The Isle of Wight is an idyllic island vacation destination off the south coast of England, renowned for its eclectic mix of things to do in a beautiful natural landscape. So why not make time to set foot on this delightful retreat, and embark on an unforgettable journey full of adventure? Read on for our guide to the best things to do on the Isle of Wight.
This picturesque British island has a timeless atmosphere. There are lots of fun things to do on the Isle of Wight for kids and adults. Here’s our pick of the most popular attractions on the Isle of Wight.
Fun Things to Do on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight covers an area of 147 square miles. Around half of that is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the whole island is a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
No matter what kind of experience you’re looking for on your getaway, you won’t be disappointed by what the Isle has to offer – from stunning coastal walks and activities on the beach to an array of museums and attractions awaiting exploration.
We recommend spending at least a couple of days on the Isle of Wight, as there’s plenty to keep you busy. That way you’ll have time to relax by the beach, enjoy the great Isle of Wight restaurants and see some of the amazing attractions. If you’re pushed for time, you could also do a day trip, since it’s so quick to travel there.
1. Osborne House
The former Summer residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Osborne House is one of the most famous landmarks on the Isle of Wight. Built in 1845, the elegant stately home has a prime location on the seashore with its own private beach.
Prince Albert was inspired by Italian Renaissance palazzos when he designed the house. Inside, Osborne House is decorated in a flamboyant style, reflecting the royal family’s interest in foreign cultures.
The Durbar Room is a highlight, with its extraordinary Indian style carvings. The grounds of Osborne House have a charming Swiss cottage built by Prince Albert for his children to learn about horticulture. You can also see Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine next to the Beach Cafe.
Address: York Avenue, East Cowes PO32 6JX, United Kingdom
2. Carisbrooke Castle
Another fine English Heritage property, this medieval castle stands proud on a hillside in the village of Carisbrooke. Over the years, Carisbrooke Castle has been a Saxon fortress, prison for kings and a royal Summer home.
King Charles I was imprisoned here from 1647-1648. His youngest son and daughter were also imprisoned here after his execution.
Visitors to the castle can see the Carisbrooke donkeys, whose ancestors drew up water for the well-house. Princess Beatrice’s garden is another popular attraction, created as a memorial to her husband Prince Henry of Battenburg.
It’s essential to book a timed Carisbrooke Castle ticket in advance of your visit.
Address: Castle Hill, Newport PO30 1XY, United Kingdom
3. Blackgang Chine
Going strong since 1843, Blackgang Chine is the oldest amusement park in the UK. With a fantastic location on the cliffs at Chale, 6 miles from Ventnor, this is one of the best things to do with kids on the Isle of Wight
The activities at this historic park include the Cliff Hanger roller coaster, Water Force ride, Dodo Valley, Giant Bug Walk and Hall of Mirrors.
There is also a sister Isle of Wight theme park, Robin Hill. Set in 88 acres of parkland, it has treetop canopy walkways, water gardens and a downhill toboggan.
Address: Blackgang Chine Near Chale, PO38 2HN, United Kingdom
4. The Needles
Whether you’re a kid or a big kid, The Needles is one of the top things to do on the Isle of Wight. These three natural chalk stacks have been named one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the UK. They can be found at the Western tip of the Isle of Wight.
You can take The Needles Chair Lift down to the shore or walk down. There is also a Needles boat trip which leaves from the shore and give you a closer look at Alum Bay and this natural wonder.
The Needles Old Battery is a Victorian coastal defence, situated above the Needles Rocks. Entry is free for National Trust members. Currently closed, the Needles New Battery is a secret rocket testing site that was active from the 1950s to 1970s.
Within The Needles Landmark Attraction you’ll find a cafe, 4D cinema experience and several souvenir shops. Alum Bay Glass is a popular glassware producer who hold live demonstrations of their craftspeople at work.
The Isle of Wight Sweet Manufactory makes childhood favourites such as mint humbugs and pear drops. At The Needles Sand Shop you can create your own unique sand decorations.
