When you first came to Southampton, admissions tutors and open days will have painted a modest picture of the green areas you can visit, and sketched a humble outline of the stock tourist attractions that this city so willingly shares with its occupants.
However, there are only so many jarring interactions with locals and brief romances with glimmers of sunny days spent at the docks to be had, before Southampton begins to teeter on underwhelming. Luckily, you don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to get to nearby locations perfect to accommodate all sorts of excursions: weekends away, a different night out to your bog-standard Southampton boozers, a girly day out or even a date night.
I have put together a list of places within an hour on the train, by certain buses or by car, with prices, routes and suggestions for attractions.
By train: 28 minutes from Southampton Central – Bournemouth (£13.30 fare*)
By car: 45 minutes via M27 (from Southampton Central Station)
Gorgeous Vegas-esque palm trees span the main roads and the sea breeze can be felt from the moment you step out of the station. Everywhere in the centre is easy to get to, a 20 minute walk or 10 minute bus journey will get you to the shopping hub, after which you can walk through the gardens that even host a hot air balloon ride. Take a breather by the pier right on the stretch of Boscombe beach and enjoy the golden sand all year long. There is even an aquarium for you to enjoy at your leisure.
Ask any student at Bournemouth University and they will echo the merits of the clubbing scene too: take Halo, Cameo or the SU’s very own Old Fire Station and you have a night out that rivals some of your more average nights in Southampton.
By train: 10 minutes from Southampton Central- Ashurst New Forest (£10.00 fare*)
By car: only 13 minutes via the A33 (from Southampton Central Station)
Anyone who studies a natural or environmental science will have probably already heard about this hidden gem from lecturers, but for an escape from the buzz of city life followed by a hearty pub lunch, head right to Lyndhurst and explore Bolton’s Bench and the surrounding landscapes. There is also the New Forest National Park, home to many national treasures for those animal lovers and conservationists amongst you.
By train: 32 minutes from Southampton Central- Salisbury (£11.60 fare*)
By car: 39 minutes via the A36 (from Southampton Central Station)
A quaint little village town with a nice river walk and ample tea rooms for when you feel student life has pushed you to a premature retirement. It won’t take a lot of time to cover, but it is worth having a look around the town and perhaps pay a visit to the museum too.
By train: 47 minutes from Southampton Central to Portsmouth Harbour (get off at Portsmouth and Southsea for the pebble beach and aquarium) (£11.00 fare*)
By car: 33 minutes via the M27
All rivalries aside, Portsmouth is a great day out or weekend away. Get off at Portsmouth Harbour for a direct entrance to Gunwharf Quays, filled to the brim with outlet stores and bordered by the picturesque marina. It also boasts the Spinnaker Tower which you can abseil down if you’re feeling brave! Alternatively, get off at Portsmouth and Southsea station to gain access to the pebble beach and arcade as well as the Bluereef Aquarium, although this is also accessible from the foot of Gunwharf via a ten minute walk. If you want to experience the nightlife, despite mixed reviews via locals and students alike, Tiger Tiger is your go to club for a fun night out.
By train: 20 minutes from Southampton Central (depending on your location, it is quicker from Southampton Airport Parkway) (6.90 fare*)
By car: 25 minutes via the M27
By bus: the Bluestar 1 goes straight to Winchester and takes 45 minutes
Lovely Christmas market and ice rink in December, but also many great cafés and eateries as well as green spaces to be explored. Hike up St. Catherine’s Hill for a fine view of Winchester and a pleasant picnic spot, or take a visit to Marwell Zoo just eight miles south of the town.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Eastleigh, Basingstoke, Chichester
These are all your slightly diluted Southamptons away from Southampton. For a decent experience, and for the sake of satiating your wanderlust on a budget, pay these towns a visit!
*The prices for the train tickets I have disclosed are return tickets without the 16-25 railcard (which saves you an additional 1/3 of the ticket price).