England Ireland Find Havens
England Ireland Find Routes

Little Island is located on the southeast coast of Ireland, 13 miles within Waterford Harbour. Encircled by the Suir, the small island offers an excellent anchorage in an idyllic rural setting, but still close to the city of Waterford.

Little Island is located on the southeast coast of Ireland, 13 miles within Waterford Harbour. Encircled by the Suir, the small island offers an excellent anchorage in an idyllic rural setting, but still close to the city of Waterford.

Little Island is a completely protected anchorage and, if one had to endure an extreme weather event, this should be one of the area’s first choices. The wide, unhindered and well-marked Waterford Harbour estuary provides straightforward access night or day, and at any stage of the tide. The helm should prepare for both strong and deflecting currents as the Suir diverges and converges around Little Island.
Please note

Tidal streams are a prime consideration within Waterford Harbour: a strong adverse current will make for slow progress; conversely, a favourable passage current will make the estuary quickly traversable.

Be the first
to comment
Keyfacts for Little Island
Hot food available in the localityRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Note: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
6 metres (19.69 feet).

4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
5 stars: Complete protection; all-round shelter in all reasonable conditions.

Last modified
January 27th 2021


A completely protected location with straightforward access.

Hot food available in the localityRegional or international airport within 25 kilometres

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationJetty or a structure to assist landingSailing Club baseScenic location or scenic location in the immediate vicinity

Note: could be two hours or more from the main waterwaysNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

HM  +353 51 301400     HM  +353 87 2598297      Ch.14/10/13 [Waterford Port]
Position and approaches
Expand to new tab or fullscreen

Haven position

52° 14.912' N, 007° 3.939' W

This is situated to the north of the mainland ferry slip and is the most charted anchorage in the King’s Channel.

What is the initial fix?

The following Little Island Western Channel Initial Fix will set up a final approach:
52° 15.430' N, 007° 3.989' W
This is a fairway turn point to avoid the Dirty Tail off the western shore and the foul ground extending off Little Island.

What are the key points of the approach?

Offshore details are available in southeastern Ireland’s coastal overview for Rosslare Harbour to Cork Harbour Route location. Seaward approaches, along with the run up the harbour, are covered in the Port of Waterford Click to view haven entry.

Not what you need?
Click the 'Next' and 'Previous' buttons to progress through neighbouring havens in a coastal 'clockwise' or 'anti-clockwise' sequence. Below are the ten nearest havens to Little Island for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Port of Waterford - 1.8 nautical miles WNW
  2. Cheekpoint - 2.9 nautical miles ENE
  3. Seedes Bank - 3 nautical miles E
  4. Buttermilk Point - 3.1 nautical miles ENE
  5. Passage East - 3.5 nautical miles E
  6. Ballyhack - 3.6 nautical miles E
  7. Arthurstown - 4.1 nautical miles E
  8. Duncannon - 5 nautical miles ESE
  9. Creadan Head - 5.8 nautical miles SE
  10. Dollar Bay - 6.5 nautical miles ESE
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Port of Waterford - 1.8 miles WNW
  2. Cheekpoint - 2.9 miles ENE
  3. Seedes Bank - 3 miles E
  4. Buttermilk Point - 3.1 miles ENE
  5. Passage East - 3.5 miles E
  6. Ballyhack - 3.6 miles E
  7. Arthurstown - 4.1 miles E
  8. Duncannon - 5 miles ESE
  9. Creadan Head - 5.8 miles SE
  10. Dollar Bay - 6.5 miles ESE
To find locations with the specific attributes you need try:

Resources search

Please use our integrated Navionics chart to appraise the haven and its approaches. Navionics charts feature in premier plotters from B&G, Raymarine, Magellan and are also available on tablets. Open the chart in a larger viewing area by clicking the expand to 'new tab' or the 'full screen' option.

Expand to new tab or fullscreen

What's the story here?
The west end of Little Island
Image: Michael Harpur

Little Island divides the River Suir 2 miles west of its confluence with the Barrow and the same distance below the city of Waterford. Situated 13 miles within Waterford Harbour, and encircled north and south by the Suir’s Queen’s and King’s Channels, the small, 420-acre triangular island remains a delightful, largely rural location.

Yacht anchored off Little Island
Image: Burke Corbett

At the island’s western end, where the King’s and Queen’s Channels reunite, there is a quiet and very secure anchorage out of the strongest tides, with excellent mud holding in depths of 3 to 5 metres.

How to get in?
Little Island
Image: Michael Harpur

Convergance Point Use the Port of Waterford Click to view haven for details of seaward approaches, entry to Waterford Harbour and the run up the estuary. The Suir divides at the east end of Little Island, with the Queen’s Channel leading northward of the island, and King's Channel southward. The Queen’s Channel is the best route to continue as it is well marked, has 4.8 metres in the fairway and is the preferred passage to Waterford, as well as the west end of the island. The King’s Channel is subject to silting on its eastern end, is unmarked and seldom used.

There is no marked channel to pass from the Queen’s Channel down the west side of Little Island. Both sides are shoal out to 200 metres so this is not a place to cut corners, but come to the initial fix and round up hard for the centre of the entrance.

