Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight, just 4 miles from the mainland and easily accessible by ferry, high speed catamaran services and hovercraft, has everything for a perfect holiday escape. Its amazing array of award-winning beaches and coves offer visitors an opportunity to enjoy breath-taking coastal scenery combined with its natural and unspoilt countryside and wide open spaces.
This part of the island is focused around the busy harbour towns of Cowes and East Cowes
Cowes is recognised as a World class sailing destination, and has an excellent range of independent boutique shops, eateries, cafes and bars along a mainly pedestrianised high street which is also great in the evening, often with live entertainment. Cowes offers lovely flat walking along the esplanade, along to the World famous Royal Yacht Squadron and by the Green alongside the pebble beach, with lovely Solent views towards Gurnard, where some of the most stunning Island sunsets can be seen. There is also excellent sea fishing around the Cowes seafront all year. In August, there is an amazing festival atmosphere throughout the town whilst Cowes Week is on, and over 100,000 visitors come to Cowes just to soak up the atmosphere and be part of the action.
East Cowes is a marina town with a promenade for seaside walks, and is across from Cowes separated by the river Medina, with a floating bridge carrying cars and pedestrians between the two. The town’s most famous visitor and resident was Queen Victoria, whose summer home Osborne House –with its beautiful house and stunning gardens, hosts many great events and activities throughout the year.
Gurnard village is just along the coast from Cowes and has spectacular far reaching Solent views which offer the most stunning sunset views and is both peaceful and relaxing. The waterfront here is a great spot to observe sailing action, and has a children’s play area and pretty traditional beach huts. The Island’s beautiful coastal pathway winds its way along the seafront here too
Parkhurst Forest located just south of Cowes is an area of specific scientific interest with ancient and new woodland, and is a haven for wildlife including the Island’s famous red squirrels. There are lots of cycle paths and walks for all the family.
Sandown is a family-friendly resort on the South East coast of the Isle of Wight, sheltered in a beautiful bay with a wide, sandy, gently sloping beach, a traditional pier and a variety of shops, hotels, cafes and restaurants. It sits in the centre of Sandown Bay with Shanklin to the south and Yaverland and Culver Cliff to the north.
Sandown has a colourful Carnival at the end of July and a selection of family friendly attractions including pitch and put, the Isle of Wight Zoo with its big cat sanctuary and Dinosaur Isle which is an interactive dinosaur museum.
The local 18-hole golf course offers arguably some of the best golf on the Island. For walkers the cliff top path offers stunning panoramas across the Solent.
Shanklin, just south of Sandown in Sandown Bay is a charming traditional seaside resorts with a glorious long wide sandy beach set against a backdrop of dramatic sandstone cliffs. Shanklin Old Village is full of old-world charm with its ‘chocolate box’ thatched cottages,, unique gift shops and tea rooms.
Popular for water sports the beach is great for families and the Esplanade, lined with traditional seaside games, amusements, cafes, hotels, restaurants and pubs, is the perfect place to relax. The famous Shanklin Chine, a gorge with rare plants and delightful waterfall, is a unique visitor attraction.
Breading is a historic old port town a few miles inland from Sandown, and is home to the award-winning Roman Villa Visitor Centre which features many rare and interesting artefacts found at the site and some of the most beautifully preserved mosaics in Europe. The site is one of the England’s best and provides a unique insight into Roman Britain. It also has a 12th Century church. Brading Marshes is a RSPB’s reserve open all year and free to enter, with dogs allowed on the public footpaths, and covers most of the valley of the lower River Yar and runs from the village of Brading all the way to Bembridge Harbour.
Bembridge is one of the most easterly towns on the Island, with wide shallow beaches, perfect for safe bathing and beachcombing. Bembridge has a busy small harbour, which is always well stocked with pleasure craft and fishing boats. The harbour’s characterful houseboats are definitely worth a look. Bembridge Windmill is an iconic landmark, and the only surviving windmill on the Island. It was built c.1700 and still has its original machinery intact. From here there are glorious panoramas across the Island, views that provided inspiration for many artists including J.M.W. Turner.
In September the annual Bembridge Harbour Food Festival takes place giving visitors and locals alike a chance to feast on local produce from our land and sea.
St Helens is a traditional English village with shops, pubs and large village green. The village is close to Bembridge and has some magnificent views over the harbour. St Helens has its own beach where you will find the remains of the original church which was built on the seafront but later relocated to a safer position. Just off the coast is the St Helens Fort built around 1867 to ward off French invaders and the village has a rich history of maritime use throughout the centuries. There is a good selection of restaurants, pubs and cafes both in the village and down at the beach.
