The Isle of Wight is one of the UK's sunniest and warmest destinations, and although it’s only minutes away from the mainland and so easy to reach, it feels a world away. Holidaymakers are drawn to its award-winning beaches, spectacular scenery and rich historical heritage. And, with an abundance of attractions, festivals and activities to be enjoyed across the island, it might be a struggle to know where to stay on the Isle of Wight.
You might like to spend your time lounging on soft, golden sands, or taking a blustery coastal walk along the cliff tops. Maybe you’d like to try a spot of sailing or some exhilarating water sports. Or perhaps you might prefer discovering local history and iconic natural landmarks. Whatever your reason for wanting the visit the island, you’ll need a cosy retreat to return home to after a day of adventure. Therefore, we have chosen some of the best towns and villages to stay during your holiday on the Isle of Wight, making it easier for you to get out and explore.
From classic seaside resorts to beautiful inland villages, read on to discover the best places to visit on the Isle of Wight.
Best for: Sailing and fun on the water
The mecca of the sailing world, Cowes is situated in the north of the Isle of Wight, on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina. Renowned for its yachting, this vibrant town hosts the world’s oldest and largest sailing regatta each year known as Cowes Week, where over 1,000 vessels compete in around 40 races a day. You can learn more about the town’s rich seafaring history with a visit to one of its museums, including the Cowes Maritime Museum and The Sir Max Aitken Museum.
Sailing aside, you can idle along the meandering high street, lined with boutique shops and independent eateries, many with nautical themes. Soak up the sunshine on the long seafront promenade which leads to the pretty village of Gunard, and if you time your visit just right, you will see one of the best sunsets on the Island. And don’t forget to pop across the river via the chain ferry to East Cowes where you can explore the magnificent Osborne House, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s much-loved summer retreat.
Browse our guide to Cowes for more information.
Where to stay:
Alternatively, take a look at our full collection of cottages in Cowes.
Shanklin and Sandown
Best for: A classic British seaside holiday
Sharing the same golden sandy beach, Shanklin and Sandown are the perfect seaside resorts for a traditional family holiday at the eastern end of the Isle of Wight. Both bucket and spade resorts are simply bursting with attractions to keep the whole family entertained. Shanklin is possibly the prettier of the two, with its chocolate-box thatched tearooms serving cream teas, beautiful Rylstone Gardens, and the famous Shanklin Chine - a coastal sandstone ravine with rare plants and a dazzling waterfall. And along Shanklin’s esplanade, there are a variety of eateries, traditional amusement arcades, mini golf and children’s play areas.
At Sandown, kids can whizz down the helter-skelter and get dizzy on the spinning teacups on the pleasure pier, meet some cute and cuddly animals at the Amazon World Zoo Park or the Isle of Wight Zoo, and discover the fascinating fossilised history of the Island at the Dinosaur Isle museum. If you’re looking for water sports, then give windsurfing, kayaking or jet skiing a go at Yaverland Beach, or if you’d prefer a relaxing day in the sun, hire some deck chairs and spend the day sunbathing, swimming and building sandcastles on the gently sloping sand.
Browse our guide to Shanklin for more information.
Where to stay:
Alternatively, take a look at our full collection of cottages in Shanklin.
Best for: Walking and fresh sea air
Amidst the spectacular scenery of the western tip of the Isle of Wight, Freshwater is a perfect destination for walking, picnics, and swimming in the sea. The village sits behind the breathtaking Freshwater Bay with its sand and shingle family-friendly beach, imposing white chalk cliffs, and the Stag and Mermaid rocks that majestically rise from the crystal-clear sea. Freshwater Bay is the perfect spot to begin a walk up and along the cliff-tops, with the Tennyson Trail offering mesmerising 360-degree views of the English Channel. It’s also close to the iconic Needles Headland where you can take a ride on the chairlift for a birds-eye view of the coast.
You’ll soon see why the countryside and coastline at Freshwater have inspired many cultural icons including Alfred Lord Tennyson, Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron – a pioneering Victorian photographer whose former home at Dimbola Lodge is now a gallery displaying her work. The village is also home to an 18-hole golf course, as well as a selection of quaint shops and welcoming places to eat and drink after a day in the fresh air.
Browse our guide to Freshwater for more information.
Where to stay:
Alternatively, take a look at our full collection of cottages in Freshwater.
Best for: Sightseeing and nature lovers
Found on the east coast of the Isle of Wight, Bembridge has been a genteel getaway for affluent holidaymakers since Edwardian times. Surrounded by beaches and with a pretty harbour full of pleasure craft and fishing boats, this exclusive village is a great spot for sailing. It is also a haven for birdwatchers and wildlife spotters, with the nearby Culver Down and Brading Marshes RSPB Reserve situated along the River Yar estuary.
Those with an interest in local history should visit the National Trust’s Bembridge Windmill, the Island’s only remaining windmill; built at the start of the 18th century, you might recognise it from one of J.M.W. Turner’s paintings. Other historical attractions include NT Bembridge Fort and the Bembridge Lifeboat Station, which houses a small museum where you can find out more about the brave volunteers who keep the local waters safe. Sample some fresh-off-the-boat seafood in one of the village’s eateries, or head to Bembridge Beach for a spot of beachcombing, crabbing and exploring the rock pools.
Browse our guide to Bembridge Beach for more information.
Where to stay:
Alternatively, take a look at our full collection of cottages in Bembridge.
Best for: History and heritage
Nestled on a lush green hillside above the azure sea, the small town of Ventnor boasts more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in the UK and was once the height of fashion as a health resort during Queen Victoria’s reign. This little suntrap tucked under St Martin’s Down - one of the island’s highest hills - has its own micro-climate, and its sand and shingle beach is sought after all year round. Vintage beach huts can be hired from the hut on the sea wall, as can deckchairs, sun loungers and windbreaks.
After a refreshing swim, you can while away an afternoon in one of the seafood restaurants dotted along the seafront, or head into the main town where charming Victorian architecture houses artisan cafes, antique emporiums and boutique shops. Take a wander around the 22-acre Ventnor Botanic Garden, one of the best in the South if not the whole of England, and discover Ventnor’s smuggling history at the Longshoreman’s Museum.
Browse our guide to Ventnor Beach for more information.
Where to stay:
Alternatively, take a look at our full collection of cottages in Ventnor.
Best for: A quintessential English village experience
Idyllic thatched cottages with blooming gardens, country pubs with crackling fires, and cosy little tearooms serving homemade treats; take a leisurely stroll around the picture-postcard village of Godshill and you’ll soon see why it’s one of the Isle of Wight’s best inland spots. Having changed very little over the years, you’ll find some of the oldest architecture on the Island in this sweet village. It is also home to the Godshill Model Village, an attraction loved by all ages with its vintage theme and quirkiness.
The walk up to Godshill Church from Church Hill, reveals one of the most iconic images you’ll see of the island, reproduced on everything from tea towels to tins of shortbread - and legend has it, that this church is magical. When it was first being built, it was supposed to be at the base of the hill, but on three successive nights, the stones were removed, unseen, to the site of the present church. Work was restarted on the first two mornings but on the third day it was assumed that God wished the church to be built on the hill, hence the name Godshill.
Where to stay:
Alternatively, take a look at our full collection of cottages in Godshill.
Stay on the Isle of Wight
These are just some of the best places to stay on the Isle of Wight, but there are plenty more beautiful destinations hiding away on the island, and you can discover them all with a stay in one of our Isle of Wight holiday cottages. Whether you’re looking for a stylish short break for two or a fun-filled break for the whole family, you’ll discover a wonderful selection of places to stay on this unique and special island in our collection.