Whether you have a long weekend, a week or a whistle-stop 24 hours, there are plenty of things to do on the Isle of Wight to please all ages. Famed for its stark, white Needles jutting proudly out of the sea, but with a beautiful coastline around the entire perimeter, the Isle of Wight measures just 23 miles by 13 miles, making it easy to explore.
After a trip to Isle of White ourselves, where we tried life on a houseboat, indulged in locally-caught, fresh crab and enjoyed miles of perfect coastal walking, we've rounded up the best things to do on the Isle of Wight so you can squeeze everything you can from the second smallest county in the UK.
The Isle of Wight ferry
Before considering an itinerary, make sure you can get there. Book the Isle of Wight Ferry and enjoy the departing views of Portsmouth or Lymington – just remember it has a reputation as being one of the most expensive ferry crossings in the world, so be prepared.
Things to do on the Isle of Wight
1. Needles and coastline
The world-famous Isle of Wight needles are one of the most popular attractions on the island and most likely feature on the most postcards, and with good reason too because the geographical site is beautiful whatever the weather.
We enjoyed a cup of tea in the small-but-cosy National Trust Needles Battery Cafe, which sits on the cliff edge in the old Port War Signal Station, overlooking the Needles. It is part of the island's Old Battery, which has plenty to see for the history-buffs.
Top tip: be prepared for wind because being so far out on the cliff whips up quite the gale.
The nearby holiday hot-spot of Alum Bay has great views of the Needles. Although a little touristy, you can enjoy a chairlift which takes you from the top of the cliff down to the beach, passing its famous multi-coloured sand slopes created by millions of years of coastal movement.
With beautiful jurassic coastlines, an expanse of open fields in the centre and plenty of open gardens, the Isle of Wight is excellent for walking. Pack your boots, check the weather and pic a route that suits your ability. The National Trust have a great selection of downloadable walks. BROWSE WALKS
We enjoyed the Needles Headland and Tennyson Down route, which can be found here. It takes in a short and sharp incline up to the Tennyson Monument where you can enjoy excellent views before walking across the downs to the Needles.
3. Eat fresh fish
If seafood is your thing then, on the IOW, you're spoilt for choice. You can pick-up fresh crab sandwiches from almost every town and see the day's catch on ice in the local fishmongers. Or, of course, head to one of the many restaurants with fresh fish on the menu.
4. Sailing (seasonal)
Windy IOW is famous for it's sailing, with all eyes on Cowes Week when it comes around once a year during the summer. The eight-day event takes place on the north of the island in the town of Cowes and attracts sailing fanatics from all over the world to watch the daily races. 2019's event even saw a race between the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.
Tip: Make sure you catch the fireworks display.
5. Water sports
It's not just sailing that takes advantage of the island's surrounding waters – paddle-boarding, kayaking and boat hire are also great ways to see the IOW from a different angle. Try Tacktisle Adventures or Wightwater Adventure Watersports to find an activity that suits you.
6. Celebrate garlic (seasonal)
Started in 1983, the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival takes place every summer and celebrates everything bulbs and cloves have to offer, from recipes and food on-the-go to arts, crafts and music. It's a great family day out. The Garlic Festival 2020 will take place on 15th and 16th August.
7. Osbourne House
The iconic, yellow Osbourne House was once the IOW holiday home of Queen Victoria. Now owned by English Heritage, you can explore the grand exteriors and vast gardens which overlook the Solent. With loads of events on throughout the year, it offers a slice of the island's history and is well worth a visit.
8. Isle of Wight Festival (seasonal)
Their version of Glastonbury, this annual music festival sees the island come to life. 2019 welcomed headliners including George Ezra, Bastille and Lilly Allen. The 2020 dates have been announced as 11th to 14th June.
Where to stay
During our stay, we sampled life on a houseboat, staying on Spinnaker Houseboat through Classic Cottages. There's no better way to connect with the coast than to feel the angle of the houseboat gently ebb and flow with the daily tide.
Situated in Bembridge harbour, the private pontoon had beautiful views across the inlet – the landscape, wildlife and colours of which changed daily depending on the position of the tide.
A 15-minute walk into Bembridge centre, it's perfectly located for pubs, restaurants, shops and public footpaths. It was around an hour's drive to the Needles over on the west of the island.
Don't fancy a houseboat? Browse these holiday cottages...
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