Plan, tap and catch the summer with First Bus South
Plan, tap and catch the summer with First Bus South. With single fares capped at £2 until the end of October, it's time to use the bus to explore the Hampshire coastline, using my guide for inspiration.
Plan, tap and catch the summer with First Bus South
Taking the bus around Hampshire has never been easier and it is a great way to see the countryside, particularly the South Coast! First Bus South connects many of the great tourist attractions in Hampshire and whilst single tickets are capped at £2 until the end of October, there’s no better time to explore.
I’ve recently had a couple of days out using the bus and I find it far less stressful than driving and hunting for seaside parking. Plus under 5s travel free so it’s a good value option for our family. You can download the First Bus app and buy your tickets in advance; then just tap to activate when you board. I found the drivers to be really helpful with me getting on with a pushchair as well.
So; once you’ve downloaded the app, where should you go? I’ve put together a local guide of things to do in Southsea, and Lee-on-the-Solent and it’s all accessible on the buses.
Let’s start with Lee-on-the-Solent and the Solent Ranger X4/5
The Solent Ranger runs between West Quay in Southampton and Gosport (X5) or Portsmouth (X4). The first stop you want is Lee’s High Street. This seaside town makes a perfect base for a traditional British beach day.
Start with a walk along the seafront. The beach itself is shingle but that also means you can easily find hundreds of pretty shells, or smooth pebbles to skim across the waves. Look out to the sea for wonderful views of the Isle of Wight.
On the seafront is a splash pad which is open every day over the summer months. It’s enclosed so nice and safe for children, and I think it's the perfect way to enjoy splashing around at the beach, without getting covered in sand! Next to the splash pad is a children’s play area as well so you could easily spend a chunk of the day here.
When it’s time for lunch, it’s only a few minutes walk to The Tea Party. You can’t miss the stunning flower arch which adorns the entrance. You don’t need to book to visit this tea room; the staff are very friendly and will help you find somewhere to sit.
It’s very family oriented with highchairs, colouring and baby changing equipped with spare nappies and wipes in case you need them. The children’s menu is great - I recommend the mini afternoon tea which comes on a 3-tiered display. My daughter loved the teapot of squash and it kept her entertained for a while.
After lunch head around the corner to the bus stop. On the First Bus app, you can check the stop and see when the next bus will be; the X5 is every half hour so plan your time accordingly. You’re only getting it for a few stops to Lee Community Centre.
A 5-minute walk brings you to the entrance of Alver Valley Country Park which is free to explore. You won’t be able to miss the huge pyramid slide structure in the park. It’s nice to see play equipment which is suitable for a large range of ages.
Our toddler spent a long time playing in both the ‘little’ and ‘big’ parks so fortunately there is also a small café, toilets and benches there. If you go wandering around the grassy paths you’ll also find some duck ponds, and we saw thousands of blackberries too.
After we’d had enough play time we took the bus back to Lee and found the Bluebird Café. I’d had several recommendations to try their ice creams - they do a variety of colours and flavours of Mr Whippy. If you can’t choose which flavour then get the rainbow one which is a mixture of all of them.
You could end your visit to Lee-on-the-Solent with a trip to the arcades, there’s something about playing the 2p machines at the beach which brings up a feeling of nostalgia.
The Southsea Coaster - things to do in Southsea
Another one of my favourite Hampshire coastal towns is Southsea. There’s so much to do here and there’s something for any budget too. The Southsea Coaster is an open-top double-decker bus which runs between Portsmouth Hard and Southsea’s South Parade pier. You can get a day ticket for £5 where you can hop on and off as much as you’d like. This is perfect when you have young children as it’s a long way to walk from one end of the Southsea promenade to the other.
Let’s start with some of the free things to do in Southsea. You could start at Southsea Common and have a play at the park. You can often see large ships and ferries coming into dock at Portsmouth, and the hovercraft also runs regularly over to the IOW and that’s fun to watch too. Southsea is usually quite windy so take a kite with you (there’s also an excellent free kite festival which runs annually in July).
At the other end there’s the Canoe Lake where you can feed the ducks and swans or wander through the rose garden. If you’ve made it this far then I thoroughly recommend walking a little further to the Tenth Hole - a café selling the most amazing cakes and mac and cheese.
Some of Portsmouth and Southsea’s museums also offer free entry. We enjoy looking around Southsea Castle which was one of Henry VIII’s many forts he built along the Solent. There’s also Cumberland House and Portsmouth Museum and Art Gallery which are free to visit too.
There are also some other attractions in Southsea which are reasonably priced and will give you plenty to do with the family. There’s Clarence Pier and amusements. The fun fair has a variety of rides (my favourite is the Waltzer) and there’s also a pirate-themed adventure golf. If the weather isn’t so great then I suggest visiting Exporia - a huge soft play and trampoline park.
You’ll spot Blue Reef Aquarium from the bus and a family ticket is £48 but if you’re a Hampshire library card holder then you can save £2 a ticket. Once you’re in you can come and go as you wish. There’s a lovely exhibit of underwater life you’d find on the Solent, as well as more exotic and tropical creatures like axolotl and turtles.
At £135 for a family ticket, Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is on the more expensive end, however this is the Ultimate Explorer ticket which includes unlimited access to all of the attractions for 12 months.
The attractions include the Mary Rose museum where you’ll see an amazing display of the famous shipwreck which was sunk in the Battle of the Solent. There’s also HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, submarine museum, waterbus and lots more. If you live nearby then it’s worth the money for this annual admission.
Hopefully that’s provided you with some inspiration to catch a bus and see more of the Hampshire coastline. If you have any questions I’m always happy to make personalised recommendations and my social media links are in the handy links section.
First Bus South - the details
First Bus South connects many of the great tourist attractions in Hampshire and whilst single tickets are capped at £2 until the end of October, there’s no better time to explore.
Download the app and you can buy tickets in advance and simply activate them just before you board. The app location will show you nearby bus stops as well as live timings.