You’ll know by now that I’m a big fan of islands in general when it comes to travel (maybe because I grew up on one!) and the Isle of Wight off the south coast of the UK is no exception.
This delightful spot involves a ferry ride to get there and, as such, feels like the perfect getaway… without leaving the UK!
With beautiful beaches, great foodie spots and a charming quaint atmosphere, this is staycation heaven… especially when the sun shines.
So if you’re looking for the perfect summer spot to enjoy the best of Britain, then check out these top 15 things to do on the Isle of Wight and prepare to be inspired!
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#1 Hike to the Needles
First up on my list of things to do in the Isle of Wight has to be to head to the most iconic spot on this island – the Needles.
Visible from the mainland – I should know, I’ve seen them from the New Forest – this dramatic natural feature, which I believe is known as a series of stacks in geological terms – creates a striking leading line out into the turquoise waters.
With their distinctive white limestone appearance and their red and white markers, these beautiful giants contrast amazingly with the blue sea around… and make for quite the spectacle!
There’s a number of great walks, of varying lengths, you can enjoy to make your way to The Needles and, as always, I use AllTrails to find a route that matches what I want in terms of length and difficulty.
Here’s the one I did from Freshwater Bay.
#2 Head to Yarmouth Castle
If you’re after Isle of Wight landmarks of a more manmade nature, then it’s hard to overlook Yarmouth Castle when it comes to top things to do over here.
An English Heritage gem – free to enter if you’re a member – this 16th century fortress was built by Henry VII and it’s easy to see why he chose this spot!
With iconic views of The Solent (the body of water that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland), this castle was part of a series of defences built to safeguard this part of the country from the French invading forces.
Now a lovely day activity if you want to take in the watery views, tour the castle and enjoy a picnic in the beautiful gardens – this history-filled gem is a must on your Isle of Wight itinerary.
#3 Eat at the Smoking Lobster
The best restaurant on the Isle of Wight – just check out the TripAdvisor reviews! – eating at the Smoking Lobster down in Ventnor is an absolute must on your list of things to do in the Isle of Wight.
Owned by friends of mine (but I’m not biased, promise!), the ocean views and peaceful charm of the restaurant’s great setting ideally complements the fantastic service and terrific food.
This is low-key dining with world-class cuisine, so don’t miss it!
Ps. I’d book in advance too, because this place gets sold out!
#4 Hit the Beach at Ventnor
And while you’re down in Ventnor, you can’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the fabulous stretch of beach here – after all, what are islands for!
The beautiful orange-tinged sand in this area makes it ideal for families, plus ocean-swimming, and there’s plenty of places to mooch and enjoy along the seafront too.
Just don’t forget your swimmers and your towel… and to enjoy a sundowner in the Spyglass pub (right on the water) afterwards!
Sandown, Appley, Compton and Shanklin are also great beaches on the Isle of Wight, so why not try one of these, or all of them, if you have the time!
#5 SUP, Kayak, Surf, Sail or Windsurf
But it’s not sunbathing, swimming and sandcastle-building that will encourage you to visit the Isle of Wight beaches, then there’s also a ton of watersports to entice you in too.
From stand-up paddleboarding to kayaking, surfing to sailing or windsurfing, all are on offer at various places around the island, as is fishing and even fossil hunting!
All in all, if you’re looking for an active beach adventure, or if you’re travelling as a family with kids to keep amused, the Isle of Wight provides tons of opportunities… and when the weather is great you can’t beat getting out amongst it.
#6 Enjoy the Isle of Wight Festival
And talking about great weather, if the sun is shining, which it often is in this southerly part of the UK, enjoying the annual music festival that takes place on the Isle of Wight is a bucket-list must.
Generally held in September, for this weekend the island gets packed out and the atmosphere is electric.
If you want to enjoy the feel-good vibes with lots of other people and let your hair down while watching some great artists, then this is a cracking UK festival you should experience at least once.
Otherwise, if you’re not after a crowded time on the Isle of Wight… avoid it!
#7 Walk Around the Whole Island
For something more wholesome when you’re on the Isle of Wight, or perhaps to balance all that partying, why not consider a big old stomp?!
And I’m talking big!
Yes you can actually walk around the whole of the Isle of Wight as part of a long, long day if you’re feeling like a real challenge.
