Are you looking for an escape from the wet, rainy English countryside? Head to the always sunny Isle of Wight. Queen Victoria herself loved to go there. Follow our Isle of Wight Planning Guide to figure out how to visit this amazing island during your stay in the United Kingdom.
Steeped in history, gorgeous coasts, world heritage sites, castles, beaches, and walks galore, we were so happy to do a road trip around Southwestern England and the Channel Islands. For a few sunny weeks in summer, we drove on tiny roads with amazing views, ate fresh farm-to-table foods as well as same day seafoods, and stayed in some of the quaintest cities.
One of the many places we spent some time was the Isle of Wight. For years, I’d heard what a fantastic destination it was, but I have to admit my surprise at how much I really loved it. We spent one full day and one night on the island driving around in our little rental car. I think we did quite a bit, but there’s always room to return for more.
This article includes:
- Where is the Isle of Wight?
- Ferry to the Isle of Wight
- Things to Do on the Isle of Wight
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
Where is the Isle of Wight
Situated off the Southwest coast of England, in the middle of the English Channel, lies the Isle of Wight. Needless to say, you must get there by boat. You can either take the Hovercraft, which is faster but doesn’t allow cars, or take a car ferry. We took the car ferry and loved it.
We also published a podcast on our trip to the Isle of Wight. You can find it here:
Ferry to the Isle of Wight
We had been driving our rental car all over Southwestern England, and it was a no brainer to take the ferry to England’s largest island.
Arriving at the ferry terminal at Portsmouth, we were surprised when even though we’d booked the next ferry, the current ferry hadn’t left and there was still room. The attendant asked us if we wanted to go ahead and board the earlier ferry, which I think is a pretty usual thing to do, and since we were getting hungry, the answer was a definitive yes.
Upon buying the tickets for the ferry we learned a few things. When we were filling out the online form, it asked for our license plate number. Since we were going to rent a car, we didn’t have one yet. So, we entered the word “rental” instead, which surprisingly worked and we were able to purchase the tickets.
Once we had the rental car, we updated the license plate number through the website. As soon as we arrived, the onboarding process was quick and efficient. They already had all our information and addressed us by our name. We received a passenger sticker to hang on our windowsill, and we were good to go. This was the best ferry experience we had all year.
Getting on the ferry offered us yet another surprise. We, along with a bunch of other cars, drove onto the ferry following the attendants signals. Usually at this point, we’re allowed to exit the car, head up the stairs and find a place to sit. However, we were clearly informed not to get out of our cars. We were confused.
A few minutes later, though, all was revealed. We were on an elevator, and we had to be lifted to the 2nd floor. The entire floor is lifted and it’s so cool! We did the same thing when we were coming back on the ferry from Yarmouth to Lymington.
Isle of Wight Weather
The weather on the Isle of Wight is pretty unchangeble most of the year. It purportedly gets less rain than other parts of the UK, and therefore it’s a perfect place to get away for at least a weekend in the summer.
We visited in July, and we didn’t have any rain at all while we were there. People were out in droves walking their dogs and enjoying the sunshine.
Best Things to Do on the Isle of Wight
There are plenty of fun things to do on the Isle of Wight. You can easily spend a few days there, and if you like beaches and walks there’s much, much more. The island is full of farm shops, great eateries, and of course a few heritage sites to visit as well. We loved our time on the island, and here’s why.
Things to do on the Isle of Wight:
- Hop Kilns Visitor Center and Bluebells Cafe
- Go to the beaches
- Find a great walking path
- The Needles
- Donkey Sanctuary
- Brading Roman Villa
- Royal Church of St. Mildred in Whippingham
- Osborne House
- Carisbrooke Castle
- Learn all about garlic
Hop Kilns Visitor Center – Biddlesford Farm
In the days when water wasn’t treated, it was healthier to drink beer. Farms that hired hands would grow their own hops to make the beer, and like Biddleford Farm would have a small kiln to dry out the hops. At the Biddlesford farm, they’ve turned their hop kiln space into a small museum outlining farm life for the last few hundred years. It’s small but definitely worth the stop.
Go to the Beach
Being a sunny island, one thing that almost everyone does is go to the beach. Some of the best beaches are Sandown, Shanklin, and Ventnor. Don’t miss out on a sunny, sandy relaxation.
