I do love a good island holiday and the Isle of Wight off the south coast of Britain is my most recent voyage. Basking in the sunny English Channel, the Isle of Wight is often described as being like mainland England 50 years ago. It is certainly very quaint and here are my top 10 things to do on the Isle of Wight:
The Isle of Wight Jurassic Coast
The Isle of Wight is one of Europe’s richest sites for prehistoric remains. The coastline isn’t just beautiful, it’s also ripe for dinosaur hunting and people are still finding significant fossils today! Explore the cliffs of the wild beaches along the south coast Military Road – such as Compton Beach and the prettily named Shepherd’s Chine and Whale Chine, which are only accessible through the dunes on foot. If you’re lucky there’ll be an ice cream van.
Visit Osborne House
Osborne House was Queen Victoria’s summer residence, her holiday cottage if you will. But it is so much more. This mansion offers a snapshot of the royal family’s life when they enjoyed their holidays here. The extensive gardens slope down to the sea and it’s amazing looking out the windows and imagining Victoria enjoying her sea views. There’s even a Swiss-style chalet where the royal children created their own little kingdom and a modesty-preserving bathing carriage on the beach.
Walk the Isle of Wight Coast Path
This might be something that you do in sections over time but the 74-mile Isle of Wight coastal path is very worthwhile, with stunning views that you just won’t get from touring around in a vehicle.
Brading Roman Villa
Brading Roman Villa is no less than the one of the best places in the United Kingdom to gain an insight into what life was like in Roman Britain. They have invested a lot of money and effort in building the visitor centre around the ruins of the villa and preserving the stunning mosaic floors. There are excellent children’s interactive exhibits.
Wander down Shanklin Chine
Shanklin Chine is the Isle of Wight’s oldest tourist attraction and this Victorian oddity still has appeal today. A ‘chine’ is a river gorge and although it’s more of a stream here, the lush gardens created to surround the pathway down the gully are wonderful. At night it is creatively lit up.
The beach at the bottom is delightful – right at the far, quiet end of Shanklin – and you should ask for a pass out from the ticket office at the bottom of the Chine so that you can go for a swim and then return up the gorge. Shanklin Old Town is fun to wander about and see the thatched buildings and traditional sweetie shop.
Seafood feast at the Crab and Lobster Inn
If you only eat out once on the Isle of Wight make it at the Crab and Lobster Inn in the village of Bembridge. It is an attractive old 17th century building and the restaurant offers both pub fare and delicious seafood platters in the nautically-themed restaurant and waterfront patio. Go for a walk along the beach afterwards!
Go for a swim at Freshwater Beach
This is a lovely family beach with clear water and gently lapping waves. We had a brilliant swim here. The village is sweet as well and don’t miss the lovely ‘thatched church’ of St Agnes, which is quite unique and has beautiful carved wood inside.
Walk from Freshwater to the Needles with Lord Tennyson
If you do one day walk when visiting the Isle of Wight make it this one – it is a classic English day walk. It took about three hours to walk from Freshwater beach up onto the downs and gently down towards the Needles Headland. Up high on the downs is the impressive monument to Alfred, Lord Tennyson – beloved national poet and darling of Victorian society. From here you can see the mainland and the view that inspired Tennyson to write his classic In Memoriam poem.
The Needles and the old and new batteries
There used to be four picturesque rock stacks but there’s a gap where the biggest one collapsed in a great storm in 1764. This one was the tallest and the most needle-shaped. It was nicknamed ‘Lot’s wife’. You can get a good view from the end of the Parade Ground and also from past the former rocket test site.
Once you’ve had a good look at the lovely rock stacks take some time to visit the Needles Battery, former military installations from which the view of the rocks is even better. The National Trust has provided a number of fascinating exhibitions about the role the Battery played in the second world war and there are also activities for children.
Bembridge Life Boat Station
This is an unusual inclusion but I thought it was fascinating, and quite spectacular jutting out from Bembridge beach. The RNLI Life boats perform a vital service and at certain times of the day you can look around the station and the lifeboat.
There is no doubt that I will be returning to the Isle of Wight, not only because it is so beautiful but because there are so many varied attractions and activities. These were my personal favourites and I look forward to discovering more.
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you visited the Isle of Wight? What things to do on the Isle of Wight would you recommend?
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