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Ventnor, Isle of Wight

The 11 best things to do on the Isle of Wight

Explore England’s closest Channel Island with our guide to the best things to do on the Isle of Wight

Joe Minihane
Written by
Danielle Goldstein
Joe Minihane

The Isle of Wight is an enduringly popular destination for staycationing Brits. That’s partly due to sheer convenience: the quickest ferry will get you there in 30 minutes (from Lymington) and the longest in an hour (from Southampton), or you can go from Portsmouth in 45 minutes. But it's also perfect for anyone looking to explore some of the country's most idyllic countryside, eat in amazing restaurants or stay in gorgeous hotels. Here's round up of the best things to do on the Isle of Wight.

Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.

Best things to do on the Isle of Wight

St Catherine’s Oratory
© Tim Firkins

1. St Catherine’s Oratory

What is it? A lookout that stands on one of the highest points of the island, known locally as the Pepperpot.

Why go? It's the only remaining medieval lighthouse in England and looks a bit like a stone rocket (although those buttresses at the bottom were added much later). The tower was built in 1328 by Walter de Godeton in an attempt to atone for stealing wine from a shipwreck; a priest would operate a light at the top while praying for lost sailors. Take a tour of the newer , still-working St Catherine's Lighthouse too, built in 1838 and just a few miles away at Niton Undercliffe.

What is it? One of the UK's oldest working vineyards

Why go? The award-winning sparkling wines made at Adgestone Vineyard have helped the Isle of Wight become one the UK's best wine growing regions. The beautiful setting, on sloping hills overlooking the sea, make this the perfect place to while away a day. You can order a picnic and enjoy a glass while watching daily concerts, held every weekend between 1pm and 3pm.


What is it? The Isle of Wight's hottest restaurant

Why go? The cocktails alone make this waterfront spot in Ryde a must visit. But with an ever changing menu serving up dishes made using ingredients grown and reared locally, from both land and see, The Duck has carved out a reputation as the island's best place to eat.

What is it? A leisurely tour of the island from the water.

Why go? Given its direct connections to Southampton, the northern seaport town of Cowes has acquired a thriving boating community. It’s the perfect spot from which to experience the open water and you don’t need to be a pro sailor to do so. Plenty of companies offer a skipper with your boat hire. If you’re around in August check out Cowes Week, featuring daily boat races, live music, stalls, pop-up bars, and fireworks displays.


What is it? Lovingly restored vintage locomotives running along a five-mile route.

Why go? See how people and goods travelled round the island in the old days on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. The trains stop at four old rural stations, which you can enjoy from the comfort of the Edwardian and Victorian carriages or hop off and have a look around. Island Heritage Train Days run once a month, offering visitors a chance to see 'Island pedigree' and goods trains, as well as learning more in the Discovery Centre.

Image © Justin Foulger

What is it? Yoga. On a paddle board. On the water.

Why go? Bored with pulling the same old yoga poses on land? Try them on water: iSurf Mobile Surf School works with Balance and Glo's yoga teachers to offer SUP (stand-up paddleboard) yoga lessons at various locations off the island. The sea provides a meditative backdrop and thoroughly challenges your sense of balance, therefore suitably strengthening your core. If water’s not your thing, book into the Erling’s Yoga, a yoga-focused B&B in Shanklin on the southeast coast.


What is it? An indulgent afternoon treat at the historic Royal hotel.

Why go? Founded in 1832, The Royal is one of the oldest hotels on the island and was once a favourite spot of Queen Victoria. The Royal Afternoon Tea, served from 3pm to 5pm daily, includes finger sandwiches, scones, mini pastries and cakes, tea/coffee for £25. Add a glass of Champagne for an extra £8. If you’re on a budget (or diet) opt for the Cream Tea, which comes with either scones or cake.

What is it? A trio of pointy chalk rocks that have iconic status on the Isle of Wight.

Why go? Being the unique shape that they are, the Needles create a striking silhouette just off the western tip of the island. They’re accompanied by a lone lighthouse that’s stood at the edge of the rocks since the nineteenth century, warning ships in the night. Get a birds-eye view of the Needles via chairlift, which also provides a quick route down to Alum Bay beach. In winter, this is often the windiest place in Britain.


What is it? An alpaca farm set up by husband and wife duo Neil and Michelle Payne in 2010.

Why go? The Paynes offer treks with rare Suri alpacas, as well as llamas, in the village of Wellow. After getting to know the four-legged furries, you can pick up some themed goods in the shop, with numerous items spun from alpaca hair. The adjacent Llama Tree café makes for a good spot for lunch, serving stone-baked pizzas of both savoury and sweet varieties.

What is it? A haven for word nerds and literary collectors.

Why go? Babushka Books care just as much about literature as you do, describing themselves as ’an orphanage of unwanted books waiting for a new home’. They stock newbies, oldies and stunning special editions. They also sell a range of fully serviced and working vintage typewriters. If you can’t make it to the shop, you can order from Babushka online and they’ll send your book out in retro (and protective) packaging, with a personalised, hand-typed thank-you note.


What is it? A restaurant in a renovated old seaside haunt in Sandown.

Why go? Get a food experience with a slice of history at The Bandstand. This modest space has been artfully restored from a neglected old bandstand (hence the name) on Bembridge embankment. Glass surrounds the dining area, providing 360-degree views of Sandown Bay and Culver Parade as you tuck into fresh seafood and seasonal British dishes. The Bandstand is less than a ten-minute walk from the Isle of Wight Zoo - a trip here is the ideal way to work up an appetite.

Looking for a place to stay on the Isle of Wight?

  • Hotels

As far as places to stay go, accommodation ranges from smart, family-run B&Bs and Victorian cottages turned boutique hotel to miniature houses, safari tents and even – get this – an early 19th-century maritime fortress in the middle of the Solent. 

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