Located on the coast between Ryde and Bembridge is the lovely village of Seaview, which has a strong maritime culture, and the village holds a popular annual regatta in the summer. This old Edwardian resort was built to take in the panoramic sea views across the Solent, and has a number of sandy and rocky beaches. The village has many eateries, cafes and pubs and has a lovely relaxed atmosphere.
Ryde is a busy seaside town, the largest on the Island, and is well connected to the mainland via the catamaran and hovercraft. It has an early 19th century pier which carries both vehicles and a small train. Ryde offers many options for family entertainment which include an Ice Rink, Superbowl, Swimming Pool and sheltered lake with rides and birdlife. Ryde also has a vibrant nightlife with late opening venues.
Ryde has a glorious golden sandy beach and at low tide the sea goes out a long way, which means the beach is never crowded even in the height of summer. The area is popular with windsurfers and kite surfers and even beach volleyball players.
Appley Beach continues along from Ryde again with a beautiful wide open sandy beach leading around to the Victorian Fortification Battery at Puckpool Park, and is a great spot for beach games and a leisurely picnic.
Ryde holds an annual Carnival at the end of the summer and the August Bank Holiday sees Ryde host the Isle of Wight Scooter Rally with thousands of scooters. In September there is a Classic Car Show in the town.
Wootton is a pretty village located between Ryde and Newport, close to the main Wightlink ferry terminal of Fishbourne. The village is set in some beautiful countryside with the creek, popular with sailors, passing through its middle.
There are a number of walks, including the Heritage trail which makes the area popular with ramblers. The woodland, including Firestone Copse, is rich with wildlife including the Island’s famous red squirrels, herons and kingfishers and egrets and is part of a conservation area.
Nearby attractions include the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, Quarr Abbey and Osborne House.
Located on the south coast this popular Victorian seaside resort set into the hillside has its own ‘micro-climate’ as it is sheltered by St Boniface Down. It is one of the most popular holiday spots on the Island and has a lovely shingle and sand beach. The town has a lovely selection of shops, cafes and restaurants, and ice-cream parlour making all homemade produce. The Botanical Gardens have an interesting collection of plants some of which can only be grown here due to the warm climate. The harbour offers sea safari trips which are great fun for all ages, and the fish shop offers a wide selection of locally caught fish.
NITON & St LAWRENCE
Located on the Undercliff, this area is best known for St Catherine’s Lighthouse and this beautiful part of the island has stunning coastal scenery, walks and views, and is a perfect base for walkers and cycling enthusiasts as well as those looking for a peaceful location to enjoy the best of the Island’s landscape. St Lawrence is much older than Ventnor and has a 12th Century church.
A peaceful rural village with a 700 year-old church and a traditional local inn dating back to the 15th century, a short distance from the impressive south coast of the Isle of Wight, and the Island’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and is a perfect base for walkers and cycling enthusiasts.
At the foot of St Catherine’s Down this is arguably one of the Island’s wildest and most beautiful places. The ‘Pepperpot’ Medieval lighthouse is one of the oldest in Britain and stands above Chale on one of the highest points on the Island.
Atherfield Green just outside Chale, with its network of tiny lanes and pathways is moments away from the stunning south-west coast of the Island. On the edge of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, close to the World famous Compton Beach this is a perfect base for cyclists and walkers and those looking for a peaceful break amid breath-taking scenery.
This historic harbour town at the mouth of the river Yar has some of the Isle of Wight’s oldest architecture including a 16th Century Castle. Yarmouth also has a Grade II Listed Pier popular with fishermen. The town has a lovely selection of unique shops and galleries and a great selection of restaurants, cafes and pubs catering for all tastes and budgets. The Yarmouth Gaffers Festival is extremely popular and fills the whole town with a riot of colour fun and entertainment.
Freshwater Bay is one of the most picturesque beaches on the Island and lies just south of the town of Freshwater. This beautifully sheltered cove is surrounded by chalk cliffs, where smugglers once used the myriad of caves around the bottom which are exposed at low tide. Located in the heart of the Island’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its stunning coastal scenery, the area offers a varied choice for walkers, cyclists and outdoor pursuits enthusiasts with a great range of water sport activities available in the Bay and a challenging cliff-top links golf course. The breath-taking Tennyson Down and Coastal walks are a few minutes’ walk away.
Freshwater is just a short distance away by bus or car, with a variety of independent shops, cafes, pubs, and restaurants. Local village stores, restaurants, cafes and tea rooms within walking distance and a larger supermarket is 0.5 miles away in Freshwater.
Totland Bay is a picturesque sandy beach, ideal for swimming, with clear turquoise waters and far reaching views to the mainland. The Bay is located on the West of the Isle of Wight, close to the village of Totland. The coastline here is rocky yet for the most part covered in a thick blanket of trees and greenery.
