Brittany Ferries have been linking Spain and the UK by ferry for several decades now. They currently run services from Santander to both Plymouth and Portsmouth. The original Plymouth service runs once a week from the middle of March to the beginning of November using their flagship Pont Aven, and the new Portsmouth service runs from February to November from once to three times a week using both the Pont Aven and the smaller Cap Finistere. The Pont Aven is a great ship, with lots of services, cinemas, a swimming pool, bars, entertainment and even whale watching. Brittany Ferries also run a Bilbao-Portsmouth service (the old P&O service) all year round, using the same ships as above, which is timetabled to complement the Santander service, and as a result it’s often more viable to come out on one route and return by another. And finally, they are now also advertising a new Bilbao-Roscoff service too (in winter some of the Bilbao-Portsmouth sailings go via Roscoff), although this does not show up on their British site, only on their French site.
Also available on their website is an excellent guide to the Port of Santander, including information about the new changes port access currently underway due to the construction of the new Botín Arts Centre (if you’re interested in what this is, check out this video).
Also worth mentioning here is the excellent offers that Brittany Ferries have if you buy your complete holiday with them. If you’re thinking of sailing over and renting accommodation in Cantabria, check out the Spanish Casas holiday section on their website, their offers including ferry, cabin, car and house are very reasonably priced, and they’ve got some great accommodation options around the region (including hotels too). Personally, this is what my family members do when they visit the area.
And finally, if you’re planning your holiday a long way in advance and there’s a sailing, property etc. that you are interested in but are unable to book through the website as it’s not open yet, ring them, they have a great support centre and will tell you how to go about things.
A new addition to the ferry lineup at Santander is LDLines, who have for many years run a ferry service between Gijon in neighbouring Asturias to St Nazaire in north west France, and are partners of the more well known DFDS Seaways, who run cross channel ferry routes. From 3rd November 2013 they also started a Santander-Poole car ferry twice weekly, at competitive prices. Their ship for this route is the Norman Asturias, a smaller ship than those of Brittany Ferries, but still with good services and comfortable cabins.
Local Ferry Services
Los Reginas, a well established and long running company, run a half hourly daily service across the bay of Santander to the beach resort town of Somo with its beautiful long beach, and Pedreña with its yacht club and very good fish restaurants (and also its golf course – Pedreña was the hometown of the late Seve Ballesteros). Their office is located on the promenade close to the ferry terminal, where they have a cafe, ticket office and waiting area. You can use the Contactless Cards from Transporte de Cantabria on this service.
Excursiones Marítimas are based in Santoña, and offer a regular ferry service across from the port in Santoña to El Puntal, the end of the long beach in Laredo. Weather permitting, it runs from 9am-9pm in summer, and up to 4 times a day during the rest of the year. There is no service in December, January and February.
San Vicente de la Barquera
There is talk of a ferry connecting San Vicente de la Barquera with El Meron beach, although this is yet to actually function.
Los Reginas is Santander’s longest running ferry company (and a bit of an institution), principally offering a regular daily service between their waterside ticket office and cafe on Paseo Pereda, across the bay to Pedreña and Somo and its beaches. They also offer excursions around the bay and El Sardinero beaches, as well as a popular longer excursion up the Cubas river (between Somo and Pedreña) and back.
Santander Bahía Tours is a new company who from April 2015 will also be offering boat trips around the bay of Santander, leaving from the newly rennovated Gamazo area of Santander (near the Palacio de Festivales).
Bahía de Santander offer environmental boat trips, with guided tours by boat of the wildlife and marine environment around Santander bay and Somo. Some of their excursions include a section on foot to see specific things of interest, and there is one which offers seabird and marine mammal watching trips at sea.
Excursiones Maritimas also offer 3 different excursion options along the coast, including Castro Urdiales, Oriñón and a trip around the bay of Santoña/Laredo, all with guided commentaries.
actiTur, based in Suances, offer two different itineraries, one around the Suances bay and its islands, and the other up the estuary of the River Besaya, both with commentaries.