Overlooking the Severn Estuary, just a short drive from Bristol, lies the charming coastal town of Portishead. With its rich maritime history, stunning waterfront views, and a burgeoning food scene, Portishead is the perfect destination for a day trip or a stop off along the M5 motorway. In this guide, we'll take you on a tour of this coastal gem, showcasing the best things to do in Portishead.

A view of the Portishead Quays Marina in the town of Portishead near Bristol - credit Laura Valentine
Image - Portishead Marina, credit Laura Valentine

Portishead Marina

Start your day by exploring the town's heart - Portishead Quays Marina. The marina offers a serene atmosphere for a leisurely stroll, admiring the yachts and boats. One end of the marina is open to watersports and on a sunny day you’ll spot paddleboards and rowing boats. There are also some great spots for crabbing.

There are a plethora of waterside bars and cafes to choose from here. Including lots of brilliant independent business. At one end you’ll find Aqua, perfect for a coffee, brunch, long lunch or indulging over dinner. They have a large covered and heated terrace so you can enjoy it all year round. Next door there’s also Italian family favourite Bottelinos and stylish cocktail and wine bar, The Graze.

Stroll further down and you’ll find Hall & Woodhouse. This stylish restaurant built in shipping containers overlooks the marina and serves a diverse menu.

Keep strolling towards the Estuary and you’ll find La Marina where the food is inspired by the owners home of Sorrento, Italy. Mokoko Café and Bakery serves incredible coffee and delicious pastries. Along the way there’s SeaRock, a fish and seafood restaurant that serves fresh fish caught from sustainable sources in North Atlantic waters. The Siren’s Calling next door is a congenial community focused pub that hosts live music every week.

Just past the small rocky beach and up the steps from the Lifeboat Station is newly refurbished The Royal pub. This modern gastropub has a delicious menu and a beer garden with one of the best views in Portishead towards Wales and the Severn Bridge.

If you’re after something for brunch, try Café Marina or a proper fry up at Ocean’s Café or The Captains Cabin on a sunny day.

The open air swimming pool in Portishead, near Bristol
Image: Portishead Open Air Pool

Portishead Open Air Pool

If you're visiting during the warmer months, don't miss a trip to the Portishead Open Air Pool, open from April to October (plus a few special winter sessions). This Art Deco outdoor pool is perfect for a refreshing dip and some sunbathing. It's a wonderful spot to relax and soak up the sun while taking in breathtaking views of the estuary. The pool is heated using green energy and maintains a heat of around 28C.

There are lots of special events run throughout the year, from family swims and moonlight swim sessions to cold water swimming and even dog-friendly sessions at the end of the season (so the water can be treated and filtered before the pool re-opens).

There is also a brilliant café on site with sweeping estuary views, that you can visit even if you aren’t swimming and an old school tuck shop for hungry swimmers inside.

The sea view from the town of Portishead near Bristol - credit Laura Valentine
Image - The view over the Severn Estuary from Portishead, credit Laura Valentine

Portishead Lake Grounds

The Portishead Lake Grounds area is the perfect spot to chill out and relax. It has ample free parking, a fun playground, a newly opened skate park, a café, tennis courts, and plenty of space to run around. You can watch cricket matches in the summer, and a street food festival pops up here in July. If you want to feed the ducks you can pick up some bird seed from the café. During the summer months you can hire rowing boats to take on the lake too.

If you want some great views, take a walk along the river estuary along the little beach where you can see Wales and Avonmouth Docks in the distance. If you walk up to the pool, you can then climb to Battery Point for even better views. Battery Point was built to defend the Severn Estuary and used during the English Civil War as well as World War II. You can also walk out to the Portishead Point Lighthouse.

Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve

On the outskirts of Portishead and towards the Sheepway, you'll find the Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve. This tranquil haven is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and birdwatchers. With plenty of safe and flat paths and boardwalks, you can explore the serene wetlands, woodlands, and meadows, and keep an eye out for a wide variety of bird species, including swans, herons, and warblers.

Arc of Angels sculpture in Portishead, near Bristol - credit North Somerset Council
Image - Arc of Angels, credit North Somerset Council

Portishead Public Arts Trail

Immerse yourself in the local arts scene by exploring the Portishead Arts Trail. Centred around The Marina, more than twenty outstanding visual artists have contributed to the Portishead Public Art Trail. Their works, which reflect the town’s rich history and heritage, are integrated into the landscape.

