Places To Visit On The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a great escape from mainland England. The island has a rich history and heritage and is becoming a gastronomic destination thanks to local producers and chefs. Located off the south coast of England, it has even been declared the dinosaur capital of the UK, by the National History Museum so amongst the walking trails and seaside towns you may even find a fossil on one of the island’s sandy beaches.
It’s the place to visit if you love history, beaches, nature and adventure and being surrounded 360 degrees by water means that the island is fantastic for water sports as well as sailing, and mountain biking. It’s the perfect escape to enjoy fresh seafood or a cream tea with a sea view.
The Isle of Wight is divided into different areas: the North, North East, East, South, West, and Central, and in this article I cover each area and things to do on the Isle of Wight.
The north comprises of Cowes, East Cowes, and Northwood. Cowes is known for its sailing competitions and International Cowes Week, and you can admire the yachts and catamarans as you walk from Cowes to Gurnard, a pretty village with beach huts along the esplanade, where you can spot the cruise ships in the distance.
Osborne House is one of the island’s most popular attractions. Once the holiday home of Queen Victoria, this Italian Renaissance palazzo style house was built between 1845 and 1851 and is filled with the original furniture and works of art. Book your visit for the morning so you can make the most of your visit here and see the sweeping terraces which lead down to the private beach (only accessible through the grounds).
Other things to do in the north is see St Mildred’s Church in Whippingham which was redesigned by Queen Victoria, and see military exhibits at The Wight Military & Heritage Museum.
In the North East, there are unspoilt beaches, stripes beach huts and miles of golden sands, stretching round to Whitecliff Bay and the dazzling white cliffs.
It’s also home to the island’s largest town, Ryde. You can see the spires of both All Saints’ Church and Holy Trinity Church from across the mainland, and there’s even a live camera on the top! The Victorian pier here is the oldest seaside pleasure pier in the UK, and there are plenty of boutique shops to meander around. Ryde is where you’ll find plenty of holiday makers and those who have second holiday homes.
See the swans at Canoe Lake, or take a walk from Ryde Esplanade along past golden sands all the way to Seaview, passing the remains of a Victorian fort, and seeing The Hersey Nature Reserve in the distance. The whole walk is 5 miles there and back, and you can also cycle it if you prefer.
Quarr Abbey is also in this area. This peaceful abbey played an important part in island life and to this day it is a still a working Benedictine Monastery. The grounds are free so you can see the pilgrim chapel, church, and art gallery. You can also walk around the gardens and say hello to the resident pigs before stopping at the monastery shop which sells the Abbey’s home-made produce such as coffee, chutneys and even their own brewed ale!
If wine is more your tipple, Rosemary Vineyard is one of the oldest producers of English wine. Within their 15 acres they produce wines and ciders and they have a coffee shop too.
Take a trip back in time on one of the restored steam trains, and visit Train Story, an interactive museum for historic locomotives and old Edwardian and Victorian carriages which can be found at the Railway Station in Havenstreet. You can even take the steam train from Wooton to Smallbrook Junction.
For wildlife GatGs had to the dunes at St Helens beach which attracts an array of wildlife as well as windsurfers.
If it’s more of an English seaside vibe with cafes and a pier that you’re after, spend time in the East. Sandown has some of the island’s best attractions and is a mecca for families, so you may prefer somewhere quieter if you want to enjoy the time solo. The beaches are some of the best in the UK and the waters here are good for swimming and water sports.
The Old Village of Shanklin has more charm than Sandown. There are old thatched pubs and you can see a show at Shanklin Theatre, indulge in traditional sweets at the traditional sweet shop or have a drink at one of the waterfront pubs and cafes. Shanklin Chine is officially the island’s oldest established attraction and a site of important nature conservation. Enjoy the tranquility of streams and waterfalls along the tree-lined gorge and stay until dusk to see the paths illuminated in lights.
If you ever wondered what Roman life was like in Britain, Brading Roman Villa is an award-winning museum and visitor centre that offers an insight into these times. See mosaic floors that have been beautifully preserved, as well as a collection of Roman archaeology.
Bembridge is home to the Bembridge Lifeboat Station and the Isle of Wight’s only surviving windmill which is 300 years old. You can take tours of Bembridge Fort, an old Victorian fort or just admire the local houseboats. For an island vineyard, Adgestone Vineyard is one of the country’s oldest working vineyards.
The southern point apparently has its own microclimate and the most hours of sunshine, and you can lose yourself amongst exotic and subtropical plants at Ventnor Botanic Garden, where you can sample the local crab down the steps at Steephill Cove (aptly named).
It is said that Ventnor has a Mediterranean artsy vibe with vintage shops and galleries and plenty of sunshine. You can still see vintage bathing huts on the sandy beach (and hire them too). Apparently this region inspired Charles Dickens, and taking in the view of the English Channel and watching the fisherman bringing in their daily catch, may provoke the mews in you too.
