England Ireland Find Havens
England Ireland Find Routes

Osborne Bay is located off the south coast of England, within the Eastern Solent and close east of the Isle of Wight’s apex and its principal port Cowes. It is an anchorage in an open bay fronted by moderately high ground.

Osborne Bay is located off the south coast of England, within the Eastern Solent and close east of the Isle of Wight’s apex and its principal port Cowes. It is an anchorage in an open bay fronted by moderately high ground.

Although the high ground provides a good measure of protection from southerly component winds, along with moderate westerlies, the bay only makes for a tolerable anchorage. The commercial shipping channel passes to the north, and large ships rounding the Brambles Bank tend to send in a wash. Likewise the bay’s shallow nature forces a vessel well out where the Solent's tidal streams, although relatively weak, are still present. Access is straightforward at all states of the tide, night or day.
Please note

No landing is permitted as the shoreline falls within the private grounds of Osborne House. The bay is very popular and can get overwhelmed on a sunny weekend during the season.

Be the first
to comment
Keyfacts for Osborne Bay
None listed

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationQuick and easy access from open water

Restriction: landing not recommended, possible or permitted hereNote: Can be subject to wash from commercial vesselsNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Protected sectors

Current wind over the protected quadrants
Minimum depth
2.5 metres (8.2 feet).

4 stars: Straightforward; when unaffected by weather from difficult quadrants or tidal consideration, no overly complex dangers.
3 stars: Tolerable; in suitable conditions a vessel may be left unwatched and an overnight stay.

Last modified
July 17th 2018

Summary* Restrictions apply

A tolerable location with straightforward access.

None listed

No fees for anchoring or berthing in this locationRemote or quiet secluded locationAnchoring locationQuick and easy access from open water

Restriction: landing not recommended, possible or permitted hereNote: Can be subject to wash from commercial vesselsNote: strong tides or currents in the area that require consideration

Position and approaches
Expand to new tab or fullscreen

Haven position

50° 45.497' N, 001° 15.248' W

This is in about 2 metres in the middle of the bay.

What is the initial fix?

The following Osborne Bay initial fix will set up a final approach:
50° 45.534' N, 001° 14.391' W
This is the position of the Rolly Tasker yellow spherical race buoy (Mar-Dec). By night it exhibits a light Fl.Y.4s

What are the key points of the approach?

The entry and the run-up thorough The Solent and Southampton Water are covered in
The Solent and Isle of Wight Route location coastal description.

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 Osborne Bay for your convenience.
Ten nearest havens by straight line charted distance and bearing:
  1. Shepards Wharf - 1.5 nautical miles W
  2. East Cowes Marina - 1.5 nautical miles WSW
  3. Cowes Yacht Haven - 1.6 nautical miles W
  4. Cowes Harbour - 1.8 nautical miles WNW
  5. Folly Inn - 1.8 nautical miles SW
  6. Wootton Creek (Fishbourne) - 2.1 nautical miles SE
  7. Island Harbour Marine - 2.2 nautical miles SSW
  8. Ryde Roads - 2.9 nautical miles ESE
  9. Newport - 3.5 nautical miles SSW
  10. Hill Head - 3.6 nautical miles N
These havens are ordered by straight line charted distance and bearing, and can be reordered by compass direction or coastal sequence:
  1. Shepards Wharf - 1.5 miles W
  2. East Cowes Marina - 1.5 miles WSW
  3. Cowes Yacht Haven - 1.6 miles W
  4. Cowes Harbour - 1.8 miles WNW
  5. Folly Inn - 1.8 miles SW
  6. Wootton Creek (Fishbourne) - 2.1 miles SE
  7. Island Harbour Marine - 2.2 miles SSW
  8. Ryde Roads - 2.9 miles ESE
  9. Newport - 3.5 miles SSW
  10. Hill Head - 3.6 miles N
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

How to get in?

Osborne Bay lies on the northeast coast of the Isle of Wight and in the eastern arm of the Solent. It is situated 1½ miles east of the entrance to the River Medina, which divides Cowes into the two parts of Cowes and East Cowes. The bays shoreline is about ¾ of a mile long, gently curving and beautifully forested. Its northwest extremity commences at a wooded headland located ¾ of a mile southwest of Old Castle Point and its southwest extremity is at Barton Point.

