Ryde calls itself the gateway to the Isle of Wight, and it certainly provides the fastest communication to and from the mainland. A regular ferry service between Ryde and Portsmouth was set up in 1805, but as it was dependent on sail, the crossing time was erratic. This practice ceased in 1815, when the pier was opened, and in 1825 a regular steam packet service was inaugurated, bringing the crossing time down to about 35 minutes. Ryde is a seaside town and the second largest urban area situated on the north-east coast of the Isle of Wight. The town grew in size as a seaside resort following the joining of the villages of Upper and Lower Ryde in the 19th century. The influence of this era is still strongly visible in the town's central and sea facing architecture. Ryde has six miles of glorious sandy beaches and shallow coastal waters which are ideal for swimming. The tides goes out a long way, leaving firm sand ideal for beach games.