Best to do near mid-summer so you have enough daylight, this 70 mile massive walk along the entire coastal path is another bucket list item of mine.
Otherwise, it’s good to know you can split this huge hike into sections and enjoy taking in the full island at a more relaxed pace!
#8 Take a Scenic Drive
And if driving is more your thing than walking, then a scenic drive on the Isle of Wight, or indeed around the whole of it, is a great way to see the island.
Although it is expensive to take your car over here, once you do arrive with your own set of wheels you’ll probably be glad as it will give you ample opportunity to revel in the best of this island, allowing you to get to all the hidden spots.
In particular, the more remote western part has some glorious spots where you can get away from it all and you either park the car to enjoy some great walking trails or discover hidden bays with hardly anyone else around.
Otherwise, being able to check out the small towns of the island, as well as the great cafes, independent shops and pubs in places like Shanklin, is a must.
#9 Try Star-Gazing
And while you’re out there in a remote part of the island, all to yourself, you can’t come to the Isle of Wight and not indulge in a bit of star-gazing.
With large parts of the island designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, light pollution here is very low and the stars, well, they’re amazing!
And if you’re really keen you can even head to the Isle of Wight Observatory to learn more about what you are seeing in those dark and amazing island skies.
#10 Enjoy a Spot of Camping
And the perfect way to enjoy those dark skies well into the evening, and to revel in the wonderful natural environment of the Isle of Wight, is to enjoy a spot of camping on the island.
This is the perfect way to really get that holiday feeling and escape the hustle and bustle of life beyond the island’s shores.
There’s tons of amazing campsites to choose from on the Isle of Wight too – in fact, you’ll be spoilt for choice and from glamping to campervanning or just pitching a good old fashioned tent, there’s enough options here, spread throughout the island, that you’re bound to find the perfect place for it.
Check out my ultimate guide to camping on the Isle of Wight for more details.
It goes without saying this is a key way for budget travellers to enjoy the island especially.
#11 Visit Osbourne House
Another historical gem and an absolute must on this list of the top things to do on the Isle of Wight, Osbourne House is another English Heritage number, which means it’s free to enter for those with membership!
You can already see how membership to this great organisation can add up and, as an aside, either this or National Trust membership (or both) is a great budget travel tip for those who are adventuring a lot in the UK.
Anyway, that aside, Osbourne House is another island spot with links to the Monarchy, as this was once the seaside residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
A palatial mansion, with a huge state significance, wandering the gardens here to take in the beautiful sea views is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
You can also visit some of the State and Family rooms of the house and there’s loads of stuff on offer here for kids to enjoy too.
#12 Hop on a Hovercraft
If you’re looking to kick off your Isle of Wight trip in style, or you’re heading over to the Island just for the day, then you can’t miss the opportunity to jump onboard a hovercraft and revel in this great experience.
Jetting you across from the enclave of Southsea, near Portsmouth, to the island in little over 10 minutes, this is a thrilling experience to get your holiday off to a bang.
A word of warning, the hovercraft is for foot passengers only however, so if you’re bringing your bike, car or lots of luggage to the island, it might not be the one for you!
In this case, check out my guide to catching one of the Isle of Wight ferry services and learn about the full range of options for getting to this island, with or without a car, so you can start planning your trip there.
#13 Do a Vineyard Tastings
But if you are travelling as a foot passenger and therefore not having to worry about drinking and driving, what better way to soak in the island experience at one of the Isle of Wight vineyards?
As one of the sunniest places in the UK (did I mention this yet?!), this is an ideal spot for those grapes to ripen perfectly and if you’re big into your tastings, there’s also a distillery on the island that might grab your attention too.
With onsite-produced gin, vodka and rum, it’s a must if you want to enjoy a very local drink.
All situated in the east of the island, the 2 vineyards (Rosemary Vineyard and Adgestone Vineyard) and the Isle of Wight distillery, offer tastings as well as the chance to buy their products.
Adgestone even boasts a live music events programme and some cosy self-catering accommodation to boot -ideal for not having to worry about how to get home after!
#14 Go Round the Island on a Boat Tour
But now we go back to the high seas (they do surround the island after all) and if you’re don’t want to walk or drive around the Isle of Wight, then perhaps a boat tour will take your fancy instead?