These include ‘When Shall We Three Meet Again?, a sculpture of used matches which commemorates the history of the former phosphorous plant in Portishead, while the ‘Arc of Angels’, in Jubilee Park, shows five female figures which commemorate the masts of Portishead Radio that stood above the town, used to control shipping movements across the world. Full Fathom Five overlooking the estuary is 108 granite columns varying in height from 3 to 1 metres. It is an ode to the sea and seafarers.

Portishead Coastal Path

If you're a nature lover, embark on a walk along the Portishead Coastal Path. This picturesque trail meanders along the coastline between Portishead and Clevedon and offers breathtaking views of the estuary and opportunities for birdwatching.

You'll pass Kilkenny fields, an old golf course where you'll often see giant kites being flown on windy days. Along the way you will pass Then you will pass The Windmill Inn. The pub offers amazing views over the Severn Estuary and Wales. They have a huge beer garden and it’s lovely to sit there on a sunny day, watching the ships pass by.

Next is Sugar Loaf Beach, home to Portishead Sailing Club and the old tidal swimming pool. Around the bay you'll see Black Nore Lighthouse overlooking the Estuary. It was used to guide ships from 1894, through WWII until 2010. Continue on along the path past Layde Bay and you'll end up at the Grade 1 listed Clevedon Pier and the stunning Victorian seaside town of Clevedon.

Clevedon Pier - credit North Somerset Council
Image - Clevedon Pier. Credit: North Somerset Council

Portishead High Street

Over recent years, Portishead has undergone a lot of development and change. Popular retail names have settled in Portishead, but if you’re after more local, independent shops then the High Street is best.

Independent bookshop Max Minerva's is a beautiful space to browse books and hear stories at their events. Nestled just behind the main high street is Ebb & Flo, a small independent shop selling gifts and bits for the home. In the same small courtyard is Shanicatti Shakes, where they serve amazing milkshakes, afternoon tea and ice cream and in the evening Wednesday-Saturday it is also home to Dapur Kayu, an authentic Malaysian dining experience.

Further along you'll find gift shops, party shops, butchers, boutique clothes shops, florists, an independent pet store, a cake shop (that also serves delicious bubble tea!), a jewellers, a sports shop and an independent shoe shop. A personal favourite is Carey's Home and Garden, which has been on the high street for over 50 years.

For food and drink head to The Port, a micobrewery that serves pizza and waffles, depending on the time of day. Grab a coffee and lunch at Impero Lounge or Coffee #1, delicious pasties and scotch eggs at The Block Bakehouse or super pub grub at The Poacher, which also hosts mini markets and Portishead Pride at the end of May each year.

A view of the Portishead Quays Marina in the town of Portishead near Bristol - credit North Somerset Council
Image - Portishead Marina. Credit: North Somerset Council

A year-round programme of events

Depending on what time of year you visit Portishead has some great events to visit.

The Poacher pub hosts Portishead Pride at the end of May, and the annual Portishead Summer Show held at the end of July every year, is a combination of a traditional flower and produce show and a country fair.  It is a real community event which has been going since 1863. There are demonstrations, family-fun and competitions to enter. A new street food festival at Portishead Lakegrounds in July has also been popular.

In August, the marina is taken over by food and drink vendors for eat:Portishead. Once a month, the piazza near Waitrose is home to the Portishead Farmer's Market. Somerset Hall on the High Street hosts visiting and local comedians, theatre productions and performers from time to time.

In November and December the town is lit up for Christmas with the beautiful Christmas Lights stretching along the high street bringing all the festive cheer. There is also a big Christmas Light Switch On event and an annual Christmas Market.

Further afield

If you've exhausted all that Portishead has to offer, or fancy another return visit then there's some good spots nearby.

Explore Weston Big Wood, just outside the town, it's particularly pretty in springtime when the bluebells are out. At the other end of the beautiful Gordano Valley is Walton Common, a scrub and woodland renowned for wildflowers and butterflies.

Nearby village Clapton in Gordano is home The Black Horse Inn, which dates from the 14th Century and has a reputation as one of the most unspoilt inns in the South West. It's also a great stop off on the Gordano Valley Walk.

About the Author
Laura Valentine is Visit Bristol's Digital Marketing Manager and has lived in Portishead since 2020.