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Easily accessible with beautiful beaches, serious royal connections, excellent walking and cycle paths, and plenty of family-friendly attractions, the Isle of Wight is a fantastic choice for a staycation in the UK.

When Queen Victoria wanted to escape the city, she came to her sprawling home on the Isle of Wight. It’s easy to see why: sandy beaches stretch for miles, dark skies twinkle come sunset (it’s now even an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve) and the lush countryside is teeming with wildlife.

Today, there’s even more to get stuck into. The island’s museums cover everything from dinosaurs (the Isle of Wight is renowned for its fossils) to local art and thousands of years of history, while kids of all ages are catered to at its theme parks, which include Tapnell Farm Park and Robin Hill.

Plus, the Isle of Wight is incredibly easy to get to, especially if you’re visiting from the south of England. Ferry and catamaran services connect Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington with Ryde, Cowes, East Cowes, Fishbourne and Yarmouth, and there’s a dedicated hovercraft service for foot passengers from Portsmouth. 

The Isle of Wight doesn’t let its tiny size get in the way of offering up a feast of activities. Whether you’re considering a short weekend break or plan to stay on for a longer staycation, this pint-size island has more than enough to keep you busy.

Best things to do on a weekend break

You can tick off a lot on a weekend break to the Isle of Wight. Top of your list should be a visit to Osborne, Queen Victoria’s former seaside residence. This opulent property is filled with priceless antiques, and its surrounding grounds are equally stunning. Walk around its colourful garden or enjoy sea view from her private beach.

Feel like stretching your legs? One of the best walks on the island is the circular Freshwater Bay to the Needles route, where you can see the island’s most stunning natural attraction. Take the chairlift down to the beach to see the chalk stacks up close. For a longer ramble, choose a section of the Coastal Path that circles the island.

Best things to do for families

Young kids will love Sandham Gardens, with its Skynets (huge, enclosed trampolines), go-karting course and dinosaur-themed mini-golf course. You’ll find it in Sandown, a colourful town that is also home to the brilliant Dinosaur Isle museum, where budding palaeontologists can learn about the island’s connections with these prehistoric predators.

A day at the beach is also a given, but away from the coast, the whole family will enjoy a ride on the restored Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Arrive early at main station, Havenstreet, to spend some time browsing the museum and watching the falconry display before enjoying the return journey through scenic countryside.

Best beaches on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is fringed with excellent beaches. Sandown is known for its long, wide stretches of golden sand, and is especially popular with sunbathers keen to avoid the windier spots – its sheltered position means you’re less likely to spend the day chasing after errant beach towels. On its north end, you’ll find the quieter, but no less pretty, Yaverland Beach.

On the island’s western side is Compton Bay. Backed by multi-coloured sandstone cliffs, it’s incredibly popular with families who aren’t fussed about facilities – while it’s easily accessible, there’s basically just a large car park and a well-maintained toilet block. For full the bucket-and-spade holiday experience, head to Shanklin Beach, where there are kayaks and pedalos for hire, an arcade and plenty of eating options.

Best restaurants and bars on the Isle of Wight

The seafronts at Shanklin and Sandown are lined with brilliant beach cafés, which means no shortage of traditional seaside grub – think fish and chips, candyfloss and ice creams.

Cowes has some of the Isle of Wight’s best restaurants, including Tonino’s, an Italian restaurant that has been satisfying locals’ hunger pangs since 1979. There are also some delicious afternoon teas on offer on the Isle of Wight, the one served at Brighstone’s Pearl Café has possibly the best views overlooking the Needles.

There’s no shortage of delicious pub grub either, but Ventnor’s Spyglass Inn, which is famous for its seafood should certainly be on your radar.

Best attractions on the Isle of Wight

Ventnor Botanic Garden is one of the island’s most visited attractions, closely followed by the Needles – a row of thin chalk stacks just off the island’s western tip. They’re best admired from Alum Bay, and the quickest way to get there is via the clifftop chairlift.

There are plenty of lesser-known attractions worth checking out, too. For a history-themed hike, head to Shanklin. John Keats and Charles Darwin were regular visitors, and unmissable locations for history buffs include St Blasius Church, which dates back to the time when Shanklin was just a handful of anglers’ cottages.

Another great location for history buffs is Cowes’ Wight Military and Heritage Museum, where you can learn about the Isle of Wight’s role in the war effort.

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