Just a short hop and a skip across The Solent, the Isle of Wight is one of the UK’s most idyllic holiday destinations and packed with attractions, natural wonders and days out. From leisurely strolls along the beach to hunting for dinosaur remains, and thrilling adventure activities, there are all sorts of things to do on the Isle of Wight.
Whether you are looking for a tranquil day out or a fun-packed experience, we have picked some of the best things to do on your holiday on the Isle of Wight.
For the sightseers…
What is it? Beautifully restored vintage steam locomotives running along a scenic 5-mile route between Smallbrook and Wootton.
What can you do there? Step back in time and jump aboard one of the restored Victorian and Edwardian carriages for a magical journey through the unspoilt countryside of the island - from ancient woodlands to rolling green hills. The trains stop at Smallbrook, Ahley, Havenstreet and Wootton stations where traditionally uniformed staff will help you hop on and off as you choose, plus there’s a fascinating Train Story Discovery Centre, a tearoom and regular fun events throughout the year. With the oldest locomotive in the collection dating back to 1876, this is a great trip for sightseers, train enthusiasts and historians.
What is it? One of the Isle of Wight’s most famous landmarks, the dramatic Needles comprises of a row of three chalk stacks which rise approximately 30 metres out of the sea at the far westerly point of the island.
What can you do there? Along with the fascinating history, stunning geology and spectacular sea views, The Needles Landmark Attraction is home to the iconic Trinity Lighthouse, and the world-famous Needles chairlift which transports visitors from the cliff top above Alum Bay, down to the beach below with its multi-coloured sand cliffs. There’s also a host of rides and attractions for the whole family to enjoy including adventure golf, a 4D cinema, sweet factory, traditional Victorian games, glass-blowing demonstrations and a tearoom.
For the historians…
What is it? A magnificent motte-and-bailey castle managed by English Heritage, most renowned for being the former prison of King Charles I before he was carted off to the mainland to be executed in 1649.
What can you do there? Steeped in British history and heritage, the castle has many stories to tell. Discover its royal connections in the museum; explore the battlements and the Edwardian garden; drink in far-reaching panoramic views from the Norman keep; play dress-up and experiment with armour and meet the famous donkeys of Carisbrooke which work the 16th-century treadwheel.
What is it? The breathtaking holiday home of Queen Victoria and one of the Isle of Wight’s most popular attractions.
What can you do there? Designed by Victoria and her beloved husband Albert as a family home in 1845, this former summer royal residence is an intriguing place to visit. “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot,” such were the words of Queen Victoria after her first visit to Osborne. Marvel at the magnificence of the Royal Apartments including the opulent drawing and dining rooms and the richly decorated Indian-inspired Durbar Room. The rooms are still packed with mementoes of Victoria’s vast empire. There are also 342 acres of formal grounds to explore including colourful Italianate gardens and the queen’s private beach.
What is it? A fun and interactive museum for dino-fans, which is also home to a world-famous fossil collection.
What can you do there? Journey back through fossilised time around 120 million years and enjoy detailed displays, lively activities and larger-than-life model dinosaurs. A terrific day out on the Isle of Wight for the whole family, there are hundreds of fascinating fossils on display, including the almost complete remains of a ginormous Iguanodon! Watch the museum’s volunteers preparing the latest exciting finds, and for an extra special experience, book onto one of the guided fossil walks along Sandown Beach where you might be lucky enough to excavate your own piece of fossilised history.
For more ‘top attractions on the Isle of Wight’, have a read of our comprehensive guide.
For the families…
What is it? A special sanctuary for rescued monkeys that allows you to get up close and personal with cheeky gibbons, marmosets and capuchins.
What can you do there? There are regular keeper talks and animal feeds throughout the day where you can learn more about the important work the Monkey Haven does in providing a happy-ever-after home for rescued primates. Watch the monkeys swing through their natural environment and meet some of the other friendly residents including meerkats, birds of prey and even a tortoise! For kids, there are fun trails to follow and an adventure playground to let off some steam.
What is it? A huge theme park set in 88 acres of captivating countryside and woodland.
What can you do there? Families will love this adventure park on the Isle of Wight offering thrilling rides, a splash park, treetop trails, a falconry centre, clay shooting area, toboggan slides and a net trampoline with bridges suspended 34 feet off the ground! Plus, you can venture deep into the woodland jungle and enjoy some nature spotting, looking out for the famous red squirrels.
