A great family holiday is something we treasure down the years and warms the heart. The best way to get the most out of a family holiday is with a little planning and some great activities so here are some of our recommendations compiled with the help of our guests.
Often associated with warm sunny days in July and August but equally enjoyable, or maybe even more enjoyable, on Spring and Autumn days when there are fewer fellow beach goers to get in the way. Children and adults alike can get a great mix of fun and exercise with a healthy dose of competition. The old favourites of football and cricket are just as fun as ever but there are a host of other games here to try with the family – www.activityvillage.co.uk/beach-games-and-activities
To choose an Isle of Wight beach to enjoy some beach games on go to our Isle of Wight Beach Guide.
Isle of Wight History
It is harder and harder to escape the fact that history is now fun and the Isle of Wight has a number of places where children can have fun with history. Amongst the many historic sites on the Island are Carisbrooke Castle, Brading Roman Villa, Needles Old Battery and Bembridge Windmill which offer special activities for children and families.
Free to enter historic sites include the Isle of Wight Rocket Testing site above the Needles Old Battery on the Western tip of the Isle of Wight and the Culver Battery with large gun placements at the end of Culver Downs North of Sandown at the Eastern tip of the Island.
Animals and Wildlife
The Isle of Wight is a very special place for wildlife. There are a number of beautiful woodlands where you can spot red squirrels, badgers and woodpeckers as well as larger animals like deer. Good places to enjoy this natural show include Borthwood Copse near Lake (nr Sandown Airport) and the Tennyson Downs between Freshwater and Carisbrooke.
To guarantee a close encounter with animals there are a number of parks with rescue animals including the Donkey Sanctuary near Godshill, Amazon World near Arretton and the Owl and Monkey Sanctuary near Wootton.
There are number of excellent walking areas on the Isle of Wight and choosing one suitable for your particular family shouldn’t be too difficult. Over the years we have heard a lot of great recommendations from guests about good places to walk and have learnt a few tricks for choosing a walk which will really appeal.
Walking with younger children one has tailor the walk for little legs so a small loop around a park or gardens is ideal and won’t take you too far from conveniences such as a loo, cafe or your car. For this type of walk you may wish to consider Ventnor Botanical Gardens where there are a number of small paths between the exotic plants.
For older children there needs to be lots of variation and stuff to explore along the way and for this a section of coastal path is a great choice. Sections we have been recommended include Freshwater to the Needles via the Tennyson Trail, where there is a hill top monument and the rocket testing site mentioned above, and the section between Yarmouth and Shalfleet where there are remote beaches and a sections of raised gantries across flooded estuaries. Both have amazing views and are between 2 and 3 hours in length. Busses take you back to the start or you can complete the walk in a loop.
It is important to keep the children engaged so we recommend to give each a map and a compass and get them plan and plot the route (you might have to take away their GPS enabled smart phones). Point at land marks in the distance and ask what they are if they seem to be finding it too easy.
The Island is known for extreme sports and you can safely try them with the family with the help of experienced guides. Surfing, kayaking, climbing, sailing, and much more is on offer from adventure activity companies on the Isle of Wight. On the West of the Isle of Wight visit Isle of Wight Adventure Activities at Freshwater and on the East visit Tackt-Isle at St Helens.
Isle of Wight Steam Railway
For children who like steam trains this is heaven. The Isle of Wight Steam Railway lets you learn about steam trains, ride on steam trains and even poke around in the engine sheds.
Family Cycling Holiday
Cycle routes and cycle paths are now well developed on the Isle of Wight and often completely separate from the road network making them very safe for family trips. Bike hire is available across the Island (Isle of Wight Bike Hire) and they will give you a leaflet on where all the routes are. Alternatively view our Isle of Wight Cycle Routes page.
Again, family bike rides have to take into account the age of the children but for younger children there are shorter and flatter bike rides. One of theses is a section of the route from Newport to Sandown via Merstone, Newchurch and Alverstone. The ride runs along the valley by the small river and has railway bridges, wildlife, horned cowes (in adjacent fields) and conveniently spaced public houses serving food and refreshment. The ride from Yarmouth to Freshwater is another short flat ride and you can stop half way at the Red Lion Public House for food on the way.
Families with older children may wish to complete whole biking routes such as the Sunshine Trail which is a loop inland from Shanklin and goes to Godshill where there is an excellent public house for food. On the West of the Island there are more challenging and more undulating routes but great if you need to burn more energy. Following the Tennyson Trail from Carisbrooke to Freshwater is very demanding but there are lots of places to stop along the way and enjoy refreshment or the views.
Take a good map and get the kids to guide. Getting them to find places with a grand view that might be good for a rest or picnic just from the map is a good challenge to set.
New Ways to Explore the Isle of Wight
Traveling and seeing interesting new places is often a matter of combining luck and preparation but there are some cool new ways of exploring the Isle of Wight.
Where you hunt for a hidden cache (like treasure) by following a GPS coordinates. This is like an Island wide treasure hunt and keeps children and adults busy searching and second guessing. Once you find a cache you can add a small item to it or swap and item. Usually these are small treasure items such as an unusual coin or a poem but occasionally they are something really special. The great thing about this way of exploring is that you visit places you might not otherwise find. Don’t forget a map as GPS only gets you so far. – Isle of Wight Geocaching
Old Postcard Compare
This is a simple way to explore but really gets children enthused. Get some old postcards of the Isle of Wight (often easiest online such at this site http://www.isleofwightpictures.co.uk/page051.htm or by doing a Google Image Search) and then going around to try to find the exact place it was taken. You can then take your own photo to compare how things have changed over time.
The family trip to the fun park always fills children with glee and there are two large ones to choose on the Island. Blackgang Chine near Niton on the South of the Isle of Wight and Robin Hill near Arretton at the heart of the Island.
Traditional Children Activities
The Isle of Wight is often somewhere parents remember coming when they were children and it is a great place to pass on happy memories of activities you did when you were a child. The following have been recommended by our holiday guests.
Great locations include the grassland park at Shanklin or atop any of the hills on the Island. A ridge of hills running down the middle of the Island gets plenty of updraft and is great for kite flying. Remember to be a safe distance away from power lines and other dangers. …and make sure you let the kids fly the kites some of the time.
The best stone skimming is done on the shingle beaches along the North West coast of the Isle of Wight. You need flat calm water and a good supply of flat stones.
Building a small shelter in the woods always keeps children amused. Only collect materials that have fallen naturally. A good design is important to have in mind and anything which blends naturally with the surroundings and conceals you well will be great as a hide for watching wildlife. Woodlands which are very suitable include Borthwood Copse and American Woods but any of a number of old english woodland areas will do.
Hide and Seek
Clearly define your area and put down firm rules which apply to the area and keep everyone safe. Hiding too well can cause problems.
Creating a treasure hunt takes a little planning and the more planning the better it is. Having a pattern for where things are hidden makes it more enjoyable. For instance hide all the treasure in trees or under logs.