The Best Things to Do on the Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight

Getty/ s0ulsurfing - Jason Swain

 

 

Under two hours by ferry from London, the Isle of Wight has long been a popular escape for city-dwellers looking for unspoiled natural beauty, epic coastline scenery, and walks.

Particularly popular with the Victorians, it remains a large part of the legacy of Queen Victoria—for whom this was a beloved holiday spot—as well as a favorite spot of Romantic writers and artists who took inspiration from the unbridled nature which can be found across the island.

Whether you want to relax at the beach, enjoy some hiking, indulge in water sports or stargazing, or simply get to know the towns, villages, and local cuisine that make up daily life on the Isle of Wight, this is a perfect vacation spot away from it all.

01 of 12

Enjoy the Coastline

coastline Isle of Wight.

 

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Naturally, you cant spend time on the Isle of Wight without taking in some of the fifty-seven miles of dramatic coastline. Whether you want to take a stroll along the cliffs, relax on one of fourteen award-winning beaches, discover rock pools, or enjoy some of the water sports on offer the coastline offers so much to visitors.

For bodyboarding and surfing, head to Compton or Sandown Bay, whereas if you want those Mediterranean-style views, head to Whitecliff or Priory Bay. Taking some time to visit the small towns around the coast, finding local pubs and cafes, or walking the sixty-eight-mile coastal path are also great ways to spend the day if you don’t fancy going into the sea.

There’s no shortage of seafront accommodations on the Isle of Wight so if you’re looking forward to opening your window and smelling sea air, you’re in the right place.

02 of 12

Munch on a Crab Pasty

crab pasty on the beach

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Address
Genevra, Steephill Cove Chalet, Ventnor PO38 1UG, UK
Phone +44 1983 855819

Found at tucked away crabbing spot Steephill Cove, where you can enjoy the sea, visit the gift shop, and relax at one of the few restaurants or cafes, you’ll find the sensational crab pasties that have foodies religiously making the trek down at The Crab Shed, similar to the famous Cornish Pasties but stuffed with freshly caught crab meat and stamped with an iconic crab shape. The shack also serves crab sandwiches, ciabattas, crab and lobster salads as well as special dishes and drinks.

A visit here can also be combined with a trip to Ventnor Botanic Garden which has a car park and is just a fifteen minute walk away.

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Hike the Isle of Wight Literary Heroes Trail

literary heroes trail

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One of several themed walks on the Isle of Wight, this dynamic trail will take you in the footsteps of writers such as  John Keats, Lewis Carroll, Dickens, and Tennyson, whose home on the island—Farringford—attracted many notable names from his literary circles, who later became known as the Freshwater Circle.

Farringford, the Gothic house restored in a late nineteenth-century style, is a stop on the trail, as well as spots such as Ventnor and Sandown, where Charles Dickens and Darwin were thought to have begun their works of David Copperfield and On the Origin of Species.

The Literary Heroes Trail, if you choose to follow all of it, will take you to many notable spots across the island and is a great way to see some of the small towns and villages that make up life on the Isle of Wight.

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Ride the Isle of Wight Steam Railway

isle of wight steam railway

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Address
The Railway Station, Main Road, Havenstreet, Ryde PO33 4DS, UK
Phone +44 1983 882204

See the Isle of Wight from a different perspective—by steam train. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway and Museum is one of Britain’s heritage railways, a charming step back into the past, and a fun day out whether you consider yourself a train enthusiast or not.

The carriages are lovingly restored in Victorian and Edwardian style, the conductors wear traditional costumes, and refreshment rooms are available on the train. All you have to do is sit back and listen to the iconic steam engine sounds, watch the green fields, forests and quaint stations saunter by, or maybe hop off at a town you’re interested in.  

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05 of 12

Go Stargazing

Stargazing isle of wight

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A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Isle of Wight has some of the darkest skies in the United Kingdom, making it a perfect place to look up at the Milky Way, Cassiopeia, Orion, and the Plough, as well as test your photography skills.

Gazing up from wherever you are on the island at night will treat you to some excellent views, but if you’d like to give it a serious go, make make sure to choose a clear night, bring some binoculars, and choose one of the many spots known for their great views of the sky, such as Compton Bay, St Catherine’s Down, or Freshwater Bay.

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Go Fossil Hunting

fossil dinosaur on isle of wight

 Getty/ Andrew Holt

 

Address
Culver Parade, Sandown PO36 8QA, UK
Phone +44 1983 404344

There is no shortage of dinosaur and fossil-related activities to enjoy on the Isle of Wight; it is regarded as one of the richest areas for Dinosaur discovery in Europe, giving it the nickname ‘Dinosaur Island.'

