5 family-friendly activities for a rainy day in Portsmouth

There’s no doubt that Portsmouth is one of the most exciting cities in the south of England. Offering fantastic beaches and a glorious shoreline perfect for rockpooling, picnics, and sandcastles, it’s a firm favourite for families.

However, as much as we all love the beach, we know how unpredictable the British summer can be – and no-one likes moping about on rainy days. Luckily for families, there’s so much to explore in Portsmouth even when the weather takes a turn. From the heights of the Spinnaker Tower to the dark depths of the Blue Reef Aquarium, you’ll find plenty of activities to keep the whole family entertained.

We’ve listed five of the most appealing attractions you can visit in Portsmouth, even when it’s chucking it down!

Explore Portsmouth's maritime history at the Mary Rose Museum

Portsmouth is a waterfront city, so you couldn’t come here without experiencing a little of its maritime history. There’s nowhere better to get a true glimpse of the city’s naval past than the award-winning Mary Rose Museum.

Between 1511 and 1545, the Mary Rose fought in many battles against the French. Nowadays, the purpose-built museum reunites her with many of her artefacts and her crew, capturing the moment in time when she sank off the coast of Portsmouth. The Mary Rose is the only 16th-century warship on display anywhere in the world.

If that’s not impressive enough, the museum underwent a £5.4 million overhaul last year, and its new look offers an extraordinary transformation in the visitor experience. So take a leap back in time and explore Henry VIII’s favourite warship – raised from the depths of the Solent and painstakingly conserved for future generations.

Experience Emirates Spinnaker Tower the way you like

One of the tallest accessible structures in the United Kingdom outside of London, the Emirates Spinnaker Tower stands at 170 metres, dominating the South Coast skyline.

The views from the observation deck are spectacular. From the top you’ll see the mighty Portchester Castle to the west, the wide lawns of Southsea to the east, and a collection of great ships and hovercraft buzzing over the Solent to the Isle of Wight in between.

You can opt to join a guided tour or you can take in the vista at your own pace. True, the views may not be the best when it’s pouring with rain outside, but the Emirates Spinnaker Tower is more than just an ordinary viewing tower. It’s also home to The Clouds – an aptly-named cafe overlooking the harbour from 105 metres above, where you can sit back, relax, and treat yourself to a lavish afternoon tea. Down at the terra firma you’ll find the Waterfront Café, which makes the perfect setting for a cozy family lunch (indoor, obviously, but outdoor seating is available too) – there’s an experience to suit every family here.

Pay a visit to Charles Dickens’ Birthplace

Travel back to the 19th century and visit 1 Mile End Terrace on Old Commercial Road, where the world-famous writer Charles Dickens was born. The house is now redecorated to the style of 1809, when John and Elizabeth Dickens set up the first home of their married life here and later gave birth to their first child.

At the height of his fame, Dickens returned to the streets of Portsmouth in search of the house, but to no avail. Good news for modern visitors, though: the house is very well signposted these days, so you won’t have to worry about not finding it! Drop by, stay warm and dry in the Dickens household, and feast your eyes on the elegantly-furnished parlour, dining room, and bedroom – all with genuine Regency furniture.

Coincidentally, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, also lived in Portsmouth. And you can visit the brilliant exhibition A Study In Sherlock at the Portsmouth City Museum – which brings us to...

Marvel at Portsmouth City Museum

Portsmouth City Museum is set in an impressive late-19th-century Victorian barracks, with turrets and pointed roofs. At first glance it’s reminiscent of a fairy tale castle, which means your kids will absolutely love it!

As mentioned, the museum includes a display on the author Arthur Conan Doyle and his fictional creation, the detective Sherlock Holmes. From first editions of books and related letters, to film and television memorabilia, the collection here is one of the widest ranging in the world.

In addition to all that, the museum houses galleries devoted to: pictures, fine and decorative art, local history, and temporary exhibitions that are staged on a variety of subjects. You’ll find a wealth of collections illustrating all aspects of life in Portsmouth and how it’s changed over the centuries. It's a great place for locals and for visitors to Portsmouth who are looking for a thorough introduction to the city.

Dive into the underwater world at Blue Reef Aquarium

Blue Reef Aquarium Portsmouth offers a captivating underwater safari through the oceans of the world. Whether it’s the drama of the British coast or the underwater gardens of the Mediterranean that you’re looking for, you’ll find it here!

It’s located along the seafront at the tip of Southsea, which makes it very easy to find and the perfect place to visit whatever the weather. But if you think fish and deep sea creatures are all that this place has to offer, check this out: you can even explore the planet’s rainforests and find some of the most amazing creatures, including piranhas, glass catfish, a snapping turtle, and a frilled dragon. That’s not all, the aquarium’s freshwater display provides an Asian small-clawed otter family in themed surroundings where you can enjoy watching the otters play in their habitat.

With more than 45 dazzling displays, which one would you see first?

Don’t let the rain dampen your family day out

Bad weather doesn’t have to mean staying home and having nothing to do. There’s a whole host of family-friendly attractions and activities in Portsmouth to keep your family occupied on rainy days (ones that don't involve television or computer games!) – so feel free to bookmark this article for future reference.

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