Ventnor is a traditional Victorian seaside town where you can hire a beach hut, as well as visit the award-winning park and Botanic Gardens. Here, you’ll find one of the isle’s hidden gems, Steephill Cove – an unspoiled beach with plenty of rockpools, as well as crystal clear waters perfect for swimming. It’s only accessible by foot and requires a short walk from Ventnor beach along the coastal path. Afterwards, step back in time and visit Shanklin, a charming village just a short drive away, recognisable by its thatched roof buildings and winding roads. The beach here is also beautiful, with vast stretches of sand and a traditional seaside promenade complete with classic attractions. If you’re holidaying with young children, the Donkey Sanctuary makes for a lovely afternoon out. Admission is free, but the sanctuary encourages donations to support their work.
Bembridge & St Helens
Head to the pretty village of Bembridge, on the eastern tip of the isle, for golden beaches and a picture-perfect harbour. Popular attractions include the sailing club and the National Trust owned windmill – the last surviving one on the island. Just a short drive away is St Helens, where you can explore the ruins of the 18th century church or spend an afternoon rock pooling at St Helens Duver. For families keen to try their hand at water sports, everything from dinghy sailing to paddle boarding, kayaking to canoeing, can be organised by the Tackt-isle team. For a day out, head to the Garlic Farm, which is just a short drive away. Take the tour, book into a tasting and pick up some homemade products at the on-site shop to enjoy at home.
The gateway to the island, Cowes regularly hosts the oldest and biggest regatta in the world – Cowes Week – an eight-day event which usually takes place at the end of July and start of August. After a year’s hiatus, the event is back this summer, so look out for the iconic Ratsey and Lapthorn sails as you sit on the shore or head to the harbour to eye up the luxury yachts. Families can spend the afternoon exploring Osborne House, a grand palace that was once home to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A beautiful building now open to the public, visitors can walk around the sculptured gardens or dip a toe in the water at the Queen’s private beach. The house also runs a summer adventure trail for children, complete with an interactive map and puzzles.
Seaview & Ryde
Seaview is a pretty Edwardian village towards the northeast corner of the island, roughly half an hour's drive from Cowes. Offering panoramic views across the water, it’s home to some scenic beaches, including dog-friendly Seagrove and Priory Bay, which sits against a backdrop of luscious forestland. Journey ten minutes outside of Seaview to reach Ryde, the largest town on the island. Right on the seafront, it's a great spot for picking up souvenirs, with an abundance of independent boutiques on Upper Union Street. The beach stretches for miles, while the historic wooden pier is the second longest in the UK. For those after a rejuvenating treat, book into a class at Wight Wellness, a studio offering oceanside yoga sessions.
Freshwater is where you'll find one of most beautiful beaches on the island: Freshwater Bay. Head there at low tide to walk across the rocky ledge and explore the secret caves on the western side of the sand. It's also a great base for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the Needles, a row of chalk stacks rising up majestically from the sea. There are plenty of walks in the area leading to the National Trust protected attraction, most of which pass by the iconic Tennyson monument. Families with young children should pay a visit to Tapnell Farm, where little ones can meet the farm animals, let loose in the play zone or embark on a bike ride. The farm also offers glamping facilities in luxury safari tents or wooden pods. To get your adrenaline pumping, let the Adventure Activities group organise everything from climbing to kayaking.
Ferries run to Yarmouth from across the Solent daily. While it can be busy in the summer, it’s a great spot for families thanks to its child friendly beaches and activities. Cycling is one of the main attractions here, with both adult, kids and eclectic bikes available to rent from Wight Cycle Hire. Book in advance and keep them for the duration of your trip to pedal around the resort town, picking up breakfast at dog-friendly cafe Off The Rails, or getting down to the beach. A mix of sand and shingle, Yarmouth’s small beach is pretty, but families may wish to travel to Compton Beach in Newport or the bays at Freshwater, for a bit more space. Finally, don’t forget to visit one of the most famous sites in Yarmouth – the pier – which is Grade-II listed.
The Royal Hotel, Ventnor
One of the oldest hotels on the island, The Royal is steeped in history. If you’re after a slice of luxury, spend the weekend exploring the waters on the hotel’s boat and sampling local produce at the restaurants. Just a short walk from the seafront, as well as the picturesque Steephill Cove, it’s the ideal home away from home. Rooms are traditional and cosy, and there’s a garden to enjoy the sea views and a spot of afternoon tea. The hotel serves some of the best seafood on the island, so be sure to book lunch or dinner at the on-site restaurant, and take afternoon tea in the conservatory, Germanium Terrace or Pool Garden.
The Barn At Buddle Place, Niton Near Ventnor
If you’re after a lovely self-catering property, this barn is a great choice for families. Sleeping up to four, the cottage is set deep in the island’s countryside, just a short walk from St Catherine’s lighthouse. The interiors are bright and airy with a modern kitchen, two bedrooms and a cosy living area with an indoor wood burner. There’s also a private patio for morning coffees and al fresco meals, as well as a south-facing garden with sea views. Kids will love exploring the area on bike, while adults will appreciate the nearby golf club and The Crab Shed restaurant – which is renowned for its seafood.