There’s a few companies to choose from here – depending on whether you want a sedate cruise or more of a wild RIB adventure – and most depart from the main towns in the north of the island i.e. Yarmouth, Ryde and Cowes.
Head here to grab a great day out onboard and see the island from another perspective.
#15 Walk through the Botanical Gardens
And finally, last on this list of the top things to do in the Isle of Wight is enjoy the beautiful Botanical Gardens, which date back to the Victorian era.
A bit more sedate than some of the other options on here, this a great option for all the family as these gorgeous gardens are a lovely, peaceful place to unwind and enjoy some relaxed hours on the island.
Located in Ventnor, and open daily from 10am-5pm, adult tickets cost around £10 and can be bought online here.
There’s also a lovely café and restaurant here too, which are the perfect places to enjoy the microclimate these wonderful gardens boast!
Where is the Isle of Wight?
Situated off the south coast of England, the Isle of Wight is closest to the cities of Portsmouth and Southampton in the county of Hampshire.
Portsmouth and Southampton are both easy to access via road or rail, with excellent motorway and public transport connections from around the UK.
These cities are actually nice destinations in themselves, so why not stop for a day or 2 on your way to the Isle of Wight and enjoy them aswell?
Otherwise, if you want to hop straight across to the island, it pays to know that it is separated from the mainland UK by a small stretch of water called The Solent and is accessed via a short ferry ride.
When to Visit the Island?
There’s no question the best time to go to the Isle of Wight is between the months of June and September, when the weather is at its direst, sunniest and warmest.
Not only does this make for a more holiday experience, but the better weather at this time of year will also allow you to enjoy more of the island’s beautiful landscapes too – whether that’s walking or hitting the beach.
That said, this being England it can rain at any time of the year, even in the height of summer, so it pays to come prepared!
I visited the Isle of Wight at the end of September and experienced idyllic weather that saw me hiking under brilliant blue skies every day and sunbathing on the beach, so you just can’t call it!
The only time I would avoid visiting the Isle of Wight is during the main festival weekends here, when the place will be overrun with visitors and the prices of ferries etc will skyrocket.
Unless you’re going to the festival that is!
How to Get to the Isle of Wight
The only way to get to the Isle of Wight is via a ferry or hovercraft ride.
There are a range of services that leave from Southampton, Portsmouth and the New Forest. S
ome services allow for vehicles, others are just for foot passengers.
Learn more about all of the Isle of Wight ferry options, as well as how to get to and from their departure and arrival points, in this article I wrote specifically on the subject.
How to Get Around the Isle of Wight
Once on the island, there is a pretty good public transport but, given the rural nature of the island, it’s probably likely that you’ll opt to bring a car or bike over with you instead.
This will give you less flexibility about the ferry service you can catch, but more flexibility when you do get to the island.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, then hiring a car from wherever you’re departing in the UK is a good option, or you can get to Portsmouth or Southampton via coach or train from around the country and then hire a car from there.
Learn more in these top 12 tips I wrote about hiring a car in the UK on a budget.
If you do want to you use public transport when you are on the Isle of Wight, there are buses that service the island, which are run by a company called Southern Vectis. More information including timetables and fares can be found here.
There’s also a rail service on the Isle of Wight you can use to get along the east coast and which is operated by Southwestern trains. Learn more here.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Wight
Camping is a great option for those of us who want to enjoy a trip to the Isle of Wight on a budget.
I’ve actually written a full post about camping on the Isle of Wight, so check out the full details, as well as my top recommended campsites, here.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for a bit more comfort, glamping is a great mix between revelling in the Isle of Wight’s natural landscape and staying somewhere with a bit of luxury.
The top website VRBO have some great options, like this cute 2 bedroom cottage a 2 minute walk from the beach at Seaview or this 5 bedroom modern house in Cowes which sleeps up to 10 people and would be great for a family or friend get-together.
Otherwise, if you’re looking for a catered stay on the Isle of Wight, check out this top-rated bed and breakfast, which is right by the beach in Shanklin.
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So there it is, my list of the top 15 things to do in the Isle of Wight, as well as my top travel tips for visiting this island.
I hope you found this post useful in planning your trip to this gorgeous part of the UK.
Still have any Isle of Wight travel questions?
Then drop them into the comments box below and I’ll get back to you….