A great start is visiting the Dinosaur Isle Museum, who can point you in the right direction for fossil hunts but also allow you to learn about some of the amazing discoveries found on the island.

Most people choose to start their fossil hunt on Compton Bay where you can find pieces of dinosaur bone and teeth as well as see fossilized dinosaur footprints. Other fossil-rich locations include Shepherd’s Chine and Whale Chine for fish and ammonite remains, Brook Bay, Whitecliff Bay, and Yarmouth.

07 of 12

Visit the Garlic Farm and Try Garlic Beer

garlic farm isle of wight

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Address
Mersley Lane, Newchurch PO36 0NR, UK
Phone +44 1983 867333

Famous for its black garlic, the Isle of Wight takes its garlic seriously, even throwing an annual Garlic Festival to try out new and exciting garlic-related foods and products.

Visiting The Garlic Farm is the best way to enjoy this integral part of the island’s culture and enjoy a number of activities such as seeing garlic fields roaming with small herds of cattle, goats, sheep, and horses. Trying out the extensive amount of products available are a given, with delights including garlic chutneys, jams, mayonnaise, and other dips, garlic plaits, seeds, butter, salt, and even beer and vodka.

Make sure to take time to eat at the restaurant, which offers a wide range of meat, vegetarian, and cheese dishes all with a garlic twist. You can even stay overnight in their self-catering cottages and yurts. More than a farm, this is truly an experience and a must for garlic and cooking lovers.

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Visit Carisbrooke Castle

Carisbrooke Castle

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Address
Castle Hill, Newport PO30 1XY, UK
Phone +44 370 333 1181

No UK trip would be complete without a visit to a good castle and the looming Carisbrooke Castle is just that. It also offers superb panoramic views over the entire island. The castle has been used as an artillery fortress, a prison for King Charles I after the English  Civil War, and a royal summer residence.

A walk around the grounds will lead you to King Charles I’s bowling green and Princess Beatrice’s flower garden, daughter of Queen Victoria. Walk the castle walls, climb up to the Norman Keep, and explore the chapel and Castle Museum before enjoying the onsite Castle Tearoom. 

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Walk Queen Victoria’s Island Trail

Queen Victoria Private beach

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Another unique way to traverse the Isle of Wight is in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert, who frequented the island often with it being their favorite holiday getaway during the nineteenth century.

The heritage trail will take you from her holiday home to some of the major attractions on the Isle of Wight to the lesser-known parts of the island that they loved to frequent. To see all of the stately homes and beauty spots on the trail you would need a few days, but for shorter stays cherry-picking a few favorites will be enough to enjoy the island as royalty did before.

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Wander Osborne House

Osborne House Isle of Wight

Getty/ Oli Scarff / Staff

 

 

Address
Osborne House Osborne House Estate, East Cowes PO32 6JX, UK

One of the most popular spots to visit on the Isle of Wight, this opulent family holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with walled gardens and a private beach was a beloved spot for the royal family, with Queen Victoria once saying, "It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot."

It would be easy to spend a full day at Osborne House with the grand state and family rooms to explore, the Royal Collection to peruse as well as the extensive grounds. The onsite terrace and orangery restaurant and cafe make this a delightful day trip. Families will particularly enjoy it here as there are activities specifically for children, including the Swiss Cottage where the royal children played, trails, and playgrounds, as well as an ice cream parlor at the seafront. 

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Reach New Heights at The Needles Landmark

The Needles isle of wight

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Address
Alum Bay New Road, Alum Bay, Totland Bay PO39 0JD, UK
Phone +44 1983 752401

There are so many ways to enjoy the Isle of Wight's most famous attraction—the Needles rocks and Lighthouse—though taking the incredible chairlift over the ocean to the top is probably one of the most exciting. The Needles have been named one of the seven natural wonders of the UK, and it isn’t hard to see why. The rocks' chalky points, which reach thirty meters above sea level and extend off of a backbone of chalk that cuts right through the island, are truly a sight to behold. On the outermost needle stands the active 19th Century Needles Lighthouse.

A famous Victorian area of seaside fun, The Needles Landmark Attraction also allows you to take part in Victorian games, enjoy boat rides, go shopping and sample some of the seaside treats and seafood.

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See Bembridge Windmill

Bembridge Windmill

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Address
Bembridge Windmill, High Street, Bembridge PO35 5SQ, UK

The only surviving windmill on the Isle of Wight was built in the 1700s and featured in a watercolor painting by artist JMW Turner. Bembridge Windmill is a wonderful day out for anyone looking to explore some of the green countryside and coastline of the Isle of Wight on foot, as the windmill marks the start of the Culver Trail, and also learn about this historic landmark. 

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The Best Things to Do on the Isle of Wight