The beach that sits at the head of the bay has some sand but is predominantly shingle. It falls within the grounds of stately Osborne House that is managed by National Heritage and they permit no landings.

Convergance Point The Solent and Isle of Wight Route location coastal description provides approach details. Vessels converging on Osborne Bay will find nothing in the way of local hazards by staying in reasonable soundings.

Initial fix location The ‘Rolly Tasker’ yellow spherical race buoy (Mar-Dec), by night Fl.Y.4s, serves as a good mark to locate the bay and the tower and flagstaff on Osborne House will be readily identifiable from here. Proceed south-westward towards the house over the centre of the bay and prepare to anchor about 500 metres in from the race buoy.

Haven location Osborne Bay is shallow out for a ¼ of a mile. Closer inshore of this the depths reduce abruptly.

Within this area there is a shallow plateau that contains three shoreline reefs and the ruins of old groynes, bathing piers and quays etc. close to the shoreline.

These obstacles are only a concern for those who want to nose in from the sea at high water and anchor off close to the shore, and have a lunch that makes the most of the beautiful surroundings. The Solent Spring tides particularly lend themselves to this as Spring high waters always occur around the middle of the day.

These obstacles are also a concern for those who want to spend the night close in, and it would require a vessel with a shallow draft during Neaps and or one that has the ability to take to the hard. Vessels planning to come in and dry out should carefully work around the reefs, particularly the West Patch, and the ruins extending from the shore should they strike them or dry out on un-level ground.

The first of Osborn Bay’s reefs is uncharted and is part of a sandbank flaking the bay’s western end. It has some patches of rocks awash that extend out about 150 metres offshore. In the middle of the bay is the well charted West Patch that dries to 0.6 metres chart datum and is situated about 400 metres out from the beach. Finally there is the East Patch that extends 300 metres eastward of Barton Point and dries to 0.1 with a rock 150 metres to the south west that dries to 0.6 metres chart datum.

Alternatively all of these may be avoided by standing out a ¼ of a mile from the shoreline and anchoring off in deep water. Depths of at least 2 metres will be readily found ¼ of a mile out, particularly on the eastern side of the bay that is slightly deeper than its western side.

In all cases the holding is a mixture of mud and sand and is good once the anchor has set. No landing should be made and those exploring by dinghy should stay outside the yellow ‘swim area’ buoys.

Why visit here?
Osborn Bay derives its name from a softening of the areas old name of Austerborne or Oysterborne. There were extensive oyster-beds in the River Medina and the manor is said to have derived its name from them. However today the bay is now more famous for overlooking Osborne House that was once the former royal residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

During the reign of Victoria’s predecessor Queen Elizabeth I 1558-1603, and the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, the anchorage went by the name of ‘Meade Hole’. Meade Hole was defined as being a fathom’s depth off the present Osborne Bay and it was a natural resting point for 16th century ships sailing up and down the channel. From the middle of the 1500s it became the place where pirates brought their plunder for resale. As they carried different goods, they naturally traded with one another. In time it became the place where they traded their booty into the Island economy via the back waters of Kings Quay Creek that back then was entered from Osborne Bay. King Phillip II of Spain's agent reported of Meade Hole in 1570 ‘a great fair of spices, wines, wool, saffron, oil, soap, woad, and a great number of other goods stolen from your Majesty’s subjects. If ships continue to come freely in this way, trade will simply be to enrich the heretics’.

But it was to be Queen Victoria that would make an indelible stamp on the area. In 1831 the young future Queen Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, came to stay at the neighbouring Norris Castle. The sojourn left a lasting impression upon Queen Victoria and a decade later when the queen wanted a home of her own, her thoughts returned to Norris Castle. At the time Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were searching for a seaside retreat for their young family. They wanted a place where they could bring their children up in a natural and loving environment. Windsor and London she considered too stately and demanding, as she Victoria described in her letters as 'all the bitterness which people create for themselves in London. The Pavilion at Brighton she felt was too uncomfortable for a family home. The Solent, reminiscent to Prince Albert of the Gulf of Naples, very much met with his approval too and they decided to buy the castle. This was to be their playground, their family holiday home and the place to which they came to avoid prying eyes.

