For centuries ships have been grounded along the shores of the Solent. Many wrecks were caused by adverse weather and careless navigation. A number of known and designated wreck sites exist in the Solent; these are protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act, 1973 and include:
- Grace Dieu - medieval warship struck by Lightning whilst in storage on the River Hamble, near Bursledon in 1439. Dismantled, however some remains exist on the river bed.
- Hazardous - fourth-rate warship taken by the Royal Navy from the French in 1703. Run aground at Bracklesham Bay in 1706 by her captain, Lieutenant Hare, to save his crew in appalling weather conditions.
- HMS/m A1 - Vickers-built submarine that following withdrawal from service in 1911, was used as a submerged target in unmanned trials but was lost off Selsey Bill. Following abandoned efforts to locate the wreck it was discovered five miles from away from its previous location in 1989.
- Invincible - French warship captured by the British in 1747. Run aground and fell over at Horse Tail Sand, Hampshire in 1758 en-route for Canada, and was completely wrecked due to poor weather conditions.
- Mary Rose - Henry VIII’s flagship was sunk off Spithead, near Portsmouth in 1545 as the King watched from Southsea Castle. The reasons for its sinking are unclear. While much of the ship has been preserved and can be viewed at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, parts including the bow section, still remain on the seabed.
- Needles site - the site at the Needles is though to contain the remains of two Fifth-rate frigates; HMS Assurance, lost in 1753 and HMS Pomone, lost in 1811.
- Yarmouth Roads - the site of a late 16th or early 17th century merchant carrack. The ship may have been Spanish, and have been discovered prior to reaching Yarmouth Harbour, possibly the Santa Lucia, lost in 1567.
The Solent has a rich coastal heritage - both above and below the water. Visitors on land can discover the information on conventional leaflets and interpretation panels and boats can sail to yellow buoys marking shipwrecks in the Solent. Calling a dedicated phone number relays a message about the wreck beneath them. Divers can take the information on diving slates with them underwater. The New Forest National Park's Coastal Heritage project studied 51 miles (82km) of coastline between Southampton and the Dorset border and up to six nautical miles off-shore. Thought to be the first in the UK to include shipwrecks in this way, the trail takes in four wrecks dating from 1881 through to 1978. There is evidence of human activity along the Solent coast dating back 125,000 years. The trail takes in prehistoric activity and also charts local industries from salt works to shipbuilding as well as smuggling and national defence.