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No visit to the Isle of Wight would be complete without a trip to the island’s most iconic landmark, jutting proudly out into the sea and attracting thousands of visitors every year. An exquisite row of three stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea on the west coast, this natural wonder (and its more recent landmark attraction) should definitely be at the top of your list when you take a trip to the Isle of Wight.
Why should you go?
The beauty of these spectacular rocks speaks for itself, while the views out to sea are phenomenal. Not only that, but you can see the landscape by chairlift, giving you ample opportunity to slowly drink in those marvellous vistas. The area is also famously known for its coloured sands which you will discover as you take the chairlift down to the sand cliffs. There’s so much to do including making your own coloured sand souvenir to take home as a memento or of course, as a unique gift for those at home. It’s also a great day out for all the family as there is a great range of attractions and rides on offer for all ages, from traditional Victorian fun and dinosaur golf course to an interactive 4D cinema.
Take a boat trip out to sea
While you can view the beautiful rock formations from dry land, you can’t beat hopping aboard a pleasure boat to see them close-up from the sea below – the sheer magnitude and beauty will take your breath away. You’ll also see the iconic red and white lighthouse as well as the Alum Bay sand cliffs. You can choose between a 20-minute sightseeing slow cruise or if you want something a bit more exciting, jump on the High Speed Rib for a 15-minute whizz around the coast which will take in the sights at a slightly more dramatic pace. Hop aboard a boat at the jetty from Easter until late October with Needles Pleasure Cruises.
Uncover some fascinating history
Perched on the rocks at the end of the stacks is the famous red and white lighthouse, sitting 80 feet above high water, protecting passing ships with its light which spans 14 miles at sea level. Listen to the melancholy foghorn which sounds every 15 seconds when visibility is poor. The lighthouse was manned by four men in the past but it became fully automated in 1994, sadly taking a piece of history with it.
Learn about the history of the Needles rocks – forming the western tip of a band of chalk that crosses the centre of the island and stretches to Culver Cliff in the east, its chalk ridge also continues under the sea to the Isle of Purbeck in Dorset, allegedly connecting with Old Harry Rocks at one time. Get the kids to ask about ‘Lot’s Wife’ and why the Needles received its unique name!
Back on dry land, you must visit the world-famous Marconi Monument which marks the location where Guglielmo Marconi did some of his pioneering work at the end of the 19th century, sending the first ever wireless transmission from the Royal Needles Hotel above Alum Bay.
Create your own multi-coloured sand mementoes
One of the most fun things for both children and adults alike to do on a holiday to the Isle of Wight, is to fill a plastic or glass bottle with layer upon layer of sparkly coloured sand from Alum Bay. Sadly, in order to protect the cliffs, you can’t collect your own sand anymore, but you can still create magic in the Sand Shop! These ornaments have been made into souvenirs since Victorian times and were even presented to Queen Victoria as a special gift way back in 1860. You can choose from 21 shades of sand to make up your own creation or if you are in a hurry, buy one already made up by the shop’s very own sand expert.
Watch some beautiful glass blowing
Watch the fascinating art of glass blowing as talented craftsmen make a variety of beautifully crafted glassware at Alum Bay Glass. Established in 1972, you can watch demos of how this exquisite glassware is made, including ornament and bowls to glass doorknobs and more! If you would love some of this handmade glass, there’s an excellent showroom where you can pour over all the different objects to see which would best fit in to your décor at home – there’ll definitely be something to spend your pennies on!
Discover your inner Charlie in the sweet factory
If your tummy is rumbling and you’d rather watch something that you can then have a taste of, head on down to the Isle of Wight Sweet Manufactory where skilled sweet makers create all sorts of sweets that you’ll not find anywhere else in the world. Watch the demos, run daily throughout the summer season, and then sample the results from among 30 different flavours! Choose from rhubarb and custard boiled mints to the special Wight Mints and then pop into the shop to buy a few more flavours to take home.
Keep the kids busy
The landmark attraction is home to a selection of fabulous children’s attractions including a gorgeous Victorian carousel which has wowed crowds at fairgrounds since the days of Queen Victoria. It used to be operated by mules who would provide the pedal power to move the carousel around but not to worry, it is now staffed exclusively by humans – and they don’t even have to pedal!
Fun activities for all ages
Little ones will also love the Tea Cup Ride where they can take mum or dad on if it’s too scary for them alone. Or hook a duck or take a pot shot at tin can alley at the fun Games Kiosk – see if you can win a prize! Water babies will have lots of fun in the Water Walkerz (giant inflatable balls on water) and don’t miss the Dino Jeep Safari where children get the opportunity to drive their own car. Most rides and attractions operate from April to October but enquire if the weather is bad.
Tee off with the dinosaurs
Catch a game of golf at the prehistoric Jurassic Adventure Golf Course which has an 11-hole course with some 5 and 6 par holes, set against a backdrop of imaginative water features and story boards depicting 11 different dinosaur species. This is a really fun family activity whatever your level and incorporates the dinosaur heritage that the island is so famous for. The Isle of Wight is regarded as one of the richest areas for fossil discovery in Europe, hence its nickname of ‘Dinosaur Island’.
Get stuck into the 4D cinema…
And to top it all, there’s also a cinema where you can experience everything in 4D with powerful cinema surround sound – gone are the days of just watching a film with a bucket of popcorn, now you can feel part of the action as a whole variety of different worlds come to life around you.
Stop for tea at Marconi’s
If you are in a hurry, grab a coffee or ice-cream from one of the kiosks around the attraction. If you have time to pause, however, take time out from exploring to indulge in a lovely pot of tea and yummy slice of cake at the newly refurbished Marconi’s tearooms. Named after the man himself, it’s an ideal time to read up on why this respected young inventor is such an important part of the Isle of Wight’s history.
It’s best to look at the Needles website for details about pricing but as a guide, the chairlift ride is, at time of writing, £6 return (£3 one way) and the other activities tend to range from between £2-£4 each.
For other great attractions on the Isle of Wight, see our guide to Top Attractions on the Isle of Wight:
Looking for somewhere to stay near to the Needle Landmark Attraction? We have some lovely holiday cottages in and around Alum Bay, as well as a great selection in the popular sailing town of Cowes and in many iconic seaside resorts across the Isle of Wight such as Ventnor, Shanklin and Bembridge, and nearer to the Needles, Yarmouth and Freshwater. If you are looking to be right in the centre of the action, have a peek of our full collection of cottages across the Isle of Wight to find one that’s just right for you.