Situated just off the South Coast in the English Channel is the Isle of Wight; known for its beaches, dinosaur fossils and historical role in the defence of the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth.
Regular ferries and hovercrafts make the island easily accessible. The quickest ferry route—from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head—can get you there in only 22 minutes.
As ‘staycations’ remain popular in light as a result of COVID-19, this guide will show you what England’s largest island has to offer.
1. Alum Bay Beach and The Needles
Alum Bay is located at the Westerly tip of the island and is famous for its iconic chalk stacks known as The Needles (which have been named as one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the UK) and the colourful sands of its beaches.
There is plenty to do for the whole family. The top of the cliff boasts an attraction park with children’s rides and glass blowing demonstrations. You can get a birds-eye view of the famous Needles landmark with a trip from the top of the Alum Bay Cliffs on the Needles Chairlift.
From Easter until October 31 you are able to take a boat cruise around the Needles and the lighthouse.
Alum Bay Beach is easily accessible by car. If you prefer not to drive, the No 7 bus runs every 30 minutes from the town centre.
2. Casrisbrooke Castle
‘Step into England’s story’ with a museum and castle gardens to explore, as well as donkeys to meet and a castle wall to conquer. There is something for everyone at his historic landmark overlooking the centre of the Isle of Wight.
Standard adult admission is £11.30 while children under five go free. More information can be found here.
3. Isle of Wight Festival
The festival takes place annually in Newport with around 50,000 people attending the weekend-long event. Previous headliners include Liam Gallagher, Fleetwood Mac and Jessie J. Tickets can be bought here.
4. Dinosaurs and Fossils
The Isle of Wight is also known as ‘Dinosaur Island’ and is one of the best places in Europe for finding dinosaur fossils.
Fossil hunting trips are available with experienced guides. The two-hour tours are available from five different locations.
Blackgang Chine, which is the UK’s oldest theme park, is famous for its ‘Restricted Area 5’ attraction. The unique attraction allows you to get up close and personal with life-size dinosaur models.
5. Osborne House
Queen Victoria’s family home, in Cowes, is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island. England’s longest-reigning monarch spoke highly of her home; she once said ‘it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot’.
You can book tickets and find out more information here. Standard adult admission is £19.00. Children can enter for £11.40, but children under five can visit for free.
1. Steephill Cove Beach
Due to having no road access, Steephill Cove is only accessible by foot and a true ‘hidden gem’. It is a quiet and largely untouched part of the island, but with a traditional and charming nature.
2. Shanklin Chine
Despite being the Isle of Wight’s oldest established historic attraction, Shanklin Chine is still described as a ‘wondrous secret’ that can be enjoyed by all ages.
A single-entry ticket for adults is only £6.95, which makes the attraction an affordable day out.
3. Shanklin to Ventor Coastal Walk
The 3.5 mile walk is well signposted throughout and worth it for the coastal views; a good way to explore hidden areas!
4. Festivals and Carnivals
The Isle of Wight is known for its quirky and unusual festivals and carnivals that take place throughout the year. For example, every August the island hosts the annual Garlic Festival, with musical acts, games and even a ‘garlic queen’.
You can find a calendar of all the Isle of Wight’s festivals and carnivals here.
Travel when you’re there
Although it is possible to travel around the island without a car, it is much easier to do it with one. The Eastern side of the island is easier to travel around via bus, because it is better connected, and Newport—which has the largest bus station—makes it easy to get anywhere quickly. The Southern and Western sides of the island are quieter, and therefore there are fewer buses.
Bike hire is also another popular way to get around the island. There are many places that offer bike hire; expect to pay £15-£20 a day.
Food and Drink
1. Local produce
The climate of the Isle of Wight is perfect for growing a multitude of produce, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, cherries and many more. There are plenty of local and independent producers and a range of island produce can be bought at farmers’ markets. A comprehensive guide to local producers can be found here.
Seafood, especially crab, is very popular on the Isle of Wight and many places will serve locally caught seafood. Check out some of its best at The Blue Crab in Yarmouth.
The vegan scene is still relatively new to the island, but recently more and more vegan options are beginning to appear. Peach cafe, in Newport, is a zero-waste and entirely vegan kitchen.
Words by Ruby Frost