The Isle of Wight is located close to the mainland of the UK just to the south of the county of Hampshire. The location of the island makes it one of England's sunniest spots.
The Island itself is about 150 square miles in size, measuring 24 miles from east to west and around 12 miles from north to south. The Isle of Wight is England's largest offshore island. For this reason, this island has a lot to offer.
In addition, it is only 100 miles away from London and less than 80 miles from Gatwick Airport, which makes it a great destination for a day trip, or a weekend break or even for a longer holiday.
We went to the Isle of Weight on a sunny day during the summer and we had a lot of fun. In this article, I am going to share some tips and our favourite things to do on the Isle of Wight.
You can also read: 28 best day trip from London
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How to get to the Isle of Wight
There is no bridge from England's mainland to the Isle of Wight. The only way to get to the island is to take a ferry or a hovercraft or any other kind of boat unless you like swimming (just kidding). The main access points for ferries are from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington.
If you are driving from London, you can take either the more direct route of the A3 to Portsmouth, or you could use the M3 and M27 motorways to the same destination or to Southampton.
National Express coaches offer direct services from across the UK to both Portsmouth and Southampton. From London Victoria, there are direct services to Portsmouth Harbour and during the summer season, tour groups offer coaches direct to the island.
Since we love train trips, we got on the train from London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour Station. This route is the best option for foot passengers to the Isle of Wight.
Getting across to the island
When you drive to Portsmouth, you should take a car ferry to Fishbourne which takes around 45 minutes per crossing or if you are on foot you can take a high-speed catamaran service from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde, taking 22 minutes.
The fastest option available is taking just 10 minutes by hovercraft from Southsea (Portsmouth) to Ryde.
Red Funnel operates a car ferry service from Southampton to East Cowes talking about one hour for each crossing. They also operate a Red Jet service for foot passengers to Cowes. This service takes just 25 minutes to make the crossing.
If you go to Lymington, you will have a very short ferry ride to Yarmouth, the west coast of the Island.
How to get around the Isle of Wight
Buses on the island are operated by Southern Vectis and are regarded as one of the best rural bus services in the UK. Regular services operate between the major towns on the island and offer connections to most of the rural villages. During the peak holiday season, there are also three open-top bus tours offering journeys to the island’s most scenic spots.
Part of the South Western Railway, the train service operates from Ryde through to Shanklin, with stops at Brading, Sandown and Lake.
What to do in the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight offers some of Britain’s best scenery and cycling is a great way to explore the island. There are more than 200 miles of safe cycle routes to be discovered using cycle tracks, bridleways and byways suitable for all grades of cyclist from beginners to regular experienced cyclists. The round the island route is a popular 65-mile circuit of the island which can be done in one day or split into shorter sections.
You should be aware that it is a hilly route. You can get more information about cycling routes here.
Osborne House is located in York Avenue, East Cowes and was the country home of Queen Victoria. The palatial estate is one of the Isle Of Wight’s most popular attractions and gives visitors a glimpse into Queen Victoria’s private life as well as that of Prince Albert and their nine children.
The Isle of Wight Zoo.
This family-run zoo, close to the award-winning beach at Sandown is located within the ruins of a Victorian Fort. It specialises in the preservation of endangered species, particularly in big cats. The zoo has among other animals, an impressive collection of lemurs, monkeys and tigers.
This castle is one of the islands premier tourist attractions. It is famous for being the location of where King Charles I was imprisoned and visitors can play bowls on the green used by the former king.
The Carisbrooke Castle has over 800 years of history including defending the south coast against attacks by the French and the Spanish Armada. The castle is very well preserved and the on-site museum holds over 30,000 items of historic interest to the Isle of Wight and the UK.
Blackgang Chine is one of the UK’s oldest theme parks located in the south of the island at Chale. There are several kingdoms for kids and adults to explore during a day trip here.