Just 6 miles from Ventnor is Blackgang Chine, the oldest amusement park in the UK. If you like dinosaurs, you can get up close and personal with a Tyrannosaurus Rex whilst exploring a land of imagination. It may have a few areas for kids such as the pirate cove and fairyland but why not indulge your inner child, especially in the Hall of Mirrors.
Another place to experience some adventure is Afton Park in Freshwater offering plenty of adrenaline rushes for the more adventurous. If you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at archery, axe throwing or wall climbing, you can get a taster here. If you are more of a water babe than a land girl try some aqua zorbing, kayaking or stand up paddle boarding.
Head to the South-Western tip for the world famous Needles Rocks, and Trinity Lighthouse. This is one of the island’s most iconic landmarks and its chalk rocks stretch to Culver Cliff in the east. Overlooking the Needles is The Needles Old Battery, a cliff-top fort that is now part of the National Trust. You can learn more about its story inside, then visit the New Battery to explore the underground rooms and secret rocket-testing programme.
For a stunning view, Take the chairlift for views of the sands of Alum Bay in all their multi-coloured glory. This area is also where you’ll find the Marconi Monument, at the location where he undertook his 19th Century pioneering work. If you prefer a view from the water, you can take one of the boat trips from Alum Bay to view the Needles Rocks and Lighthouse.
One lovely place that you should visit here is the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary which has more than 90 donkeys along with a few horses and ponies. There are 55 acres of meadows and walkways and you can take part in donkey grooming during your visit. The sanctuary runs on donations and definitely has the ‘aww factor.’ If alpacas are more your animal, West Wight Alpacas have a herd of Suri alpacas and llamas that you can trek with.
There is so much coastline on the island and the west is no exception with rugged coastline and pretty villages. It also has the most famous stretch of road which was built in the early 19th century to help defend the island which stretches from the Military Road to Freshwater Bay.
For the water sport GatG, Compton Bay is the place to windsurf or surf or just relax at Totland Bay where you can look at pretty beach huts and watch the yachts as they moor up.
The historical harbour town of Yarmouth is where you’ll find some of the island’s oldest architecture. It’s also where you can see Yarmouth Castle. which is right near the ferry dock. This was the last coastal defence built in 1546 for Henry VIII. If you like photography pay a visit to the Dimbola Museum and Galleries, the former residence of Julia Margaret Cameron, an art photographer during the reign of Queen Victoria.
The capital, Newport is in the heart of the island, along with quaint villages such as Godshill, a pretty town with some of the oldest architecture, and thatched cottages. Stroll down to the river in Newport and spend some time at the historic quayside, before seeing the former blacksmiths which is now stylish shops.
For wildlife GatGs, Monkey Haven is a charity for the rescue of primates including merekats, gibbons, and Cotton-Top Tamarins. You can also see retiles and birds of prey amongst the mischievous monkeys. If you love butterflies, the largest population in the UK is found on the island’s south coast along the cliffs at Compton Chine, or in the island’s main town at Newport. The island is on the migration path for a variety of birds such as the gull.
Just outside of Newport is Robin Hill Country Park. This 88 acre park does attract families with attractions such as the toboggan run but it’s an ideal place for some adventure. Another attraction that you may find interesting is the Model Village where you can feel like a giant amongst its tiny airfield and working railway.
If you love castles, Carisbrook Castle has history dating back to 1000 AD. It was built as a refuge against Viking raids in the Anglo-Saxon times, and was where King Charles I was imprisoned during the Civil War. Climb the keep for views over the countryside and village and see how water used to be drawn from the 17th century well-house.
For the active GatG, there’s the historic Tennyson Trail that you can hike from Carisbrooke to Freshwater. If you’re not feeling that energetic, just explore the end part of the trail from Tennyson Down to the monument.
For the Arts and Museum GatG, Arreton Barns in the centre of the island is home to arts and crafts studios and where you’ll find the island’s local artisans hard at work. Find artwork made of beeswax, Isle of Wight studio glass and ceramic crafts, and handcrafted made-to-measure leather belts as well as beautiful handcrafted pieces for the home.
This region is also home to some beautiful countryside and The Garlic Farm where you can fight off vampires with garlic chutney, beer and even garlic ice-cream! If you get lost, you’ll definitely smell it.
For music GatG there’s the Isle of Wight festival. This annual festival has been running for 15 years and attracts some of the biggest names in music. The island does get busy during June when the festival is held so book your accommodation well in advance if you decide to visit at this time.
There are so many other places to see from the Isle of Wight Distillery, to the Isle of Wight Pearl Factory, and the Haven Falconry. This small island off the south coast of England really packs a lot into a traditional English getaway.
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