Often referred to as the ‘sailing capital of the world’ because of the rich history of sailing for which this small town is famous for across the world, including being the location of the very first ‘Americas cup’ and of course the infamous Cowes week.
In recent years Cowes has become known locally as a great place to live and visit due to the wealth of independent shops, bars and restaurants. You won't find a Weatherspoon’s pub or a high street like any other.
The high street is largely pedestrianised, which allows visitors space to meander along at a leisurely pace, often with dogs or children in tow. The main shopping street stretches along the seafront, with occasional glimpses of the sea through breaks in the old town houses, with benches near the best vantage points.
There are far too many great independent shops to mention here, but some of my favourites can be found at the west end of the high street, where you'll find ‘live like this ’ and ‘little live like this ’ which is wonderful if you have young children and as you'll find some amazing toys, clothes and gifts. Buff is also a top recommendation for gift ideas and is full of very unique home and kitchen-wear items and some very quirky lamps and objet d’art.
If you’re looking for the perfect outfit to be seen on the water, you're spoilt the for choice with all the sailing clothing retailers including Musto, Henri Lloyd, fat face, white stuff, Quba and many others.
Scattered amongst all the shops, are a number of places to stop off and grab a coffee or a bite to eat. If you've ever taken part in Cowes week, you've probably already sampled one of the famous crispy bacon baguettes from Tiffins which are popular with visiting sailors. If you're passing on a warm day, we can strongly recommend the frozen yogurt shakes which are a meal in themselves, complete with a bit of fruit and a flake - part of your five a day (not the flake).
Alternatively, if you're coming into Cowes via the high-speed ferry, you'll find a nice little place called French Franks right by the terminal building, a great place to grab a quick coffee on the way to or from Southampton.
When the shops close for the day, the town remains vibrantly busy well into the evening because of the amazing selection of places to eat and have a drink. From traditional pubs to Thai to curry houses and romantic venues, there's something to suit all palates. A fairly new addition to the town is Jollifes, which is located in one of the most interesting buildings on the high street and offers a very intimate experience perfect for couples.
Just down the hill you'll find the always busy (must be a good sign) The Coast, which is a very vibrant place open all day and occasionally frequented by myself for breakfast which is always fantastic.
At the other end of town, is another favourite of mine, The Mess Canteen and Bar. During the day, it’s a great place for lunch with friends and in the evening, it becomes a popular bar, serving ‘Jam jar cocktails’ till late.
When heading into Cowes in the evening, don’t be surprised to see groups of people wearing identical team clothing, as you’ll often see sailing teams in the pubs after a day on the water and apparently getting changed beforehand isn’t the done thing!
You’ll find a common nautical theme in most establishments, but none more so than the Pier View, right in the centre of the town which is a popular pub with locals and visiting sailors.
Another place you’ll find a similar clientele is the Anchor (opposite Tiffins) and possibly the closest pub to the Marina, so often the first stop! The Anchor regularly has live music and a large patio area at the back which is always busy in the summer.
During the summer, the scrabble for an outside table can always be a headache, but luckily, we now have a new venue on the Parade with arguably the best pub garden in town. The Globe has recently opened their new Roof Terrace garden, complete with fake grass, bean bags, deck chairs and the best views of the passing yachts and ferries and the Solent beyond.