5. Garlic Farm
Even if you’re not a big fan of garlic, this attractive farm is still a great place to visit. There’s a good cafe serving homemade food and all things garlic, as well as a large farm shop.
Learn how garlic is grown and what to cook with it. In the Taste Experience room, you can try hot garlic sauce and chutneys.
The Garlic Farm have an extensive range of garlic flavored condiments and sauces. If you’re feeling brave, try the garlic flavoured ice cream – we loved it!
Address: Mersley Lane, Newchurch, Sandown PO36 0NR, United Kingdom
6. Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary
Meet rescued donkeys and ponies at this haven near Ventnor. It’s free to see the donkeys but as they are a charity, it’s a good idea to make a donation or to adopt a donkey.
There’s a tearoom with homemade cake and other light refreshments, as well as a meadow with a picnic area. The shop has lots of donkey related gifts.
Address: Lower Winstone Farm, Ventnor PO38 3AA, United Kingdom
7. East Cowes
The Isle of Wight town of Cowes is actually two towns connected by the Cowes Floating Bridge: East Cowes and West Cowes. East Cowes has most of the restaurants and boutiques, as well as the yacht marina.
Cowes Week is one of the oldest sailing regattas in the world. It takes place from the end of July to the first week in August each year.
Osborne House is officially located in East Cowes, although it’s a good 25 minute walk from Cowes town centre. Northwood House is a Georgian manor that hosts the Isle of Wight Literary Festival and Isle of Wight Proms.
8. Shanklin Chine
A chine is a deep rocky ravine with a water course descending steeply to the sea. Shanklin Chine is a historic gorge that opened to the public in 1817.
Weaving its way from picturesque Shanklin Old Village to the esplanade and sandy Shanklin Beach, this is the oldest attraction on the Isle of Wight. By night, hundreds of lights illuminate the pathways and waterfalls.
There’s a Victorian style tea room and spacious tea garden. In charming beach town of Shanklin you’ll find Pirates Cove, an 18 hole adventure golf course and fun park with a rollercoaster.
Address: 3 Chine Avenue, Shanklin PO37 6BW, United Kingdom
9. Isle of Wight Steam Railway
In keeping with the island’s retro vibe, the steam railway is one of the best places to visit. Fans of vintage railways will love the Train Story exhibition with its displays of Edwardian and Victorian rail carriages.
The steam train rides depart from the main station at Havenstreet, aboard beautifully restored trains. You can book special experiences as well as the classic train rides, including a Footplate Experience.
At Havenstreet there’s a charming Woodland Walk and Woodland Stage. You’ll also find a cafe next to the children’s play area.
Address: The Railway Station, Main Road, Havenstreet, Ryde PO33 4DS, United Kingdom
10. Monkey Haven
One of the best things to do on the Isle of Wight with kids, Monkey Haven is an award-winning primate rescue centre. Spot animals including lemurs, meerkats, gibbons and marmosets.
There are also several injured or rescued eagle-owls, snowy owls and barn owls as well as reptiles and insects. On the grounds of Monkey Haven, you’ll also find two children’s play areas and a cafe.
Address: Five Acres Farm, Staplers Rd, Newport PO30 2NB, United Kingdom
11. Quarr Abbey
One of our favourite places on the Isle of Wight, Quarr Abbey has a lovely farm shop and cafe. It’s a popular spot for afternoon tea. There has been a Benedictine Abbey on the site near Ryde since 1132.
The current building was designed in 1911 by the former architect turned monk, Dom Bellot. Quarr Abbey is set in 200 acres of woodland and pastures.
There’s a pleasant walk to the ruins of the medieval abbey. The Abbey’s resident pigs are also popular with visitors and can be found in pens near the entrance.
Address: Quarr Rd, Ryde PO33 4ES, United Kingdom
12. Ventnor Botanic Garden
The picturesque town of Ventnor is known for its micro-climate. Since Victoria times, people have been coming here for the warm weather.