Seasalt Cottage, Ventnor
Seasalt Cottage sleeps four across one double bedroom and a twin room ideal for children. The modern kitchen has everything you need to make picnic lunches ready for the beach, while the pretty courtyard is a great spot for a sunset BBQ. Inside, the interiors are simple yet stylish, with soft decorative accents and nautical touches throughout. Ventnor Beach, only a few minutes away have excellent water sports facilities, and the harbour is a great place for fish and chips and tasty seafood bites.
The Seaview Hotel, Seaview
If you choose to rest up in Seaview, stay at the Seaview Hotel – a pub with charming seaside-style rooms. Perched on a hill just metres from the water, it’s the ideal place to rest your head while staying in the village. Standard rooms have balconies with views over the rooftops, but for a special stay, book one of the superior rooms which come with fluffy towels and robes, luxury toiletries, and unique pieces of antique furniture. The hotel’s Aquitania restaurant make delicious British plates using local ingredients, while The Pump Bar & Grill is the place to relax after a day on the water.
North House, Cowes
For a luxury staycation, head to North House in Cowes. The Cosy rooms have chic have king-sized beds, indoor wood burners, and views over the garden, while the Spacious rooms come with freestanding bathtubs and separate showers. Ideal for a fun girls’ trip, The Terrace is a lovely spot for an evening drink, The Restaurant serves delicious dishes made with local produce, and The Bar has an extensive wine list. There’s also a heated outdoor pool surrounded by wicker deck chairs should you want to skip the beach.
Grange Farm, Isle of Wight
For a fun camping holiday, this site is just minutes away from Brighstone Bay beach. Families can spend the day surfing, kayaking and open-water swimming as well as getting to know the friendly farm animals. The site itself offers all the traditional campsite amenities, as well as a well-stocked farm shop that sells eggs from the farm’s hens and freshly baked bread. If you’d rather not navigate the ferry timetable, Grange Farm will book your travel for you – tell them when you’re coming, and they’ll do the rest.
Headed up by chef Robert Thompson, this restaurant uses the best Isle of Wight produce to create tasty yet simple dishes. Menu highlights include steamed prawn wontons with cucumber kimchi, smoked-eel terrine, and samphire and asparagus.
The George, Yarmouth
Once a 17th-century townhouse, this hotel sits right on the water’s edge. With a brasserie style restaurant, beach bar and vast terrace offering panoramic ocean views, the outdoor kitchen serves tasty lobster rolls, while the bar can deliver Pimm’s and rosé to your table.
The Hut, Colwell
This relaxed beach restaurant is a beautiful spot for an al fresco lunch. Expect a menu brimming with delicious, fresh seafood and grilled platters, with a buzzy, yet relaxed atmosphere. You can get a boat over to the restaurant or, if you’re in Yarmouth, the team will pick you up.
33 St Helens, St Helens
If you’re after a traditional fish and chip supper, no one does it quite as well as 33 St Helens. On Fridays, they offer two types of dishes, the standard fish and chips, or a luxe version, which comes with truffle oil and parmesan French fries. All the fish is locally caught, too.
Shoreside Café, Cowes
For a quick bite to eat and delicious homemade ice-cream, be sure to visit this lovely café in Cowes. Located right on the beach, diners can choose from beer battered fish and chips, and seafood-filled sandwiches.
The Old Fort, Seaview
This traditional pub sits right on the seawall with a fantastic view of the boats. The beers and sandwiches are fantastic, as are the fish and chips. It's particularly beautiful at sunset.
The Coast Bar, Cowes
If you’re after a tasty, family-friendly dinner, The Coast Bar in Cowes is the place to head. A relaxed, easy going restaurant, complete with comfy booths and a menu of sharing boards, salads and tasty grilled dishes, as well as wood fired pizza, there’s something for everyone.
THINGS TO DO
Isle of Wight Festival
After a year’s hiatus, this popular festival is back this summer – a great excuse to head to the Isle of Wight with friends. Taking place from Friday 16th to Sunday 19th September, confirmed acts include Becky Hill, David Guetta, All Saints, Scouting for Girls and Razorlight. Bring your own tent or stay in one of the yurts on-site.
Whether you’ve never surfed before or want to improve your skills on the water, this school is a great option for both adults and children. The school operates all over the island to ensure they can find the best waves during the summer months, so you’re guaranteed a great afternoon regardless. If you don’t want to surf, they also teach paddle boarding.
The Wight Proms
The Isle of Wight is holding its second Proms concert this summer. From Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd August, the festival will take place in the grounds of Northwood House in Cowes, where visitors can enjoy classic music, musical theatre numbers and stand-up comedy.
St Helens Duver
This beautiful nature reserve is a sand-and-shingle spit bordering the mouth of the River Yar. A great activity if you’ve got kids in tow, little ones can spot badgers and seabirds nesting along the shore.
Carisbrooke Castle, Cowes
In the past, this historic castle has been an artillery fortress, king's prison and a royal summer residence. Today, it’s a romantic castle with panoramic views of Cowes and a scenic garden dedicated to Princess Beatrice.
Ventnor Botanic Gardens
Ventnor is home to the warmest botanical garden in the UK, where visitors will find over 33,000 beautiful and unusual tropical plants. The gardens regularly put on activities for kids, so be sure to check what’s on ahead of your visit.
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