You can round up dinosaurs, visit a fairy tale castle or shoot up with the sheriff and outlaws in Cowboy Town. Other areas of the park include a Pirate Cove and the Underwater Kingdom. The park also has roller coasters and waterslides to add to your excitement. Information about ticket prices and opening times is available at the Blackgang Chine website.
Robin Hill Adventure Park
This adventure park and playground are set on 88 acres of parkland at Downend, just outside of Newport in the centre of the island. It includes rolling parkland, natural woodland and country gardens, all ready for exploration, adventure and entertainment. It is one of the Isle of Wight’s hidden gems.
Woodland trails lead to curated gardens that feature sculptures, water features, ponds and bridges. Colourful peacocks reside here and for the more adventurous there are treetop canopy walkways and an outdoor play area including climbing nets, rides and slides. The highlight of this feature is the quarter-mile-long toboggan ride.
If you want some culture there are themed events throughout the year at the 800 seat Woodland Amphitheatre. The park opens in mid-March through to December 31st.
The Needles Landmark Attraction
The Needles is an iconic landmark of the isle of Wight and you can take a chairlift down to the beach for the best views of The Needles themselves. Alum Bay is also famed for its coloured sands and at the Sand Shop, you can make your own unique souvenir.
Other attractions include a 4D Cinema, demonstrations of glass blowing and other traditional craftsmen at work. Attractions for the children include a Victorian carousel, teacup rides and a games kiosk where you are guaranteed to win a prize. The park is open all year except December 25th, 26th and January 1st although opening times vary throughout the year.
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway is located at Havenstreet, just three miles from Newport or Ryde. It is an equally appealing attraction to adults and children and leaves its visitors with a memorable day out into a bygone age.
The steam train takes you through some traditional rural stations and all the staff are dressed in a traditional style. The carriages are beautifully restored from the Victorian and Edwardian age of steam, pulled by majestic locomotives that give a reminder to the sights, sounds and smell of a steam railway.
Visitors can take the train and hop on and off at any of the stations on route or just watch the engines as they steam by. It opens daily from late June until mid-September, with several open days from March and then again until December.
Sandham Gardens is known as a great place to relax and enjoy some family-friendly activities. Located on the northern edge of Sandown the activities include karts and mini-golf.
There is free entry and you only pay to park your car and for the activities, you want to join. Dino Islands is a mini-golf experience with obstacles such as volcanoes, bridges and waterfalls, and of course life-sized models of dinosaurs.
Sandham Karts are suitable for children aged from 4-12 and you pay for a six-lap race between up to six cars on the 150-meter looped track. Small children will need to be accompanied by an adult.
Located in Newport, Monkey Haven is home to several species of the lovable primate. There are also meerkats, snakes and owls housed at this small attraction which has been awarded several accolades for its work in rescuing vulnerable animals from neglect and abuse.
Their mission is to provide a safe and happy home for all the rescued animals in their care. There is free Wi-Fi available, kids play areas, disabled access and parking available. It is run as a charity, so all proceeds from your visit go directly towards helping the animals.
This historic gorge first opened as a visitor attraction in 1817, this makes it the oldest continually running attraction on the Isle of Wight.
Since Shanklin Chine opened millions of visitors have wandered through the narrow attraction to see the natural beauty of this tranquil yet picturesque gorge.
The stunning tree-lined gorge, or chine, cuts it way through the rock from Shanklin Old Village to the esplanade and sandy beach far below. Since its opening as an attraction, it has inspired artists and more recently photographers.
Famous names to have visited here include the author Jane Austen and artist J.M.W. Turner. The shear chasm-like sides of the gorge complete with its waterfall and covering of lush vegetation continue to this day to inspire and captivate visitors today. Visitors can enjoy the attraction during the day and in the summer return on a day and evening ticket to see the attraction illuminated until 10 pm.
Walking on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight offers some of the best outdoor areas of natural beauty for walkers in the UK. Thousands of walkers arrive here year after year to discover and explore the beauty of this island along with its trails and footpaths.
The Needles are one of the most photographed points on the island and the circular route from Freshwater Bay is a perfect route to challenge hikers.