The Ventor Botanical Gardens are arranged in different temperate zones such as the Australian Garden, South African Terrace, Olive Grove and Japanese Garden with its imposing torii arch. You may spot some of the famous Isle of Wight red squirrels during your visit.
There are two places to eat in this beautiful garden, The Plantation Room Café close to the entrance and gift shop and edulis Restaurant overlooking the koi carp pond.
Address: Undercliff Drive, Ventnor PO38 1UL, United Kingdom
13. Adgestone Vineyard
Nestled in the heart of the Isle of Wight, Adgestone Vineyard is a beautiful destination for wine enthusiasts. This family-owned winery is dedicated to producing quality wines with a low sulphite content, ensuring a pure and naturally delicious taste.
The oldest vineyard in the UK, Adgestone are known for their award-winning English wines. Their expert winemakers carefully select the finest grapes, cultivate them with great care, and turn them into bottles of pure indulgence.
Address: Upper Road, Brading, Sandown PO36 0ES, United Kingdom
14. Yarmouth Castle
Yarmouth Castle, located on the Isle of Wight in England, is a striking example of 16th-century fortification. Built by King Henry VIII between 1547 and 1554, the castle played a key role in defending the island against French invasion.
Today, visitors can explore the castle’s many features, including its intricately designed battlements, its underground storerooms, and its impressive gun platform. The castle’s rich history is on full display, with exhibits detailing what life was like for the soldiers who once manned its walls.
Whether you’re a history buff or simply curious about England’s past, Yarmouth Castle is a must-see destination.
Address: Quay Street, Yarmouth PO41 0PB, United Kingdom
15. Isle of Wight Beaches
No trip to the Isle of Wight would be complete without a visit to the golden sandy beaches. Some of these beautiful beaches like Shanklin beach have colorful beach huts and a retro ambiance.
Some of the best beaches in the Isle of Wight are:
- Shanklin Chine Beach
- Bembridge Beach
- Compton Bay
- Sandown Beach
- Appley Beach
How to Get to the Isle of Wight
We took a car ferry across the English Channel from Lymington to Yarmouth with Wightlink. This award-winning ferry operator links the Isle of Wight with Hampshire via three sea routes: Portsmouth to Fishbourne, Lymington to Yarmouth and Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde.
The Lymington to Yarmouth crossing is a very scenic 40 minute trip. You start at Lymington harbour, pass close to Hurst Castle and on to picturesque Yarmouth harbour.
There’s a bar selling coffee and light refreshments at the Wight Taste outlet on board, as well as a cafe at Lymington ferry port. We travelled with our car but you can also go as a foot or bike passenger.
Enjoy the views from the outside sun deck and the spacious inside lounges. They all have socially distanced seating.
How To Get Around the Isle of Wight
Although there are fairly regular bus services on the Isle of Wight, they don’t cover all the island. It’s easier to get around by car or electric bike. You can get taxis from the main harbour ports and towns such as Ryde, but it’s wise to book in advance.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Wight
There are several good places to stay in the Isle of Wight, from pubs to glamping sites and luxury hotels. Accommodation can get booked up quite far in advance during the school holidays and when the Isle of Wight Festival is held in mid September.
A couple of Isle of Wight hotels that we have personally stayed in are:
- The George Inn – with a prime position on Yarmouth harbour, this cosy pub has stylish bedrooms and a popular courtyard bar and restaurant.
- Ryde Castle – this casual Isle of Wight hotel is situated on Ryde seafront. It’s a short walk into town and there’s a large courtyard bar in front of the hotel.
Final Thoughts on Things to Do on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a special and beautiful place to visit, and you’ll never be short of things to do there. From the seaside towns with their trendy eateries and cafes, to nature in its purest state, this small island has something for everyone.
Whether you’re seeking restful days or busy ones, the Isle of Wight will always surprise and captivate you with its laid-back lifestyle and unique offerings.
If you enjoyed this Isle of Wight guide, you might also like:
- Best Bournemouth Attractions
- Best Things to Do in Jersey, Channel Islands
- Fun Things to Do in the New Forest
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Thanks to Wightlink for our relaxing return car ferry trip!