Situated in the northern part of the Narrows and behind a protective breakwater, the marina berths provide complete protection. Although the sea entrance and Narrows are well marked, access requires careful tidal timing and navigation owing to exceptional currents. Consequently, any approach should be on the flood and ideally timed to be around slack water, in daylight, with a vessel that has adequate and reliable power. However, although the entrance and Narrows present a challenge, they are well marked and if the tides are respectfully worked they are easily managed.
Keyfacts for Portaferry
Summary* Restrictions applyA completely protected location with careful navigation required for access.
Position and approaches
Haven position54° 22.724' N, 005° 32.906' W
This is the outer end of the marina pontoon.
What is the initial fix?
What are the key points of the approach?
- Details of the approaches, tidal timings and the run up the Narrows to about a ½ mile below Strangford are covered in the Entering and exiting the Strangford Narrows .
- Special attention should also be paid when approaching the car ferry crossing from Strangford to Portaferry.
- Be watchful for strong cross currents on the approaches and beneath the pontoons when coming alongside.
Not what you need?
- Strangford Harbour (Strangford Village) - 0.3 miles SSW
- Audley's Roads - 0.4 miles W
- Ballyhenry Bay - 0.5 miles NW
- Audley’s Point - 0.7 miles WNW
- Chapel Island - 1 miles W
- Cross Roads - 1.1 miles S
- Between Jackdaw & Chapel Island - 1.2 miles WNW
- West of Jackdaw Island - 1.3 miles W
- Kilclief Bay - 1.6 miles S
- Don O’Neill Island - 1.9 miles NW
How to get in?
Image: Tourism NI
Portaferry Marina fronts the village of Portaferry, on the east shore and head of the Narrows which separate Portaferry and Strangford villages. In the past, it was a busy thriving coastal town and port, full of master mariners, ship-owners, ship-builders, rope-makers, and ships' chandlers. As boats became larger it got left behind and it is today the quiet reserve of a handful of fishing vessels, leisure craft and the eastern terminus of the regular ferry service across to Strangford.
Portaferry Marina has deep water in its approaches and supports drafts of 2.5 metres. It accommodates up to 50 boats of which 12 berths are reserved purely for visitor use. For more information on bookings and availability contact the marina on M: +44 7703 209 780 or E: email@example.com.
Image: Tourism Ireland
Details of the approaches, tidal timings and the run up the Narrows to about a ½ mile below Strangford are covered in the Entering and exiting the Strangford Narrows route description.
Take care when meeting the vehicle ferry that crosses to from Portaferry to Strangford Ferry at 15-minute intervals, 8 am to 11 pm. The vessels tracking, when carried by the swift-moving currents, makes it difficult to judge relative paths and closing distances.
Likewise, attention should be paid to steerage when passing from the main tidal streams of the fairway into the comparative slack water of the dredged approach channel to Portaferry Marina.
The marina is located 100 metres south of the ferry terminal and lies behind a protective concrete arm that extends from the shore leaving open it south facing entrance. On the end of the arm, there is a sectored RWG light (Isophase 4s).
The starboard side of the approach to the marina is marked by two green buoys, the outer one of which is lit Fl G 5s, and depths decrease rapidly close south-east of the buoys.
The marina is entered from south-westward, steering a course about midway between the head of the breakwater, to port, and the two conical unlit buoys to starboard, that mark the edge of a 2.5 metre dredged area. Then turn hard to port around the head of the breakwater and into the southern entrance of the marina. Or at night, in the white sector of the breakwater light keeping the buoys to starboard.
Image: David Doyle
Berth as directed by the marina office. The flood flows strongly into the Marina especially so during the top half of the tide. Be certain that you can either stop at the pontoons facing you, or else go around the end of the finger, and turn into the tide to use it as a natural break whilst berthing. Deft hands at the helm might be able to reverse in. The helmsman should be vigilant as the tide can quickly push the bow away when coming alongside. The tide should also be taken into account when choosing to berth port or starboard side-on.
Image: Stubacca via CC BY-SA 2.0
If in any way uncertain enter at slack the first time, and ask for advice from the marina staff as the could not be more helpful.
There are also four black visitor moorings close to the ferry terminal courtesy of Portaferry Hotel.
The ferry terminal is in constant use and must not be obstructed though it is possible to temporarily come alongside at the south side at high water – take care of an eddy that turns back against the main run of the current alongside.
Why visit here?Portaferry derives its name from the Irish Port an Pheire meaning 'landing place of the ferry'. The village dates from the 12th century when a row of fishermen’s cottages was built beside an Anglo-Norman castle.
overlooks the harbour
Today it is an attractive seaside town with a population of around 2,750 that features traditional shops, pubs, restaurants and fine Georgian buildings in the town square. Tourist attractions include Exploris, the Northern Ireland Aquarium with its displays of the local marine wildlife, and it has also become well-known for the annual Galway Hookers Regatta.
More importantly, Portaferry and Strangford Harbour (across the ‘Narrows’), are gateways to Strangford Lough that provides a boatman with magnificent cruising in unspoilt surroundings.
The sea Lough (lake) is a marine nature reserve of unparalleled beauty and, at sixteen miles long and four miles wide covering an area of 150 km², it is the largest inlet on the east coast of Ireland. Fringed by beautiful coves, inlets and drumlins, and dotted with seventy islands along with attractive towns and villages, it is a perfect cruising destination. Indeed the name ‘Strangford’ originally only applied to the 'Narrows', while the area beyond bore the Irish name Loch Cuan "calm Lough" or “Lough of haven or harbours” describing the still shallow waters and numerous anchoring opportunities in the lee of its host of islands. With little commercial traffic and considerable areas of unobstructed waters, it is also a popular location for yacht racing.
Image: Tourism NI
Visiting boatmen are scarcely alone in Strangford Lough. The countless tidal rocky outcrops, called pladdies, littering the Lough and mudflats, along with marshes, rocks, bays and headlands provide a unique natural environment for a huge variety of marine bird and animal life. The Lough hosts common seals, basking sharks and Brent Geese, and three-quarters of the world population of Pale Bellied Brent Geese winter here. It is also an important winter migration destination for many wading and sea birds. All of which makes the Lough with its abundant wildlife an important conservation area which is recognised internationally.
What facilities are available?Visitor pontoons have electricity supply and water. There is one shower cubicle and one toilet cubicle located near the security barriers. Alternative facilities are available in Barholm Hostel during office hours including a launderette.
There is also a boat slip and dinghy park alongside the ferry terminal where a local yacht club affords facilities to visitors. Portaferry Square is just a two-minute walk up Ferry Street from the Marina. Here you will find local amenities including supermarkets, post office, butcher, greengrocer, cash machine, hardware supply shop, credit union, bakery, gas, and minor repairers etc. that cater to a local population of almost 3,000. The Health Centre and pharmacy are located on High Street.
Any security concerns?Portaferry marina has secure gated access.
With thanks to:Charlie Kavanagh - ISA/RYA Yachtmaster Instructor/Examiner.
Portaferry, Strangford Lough, County Down, Ireland
Image: eOceanic thanks Tourism NI
Image: eOceanic thanks Tourism NI
Image: eOceanic thanks Stephen Colebourne via CC BY-SA 2.0
Seafront buildings above the marina
Image: eOceanic thanks CC0
Image: eOceanic thanks CC0
Portaferry as seen from Strangford opposite
Image: eOceanic thanks Tourism Ireland
Aerial overview of Strangford Lough.
A photo montage of Portaferry.
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