Plymouth offers plenty of scope for getting about by boat as you’d expect of the biggest city on the south coast of England.
From cruise liner style continental ferries to tiny water taxis (which leave you drenched if you stand too close to the bow when the sea’s choppy!) water borne travel is a way of life here.
The continental ferryport at Millbay Docks (just 10 minutes’ walk west of the city centre) handles cruise liners, cargo ships and the Brittany Ferries services to France and Spain.
There are daily sailings to Roscoff, in Brittany, with a journey time of just six hours (eight hours for an overnight trip). Roscoff is a gorgeous Breton fishing port, peppered with gourmet restaurants on or near the seafront, charming 16th century houses bedecked with flowers , some delightful little shops and one of Brittany’s oldest sea water therapy centres. The town is worth a visit in its own right but also provides the gateway to the rest of Brittany and easy access to the Loire Valley and Normandy.
The weekly trip from Plymouth to Santander in northern Spain aboard Brittany Ferries’ flagship Pont-Aven takes 20 hours and is more like a mini cruise than a ferry crossing.
The Go Plymouth team has done this trip many times because it’s a real treat – especially when you’re travelling with small kids. Compared with flying to Spain, a trip on the Pont-Aven with children is pure joy because there’s so much space for them to run around and the facilities for children are first rate.
The Pont-Aven offers live entertainment (both for children and the whole family), bars, restaurants, a swimming pool, games room, shops and cinemas.
Many parents will know what it’s like to arrive at a holiday destination frazzled by the demands of fractious kids…but this journey feels like part of your holiday instead of a chore to be endured . The only downside is the trip can be a bit stomach churning in rough weather so not the best option for those who suffer badly with sea sickness.
Staying closer to home, the Barbican and Hoe foreshore are awash with boat operators ready to ferry you on short trips to all sorts of delightful destinations.
A 12-seater water taxi runs most days throughout the year ferrying shoppers, commuter s and day trippers between the Barbican and Mount Batten where there’s a sea sports adventure centre, marina, a decent pub and restaurants.
One of our favourite boat rides is the half hour trip from the Barbican, across Plymouth Sound to the lovely little Cornish fishing villages of Kingsand and Cawsand.
There are several trips a day (summer months only) so you can either take the ferry back or walk round to the Mount Edgcumbe country park and catch the Cremyll Ferry (pictured above) back to Plymouth.
The Cremyll Ferry, like the Cawsand Ferry, is for foot passengers only and links Mount Edgcumbe on the Rame Peninsula in South East Cornwall with Stonehouse (15 minutes’ walk west of Plymouth city centre). It’s a lovely little trip lasting under 10 minutes and giving you the most fabulous view of the impressive Royal William Yard.
There are daily sightseeing trips in the summer, leaving the Barbican and Hoe foreshore, to see the warships at Devonport Dockyard – the biggest naval base in Western Europe and the only site in the UK capable of refitting nuclear submarines.
Almost every other kind of boat cruise imaginable is on offer – from scheduled public cruises along the picturesque rivers Tamar and Yealm, to private “booze cruises” with licensed bars and music systems. Take your pick of power boat rides, sea life spotting adventures, fishing expeditions and trips for special occasions such as the National Fireworks Championships.
A more functional ferry service operates between Torpoint and Devonport, providing a vital transport link between Plymouth and South East Cornwall.
The round-the-clock car ferry service is used by commuters and gets extremely busy in the rush hours so avoid peak times if you’re a holidaymaker. You only pay on the eastbound journey into Plymouth (£1.50 for a car).