The ultimate guide to Sandown holiday cottages

The ultimate guide to Sandown

Courtney Kelly 04 January 2024

Sandown is a classic seaside town in one of the sunniest places in the UK, so it really is an easy decision to make when considering where to holiday.

It’s also got a museum about poo! Is there a better reason than that to visit Sandown on the Isle of Wight? Well, if you did need more convincing, there’s a pier full of entertainment and a glorious beach with miles of golden sand.

Read our full guide on things to do in Sandown or if you’ve already been persuaded, click the button below and begin your Sandown cottage search.

Skip to:

Things to do in Sandown

Sandown Beach

A lone man walking along Sandown Beach on a clear day with cliffs in the background

The beach at Sandown is one of those beaches that just has everything: an esplanade with seaside cafes, deckchair and windbreak hire, a traditional pier, crazy golf and plenty of sand for those bucket and spade holidays. However, due to its size, it’s also perfect for those who want to get away from the crowds as there is space for everyone to find their spot.

The beach is popular with swimmers and surfers and there are even two all-terrain wheelchairs available to hire, making it one of the best accessible beaches on the island.

Lifeguards: Yes, during the summer months

Facilities: Cafes, shops and WCs on the esplanade; beach showers (summer only); wheelchairs are available for hire from Dinosaur Isle on Culver Parade and the beach lifeguard station at Eastern Gardens

Sandown Pier

Sandown Pier at sunset. The waves are lapping and the sun is reflecting off the windows

If the kids need a little directed entertainment or if the weather isn’t quite good enough to laze on the beach (perhaps a first for the Isle of Wight), Sandown Pier has enough going on to last you at least the day.

Abandon your boredom at the Lost World Adventure Golf with its sound effects and lighting or cast a spell over the little ones at Magic Island, where the kids can work up an appetite in the indoor soft play. The cafe, burger bar and ice cream kiosk will satisfy any hunger troubles and if Mum and Dad want to watch the big game, Scruffy Jacks, located at the front of the pier, is the place to go.

Opening times: Check the website as there are various opening times for all the sections

Facilities: Arcade and amusements; soft play; ten-pin bowling; crazy golf; dodgems; quad bike; teacup ride; bar and eateries

Wildheart Animal Sanctuary

A tiger looking at the camera at the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary

Also known as Sandown Zoo, the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary is a charitable organisation with the conservation/restoration of the natural world at the core of its principles. They fund programmes in India and Madagascar, as well as for native species here in the UK, so your visit could have wider ramifications than you might think.

There are some incredible exotic animals to meet including big cats and small mammals, along with reptiles, amphibians and cute little farm animals. You can choose to adopt an animal or donate to one of many good causes, and if you’re bringing the children along, there are animal carer experiences and the option of having birthday parties at the sanctuary.

Opening times: October to March 10am to 4pm; April to September 10am to 5pm

Price: Adults £14, children (3-14 years) £12, infants (2 and under) free; parking is £3 for the day

Facilities: Café, shop, WCs

National Poo Museum

A fossilised turtle poo

You and the kids are certainly not going to forget your first visit to the National Poo Museum, with one customer stating that it was ‘like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, only with poo!’

This dog-friendly museum in the Isle of Wight UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve has celebrated exhibits showcasing species’ faeces and the gut biome, but fear not, there are gardens and a play area if the scoop about poop proves too much.

Find out some interesting facts; for example, who knew that wombats do square poos? Or that the sand on those beautiful Caribbean white beaches is actually parrot fish poo?

This museum is certainly No.1 for No.2s!

Opening times: Summer and weekdays only, check the website for specific details

Price: Adults £5, children £2.50, under 5s are free

Facilities: WC (it’d be weird if they didn’t have one!)

Eating and drinking in Sandown

The Reef Sandown

Five vibrant-looking and tempting cocktails

One of the best restaurants in Sandown on the Isle of Wight if you’re looking for mesmerising views, the Reef Sandown has pride of place on the esplanade looking out at gorgeous Sandown Bay.

Working from a smaller menu during the day, the Reef then offers table service and more extensive choices in the evenings. Seasonal cocktails are available – there aren’t many better ways to watch a sunset than with a sparkly, fruity concoction in your hand!

Opening times: 11am to 11pm year-round

Why not try: Surf and turf boa buns

Stay nearby: Lookout – Sandown | Sleeps 4

The Bay Vegan Deli and Coffee House

A bakery showcasing homemade vegan sausage rolls

If, as a vegan, you’re fed up with being told you can’t have something from the menu, you need to come to The Bay Vegan Deli where everything is 100% vegan. You’ll be spoilt for choice but fear not, the coffee house is open until 3pm every day and even reopens on Friday evenings for late-night vegan suppers.

This dog-friendly and family-friendly café offers delicious tapas, homemade salads and even full English breakfasts. When the weather is fine, the courtyard garden provides an excellent resting place to soak up some Isle of Wight sun.

