Solo Travel in The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a great escape from mainland England. From Cowes, and Ryde to Shanklin and Sandown, the island is divided into different areas: the North, North East, East, South, West, and Central. In this article, I cover places to visit in Isle of Wight, things to do on the Isle of Wight and recommended places to stay for solos. If you are planning a trip to the island, this article will help.
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- Places to Visit on the Isle of Wight
- The North: Cowes and Northwood
- North East: Ryde, Quarr Abbey
- The East: Shanklin, Sandown, Bembridge
- The South: Ventnor, Freshwater
- The West: Compton Bay, Yarmouth
- Central: Godshill, Newport
- Places To Stay on The Isle of Wight
- How To Get To The Isle of Wight
- Getting Around The Isle of Wight
- Plan Your Isle of Wight Holiday
Places To Visit On The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight 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 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.
Places To Stay on The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has a variety of accommodation but instead of the usual international hotels (although there are a few), the island has more intimate accommodation such as guest houses and B&Bs. For budget options, there are only a couple of hostels but the island is perfect for caravanning and camping so you can take a tent with you to pitch. Or there’s Tom’s Eco Lodge on Tapnell Farm, award-winning eco-accommodation where you can stay in a wood cabin, eco pod or safari tent.
Plus there’s Airbnb which offers rental accommodation on the Isle of Wight on a short-term basis. Stay in a private room with a local or rent their entire cottage or apartment for your stay. Save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
All of the accommodation below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement. For all other accommodation and Isle of Wight hotels, click on the link below.
* To book, check prices or availability for all accommodation on the Isle of Wight
Cowes – Ward Avenue B&B
If you’re arriving on the Isle of Wight from Southampton, Ward Avenue B&B is located just a short walk from the High Street in Cowes. This 4-star B&B has welcoming hosts and feels like it’s miles from anywhere whereas, in reality, it’s just an uphill walk from the town. There’s a gorgeous garden and woodland that you can relax in and listen to the birds and frogs and follow the fairy lights down to the seafront. Breakfast is included and you can choose from a double ensuite room or a cosy chalet named either squirrel or badger.
- Prices from £90 per night for a double ensuite room
- To book, check prices or availability for Ward Avenue B&B
Seaview – The Seaview Hotel and Restaurant
Situated in Seaview, a quieter part of the island, this Victorian property is close to the water with views across the bay. The award-winning restaurant serves delicious food but it’s a good idea to prebook your meals as it can get busy with the locals. You can even try the Isle of Wight gin. Rooms are either located in the hotel or in the annexe which has its own patio area and some come with balconies. Choose from a standard or superior double room.
- Prices from £158 per night for a standard double room
- To book, check prices or availability for The Seaview Hotel
Shanklin – The Chestnuts
For those looking for a guest house in Shanklin, this 4-star property has everything you need. There’s a cute garden and terrace and a bar to mingle with the other guests. Plus, coastal walks on your doorstep. A full English breakfast is included in the room rate (you can choose a vegetarian option too), and there are plenty of restaurants in the town or by the sea to choose for lunch and dinner. Choose from a single room, a small double room or a double room.
- Prices from £37 per night for a single room
- To book, check prices or availability for The Chestnuts
Shanklin – The Grange B&B
For a more expensive option than The Chestnuts, we recommend The Grange B&B. Minutes from the beach in a quiet area in Shanklin, this 4-star Georgian country house has a relaxing ambience and a gorgeous garden and terrace adorned with statues. There’s a yoga and gym room, a massage room to pamper yourself and a sauna too. Plus it’s walking distance to the train station and Shanklin Chine. Choose from a single twin or double room. Breakfast is also included.
- Prices from £78 per night for a single room
- To book, check prices or availability for The Grange B&B
How To Get To The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is just a 3-hour drive from London and can be reached from either Southampton or Portsmouth by car or passenger ferry.
Travel to Isle of Wight from Portsmouth and you can either arrive in Fishbourne or Ryde. Travel as a foot passenger or take a car to the island with you. The journey to Fishbourne takes 45 minutes. From Portsmouth to Ryde it’s a 22 minute journey. * Check ferry prices and dates
Isle of Wight travel is also possible on a hovercraft. From Southsea beach in Portsmouth you can experience the World’s only commercial foot passenger service and arrive in Ryde within 10 minutes. * Hovercraft ticket to the IOW
From Southampton to Cowes, the Red Funnel ferry takes 1 hour and you can take your car, motorhome, motorcycle or just yourself. You can also travel from Lymington to Yarmouth with Wightlink. The journey takes 40 minutes and there are several crossings a day.
Getting Around The Isle of Wight
You can bring your own motorcycle or car onto the island but if you’re exploring on foot, there are several ways of getting around.
For the active solo, there is a great network of cycleways and you can hire a bike on the island if you don’t bring your own. Isle of Wight buses run between resorts and the main towns. They usually operate until quite late. You can still reach the rural areas on the buses too during the day too. Buy separate tickets or a weekly pass. Find out more here
You can catch the train too! The train runs from the pier at Ryde down to Shanklin. If you’re arriving at the ferry port at Ryde, the train makes it easy for you to get to certain towns. (Update: the train line is temporarily closed with shuttle bus replacements. See here for details)
For Isle of Wight car rental, you may have to be over 25 years old. There are several car hire companies on the island. An adventurous way to get around the Isle of Wight is on the steam train. It’s more of a tourist ride but it’s definitely worth the experience.
- Can I drink the water? Yes, the tap water is drinkable.
- Is tipping expected? Tipping is not expected but if you experience good service, it’s always good to leave a tip.
- Fixed price or barter? Fixed price.
- Any ATMs? Yes, there are several around the island.
- Which side of the road do they drive? The left-hand side.
- Good for vegetarians? You can find many cafes and restaurants offering vegetarian and vegan options. See them here
- Any Seven Wonders of the World? No but the multi-coloured cliffs of Alum Bay should be.
Plan Your Isle of Wight Holiday
Budget – £70+ a day
Capital – Newport
Population – 141,606
Language spoken – English
Local Currency – Pound Sterling but some places also take Euros.
Do I need a visa? Not for British citizens. For other nationalities, check if you need a visa for the UK.
Did you know? The whole island is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve!
Lingo – They speak English!
The Best Time to Go – June to September
UNESCO Sites in the Isle of Wight
Events and Festivals on the Isle of Wight