Colwell Bay is situated between the famous Needle rock and lighthouse and the port of Yarmouth. With views across the Solent to Hurst Castle and Fort Albert, Colwell Bay is popular with families, holidaymakers, and locals who visit the gently shelving beach. Colwell Bay has a unique friendly appeal and has won the Quality Coast Award.
The small village of Wellow is located in the heart of the Island’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with its stunning coastal scenery, the area offers a varied choice for walkers, cyclists and outdoor pursuits enthusiasts. Great for families and couples, there is plenty to see and do, with Compton Beach, recognised as one of the world’s best beaches and a haven for fossil hunters and surfers, just 5 miles away. The famous West Wight Alpacas are a couple of minutes’ walk away. Tapnell Farm with its restaurant, café, outdoor activities centre and indoor play barn is a short drive away.
Brook is a small village perfect for exploring the beauty of the West Wight’s beaches and bays or those wanting to enjoy the many Island walks. Its long sand and shingle beach offers space and tranquillity, and many fossils have been found in the area.
Brook also has a small village centre with a historic church of which parts date back to the 13th Century.
The main Island town of Newport sits in the centre of the island and has a wide selection of high street shops, supermarkets and more individual boutique shops. The town square holds a regular farmers’ market on a Tuesday where you can pick up Island produce from cheese and relishes to salad, fruit and vegetables.
Newport has many interesting places to visit such as the Quay Arts Centre, Museum of Island History and the Newport Roman Villa all of which are within walking distance of the town centre.
Newport has a great selection of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and unique eateries, and has a vibrant feel in the evening. The town has several theatres and a multiplex cinema and hosts many street fairs and events throughout the year including the popular Riverfest.
The Island’s network of 500 miles of pathways and cycle routes pass through, with the Newport to Sandown cycle path, which was once a railway track. The town’s main bus station has buses to almost anywhere on the Island making it a great base to explore all of the Isle of Wight.
Carisbrooke Castle, The Owl & Monkey Haven, Robin Hill Adventure Park and Gardens, Blackgang Chine and Tapnell Farm are all a short drive away and are great places for a day out.
Often described as a quintessentially old-English village, Godshill has a medieval church and peppering of charming thatched-roofed cottages. The main road through the village is lined with a selection of quirky and traditional tea rooms, individual shops many selling Island produce and gifts, and a great selection of award-winning pubs and eateries. Famous also for its highly detailed model village and chocolate shop, Godshill is a great place to visit.
History & heritage
The Island has many places to visit of historical significance and heritage. These include the magnificent Osborne House – Queen Victoria’s family home, and one of the most visited attractions. Carisbrooke Castle has hundreds of years of history within its walls and an excellent range of activities for all ages throughout the year. Across the whole island, visitors can find picturesque villages with historically significant churches, architecture, and even Roman Villas, all steeped in traditional charm.
Known as the ‘Garden Isle’, the south of the island especially is said to have its own micro-climate. Ventnor Botanical Gardens sub-tropical and exotic collection of rare plants is not to be missed. Swiss Cottage at Osborne House offers guests old and young alike a great insight into the Victorians’ passion for growing produce in stark contrast to the main house’s formal Italianate manicured gardens and natural open spaces.
The island plays host to the world’s greatest sailors with its renowned Cowes Week in August and a packed and varied sailing programme all year round. Yarmouth’s Old Gaffers Festival highlights traditional yacht racing as well as plenty of family dockside fun.
Nature & wildlife
The rugged and unspoilt West Wight is a firm favourite with fossil hunters searching for links with the Island’s prehistoric past. For nature lovers there’s bird-watching and red squirrels, as well as alpacas, donkeys and several zoo parks homing some of the world’s most endangered species.
A haven for lovers of good food, the island offers freshly caught local seafood, a Garlic Farm with its world-renowned produce, several vineyards, honey, and award-winning cheeses to name but a few.
For lovers of the great outdoors a large part of the island is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is criss-crossed with pathways and cycle ways, many taking in its captivating and stunning Heritage Coastline. For the more adventurous, kite-surfing, coasteering, sea kayaking, stand-up paddle-boarding, sea-fishing and golf allow visitors to actively enjoy the stunning coast.
The dramatically placed Needles Park is a popular tourist attraction with chairlifts to enjoy the world famous naturally multi-coloured cliffs, and take in the spot where Marconi sent the world’s first radio message.
Other family attractions for an excellent day out include Blackgang Chine, the UK’s oldest theme park, Dinosaur Isle and Robin Hill Country Park, and in fact, the island has more places to visit and things to do per square mile than anywhere else in the UK. Music lovers are also treated to the renowned Isle of Wight Music Festival in June.