Where and What to Hire
Southampton has a range of car hire companies to choose from. At Southampton Airport, Avis and Tipoa both have branches located there. In the centre of Southampton, Thrifty have a branch at Ocean Village while National Car, Alamo, Europecar, Whizz, Enterprise, Sixt and U Drive can all be found close to Southampton Central Station. Hertz are also located near Palmerston Park in south of the city while Enterprise have an outlet very near Bitterne Train Station. With everything from wedding cars, limousines and vans to traditional two and four-door vehicles, there is a hire car for everyone.
Driving in Southampton is straightforward with relatively low numbers of cars on the road compared to other major cities. However, there are still one-way streets to navigate in the centre of the city as well as cyclists, the numbers of which are increasing every year.
There is a good selection of parking in Southampton from on-street parking, above ground and multi-storey car parks. City centre on-street parking is limited to 2 hours in the central zone and 4 hours in the outer zone. (This information is correct as of 8 April 2015) Charges apply from 8am to 6pm and cost £1 for 30 minutes. Off-street parking is between 50 pence and 60 pence per half hour and up to £14 to park for the whole day. Further from the city centre, some free on-street parking can occasionally be found.
Where to Go and What to See
Hiring a car in Southampton is a great idea as there is so much to see not only in the city but in the surrounding area. One of the most beautiful places to take the car, and the family, is the spectacular New Forest. The ten minute drive whisks visitors to some breath-taking countryside where biking, hiking and walking, crabbing and scavenging on the beach, horse riding and photographing wild deer are all normal everyday activities. The fabulous farmers markets mean that you can fill the boot with mouth-watering local produce to take home. Adventurous kids may like to try their hand at learning to scuba dive in the Quays Swimming and Diving Centre, under a mile from the city centre. Alternatively, there are some fantastic theme parks in the region. The Robin Hill Country Adventure Park, just 17 miles away in Newport has tons of rides, play areas, woodland gardens and even a squirrel safari. Funland, 20 miles from Southampton in Hayling Island has many stomach churning rides for kids and adults as well as a crazy golf course. For anyone wanting lively nightlife and great shopping, just a 40 minute drive south west from Southampton is Bournemouth. This large coastal town offers not only fine dining, bars, spas, museums, art galleries and a shopping district with boutique and high street labels, but also some wonderful outdoor activities like climbing, walking and surfing. Hiring a colourful beach hut and picnicking on the soft sandy beach is one of the highlights of a day trip to Bournemouth. On a rainy day, a trip to Winchester Science Centre, just 12 miles from Southampton, is a great one for the kids with its giant Planetarium while adults can enjoy a stroll through Winchester’s picturesque historic streets, browsing local farmers markets and relaxing with a cream tea in a cosy cafe.