Take a Walk with Stunning Views
On the ferry, I met a lady with a dog who said she comes here all the time to walk and have lunch. She said that going to the beach, doing some walking, having lunch, and then heading back is her ideal day. I have to agree with her. Here are some walks you can do on the Isle of Wight:
- Isle of Wight Coastal Path
- Borthwood Copse
- St. Catherine’s Lighthouse
- Chillerton Down
Head out to the Needles
The Needles are a series of limestone rocks that poetically line up at the end of a point. They are pretty iconic, and most people will find a good sunset viewpoint for them. If you visit during the day, you can walk through an amusement park to the observation platform, and of course it’s exactly what families with kids will want to do.
Pet a Donkey
The Donkey Sanctuary on the Isle of Wight is a free attraction that is well worth a visit. You can walk around petting and getting to know the over 200 rescued animals. They are so cute! On site there is also a small café, so taking the kids to pet the donkeys then have a well-deserved afternoon snack is just the pick me up that most kids will love. Hey, we didn’t have kids in tow on this trip, yet I wouldn’t miss the donkeys for anything.
Visit a Roman Villa
It’s well known that the Romans were all over England, but it still suprises me each time I come across some amazing Roman ruins. In this case, Brading Roman Villa, a house owned by nobles. The biggest draw are the floor mosaics that have been preserved for the last 2000 years.
Visiting the villa is great for anyone interested in history, but it also had a lot of interactive games and info that the kids would love. It doesn’t take much time to go through, but it was a lot of fun.
Visit the Royal Church of St. Mildred
St. Mildred’s Church is found not too far from Osborne House, which is why Queen Victoria and her family frequented it during their summer stays. A small church, the grounds and interior tell the story of the royal visits. Occasionally, you can find the pastor telling a group of tourists more about the history of the church as well.
One of the most important sights on the Island of Wight, and one that Queen Victoria made famous, is the Osborne House. Basically, it was her summer home, her getaway, and boy, is it worth a visit. Our visit to Osborne House was more than we expected.
We enjoyed the stunning grounds, the walled garden, and the main house. Walking through the house, we learned so much about the monarch, her husband, and her nine children.
One of the highlights of the Isle of Wight is visiting Carisbrooke Castle, which has looked over the island for almost 1000 years. During that time, it’s had its fair share of interesting guests, the most famous, or infamous as the case may be, is Charles I who was a prisoner here before his execution.
On the castle grounds is the Carisbrooke Castle Museum founded by Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice. The museum has artifacts from the royal family as well as from Charles I. We enjoyed playing some games in the entry way along with all the other kids who were visiting that day.
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Best Tours of the Isle of Wight
If you don’t have your own car, or you are limited in time, but you want to get to the Isle of Wight, these tours will help you get the most bang for your buck as well as your time.
- Isle of Wight Day Trip from London ($137)
- From Brighton: Isle of Wight Full-Day Trip via Portsmouth ($87)
- 3-day Isle of Wight & the Southern Coast Small-Group Tour ($572)
Isle of Wight Hotels
Wight Mouse Inn – We loved staying at this pub. It was packed full of locals in the pub restaurant where we had a quick pint before hitting the hay. The room was just splendid and much quieter than we expected. We would definitely stay here again.
Where to Eat
The places we visited had their own tea shops, cafes, or restaurants on site, which was very convenient. You didn’t have to go out searching for food during your tour or leave the area. There were at least two restaurants, maybe more, and they both had outdoor seating where you could enjoy your lunch in the sun. It was a beautiful experience, and we could continue touring without wasting time looking for food.
- Garlic Farm House – Garlic Farm. It was a destination in and of itself, offering a unique experience centered around garlic. They had a whole room dedicated to garlic tastings and two restaurants on site. The menu items were exceptional, such as the garlic-stuffed Camembert, pan-fried garlic mushrooms, and black garlic sticky toffee pudding. The restaurant truly embraced the garlic theme and everything was delicious.
- Bluebells Café at Biddlesford Farm. We drove straight here off the ferry to get a fresh breakfast of eggs and local sausage. We were surprised at all the offerings on the farm from petting the calves to a small museum.
The Isle of Wight with its esteemed history, beautiful vistas, amazing food choices, and overall great vibe really gave us a feeling of slowing down and relaxing. It was a great way to spend a day on our journey through Southwestern England.
Author Bio: Corinne Vail is a travel photographer, food lover, and a perpetual traveler who has been travel writing for over 14 years. For many years she lived overseas in Germany, Japan, Turkey, South Korea, and the Netherlands teaching the children of the US. military. She’s visited over 90 countries, and she’s not stopping anytime soon.