South Coast Path

Coastal resorts and maritime history.

This page describes the South Coast Path. There is no official path of this name but it is a logical continuation of the South West Coast Path - east of Sandbanks.

This path terminates in the east at at Eastbourne. Here the direction of the coast takes a northeasterly turn (see South East Coast Path for continuation).

2014: Hurst Spit lighthouse. - one of many South Coast Path images in the album.

Description of the path

The South Coast Path takes in east Dorset, Hampshire and Sussex. For part of the way it is coincident with the Solent Way, which runs from Milford on Sea and Emsworth on the Hampshire border.

The terrain is generally flat apart from the last two easterly stages when the spectacular South Downs are encountered as they march into the sea at the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. There are four ferries required: Mudeford, Southampton Water, Hamble & Gosport.

The walk is a journey through history: originating in the Stone Age at Hengistbury Head (hillfort and Mediterranean trading port) to DDay embarkation points and airfields in the New Forest, Southampton, Hamble and Portsmouth sections. There is also a succession of maritime history and shipbuilding locations along the route: Poole Harbour, Christchurch Harbour, Bucklers Hard, Southampton Docks, Hamble, Portsmouth Docks and Chichester Harbour.

The route also takes in the established resorts of Bournemouth, Boscombe, Southsea, Bognor Regis, Worthiing, Brighton and Eastbourne. At Peacehaven the path crosses the Greenwich Meridian and at Cuckmere the southern branch of the South Downs Way joins the path as far as western Eastbourne.

At the Lymington marshes, Chichester Harbour and Pagham you will witness a variety of birds at all times of the year.

Coastal erosion is a constant companion with many sections of path following sea walls that defend reclaimed coastal marshes. However the continuing rise of sea level is challenging the coast so much that the sea has recently been allowed to return to the defended marshes on the Manhood Peninsula west of Selsey. This area is being managed by the RSPB.

Walking west to east is generally preferred since you will have the prevailing winds behind you. The walk is suitable all year round.

South Coast Path Stats

1. Overall

Topic Info comment
Terminus Poole/Sandbanks Harbour bridge [B3068]
Terminus Eastbourne pier
Total Distance 311.3
Lowest point Beaches 2m [amsl]
Highest point Beachy Head 162 m [amsl]

2. Stages Completed

The stages below are stages completed to date and follow a west - east direction along the coast. The distance is taken from the gps track data.

The distances below are walking distances and do not include ferries [an extra 4.5km in total] or access to the route eg from railway station.

Stage Distance Terrain
Poole-Sandbanks-Bournemouth 15.4 km coast-flat
Bournemouth-Mudeford 10.8 km coast-flat
Mudeford-Highcliffe 4.4 km coast-flat
Highcliffe-Milford on Sea 7.9 km coast-flat
Milford on Sea - Lymington 17.9 km coast-flat
Lymington - Southampton 28.0 km coast-flat
Southampton - Hamble 10.8 km coast-flat
Hamble - Portsmouth 22.4 km coast-flat
Portsmouth - Havant 20.0 km coast-flat
Havant - Southbourne 18.4 km coast-flat
Southbourne - Birdham 22.4 km coast-flat
Birdham - Selsey 26.2 km coast-flat
Selsey - Bognor Regis 18.6 km coast-flat
Bognor Regis - Littlehampton 12.8 km coast-flat
Littlehampton - Worthing 13.8 km coast-flat
Worthing - Brighton 18.6 km coast-flat
Brighton- Newhaven 16.7 km coast-moderate
Newhaven to Eastbourne 26.2 km coast-hilly

3. Percent and total distance walked to date

Completed % Who Distance Year Notes
93%* completed KM 282.6 tbc km 2011-2012 mainly west to east
100% completed HM&KM 305.2 km 2011-2013 west to east
100% completed HM&KM 311.3** km 2013 - ongoing east to west

*KM walked the whole length but two sections [28.7 km] were undertaken with HM, these have been included in the second walk only.

**The longer east to west distance of 6.1 km is due to the permanent diversion around the recently reflooded Medmerry reserve.

Although we have completed the walk in both directions it is still too good to ignore - selected stages are still visited each month.

Points of Interest

Sunseeker boat lift, Poole Sunseeker boat lift, Poole: - the route starts at Poole (though the end of the South West Coast Path is at the Sandbanks ferry) but Poole Harbour is too good to miss. Here boat building continues what is a centuries old industry.
Moses Dock, nr Lymington Moses Dock & Salterns, nr Lymington: - the channel is a canal that used to remain flooded via lock gates. Coal was bright up the channel to use in the salt houses. The salt brine from the pans (marshes) was heated to evaporate the water off the salt. The salt was then taken away by boat to market.
Cuckmere - Seven Sisters Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters: - a spectacular end to the walk and very hilly compared to earlier stages. The view also takes in Birling Gap and Belle Tout at the far end.

Getting there - access

The stage termini are all generally determined by public transport access. The entire path is well served by rail - with stations in most cases being within a 20 minute walk to the coast. This makes it very easy to get off at one station, walk the coast and get on to return down the line. The only exception to this is Milford on Sea and the area south of Chichester - where there are frequent bus services from near the station.

This exlains why some stages are shorter than others. The only problem area is the central New Forest around Beaulieu - this is a public transport black spot.

Each stage includes a section regarding access to start/end points. In most cases this will be based on experience using public transport.


Start: 05 October 2011
End: Ongoing

References & Links:

Date Title
20140608 Solent Way [Hampshire Co Co]
20140608 Hengistbury Head [Wikipedia]
20140608 RSPB Bird Identifier

Updated KJM 07 December 2014