Families have been visiting the Isle of Wight for nearly two centuries and the island’s tourist board has been promoting 2017 as the Year of Family Adventures – but, of course, any year is ideal for family adventures on this beautiful lump of rock sitting around three miles off the English mainland.
As the tourist board quite rightly say, this fine holiday destination is a real “Adventure Island”, with countless places to see and things to do, all squeezed onto a picturesque island the size of Inner London. In fact, it’s just 24 miles by 13 with over a half designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
My family and I have visited the Isle on a few occasions and we never tire of its allure – one reason being that it’s so easy to reach, with regular vehicle and passenger ferries sailing out of Southampton, Portsmouth, Southsea and Lymington. After a short trip across the water, you enter a world where, seemingly, time ticks just a tad slower, a world away from the hubbub of mainland living.
We had the pleasure of revisiting the Isle of Wight during Summer 2017 and have selected some of our favourite activities and places you won’t want to miss…
The Needles Landmark Attraction
In the far west of the island, The Needles Landmark Attraction has something for everyone. Among the highlights are the spectacular boat trips, the 4D cinema and, one of our favourites, the traditional Alum Bay sand-filling experience. Apparently, Queen Victoria was fascinated by the 21 sandstone shades of the Bay’s cliffs so took away ornamental glass containers filled with the colourful sand. Hollie and Peter followed in her footsteps and enjoyed filling their own container at the Sand Shop.
Make sure you save time to take a ride in the famous chairlift, which carries visitors from the top of the cliff to Alum Bay beach and back again. It’s a truly memorable experience.
You’ll find plenty of things to see and do at the Landmark Attraction; and when you’re feeling peckish, there are eateries to choose from, too. It’s worth buying a book of Supersaver Tickets (£9 for 12 tickets worth £1 each) which can be used on all the rides.
Godshill Model Village
We love model villages and the fine display in the gardens of the Old Vicarage, Godshill, take some beating. When it first opened in the 1950s, the then owner focused on representing buildings seen in nearby Shanklin. Then, when the Thwaite family bought the site in the ’70s, they crafted buildings from sand and cement spotlighting Godshill itself plus populated the streets in the miniature village with hand-crafted figures.
This fine display, set against a backdrop of myriad trees and shrubs, reflects what life was like during the 1930s and is a delight to see. We spent ages walking around, admiring these quaint timeless scenes.
The model village is open March-Oct and should be on everyone’s itinerary.
Isle of Wight Pearl
Driving along the Military Road (A3055) on the island’s south coast is one of the most scenic trips you’ll make – the continuous views of the English Channel are spectacular. Along this route you’ll see Isle of Wight Pearl, a family-owned business dedicated to the art of pearl jewellery.
If you’ve ever wondered where pearls come from or how pearl jewellery is made, this is the place for you. We booked a free, 30-minute Masterclass and learnt so much about the fascinating world of pearls.
As well as working with established jewellery designers, the company has an award-winning in-house design team and many of their creations are on display as you wander around admiring the jewellery.
Before you leave, head for the café, the perfect place to enjoy a delectable cream tea or lunch. If the weather is behaving itself, choose a seat outside and admire the panoramic sea views.
Free parking at the site.
Tee off at Shanklin & Sandown’s mini-golf
Whenever we visit the seaside we always love a game of mini-golf and the Isle of Wight has several to choose from. Our favourites were Pirates Cove Adventure Golf on the Esplanade, Shanklin, and the crazy golf at Sandham Gardens, on Sandown sea front.
Pirates Cove is certainly fun with great features dotted around this 18-hole course, including pirates, fountains, a cave and even a waterfall. It’s open until 9pm in summer, 6pm winter and can get busy. There are two courses to choose from but whichever one you choose, it’s certainly fun.
Although less glamorous, you’ll certainly have just as much fun playing a round on the mini-golf in Sandham Gardens. In fact, we classed it as our ultimate favourite, partly because the cost is very reasonable (especially compared to others) with adults paying £3, kids £2.
Sandown Town Council and Sandown Community Partnership have worked together for years to offer facilities in the gardens – such as the golf, which opens until 9.30pm in summer, 5.30pm in winter – for locals and tourists alike.
Enjoy a coastal walk
With over 500 miles of footpaths around the island to explore, the Isle of Wight is a walker’s paradise. Donning your walking boots and strolling along one of the countless routes is arguably the best way to see the varied scenery, everything from breathtaking cliffs and rolling lush fields to endless sandy beaches and pretty villages.
We enjoy a walk, particularly along the coast, and one we’d recommend can be linked to your day at The Needles Landmark Attraction. Take the opportunity to walk along the coast to gain a superb view of The Needles, the iconic rock formation.
One of the vantage points is at the Old Battery, from where you can take a peek at the famous lighthouse plus learn something about the history of the location.
Another walk, part coastal and part inland, is the 6-mile Warrior Trail. This relatively new circular walk in the west follows in the hoof-prints of the isle’s famous war horse, Warrior, who, along with rider General Jack Seely, became First World War heroes after surviving many conflicts. This trail explores the route where the horse exercised and trained.
To learn about the horse’s story, visit the exhibition at nearby Carisbrooke Castle and admire the bronze statue of Warrior with General Jack Seely in the gardens.
Where to stay:
We stayed at Rookley Park, just one of three parks owned by Island View Holidays which spread over 40 collective acres of countryside. Arguably its main selling point is the location. Virtually slap bang in the centre of the island means it’s ideally situated for exploring every corner of the Isle of Wight. (Read a full review on this site)
Isle of Wight Tourism, 01983 813813, www.visitisleofwight.co.uk
Wightlink Ferries, 0333 999 7333, www.wightlink.co.uk
Island View Holidays, 01983 721606, www.islandviewholidays.co.uk
The Needles Landmark Attraction, 0871 7200022, www.theneedles.co.uk
Isle of Wight Pearl, 01983 740352, www.iowpearl.com
Godshill Model Village, 01983 840270, www.modelvillagegodshill.co.uk
Shanklin Seafront, 01983 867585, www.shanklinseafront.co.uk
Sandham Gardens Crazy Golf, 01983 408287, www.sandown-bay.co.uk/sandham-gardens
Reviewed: August 2017