The entrance as seen from the south
Image: Michael Harpur

Initial fix location From the initial fix turn abruptly to steer 166° T to pass close to and on the correct side of the port buoy moored mid-channel, 200 metres southward. Then take a central course, steering for the western tip of the island and maintaining a keen eye on the sounder until the ‘Dirty Tail’ is passed.

Haven location There are several places to anchor off the western side of the island, all of which are very good. Many vessels find the most convenient anchorage is on the 3-metre plateau 300 metres south of the Dirty Tail marker buoy.

Yacht anchored south of the Dirty Tail
Image: Burke Corbett

This is immediately south of the shallow Dirty Tail area extending from the western mainland shore, midway between the mainland and island shorelines. Excellent mud holding will be found here.
Please note

The holding is so good here that it is difficult to break free when it comes to departing. Expect the anchor to come up with half of the river bed attached.

The island is linked to the mainland by a private ferry, which operates across King’s Channel between Ballinakill and the island’s west side. Charts typically mark the traditional anchorage off the western shore just north of this ferry crossing point and clear of local moorings.

Area where the charted anchorage is located
Image: Michael Harpur

Care should be taken when approaching this anchorage to keep well off Little Island’s extreme western point. A rocky ledge called Golden Rock dries off to a distance of 100 metres from here. Pass this danger by aligning on the mainland ferry terminal and passing close to port of the Dirty Tail starboard-hand buoy, keeping in depths of no less than 5 metres.

The ferry making its crossing to Little island
Image: Michael Harpur

The best and most convenient anchoring positions around Little Island are to the north of the ferry. But it is possible to continue south to find alternative anchoring positions in the King’s Channel beyond the ferry, though there is no further buoyage beyond this point.
Please note

Vessels continuing south should be watchful of the self-propelled, wire-guided ferry. It crosses the river frequently, turning around surprisingly quickly. Never try to cut in front of the ferry as it lifts its front towing cable off the bottom and creates a barrier across the channel.

The cables lifted out of the water as the ferry nears the shore
Image: Michael Harpur

To the south of the ferry, the shores begin to converge, narrowing the channel. Depths here are in excess of 18 metres. Immediately beyond these narrows, approximately halfway between the ferry and the island’s southern extremity, there is the dangerous and unmarked Maulus Rock. This pinnacle rock is situated 40 metres off the western mainland shore and has 0.3 metres to a metre over it, nearly drying at low water. It obstructs the western third of the channel at this point, leaving a distance of 90 metres between it and the island, with 3.2 metres of water. The island side of a central path passes Maulus Rock to starboard.

Good anchoring points in the King’s Channel
Image: Michael Harpur

Immediately south of the Maulus Rock area, at the southwest corner of Little Island, is another possibility to anchor in 3 to 4 metres.

Continuing along the King’s Channel and rounding the southern corner presents more anchoring opportunities. Keep well off the southern extremity of the island as it is foul, drying out to 100 metres. There is a clear channel along the south side of the bight, close to the edge of the mainland’s mud.

A good anchorage will be found when proceeding northeast from the corner, just off the southeast corner, in 3 to 5 metres of water, likewise at about midway up the eastern side of the island opposite the Saltings.
Please note

Anchoring at other points may be unreliable, especially near or on the river bends rounding the island’s southern point. Fast-moving currents scour these out, making the centre very deep, with steep shelving banks on the edge that the anchor easily pulls out of.

Why visit here?
The diminutive Little Island, positioned just a couple of miles downriver of Waterford City and encircled by the River Suir, enjoys a setting of idyllic seclusion, with the convenience of the city within a 10-minute drive.

Image: Public Domain
It was the seclusion that attracted the island’s first known settlers, who were monks. A monastic settlement existed on the island sometime between the 6th and 8th centuries; the discovery of two island artefacts bears witness to the monks’ presence. The earliest of these was a crude 6th-century carving of a monk’s head, which is now prominently displayed over the main entrance to the island’s 15th-century castle. The latter was a winged angel that dates back to the 8th century. By then, due to the strategic importance of the island, the monastic settlement was increasingly being attacked, which forced the monks to abandon the site.

It was then taken over by the Vikings, who held the island between the 9th and 11th centuries. During this time it was referred to as Dane’s Island or Island Vryk. They built fortifications upon the island’s northern and southern extremities to guard the river approaches to Waterford. There is, however, no remaining trace of either fort today.

In 1170 the Norman invasion of Ireland started in earnest, with the main landings within a few miles of Little Island. The Earl of Pembroke, Richard de Clare, known as Strongbow, led the conquest with Raymond FitzGerald, nicknamed Le Gros, second in command. Advancing from Strongbow’s landing position of Passage East, he quickly conquered Waterford City and subsequently Leinster, and then all of the country.

