For anyone who has traveled to England before, I am sure you are all aware of the stereotypical tourist spots such as London, Manchester, Cambridge, Oxford, The Cotswolds and Stonehenge. However, one of the lesser well known spots is located just off the south coastline of England and this really is a true ‘hidden gem in the English Channel’ for anyone wanting to just get away, relax and enjoy some beautiful scenery yet still have plenty of things to do.
The Isle of Wight is actually classified as a county of England and is located about 10 miles from the famous sea port of Southampton. The island is easily accessible with car ferries leaving on the hour 24 hours a day from three different locations, namely Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington and they all dock at different spots on the island including Cowes, Ryde and Yarmouth. Depending on where you are located prior to heading to the island will likely determine which of these ports you set sail from but each one is very similar in terms of distance.
The ferry crossing across “The Solent” takes about 45 minutes and is for the most part pleasant though the weather can get a little rough sometimes causing people to stay under cover rather than venture upstairs onto the top deck to take in the beautiful Hampshire scenery in the background as you head away from the mainland. The Isle of Wight has quite a lot of history and heritage with the famous poet Tennyson residing here and also Queen Victoria who built her beloved Osborne House here which became her final residence.
The island is famous for their “Isle of Wight Festival” that takes place on an annual basis and has played host to many leading performers including Chicago, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Miles Davis and The Doors. There are a variety of great little seaside towns worth visiting on the island but here are our top 5 spots to visit if you are given the chance to explore this beautiful island:
Newport is the capital of the Isle of Wight and subsequently is located in the heart of the island with easy access to all parts of the island from this hub. If shopping is your thing, the main street here is packed full of leading British shops plus you can always find a bargain along the way by visiting some local “junk” shops! There is a myriad of dining options available for all taste buds so I am sure you will find something that you will enjoy! Newport combines a rich sense of history with modern architecture and this is very typically seen in the array of buildings available. At one extreme is the “Roman Villa” settlements that are still visible while the modern era is identified by the new bus station that are clearly pursuing the eco-friendly approach of public transportation.
I have visited the Isle of Wight many times growing up as a youngster and I will always remember Shanklin as being one of my favourite towns to visit. I am not really sure why because in reality there is very little to do there, but it is such a quaint village situated on the coastline but also the main street feels like it is on the side of a hill as you start at the top and work your way down into the valley.
One place that we would both highly recommend visiting is “The Crab Inn” which is a great little English pub situated in the bottom of Shanklin and offers wonderful food and drink. The beer garden is substantial in size and is a great way to spend a summer’s evening relaxing with a cold beer. If beach life is more your thing, well Shanklin beach offers a stretch of glorious golden sand well worth a visit. As I mentioned earlier, Shanklin is situated on a hill and while the beach is at the very bottom of the hill, there is a lift available to take locals and tourists from the town to the beach and back.
Situated just down the road from Shanklin, Sandown is a similarly sized seaside resort which has a healthy tourist population due to the sea front hotels and accommodations on offer. One of the highlights in Sandown is “Brown’s” which is a family park offering 18 hole pitch and putt courses, crazy golf and a cafe. Sandown offers an assortment of pubs and restaurants in addition to this. If you have the time, why not venture along the seafront from Brown’s and walk all the way to Shanklin. It is about 5-6 miles but it really is a pleasant walk!
In the north-east corner of the island is the town of Ryde which is the most populous town on the island. Ryde is home to a large esplanade area which has always been an attraction for tourists, especially those day-tripping from the mainland, as the amenities are all available by walking from the pier. A swimming pool, bowls club, ice rink, bowling alley, and boating lake are among the attractions here. Probably our favourite highlight in Ryde was the “Waltzing Waters” which is a spectacular indoor water display in tandem with music.
The world’s most elaborate water, light & music productions!
Visitors are overwhelmed by thousands of dazzling patterns
of moving water synchronised with music!
One of the most beautiful spots on the Isle of Wight is located at Alum Bay. The Needles is a row of three distinctive stacks of chalk that rise out of the sea off the western extremity of the island and is a must see for all visitors. Alum Bay hosts a variety of attractions including a miniature theme park with rides for the kids, glass blowing activities, creating ornaments filled with different colours of sand and also a ski lift which takes you down to the bottom where you can hop on a fishing boat to tour around the chalk cliffs!