Opening times: Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm (also 6.30pm to 11pm on Fridays); Saturday and Sunday 10am to 3pm

Why not try: A takeaway focaccia platter

Stay nearby: Hanover Villa | Sleeps 10

The Old Corner Bank

A row of beer taps in a bar, some are out of focus

When the owners bought this building, which used to be an HSBC bank, they wanted to keep as many of the original features as possible. Therefore, in the Old Corner Bank, you’ll find the snug room is the old manager’s office and the main bar is the original counter.

Have a drink in the main bar, sidle off to the side room or go all out and have three courses in the dining room. Dogs are welcome on leads in the main bar or at the outside tables.

Opening times: Daily 11am to 11pm

Why not try: Slow roasted belly pork with cranberry and red onion port sauce, dauphinoise potatoes and vegetables  

Stay nearby: Bay View | Sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Getting outdoors in Sandown

Sandown walks

There are ample walks and hikes in and around Sandown to keep amblers and ramblers busy. National Trust spots, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and coastal paths can all be explored. Below is a short synopsis of some of our favourite Sandown walks. 

Brading, Alverstone, Sandown Marsh

A walk in Sandown: a public footpath gate looking down at the bay

This easy walk can take nearly 4 hours to complete but you’ll see parts of Brading and Alverstone. Along the way, you’ll have the chance to discover a chalk pit, some lovely woodland and a pretty stream.

Length: 7.2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Eyes peeled: Stop in the bird hide to see what winged wonders you can spot

Fine Fortifications Trail

A walk in Sandown through a grassy field a little further away from the bay

An easy out-and-back trail near Sandown, this route will take you less than an hour to complete if you’re short on time. You’re unlikely to see many others on this AONB route so make the most of the wilderness.

Length: 1.8 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Eyes peeled: Look out for various old military sites and information panels

Nunwell Trail: Sandown to Ryde

A walk in Sandown: someone walking their dog on the beach at sunset

Another linear walk, this route known as the Nunwell Trail is great for those hoping to birdwatch on a walk. Even better is the fact that it’s a very quiet route so you’ll most likely have the birds to yourself. Taking roughly 3 hours to complete, you’ll pass from coast to coast on the eastern part of the island, heading over a chalk ridge and through a wetland nature reserve.

Length: 8 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Eyes peeled: See if you can spot the heritage steam rail line

Sandown to Shanklin Walk

A walk near Sandown: a clear day in Shanklin along the pedestrianised walkway

It wouldn’t be right to talk about Sandown walks without mentioning the Isle of Wight Coast Path. This section starts at the pier in Sandown and takes in Welcome Beach, Little Stairs Point and Hope Beach before ending near beautiful Shanklin Chine, where you can wander the pretty woodland. This walk is part of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival.

Length: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Eyes peeled: The views from the cliff-top sections are mesmerising

Sandham Gardens

Two smiling girls wave and have fun driving a go-kart

You’ve walked the coast path, you’ve immersed yourselves in the AONB, perhaps it’s now time for a little manmade exhilaration. If you’ve got the kids with you (or you’re just a big kid yourself), head over to Sandham Gardens where the adrenaline-fuelled fun doesn’t stop.

Set at the northern edge of Sandown but still within view of the marvellous sea, there are, of course, picturesque gardens to explore but the real family fun comes in the form of go-karts, crazy golf and an open-air bounce park.

Sandham Karts are perfect for all the budding Verstappens out there. Suitable for children 4 years and above, the course twists and turns and every participant will even receive a ‘gold’ medal.

A lady in white trainers attempts a putt at crazy golf

Dino Islands: A Golf Adventure is not like the usual ‘lazy golf’ you see at a lot of seaside resorts. This 18-hole course has life-size dinosaurs, smoking volcanos, waterfalls and bridges. Can you hold your nerve on that all-important putt? For a more challenging round, head to Shanklin and Sandown Golf Club which you can read about in our guide to golf on the Isle of Wight.

Skynets: The Big Bounce is an open-air bounce park where kids can play alone or parents can join in the fun. The nets are enclosed, providing complete security and the elevated views of Sandown Bay are phenomenal.

Get historical

After you’ve given your calves and quads a workout on the Skynets, it might be time to do some mental callisthenics by visiting one of the following places and brushing up on your history.

Brading Roman Villa

A Roman piece of artwork - something that could be found in a Roman museum

Learn about the Roman-built North, South and West Range, buildings that we erected not long after the Roman invasion of Britain in AD43. Only the West Range still stands but it is a sight to behold.

There’s a virtual CGI tour at Brading Roman Villa that you can take if the chalk outline of the other two buildings doesn’t satisfy your thirst for Roman knowledge. Plus, due to the fact that the area has been excavated many times, there are even artefacts on display pre-dating the Romans.

Opening times: Tuesday to Saturday 10am to 4pm (last entry 3pm)

Price: Adults £11, children (5-16 years) £5.40, concessions £10.30

Nunwell House 

Wildflowers stretching up towards the blue sky as the sun shines

A place of great historic and architectural interest, Nunwell House and Gardens has been a family home since 1522. The beautiful premises and grounds are usually used for weddings, but the owners do accept group bookings if arranged in advance.