But Norris Castle was not to be. The owner at the time, the newspaper tycoon Thomas Bell, wanted too much for the estate. The Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, intervened and found a solution in the Osborne estate located immediately to the east of Norris Castle. This turned out to be the ideal resolution and Victoria wrote to the Sir Robert Peel saying ‘We are more and more delighted with this lovely spot…… The air is so pure and fresh, and in spite of the hottest sun which oppresses one so dreadfully in London and even at Windsor. Really the combination of sea, trees, woods, flowers of all kinds, the purest air, make it - to us - a perfect little Paradise'. In 1845 Lady Isabella Blackford sold the estate to Queen Victoria for £28,000. The original estate comprised about 2,000 acres and the queen subsequently extended it to nearly 3,000 acres. Blackford’s existing Georgian house was too small for the royal families’ needs and was demolished. Though Thomas Cubitt was commissioned for the rebuild, Prince Albert had a strong influence in the new Palladian style house that replaced it. The first stone of what would become Osborne House was laid in 1845, and the royal family entered into possession in September 1846. ‘It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot" noted Queen Victoria of the palatial holiday home they built in Osborne House.

Hidden in the woods on the Osborne estate was a smaller Swiss Cottage built by Prince Albert 1853 and 1854 for their nine young children to play in. Along with the beach this two-story wooden chalet was to be the young royals’ favourite place at Osborne. Here they played and learned practical skills, such as cooking, growing vegetables, and the children often entertained their parents here. Queen Victoria herself found it a wonderful retreat in which to attend to personal correspondence. Following Prince Albert's death in 1861, Osborne became what was in effect a family mausoleum in his memory. Queen Victoria continued to use the house as a regular family retreat and a place to escape public life. It was in Osborne House that the queen died forty years later in 1901. With the exception of a memorial plaque, situated above her death bed, the bedroom in which she passed has remained unchanged ever since.

By a letter, dated on his Coronation Day 1902, her son King Edward VII, gave the house to the nation. It was his desire that the secondary wings of Osborne House were to be transformed into a convalescent home for officers of the navy and army. The home opened in 1904 and was called the ‘Edward VII Retirement Home for Officers’. Part of the house’s ground floor was opened to the public at the same time. A Royal Naval College was also opened on the Osborne estate in 1903 that continued in service until 1921. Osborne House continued to provide residence for retired officers of the British Armed Services until 1990.

In 1986 English Heritage assumed the management of Osborne. It is open daily 1000-1800 for a fee and is free to English Heritage members. The estate church of St. Mildred, located a mile southward in Whippingham and a short stroll from the Folly Inn, has memorials to various members of the royal family.

Queen Victoria’s coming to Osborne House was to transform the Isle of Wight and Cowes. The Victorian trend for sea bathing and the growth of yachting were already well established by then but it was the coming of Victoria and her children to Osborne House that was to establish Cowes like no other place. They entirely reshaped Cowes' standing and future by making it a very fashionable place to live, stay and be seen in Victorian and Edwardian times. The remarkable stately house remains a treasure to the island. Most extraordinarily, one of its most notable admirers was Adolf Hitler. He ordered that the estate should not to be bombed during the Second World War as he planned to use it as his post-war retreat after the defeat of England.

Sadly, no landing is permitted as the shoreline falls within the grounds of Osborne House. Today Queen Victoria’s Osborne House, its gardens, the Swiss Cottage and the private beach are best visited via a 15 minute' walk from East Cowes and from any of the towns moorings.

From a sailing point of view Osborne Bay is one of the Solent’s most popular lunch anchorages. Centrally situated within the Solent, about a 20 minute cruise from the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour and the first eastbound bay almost immediately outside of Cowes, it is very much a sought after location that can easily get overwhelmed. With its high ground providing shelter to the prevailing winds, a nice midday sun trap is created that makes it ideal for a pleasant afternoon swim. Its location and ease of access makes it an ideal, lunch stop, tide wait or Solent stepping stone location. But with its deeper waters well offshore, its currents, occasional wash, and any landing being prohibited, it could never be described as a great anchorage.

What facilities are available?
There are no facilities in Osborne Bay. Cowes, 1½ miles westward, offers almost any conceivable marine services or facility a vessel could require. Almost anything in the marine world can either be repaired or rebuilt from first principals in Cowes. Having a population in excess of 10,000 it is also an excellent location for provisioning.

Any security concerns?
Never an issue known to have occurred to a vessel anchored off Osborne Bay.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, S/Y Whistler. Photography with thanks to Michael Harpur Philip, Halling, Stuart Logan, Mark Fosh and Craig Jamieson.

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.