A weekend in the Isle of Wight, Hampshire: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Ellie Ross
From coastal walks to spectacular views and fantastic food, there's plenty to do in the Isle of Wight [Photo: Getty]

Think an island escape sounds like it has to involve jetting off to a far-flung destination? Think again.

Just off the south coast of England, the Isle of Wight is easy to reach from the UK but also feels like a true break once you arrive. Expect sandy beaches, superb nature, cute cafes and a range of accommodation options.

Also nicknamed “bicycle island”, the Isle of Wight is easy to travel around by bike, and nature lovers should also step out to experience the excellent walking trails.

One great route to try is the Tennyson Trail. Named after the Victorian poet who lived on the Island, it takes you through thick forest and across the downs until you reach The Needles, three chalk stacks that rise out of the sea.

READ MORE: A weekend in Rye, East Sussex: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

The Needles, Isle Of Wight, can be accessed via boat [Photo: Getty]
Shanklin, a beautiful old village on the Isle of Wight [Photo: Getty]

Surfers can also get their fix (head to Compton Bay or Freshwater Bay for the best swell) and there are activities on tap to suit families and children of all ages.

History buffs can head to medieval Carisbrooke Castle or Osborne House (once a summer residence for Queen Victoria), art fans can check out the exhibits at Dimbola and keen sailors can soak up the yachting atmosphere in Cowes.

Here’s our guide to where to stay and eat, plus what to do, in the Isle of Wight.

Where to stay

If you’re on a budget

Small and friendly, The Bay Boutique B&B is located just a five-minute walk to Freshwater Bay and Dimbola Museum & Galleries. It has just three rooms, all decorated in vibrant colours, so is just the place if you’re after a homely feel. Breakfast is cooked to order and you can try the homemade yoghurt. The family-run B&B even hire out electric bikes (£35 per day supplement). B&B doubles cost from £42.50pp.

Book the hotel here

The Bay Boutique B&B [Photo: Visit Isle of Wight]

If you’re looking for luxury

With sweeping sea views, landscaped gardens and 14 individually-designed rooms, Haven Hall is just the place for a peaceful stay with added luxe. Located in the village of Shanklin, on the island’s east coast, it’s just a few steps from the cliff path and also has a heated swimming pool and grass tennis court to keep active guests busy. Inside, expect elegant furnishings, crisp sheets and chandeliers. B&B doubles from £210pp. Children must be aged 12 or above.

Book the hotel here

Haven Hall Hotel [Photo: Bookings.com]

Where to eat

If you’re on a budget

A short stroll from Freshwater Bay, The Piano Cafe is a relaxed spot that serves good, affordable – and healthy – fare. Pull up a seat on the outdoor terrace or beside one of the big windows and tuck into fresh pastries for breakfast (£1.75) or a homemade tart with salad for lunch (£7.50). The menu has a vegetarian slant and there’s a daily specials board, and staff are always friendly and also welcome dogs and cyclists.

The Piano Cafe [Photo: Visit Isle of Wight]

If you’re looking for luxury

Head to Newport, where you’ll find Thompson’s Restaurant. Housed inside a pretty red brick building, its kitchen has Robert Thompson at the helm. The UK’s youngest chef ever to be awarded a Michelin Star, Thompson has helped to put the Isle of Wight on the foodie map and a lunch or dinner here is a real treat. Highlights from the creative menu include slow cooked pork belly smoked over apple wood and a “raviole” of strawberries and clotted cream. Seasonal set menu starts at £24 for two courses; an eight-course tasting menu costs from £65.

The modern decor of Thompsons Restaurant [Photo: David Griffen]

What to do

If you’re on a budget

Pull on your walking boots and set out to discover why the Isle of Wight was crowned a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2019. This is a super destination for both cycling and walking – there’s even an annual walking festival (May 2-17 2020) with over 100 scenic walks through nature. For ideas of where to go, check out the recently-launched Slow Travel Guide to the Isle of Wight – a collection of eight routes around the Island that can be explored by bus, bike or on foot.

READ MORE: A weekend in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire: Where to stay, where to eat and what to do

Cycling through the Isle of Wight is fun for all the family [Photo: Slow Wight Travel Guide]

If you’re looking for luxury

For those with a penchant for royal family history, head to Osborne House.

"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot" said Queen Victoria once of the residency, which was her palatial holiday home.

With rooms and corridors filled with ornate artefacts from The Royal Collection, as well as historic state rooms, a private bathing beach and stunning garden terraces - there’s plenty to see.

It’s also a great family day out, the grounds are filled with playgrounds and trails, as well as numerous places to stop for food, including the elegant Terrace Restaurant and Beach Pavilion Ice-Cream Parlour. Adults cost from £18.50pp and children (age 5-17) £11.10pp.

Osborne House is full of royal history [Photo: Getty Images]

How to get there

The Isle of Wight is just over two hours from London, three hours from Birmingham and four hours from Sheffield via ferry or hovercraft. Red Funnel operates daily services between Southampton and East Cowes (from 23 minutes from car ferry terminal; from 55 minutes from passenger ferry terminal). Hovertravel operates a passenger service between Southsea and Ryde (from 10 minutes).

Wightlink also operate services between Portsmouth and Fishbourne (from 45 minutes), Lymington and Yarmouth (from 40 minutes) and Portsmouth Harbour and Ryde (from 22 minutes).

To get around on the Island, bus company Southern Vectis allows visitors to purchase tickets on their smartphones and use them to ride the bus.

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