From the 1600s to the 1930s our area was known for soap-making, and in the 1800s Southsea was part of a sea-bathing craze, driven by the Victorians' desire to live healthily. Those two strands of our history inspired me to start Southsea Bathing Hut - natural skincare that's as restorative as a dip in the sea."

- Something special: "Albert Road. It's packed full of independent shops selling all kinds of artisan goods, vintage clothing, antiques, music and books. There are lots of friendly pubs and cafes and the restaurants cover cuisines from around the globe."

- Local attraction: "The model village at Canoe Lake is charming - it's been there since I was a little girl."

- Best evening out: "I love the great value comedy club at the Wedgewood Rooms or taking in a show at gorgeous Matcham-designed Kings Theatre."

Keith Scorgie, Design House

Design House is an interior design company with showrooms in Winchester and Southsea. Keith Scorgie is based at the Southsea shop. It's a decision in part based on the location in Marmion Road, only a few hundred metres from the sea, but also because he could expand the interiors side of the business with beautiful accessories for the home, influenced by his trips around the world to Africa, India, Milan and the Far East.

Keith's Local Life

"The best thing about Southsea is that it is like a seaside village inside a big bustling city. Everything is within walking distance - whether I want a haircut, a good meal, or to do clothes or food shopping."

- Favourite restaurant: "Abarbistro - a lovely, bright and happy place to eat a good meal with great service."

- Pub: "The Still & West with stunning views of Portsmouth Harbour. I often go there after work on Sunday for a cheeky pint, sitting at one of the window tables watching the boats sail past."

- Cafes: "Marmion Road has a variety of cafes and eateries: Capers is just next door and we often get our lunch sandwiches there, Smile is great for breakfast, and Grace & Ivy for a leisurely lunch."

- Something special: "Marmion Road is a happy community of local independents. On a sunny day we can often be seen either outside Design House or Southsea Rock (the best card shop in Southsea) chatting about business and more trivial issues."

- Local event: "There are so many - such as Southsea Food Festival in Palmerston Road which draws visitors from all over the country." 

Jack Edwards, The Kings Theatre

The Kings Theatre is an Edwardian playhouse designated as a theatre of national architectural importance. Since 2003 it has been managed by the Kings Theatre Trust, a voluntary charitable trust that has invested £2.25 million in an extensive restoration programme. This is actor Jack Edwards' first

summer as creative director; he will also be appearing in this year's pantomime, Aladdin, as Widow Twankey, along with Phats and Small's Ben Ofoedu as The Genie of the Lamp and Boyzone's Shane Lynch as Abanazar.

Jack's Local Life

- Southsea secret: "Rudyard Kipling lived locally, and The Jungle Book is one of my all-time favourites."

- Favourite pub: "The Merchant House with its selection of craft beers and great street food. It's not far from the theatre so you may find me here before the start of a show."

- Spare time: I love musicals and luckily The Kings has a great selection - I'm particularly looking forward to the 30th anniversary production of Fame the Musical this July."

- Recommended walk: "A stroll along the seafront always begins and ends at the Gaiety Bar."

Dr Dev Patel, Perfect Skin Solutions

Dr Patel opened Perfect Skin Solutions with the aim of providing a high quality, safety-driven service for people with skin concerns from anti-ageing to acne. Over the last five years the clinic has grown significantly, won numerous awards, and is now recognised nationally as a leading skin and aesthetics clinic, attracting clients from far afield.

Dev's Local Life

"The best thing about Southsea is its seaside community and friendly atmosphere."

- Southsea secret: "Broken and Repaired appears to be a rundown shop, but behind this false front is a luxurious cocktail bar that could match many in London."

- Fitness classes: "I am a member at The Gym in Fratton, which is very spacious with the latest equipment, and I also attend the old school-style Fratton Gym. Having a trainer helps ensure I attend!"

- Favourite café: "Kathleen's Coffee House (previously Cinnamon Coffee) is a stone's throw from our clinic. Undoubtedly the best coffee and the tortilla pizzas are a particular favourite."

- Staying over: "Becketts restaurant recently opened six boutique rooms which are very nicely done."

- Spare time: "I have two young sons so as a family we like activities like bowling and we recently started playing tennis at Southsea Tennis Club."

- Recommended restaurants: "Restaurant 27 is unbeatable for service and quality of food, although I also love Koh Thai."

- Favourite walk: "Down to Eastney swimming pool and continue along the beach until you can walk no further. The sky looks different every time and the sea never fails to relax me."

- Evening out: "The Kings Theatre. It features everything from ballet to pantomime. My old school, Portsmouth Grammar School, even holds performances there."

Neil Maxwell, Fry & Kent

Next year Fry & Kent celebrates 50 years of selling property throughout Southsea and Portsmouth. Director Neil Maxwell says he couldn't help but develop a passion for property from an early age, growing up in Portsmouth and Southsea surrounded by so much fantastic architecture.

Neil's Local Life

"The best things about Southsea are the fresh air, the beach, views and community atmosphere."

- Southsea secret: "Many of Queen Victoria's ladies-in-waiting owned properties in Southsea rather than live at Osborne House."

- Something special: "Southsea was home to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote many of his novels here."

- Best pub: "The Dolphin in Old Portsmouth opposite the cathedral - a good value local."

- Café: "It has to be Southsea Coffee Company."

- Restaurant: "The Briny - a great new addition to Southsea seafront."

- Favourite walk: "Along the seafront any time of year, to feel refreshed."


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