7 reasons to choose the Isle of Wight for your next staycation

Jessica Baldwin

Jessica Baldwin

"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot," Queen Victoria famously said of her home on the Isle of Wight*.

Yacht race during Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight
Yacht race during Cowes Week on the Isle of Wight © Mouradmeddah - Dreamstime.com

Much has changed since Victoria's reign, but with more than half of the diamond-shaped isle declared an Area of Outstanding National Beauty (AONB), it still boasts bucolic swathes of wild countryside, thriving wetlands and golden shores.

While its chocolate-box villages and traditional bucket-and-spade beaches continue to delight families year after year, a bourgeoning foodie scene and quirky accommodation options are luring in a new crowd.

Whether your happy place is atop an ancient castle, discovering a hidden cove or aboard a speeding RIB bound for a lobster lunch, here are seven reasons that the Isle of Wight should be your next staycation.

Getting to the Isle of Wight: arrive in as little as 22 minutes from England's south coast when you travel with Wightlink ferries*. Choose from various departure ports, although the quickest route is from Portsmouth to Ryde.

Beautiful beaches

Just shy of 23 miles long, you're never far from a great beach. However, it's the sheer variety that makes the Isle of Wight so special; from windswept dunes and coastal inlets to vast sandy shores.

Make the most of summer on Ventnor Beach
Make the most of summer on Ventnor Beach © Hatters! - Flickr CC BY-NC 2.0

Watch adrenaline-fueled watersports from Bembridge's shelly shores or try fossil hunting along Compton's sandy stretch. Rent a beach hut on the Victorian resort of Ventnor's famously red sands or head to family-favourite Shanklin, home to the island's only pub on a beach.

Want to escape the crowds? Ditch the car and hike your way to Mount Bay, Priory Bay or Steephill Cove, with its pretty fishing cottages.

For a beach fit for a queen, head to Osborne House*, where you can enjoy Queen Victoria's private sandy bay; do check out the incredible bathing machine which wheeled her into the Solent to protect her modesty.

World-class sailing

Cowes is the UK's sailing capital and home to the oldest and largest sailing regatta in the world. Cowes Week typically sees around 100,000 spectators watch up to 1,000 yachts battle it out on the Solent.

Think sails of every colour billowing in the wind to the sound of live music, high jinks and post-race parties at every turn. Watch from ashore or jump aboard an hour-long spectator boat trip to get in on the action.

RIB excursion to The Needles on the Isle of Wight
RIB excursion to The Needles on the Isle of Wight © www.visitisleofwight.co.uk

Not visiting during Cowes Week? There are plenty of ways to hit the high seas; jump aboard a RIB excursion with Rebel Marine, they'll collect you from any port in the Solent and whisk you off around attractions like The Needles and the Solent forts.

Alternatively, take the helm with the United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA), which runs a range of courses as well as children's fun days.

Jump aboard a fishing charter at Bembridge Harbour or head to St Helens to try your hand at windsurfing or dinghy sailing with Tackt-Isle Adventures.

Foodie paradise

Nowadays, foodies can expect more than world-class fish and chips and a cracking cream tea. Blessed with miles of unspoilt coastline, fertile soils and the UK's sunniest weather, the Isle of Wight is peppered with independent producers, fishing fleets and farms.

For a farm-to-fork experience head to The Garlic Farm; hike its trails before indulging in a garlicky feast in the cosy restaurant.

Staying in a rental? Stock up at Harvey Brown's; buried deep in the Arreton Valley this impressive food hall sells everything from prime cuts to its famous asparagus.

For fine dining head to the island's hottest table: The Hut. This trendy yachtie hangout in Colwell Bay sees a slick team serve up first-class seafood against the backdrop of panoramic sea views and Ibiza vibes; yes, they can collect you from your yacht or the helipad, phew!

Wildlife watching

This year, 2023, the Isle of Wight celebrates 50 years since over half of the island became an AONB. It also ranks alongside the likes of Yellowstone and Mount Vesuvius as a prestigious UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

There are countless ways to get up close and personal with the wildlife which makes this island so special; go birdwatching in Newtown Creek Nature Reserve, admire the enormous red squirrel population around lush Medina Valley or check out Britain's hottest garden in Ventnor, which boasts over 6,000 rare plants and the odd lizard to boot.

Ventnor Botanic Garden in summer
Ventnor Botanic Garden in summer © Garry Knight - Flickr CC BY 2.0

Thanks to the lack of light pollution, the island is also a fantastic place for stargazing- head to Freshwater Bay or Whale Chine.

Epic hiking

There are over 500 miles of footpaths crisscrossing the island, knitting together chalky cliffs, wetlands, ancient forests and rolling hills, with a spring walking festival descending on the island each May.

The roughly 70-mile-long Isle of Wight Coastal Path encircles the island, tracing its coves and bays, revealing everything from soaring chalk pinnacles and kaleidoscopic sands to royal residences and ancient ruins.

View from the cliff path looking towards Sandown
View from the cliff path looking towards Sandown © www.visitisleofwight.co.uk

For those who want to dip in and out, it can be broken into six manageable sections and thanks to the island's great transport network, it's easy to hop on a bus back after a well-earned pub lunch.

Or, for an easy circular pub walk, follow the Medina Estuary from Cowes to Newport, stopping at The Folly Inn for a pint overlooking Pinkmead Estate's beautiful vineyard before hopping on the Floating Bridge ferry back to town.

Culture vultures should explore Osborne House's glorious grounds, whilst nature lovers should head to RSPB Brading Marshes Nature Reserve.

Natural attractions

It's not for nothing that the Isle of Wight is nicknamed Dinosaur Island. Europe's top destination for dinosaur remains, head to Compton Bay after a storm and you may uncover a fossil or even a footprint.

Just along the coast, meanwhile, you'll find one of Queen Victoria's favourite sites, Alum Bay. Here, the colourful cliffs are made up of over 20 different shades of sand.

The island's most iconic landmark, known as The Needles, comprises three towering chalk stacks that rise out of the sea, once part of a brilliantly white chalk ridge that connected the isle to the mainland. Spot them from Tennyson Down or jump aboard a boat trip to them from Alum Bay.

Pretty Shanklin Old Village, famous for its thatched houses and cream teas, is also home to a dramatic historic gorge: Shanklin Chine.

Family fun

Families are spoilt for choice whatever the weather, with everything from theme parks, farms and animal sanctuaries to watersports and castles.

Blackgang Chine, the UK's oldest theme park, boasts everything from hair-raising rides to wet and wild waterslides. Its sister attraction, Robin Hill, has acres of woodland and gardens dotted with fairground rides, skywalks and falconry shows.

Take a ride on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway
Take a ride on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway © Chris - Adobe Stock Image

Tapnell Farm is a fantastic all-weather option with plenty of indoor and sheltered activities alongside its outdoor farm trail, playground and the island's only aqua park.

Fancy something a little more chilled? Conquer Carisbrooke Castle, go on a lizard safari at Ventnor Botanic Gardens, play Skittles on Queen Victoria's beach or climb aboard the island's famous heritage steam train.

Isle of Wight weather

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The above shows the weather on the Isle of Wight. Find out more about conditions across the county in our complete guide to the weather in Hampshire.

Ready to explore the Isle of Wight? Check out the latest offers from Wightlink, which depart from Portsmouth and Lymington and learn about becoming an English Heritage member.

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Isle of Wight by month

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Jessica Baldwin

Jessica Baldwin

Posted on Thursday 18th May 2023 in: Culture Excursions Summer UK

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