European motorhome Travel- VanlifeSpain

Portsmouth to spain – By ferry

Over the last few years we have travelled to Mainland Europe on just about every method possible.

Having weighed up the options, we decided to take the ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao then drive from there .

This option was slightly more expensive but cut out driving through France. We could have got a cheaper ferry the following week, but with a limited 3 month time frame a few pennies didn’t really matter.

This time we were looking to a somewhat more leisurely build-up to our winter break in Spain . Travelling out of Portsmouth , we even broke our journey up with a very relaxing stay at Portsmouth Marina keep, which was very enjoyable and free (N50.839430, W1.097950)


We opted for the Portsmouth-Bilbao crossing for two reasons.

Firstly, we prefer to do more of the driving on mainland Europe, where the roads always seem so much quieter to us.

Secondly, we like overnight crossings.

There’s something special and exciting about travelling by ferry – the excitement of boarding the ferry itself, settling down in your cabin, and then waking up at your destination the next morning,

Our outbound crossing was an overnight one on the Etretat ferry and we were able to wave goodbye cold and damp England, well Portsmouth as we set sail.

Etretat can carry as many as 200 cars (and 375 passengers)… and they certainly pack them in!


So much so that some cars end up on a outside deck facing the sea and receive a free wash on arrival( to remove the salt spray)

It is quite an art seeing how they manage to get everyone on board. Oh, and don’t worry if you’re one of the last to board – it can sometimes mean you’re one of the first to get off.

It’s really just a bit of a lottery, and if I had a choice I’d sooner be one of the last to board and first to get off at the other end, and start my holiday that’s for sure.

Eagle eyed reader will have already spotted that this is in fact one of Brittany Ferries economy sailings- eek!

But that doesn’t mean the ship is a pleasurable place to be.

On board Etretat you’ll  a few facilities to keep you occupied during your crossing. As well as a small shop, you’ll find a self-service restaurant, situated towards the front of the ship on deck 5


The on-board shop also offers a selection of gifts and souvenirs, plus a range of spirits, wine, tobacco, perfumes and more.

We passed the rest of the day by watching movies on the laptop, reading books, which due to the evil weather along the uk coast, was a god send- the ship crashed through each and every wave.


By about 11 PM the swells had dropped and the remainder of the journey was fairly pleasant, if so very slow, little akin to living in a washing machine!

At about 4pm, we were roused by a tannoy announcement.

Land Ahoy … we were given the 30 minute warning to leave our cabins and return to our cars and then the long wait to get off the board…

I have to say I felt a little smug watching people scratching their heads as they raced to affix the stickers to alter the direction of their headlights. Pre-planning (being a nerd according to Michele ) meant I had done that the morning before we boarded. Smug mode intensified!

we then took the hours journey to Elorrio, for our first night on spainish soil and a cheeky vino and Tapa of course….



2 thoughts on “Portsmouth to spain – By ferry

  • Katherine

    Have a fabulous well deserved trip. May floods, bugs and any other issue keep its distance!


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