Maurice FitzGerald
Image: Public Domain
Maurice FitzGerald (circa 1105 to September 1177), Strongbow’s cousin and uncle of Le Gros, was the leader of the first Bannow Bay landings a year earlier in 1169. He was a major figure in the Norman invasion of Ireland and Strongbow rewarded his efforts by making him potentate over large tracts of Munster and Leinster. He also had a specific interest in the diminutive Little Island; it is believed that during a pitched battle that took place in the early stages of the invasion, the Danish Osserman of Waterford took FitzGerald prisoner and held him on Little Island. It was only for a short time and FitzGerald was quickly rescued by his son-in-law, enabling him to rejoin the victorious Norman army. So, Little Island was included in his award and, after the country was secured, Maurice FitzGerald decided to make it his home. Thus began one of the longest unbroken stewardships in Irish records, with the FitzGerald descendants remaining on the island, generation after generation, for eight centuries.

The first structure he built on the island was a Norman keep. This was a tower-like, stone structure with thick walls, arrow-slit windows and a lead roof. At that time the keep would have been the virtually impregnable core of any defensive battle. However, by the 15th century, the original keep had fallen into such condition as to be unhabitable. A new, small tower (the centre part of the present castle) was then constructed on the site of the old keep. This period – the 15th and 16th centuries – was to be the seminal moment for the FitzGerald family. During this time they were the kings of Ireland in all but name, and the newly constructed Little Island tower would have hosted many feasts and banquets, with the fate of the nation being decided within its walls.

Waterford Castle today
Image: Michael Harpur

Over the years this tower was gradually expanded to be the Waterford Castle that can be seen today. Firstly in 1849, by John Fitzgerald, and subsequently in 1875 and 1895, when the east and west wings were added. Built entirely of stone, these additions are now almost indistinguishable from the older structure. Up until the present century the castle retained its original arrow-slit windows, giving a fortress-like exterior – but a rather dark uncomfortable interior. The Island and castle remained in the FitzGerald name until 1958.

Local mooring adjacent to the traditional anchoring area
Image: Michael Harpur

Then the Igo Family of Rhodesia bought the property and installed a five-acre horticultural glasshouse complex from which they produced fruits and flowers. A chain-link ferry was set up between the island and the mainland around this time. In 1978 a local pedigree dairy farmer rented the land and later bought the Island. Finally, in 1988, it started its current role as the small luxury hotel Waterford Castle, and the island became its grounds. The grounds have since been converted into a golf course.

Yacht anchored south of the Dirty Tail
Image: Burke Corbett

Today Little Island continues to be a rural idyll, with a castle, its grounds and a golf course contained within its 170 hectares. Access to the island is via the self-propelled wire-guided private car ferry, installed in 2008, which crosses the King’s Channel between Ballinakill and the island’s west side. This ferry crosses every 10 minutes and the journey takes only a few minutes. On the opposite side a winding tree-lined drive leads up to the grounds of the castle, which remains completely obscured by trees until the end of the driveway is reached. It then majestically appears behind the tree line on the north side of the island overlooking the Queen’s Channel.

Dawn arrives at Little Island’s placid anchorage
Image: Burke Corbett

The small island is easily discovered on foot and it offers plenty of flora and fauna. It is considered a significant site for bird watchers with grey herons, little egrets, wigeons, greenshanks, common sandpipers and common waders, kingfishers and jays in abundance. Domestic pheasants also live on the island, and wildlife such as badgers, deer and the occasional hare will also be encountered by walkers.

Dawn as seen the anchorage at Little Island
Image: Burke Corbett

From a boating perspective, this is truly a lovely, secluded anchorage in a natural setting. All around are fine views of the course of the Suir, and the adjacent counties of Kilkenny and Wexford, flanked by the lofty and picturesque Comeragh Mountains and Slieve Coillte. It is away from the hustle and bustle of Waterford city and yet, being only a couple of miles downstream, the city is easily accessible for a quick jaunt for lunch or provisions. Tucked into this side-channel upriver there is nothing to disturb a vessel and there is little or no fetch. It is also completely protected from the elements and an excellent place to take shelter during heavy weather. There are, however, talks of a 250-berth marina being built in this location, which may disturb the great natural beauty of the place.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities at Little Island. There is a very pricey restaurant in the area. Almost everything else will be found in Waterford City, about 10 minutes by car.

Any security concerns?
You are most likely to be completely alone at this beach and away from any interference.

With thanks to:
Burke Corbett, Gusserane, New Ross, Co. Wexford. Photos with thanks to Michael Harpur, Burke Corbett, Albert Bridge and Kapustowicz.

A photograph is worth a thousand words. We are always looking for bright sunny photographs that show this haven and its identifiable features at its best. If you have some images that we could use please upload them here. All we need to know is how you would like to be credited for your work and a brief description of the image if it is not readily apparent. If you would like us to add a hyperlink from the image that goes back to your site please include the desired link and we will be delighted to that for you.

Add your review or comment:

Please log in to leave a review of this haven.

Please note eOceanic makes no guarantee of the validity of this information, we have not visited this haven and do not have first-hand experience to qualify the data. Although the contributors are vetted by peer review as practised authorities, they are in no way, whatsoever, responsible for the accuracy of their contributions. It is essential that you thoroughly check the accuracy and suitability for your vessel of any waypoints offered in any context plus the precision of your GPS. Any data provided on this page is entirely used at your own risk and you must read our legal page if you view data on this site. Free to use sea charts courtesy of Navionics.