After exploring the magnificent gardens and lavish interiors, you can have some refreshments in the Old Hall, which includes homemade cakes.

Opening times and prices: Contact the owners for more information

Dog-friendly Sandown

Paw prints and one human footprint in the sand

Along with most of the Isle of Wight, Sandown has its fair share of dog-friendly attractions and eateries.

Sandown Bay may have restrictions from May to September but slightly further north-east, you’ll find Yaverland Beach where dogs are allowed on sections of the sands all year round.

Shanklin Chine is the oldest attraction on the island and welcomes dogs on leads. First opened in 1817, this seasonal attraction gives you and your pup the opportunity to wander through picturesque natural beauty incorporating the tree-lined gorge and a cascading waterfall.

A waterfall at Shanklin Chine

Still within the Sandown area but slightly inland near Newchurch, the Garlic Farm is a lovely day out for two- and four-legged travellers. Well-behaved dogs on leads are welcome in the café, the conservatory area of the restaurant and in all the outside areas.

Staying in Newchurch, the Pointer Inn is a gorgeous country pub that has won many awards including the Country Pub of the Year. There’s a large beer garden that backs onto a field where your pooch can stretch their legs, but equally, dogs are welcome inside too.

A lady in dungarees sits in a cafe as her dog paws at her leg asking for a treat

The Yarbridge Inn is closer to home if you’re staying in Sandown. It’s a family-run pub with a restaurant that adheres to low food miles and sustainability. Much of their produce comes from the island, including some vegetables grown in a neighbour’s allotment. For more dog-friendly pubs on the Isle of Wight, check out our tail-waggingly-good blog.

For a seaside café vibe, head to The Beach Shack, a lovely little establishment on the pedestrianised walkway between Sandown and Shanklin. Situated beneath the cliffs and so close to the beach that you can almost dangle your toes in the sand, the café also has a rooftop sky bar providing wonderful views.

Shopping in Sandown

A lady in a warm coat carries her handbag and window shops

There are lots of interesting, independent shops to peruse in Sandown. Whether you just fancy browsing through nick-nacks or you’d like to pick up a little something for someone back on the mainland, you’ll have lots of options. Below are a few of our favourites.

The Holistic Emporium specialises in raw and polished gemstones and fossils. Whether you are into crystal healing or you just want to pick up something pretty for the kids, head to this new-age shop. Shared Earth is a Fair Trade, eco and ethical shop selling handmade and recycled products from 16 developing countries across the world. All purchases of jewellery, clothing and stationery (to name just a few examples) will go towards helping thousands of artisans from over 40 Fair Trade co-operatives.

We’ve already mentioned the Garlic Farm as a great place to walk with your dog but don’t forget to visit the farm shop for free tastings and a delicious and healthy gift. Read more about the island's unusual connection to garlic here. Glory Art Glass is an independent glass-blowing studio where you can witness this impressive art form for free and perhaps pick up a one-of-a-kind gift to remind you of your Sandown adventure.

Events in Sandown

Six female friends hold sparklers and celebrate an occasion

Sandown Bay Regatta

Come and enjoy the family-friendly recreation at the regatta every August. The esplanade is full of market stalls selling food and gifts, there’s live entertainment on the stage, various live music on the pier, and the Beach Sports Arena will keep the adrenaline pumping with Punch and Judy, tug o’ war and the Grand Regatta Hat Parade!

Illuminated Carnival

Also in August, this colourful light procession will parade around the town showing off its floats and eccentric fancy dress followers. There’s even a quiet zone for those who prefer to watch the march without the noise from the bands and floats. Donation buckets will circulate so please give generously so that this fine tradition may continue.

Self-catering cottages in Sandown

We hope that this round-up of what to do in Sandown has inspired you to explore this beautiful part of an already stunning island. From romantic retreats for two to larger houses for family gatherings, there's something for you and your group in our collection. Click the button below to find great self-catering holiday accommodation in Sandown.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

Like it? Share it...

Read more like this

The best dog-friendly pubs on the Isle of Wight

Including everything from 17th-century taverns in the countryside to modern cocktail bars on a seafront promenade

Our dog-friendly guide to the Isle of Wight

The dog-friendly Isle of Wight promises a memorable holiday of walks, steam train rides and meals in pet-friendly pubs.

Christmas Markets on the Isle of Wight

The festive season is well and truly upon us and the Isle of Wight is the perfect place to do a spot of Christmas shopping.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Island Cottage Holidays is an appointed representative of ITC Compliance Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (their registration number is 313486) and which is permitted to advise on and arrange general insurance contracts as an intermediary.
The Travel Chapter Limited trading as Island Cottage Holidays | The Travel Chapter Limited is registered in England and Wales. | Registered office Travel Chapter House Gammaton Road Bideford EX39 4DF Company No. 02431506 | VAT reg: 143053210.