A popular UK holiday destination, the Isle of Wight lies around 6 miles off the south coast of England and is reachable by ferry from the southern ports of Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth. One of the largest of England’s many isles, at 24 miles across, the island first made a name for itself in the Victorian era, becoming a fashionable seaside resort for the upper class.
Today, the traditional villages and pristine beaches (celebrated as some of the best in the UK) remain the island’s key attractions and the island’s two major summer festivals—Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival—draw huge crowds to its shores.
Affectionately nicknamed ‘England In Miniature’ for its surprising variety of scenery, the Isle of Wight has plenty of striking vistas, as well as a rich history behind its smugglers’ coves and ancient forts, and some of the most celebrated dinosaur fossil sites in the world.
The famous multi-hued sand of Alum Bay is one of the most distinctive sights, with graded vials of sand making popular souvenirs; the dramatically collapsed gorge of Blackgang Chine is home to one of the world’s oldest theme parks; the ‘Needles’ headland fronts the western tip of the island with its iconic rocky peaks; and the Norman Carisbrooke Castle is one of the most visited attractions with its ancient donkey-driven well.
Planning a Trip? Check out Viator’s England travel recommendations.
With such a picturesque backdrop and over half of the island designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Beauty’, it’s no surprise that Isle of Wight travelers spend most of their time outdoors. 500 miles of footpaths and bridleways trace the island, offering a variety of options for hikers and horse riders, and adventure activities like tree climbing and coasteering (navigating the rocky coastline on foot, often including cliff-jumping and swimming) have also taken off, maintaining the island’s reputation for the eco-friendly.
Cycling is another popular pastime, with over 200 miles of cycle trails, including the 12-mile circular ‘Sunshine Trail’ that runs through the villages of Sandown, Shanklin, Godshill and Wroxhall and the 13-mile ‘Troll Trail’ starting out in Cowes.
Water sports have taken over the shoreline in recent years, spearheaded by the popularity of Cowes, a major yachting center that hosts the world’s biggest international yachting event, the annual Cowes Week (an event so prestigious it’s even attended by the Royal family). Windsurfing, sailing and paragliding all make good use of the UK’s high winds, but with the most sunshine hours of anywhere in the country, they’ll be plenty of opportunity to simply relax and soak up some rays.