Sandbanks Chain Ferry at the
Entrance to Poole Harbour
popular and useful attraction is the
Sandbanks Chain Ferry which crosses the
entrance to Poole Harbour, between Sandbanks
and Studland (Shell Bay).
Operated by the Bournemouth-Swanage Motor
Road and Ferry Company, the ferry (or
floating bridge as it is classified as)
links Bournemouth and Poole with Swanage,
allowing people to avoid a 25 mile return
journey around the harbour by road.
The current ferry is known as "Bramble Bush
Bay" and has been carrying passengers back
and forth since 1994. She is the fourth
ferry to operate this service since an Act
of Parliament was passed in 1923 allowing
the statutory company to be created and
which allowed the company to charge a toll
on the road it was to build from South Haven
to Studland. The first journey across the
harbour then came on 15th July 1926, the
ferry was coal fired, steam driven and could
hold 15 cars and the trip one way cost 2.5p
(2s 6d plus 3d per passenger).
Jumping forward to January 1994, Bramble
Bush Bay is a diesel-hydraulic driven vessel
with the ability to hold 48 cars (nominal
capacity) and is 242 feet in length.
The chain, with drive wheels pulling the
ferry along it, is only powered on one side at a
time, this means less power is needed and
allows the ferry to be brought better onto
the slipway. It was the first ferry to be
named, being named after a small bay south
of the boatyard where a number of house
boats are moored.
The chain ferry has right of
way over other vessels, except those under
compulsory pilotage. You may also notice
that when it is moving the forward end will
raise a black shaped ball and display a
white flashing light which indicates the
direction of travel.
The ferry runs daily from 7.00am to 11.10pm.
The first sailing leaves from Sandbanks at
7.00am, then every 20 and 40 minutes after
each hour and on the hour until 11.00pm. The
first departure from Shell Bay is at 7.10am,
then every 30, 50 and 10 minutes past the
hour until 11.10pm. On Christmas Day the
ferry operates half hourly from 8.00am to
6.10pm. It leaves Sandbanks on the hour and
half hour and from Shell Bay it leaves at 10
minutes and 40 minutes past the hour.
Crossings are subject to shipping movements,
maintenance and other operational factors.
It is normally taken out of service once a
year, usually in November, for a full
The toll prices for the ferry are as
Pedestrians (one way charge from Sandbanks)
Pedal or motorcycle - £1.00
Car or Light Van/Most Camper Vans (up to
3500 Kg maximum operating weight), minibuses
up to 17 seats - £3.50
Goods Vehicle with a maximum operating
weight of more than 3500 Kg. Toll includes
VAT at the applicable rate - £7.00
Bus or Coach (with 18 or more seats inc.
driver) - £8.00
Vehicles towing will be charged double
Pedestrians and bikers pay at the ticket machine before getting on
the ferry at the Sandbanks end, the other
vehicles pay at the toll booth on Shell Bay
after the crossing. Previously the original
toll was a wooden hut below
Knoll House at Pipley Bridge. When the
current owners took over they moved the toll
booth to Shell Bay implementing a computerised toll system
as well as rebuilding both slipways and
building a new roundabout at Shell Bay.
Regular users of the service can get
discounted tickets when buying in bulk.
These can be ordered from the
Sandbanks Ferry website. Please note
that they do not accept credit or debit
cards so do remember your cash!
The Sandbanks Ferry is a "must do thing"
when you're in the area, allowing you to
take in some beautiful views of Studland
Brownsea Island. And if the
weather's good why not get the open top bus
from Bournemouth to Swanage? The Number 50
Purbeck Breezer, operated by
Wilts and Dorset Bus Company, is a great way to see
the stunning countryside.
Please beware though that in peak season
queues can be long although the company do
run a shuttle service in these circumstances
to get you across as soon as possible.
And one last tip...if you are driving and you are in a hurry try
and get in one of the 2 right hand lanes
when you board as they get unloaded off the ferry first!