What is it? The oldest amusement park in the entire UK, with an array of magical-themed worlds to explore and a surprise around every corner – a paradise for adventurous families.
What can you do there? Those who are brave enough can venture into Restricted Area 5 and take on the biggest animatronic T-Rex in the country, while other little ones can enjoy their very own castle in Fairyland. For a swashbuckling adventure, head to Pirate Cove with its water cannons, pirate ships and shooting gallery, or budding sheriffs can send the outlaws to jail in Cowboy Town.
For the foodies…
What is it? The UK’s largest specialist garlic growing farm with a restaurant, shop and attractions.
What can you do there? Enjoy complimentary tastings of all the garlicky wonders from relishes to ice cream and even beer. There’s literally no one on the island who knows more about garlic than these folks, so it’s the perfect place to pick up some cooking tips. Plus, you can delight in tours of the farm, meet the animals and fill your bags with all manner of tasty garlic-themed gifts in the farm shop.
Learn more about the ‘Isle of Wight’s unusual connection to garlic’ in our fascinating guide.
What is it? A lovely little vineyard just outside of Ryde offering quality wines, juices, liqueurs, and cider.
What can you do there? Take a self-guided tour around the winery and 30 acres of vines, before tasting some of the vino in the vineyard shop. Rondo, Bacchus, Phoenix and Schönburger are some of the grape varieties grown here and there are also ciders, fruit liqueurs and apple juice to sample too. End your visit with a delicious Ploughman’s lunch on the terrace overlooking the vines.
Free things to do on the Isle of Wight
Visit the beach
With 57 miles of pristine coastline, you’ll never be short of sand on your holiday and best of all, the beaches on the Isle of Wight are free to visit (parking charges may apply). From the soft sand of Sandown with its amusements and fairground rides to the lovely Victorian vibe of Ventnor and the colourful beach huts of Shanklin, there are plenty of opportunities for sandcastles, sunbathing and surfing. And if you’re bringing your four-legged family member on holiday, there are an abundance of dog-friendly beaches on the Isle of Wight including Bembridge Beach, Freshwater Bay and Steephill Cove.
Read our guide to ‘The Isle of Wight’s best beaches’ for some of our favourite stretches of sand on the island.
Grab a bicycle
The Isle of Wight was recently voted one of Lonely Planet’s ‘Top 10 Cycling Destinations in the World’ with a variety of picturesque cycle routes on offer around the island. Whether you follow the easy-going trails along the coast or attempt the hilly challenges through the countryside, the varied terrains and contrasting landscapes make for some great rides!
Our guide to the ‘Best cycling trails on the Isle of Wight’ has some fantastic cycle routes to try.
Known as ‘Dinosaur Island’, there are endless opportunities for fossil hunting on the Isle of Wight. Compton Bay, Bembridge Foreland, Shanklin, Whitecliff Bay and Yaverland are just some of the many beaches where you might be lucky enough to discover fossilised remains such as dinosaur bones, gastropods and brachiopods.
Don your walking boots
Did you know that there are over 500 miles of public footpaths on the Isle of Wight? The perfect free activity: pack a picnic, pull on your boots and explore the countryside and coast – there are coastal footpaths which take you over dramatic cliff tops, rocky coves and estuaries, or you could meander through fields and forests, keeping your eyes peeled for iconic historic monuments such as St Catherine’s Oratory, Tennyson’s Monument and the Mottistone Longstone.
There are some beautiful trails to follow in our guide to the ‘Best walks on the Isle of Wight’.
The Isle of Wight is an amazing place for birdwatching with 300 square kilometres of special environmental protection, nature reserves and wildlife sites. Over 200 species are recorded each year, from warblers and nightingales in the spring to tern’s plunge-diving for fish in the summer, as well as huge swathes of ducks, geese and waders in the winter. Ospreys are often observed at Newtown National Nature Reserve, while peregrine falcons can be seen patrolling the coast at the Needles Headland and Tennyson Down.
There are so many things to do on the Isle of Wight, and without a doubt, the best way to enjoy them with your family is with the freedom that comes with a self-catering holiday. After fun-filled days of climbing castles, playing on the beach and seeing the sights, our holiday cottages on the Isle of Wight are perfect for putting your feet up and relaxing in style.