Over half the island is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty and the scenery includes award-winning beaches and natural sights that remind visitors of the islands historic past dating back to when dinosaurs roamed here.
There are walks for all levels and the highlight occurs every May when the annual walking festival offers a range of guided walks along historic trails that include scenic hikes.
Located on Prospect Road in Shanklin, this theatre has seating for 615 people and offers around 150 shows each year including some of the top names in comedy, music and dance.
The theatre is open all year and hosts its summer stage show ‘Beyond the West End’ as it has done for more than 16 years, usually running from the beginning of May until the beginning of October. Wheelchair access is available when required, for more information visit
Brighstone Village Museum
This museum is actually a row of cottages owned by the National Trust. The village museum is in North Street in the village and includes a fascinating insight into the life of local villagers during the 19th century. Scenes depict aspects such as schooling, employment, the influence of the church and coastal activities during the Victorian period.
Situated within a row of traditional cottages owned by the National Trust, Brighstone Village Museum in North Street is run by the Brighstone Museum Trust and provides a fascinating view of village life in the 19th century. Around a tableau representing a rural cottage scene are display cases and panels depicting local aspects of schooling, employment, coastal activities and the influence of the church during the Victorian era. There is free admission to the museum with free parking available nearby.
Godshill Model Village
The beautifully created model village is located in nearly two acres of grounds in the Old Vicarage. Visitors can view model villages of both Godshill and Shanklin as they were in the 1920s.
The pubs, cottages and churches have been recreated to a scale of 1/10 on the real buildings that stood at that time. Another must-see attraction is the garden railway, a reminder of the island’s railway in a bygone era.
In addition to the model villages and railway, the gardens contain over 3000 specimens of trees and shrubs, some are more than 40 years old and shaped as they grow.
The Needles Old Battery and New Battery
Overlooking the Needles, the clifftop fort of the Old Battery offers some of the best views of The Needles Rocks. The complex holds regularly updated exhibitions and displays including memorabilia from WW2.
One of the highlights is its tunnel that offers a unique view of The Needles and a tea room housed in an old look-out tower. There are trails and exploration sheets for children to follow with miles of clifftop walks.
The Old Battery may be closed at short notice due to high winds. The New Battery is a complex of underground rooms located next to the bus turn around point.
Secret rocket testing was conducted here during the 1950s and 60s, with an exhibition highlighting this period. Admission to the New Battery is free, while there is an admission charge for the Old Battery.
The historic abbey located close to Ryde can be seen from the car ferry as it approaches Fishbourne. It is home to a group of Benedictine monks dedicated to the glory of God. Their day is dedicated to prayer, community life and work.
Visitors can visit the art gallery, the bookshop and the church. The visitor centre offers information on the holistic way of life on the historic estate which stretches back over 1500 years.
Oldest Timber Building
The black and white timber building is located in Brading Village and is believed to be the oldest timber-framed house to exist on the island and dates from around the year 1600.
Until recently the house was the location of the Brading Experience, an attraction that included a chamber of horrors, previous to this it housed the Isle of Wight WaxWorks. There is currently no access to the interior of the building. For more information, visit
Museums on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is home to several small museums offering an insight into the history of the island. These museums include the Bus and Coach Museum and the Shipwreck and Maritime Museum, both in Newport.
In Brading, you can visit the Lilliput Doll and Toy Museum or the Brading Roman Villa Museum. Dinosaur Isle is a museum in Sandown dedicated to the natural history of the island.
The Isle of Wight beaches
The Isle of Wight has numerous beaches around its shoreline. Some of its best beaches include the shingle beach of Alum Bay, while Bembridge has three beaches you can choose from.
The beach at Compton Bay is one of the island’s best-kept secrets with nearly two miles of sandy beach. The beaches of Sandown, Shanklin and Lake offer some of the best facilities on the island with beaches of gently sloping sand leading out to the sea looking across the English Channel. For more detailed information on these and other award-winning beaches, the Isle of Wight has to offer click here.
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