The Southampton Harbour Hotel & Spa Southampton, just over an hour’s drive or train ride from London, and the closest city to the New Forest, is a major port with a multitude of ferry terminals through which hundreds of thousands of passengers travel each year. Despite this – and the fact that it’s the largest town in Hampshire – until last year, there was only one small hotel offering upmarket accommodation (The Pig) and few restaurants of any particular discerning quality. But in November 2017, all this changed with the opening of the brand-new Southampton Harbour Hotel & Spa in Ocean Village Marina – bringing much-needed energy and life to the area.
The 85-room hotel is set over six floors and has been designed by HGP Architects to look just like a super yacht – each one of the 77 rooms and eight suites has a sea view, and some have enormous balconies from which to enjoy the sights and sounds of the marina. There are three generous Spa time outdoor terraces adjoined to its restaurants and bars so you can sit out and enjoy the sun and nautical views (there are patio heaters in case of need!) or guests can take a walk around the ‘promenade decks’ on each floor. The quirky interior, put together by the hotel’s in-house designers, includes fun, eclectic pieces such as an original US flag waved by the wife of a US war hero set behind the DJ booth on the top floor HarBAR. There’s also a private cinema that seats 21, and a fleet of Mercedes cars to collect guests from the station or ferry terminals. The hotel is fun, but grown up – there’s complimentary gin and sherry in the rooms – but you have to pay for mixers, so my top tip is to sneak in a couple of bottles of your favourite Fever Tree.
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With an entrance framed by a 2.5x4m ‘living’ moss wall, the HarSPA makes an impact. There are seven treatment rooms – one of which is a double – offering a range of ESPA treatments using marine ingredients including seaweed and sea salt. I tried the ESPA Holistic Total Body Ritual that started with body brushing and exfoliation, followed by a full-body and then scalp massage – a divinely relaxing two-hour treatment that left me floating. There are a range of massages available, including the rather apt Lava Shell Massage, a type of heat treatment performed using tiger-striped clam shells as a massage tool. You can also choose from a wide range of facials and a 60-minute pregnancy massage. The 15m pool has loungers arranged to look out on the marina and sailing boats, and there’s a steam room and sauna, a relaxation room and gym. THE FOOD Choose from three restaurants. The Jetty on the ground floor is overseen by Michelin-starred chef Alex Aitken and has a quirky and delicious menu (think cockle popcorn and ‘Oops I Dropped my Icecream’ dessert) that changes daily according to the local catch. HarBAR on the top (sixth) floor is a less formal bar and restaurant serving burgers and nachos as well as seafood, with huge outdoor areas (and an outdoor bar) from which to enjoy the sunshine and marine vibe. In line with the general nautical theme, the playful cocktail menu features marine-inspired drinks, including the ‘Message in a bottle mojito’ and an ‘All on board bramble’. In HarSPA the light, bright Juice Bar and Café serves up yummy smoothies, juices and healthy snacks featuring the best WO local ingredients.
Hit the fully equipped gym with classes including yoga, Spin, flex, tone, meditation, circuits and boxing, all available to residents on a first come, first served basis. If you fancy exploring the area, the New Forest – William The Conqueror’s hunting ground – is a 20-minute drive away, or hop on a ferry for a day trip to Cowes on the Isle of Wight. Alternatively, if you book one of the hotel’s weekend packages, take advantage of its private-use committee boat for a guided tour of the local coastline.
From £155 per room per night, room only. The ESPA Holistic Total Body Ritual costs £110. The hotel offers a wide range of spa days and spa breaks; southamptonharbour-hotel.co.uk.