We took the ferry from Southampton which arrives in Cowes, so decided to explore a little. We liked the atmosphere so much here, that we decided to come back again the day we left and spend another couple of hours in this area.
Cowes is renowned for its pleasant port. Every year in August, tourists flock here whilst it is filled with yachts from all over the world. Cowes Week Regatta is one of the largest boating events and apparently attracts more extremely rich people per square foot in Cowes, than anywhere else in the world.
We are not yachting enthusiasts and inadvertently planned our holiday here at this time - we did not plan for it to coincide with Cowes Week. We did however love watching the yachts, thought the atmosphere was wonderful - carnival like with music, stalls and entertainment and would definitely recommend coming here at this time. A tip though - be sure to book your accommodation a long time in advance during Cowes Week - everywhere gets booked up really quickly.
Cowes itself has interesting and elegant narrow winding streets and the architecture is lovely. There is a nautical feel to the whole place. There are not many shops, but those they have are delightful. They sell a lot of craft things, pictures and gorgeous souvenirs. I just loved browsing in them.
The waterfront at Cowes though is the place to spend time. During Cowes Week, it was a kaleidoscope of colourful sails. The focal point is the Royal Yacht Squadron. There are yachts everywhere - as far as the eye can see. We enjoyed watching the yacht races from the starting area and every time the cannons fired, we jumped!
East Cowes is the terminus of the car and passenger ferry from Southampton. It has its own small shopping centre, marina and seafront promenade. It is however the less interesting half of the town.
Cowes is bisected by the River Medina. You can take the chain ferry - or the floating bridge as it is called here, across the river to West Cowes. This is the older and more interesting part of the town. The highstreet meanders up from the waterfront. The chain ferry takes just a couple of minutes and costs £2.00. You may have to queue though. Cars and foot passengers can travel on it.