Stunning shorelines, white cliffs and rich woodlands come together in Isle of Wight, England’s largest island. Once a fashionable summer retreat for the royals, rich and the famous, these days the island is a popular destination for boat races, music festivals, impressive dinosaur fossil quarries and scenic coastal walks.
The Isle of Wight is a small island but it offers plenty of activities to do for all visitors of all ages. One can explore the island independently on foot, by bike, by car, or by public transport. Alternatively one can join a group and explore the island with the help of a guide who will drive you to the various key destinations while you relax, taking in the magnificent views in between the journeys. While there are many ways to experience this beautiful island, here are 4 key ways to explore the Isle of Wight for you to consider:
1 | Explore the Isle of Wight independently on foot
Exploring the island on foot is not easy. You can either start your day from the time of arrival at East Cowes or you may want to undertake one of the coastal walks which covers beautiful villages, stunning coastlines and key landmarks.
1.1 | A day’s itinerary
For a day visit and to explore on foot, as a brief guide, you could begin your discovery of the island from the ferry terminal at East Cowes and make your first stop at Osborne House, followed by a visit to St Mildred’s Church. Break for lunch at Folly Inn, a pub perched on the banks of River Medina, popular for its fish + chips!.
After lunch, continue on along the River to Newport Quay. then following signs to St James Square. In the centre of the square is Newport Minster, the church that was rebuilt by Queen Victoria to house the remains of Princess Elizabeth, Charles I daughter. Around the outside and the back of the church is a Victorian tea room where you could stop for refreshments. Depending on your return ferry to the mainland, you may want to start heading back to East Cowes.
1.2 | More than a day
If you have more than a day in the island or if you drive, you could pick any one of the six coastal routes recommended by Visit Isle of Wight to explore by foot.
Essential to have: Suitable and waterproof footwear. Water. Depending on time of year, a jacket.
2 | Explore the Isle of Wight independently by bike
The Isle of Wight is renowned as one of the top cycling destinations in the world. Rewarded with one of the best scenery in UK, the island offers two hundred miles of cycle tracks, byways and bridleways to be explored.
The complete round the island route covers 65 miles and this can be adapted to suit individual abilities. Depending on the number of days you have on the island, you can select to split and shortened the route over the number of days.
2.1 | A one-day visit to the island
Once in Cowes, look out for signs of cycle route round the island. The first leg of your route is to Northwood Park, home to Northwood House. Northwood House held many high society events attended by Queen Victoria. Surrounded by a large and beautiful garden, Northwood House is retained in its original style and offers great views over Cowes and Solent.
From Northwood House, follow round the island cycle route towards Cowes seafront. This route has the Solent to your right. Heading towards Gurnard and you will reach Egypt Point, midway which was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite places to watch for sunset. Continue on to Gurnard and stop for lunch. There are several options for food and for light refreshments here.
Depart Gurnard, cycle back to East Cowes and follow the round the island cycle route towards Whippingham, where you could visit St Mildred’s Church. St Mildred’s was a royal favourite and attended by the royal family for Sunday worship. The church was re-designed by Prince Albert to accommodate the royal presence. Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice was married here.
From St Mildred’s, you could make your way to River Medina for some refreshments before heading back to the ferry point at East Cowes.
2.2 | Family-friendly routes
Isle of Wight is a perfect destination for family holidays and there are lots of places for children to develop their skills. For some inspiration, you could try any one or all of the following three routes suggested by Visit Isle of Wight:
Need more tips on planning your cycling route? Get one of the following guide books on cycling around the Isle of Wight.
3 | Explore the Isle of Wight by car or public transport
Isle of Wight has great roads! Clear signposting and easy to navigate. The road goes around the island offering beautiful scenic journeys.
The use of public transportation in the island is a convenient way to explore. The buses are regular and cover key locations of the island for a quick tour. The journey also takes you through some of the most stunning scenery of the coastlines.
Exploring the Isle of Wight by car couldn’t be easier. You have the luxury to pull-up when you like to capture the best views or just take your time over a clifftop picnic and watch the world roll by.
Whether you are exploring by car or by public transport, the most popular destination in Isle of Wight is the Needles Rocks at the Needles Landmark Attraction in Alum Bay. The Needles rocks is a spectacular image not to be missed. You can take the chairlift or a boat ride for a close look at the rocks and the lighthouse. Besides The Needles, Osborne House along with Ventnor Botanic Garden are equally popular for a visit.
If you are looking for more activities to do, head over to Shanklin Chine or Carisbrooke Castle for a day full of exciting adventures.
You may find the following articles helpful also:
26 Very Best Places to Stay on the Isle of Wight
The Victorian Love Affair with the Isle of Wight
The Unmissable Enthralling Needles Rocks and Lighthouse
The Historic Needles Batteries
Where to go for the Very Best Views of The Needles
Unmissable 9 fun things to do at Carisbrooke Castle
Top 9 Super Spooky & Haunted Places on the Isle of Wight
finally, the absolute MUST READ > The Complete Guide to the Isle of Wight England’s Best Haven
4 | Explore the Isle of Wight with an organised tour
Exploring Isle of Wight with guided tours sometimes offer real island experiences – from entertaining, informative and educational tours to best loved, secret sights and sounds the island has to offer. Guided tours come with well-planned itineraries and booking the best accommodations on the island, affording you more time to enjoy your trip. Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
4.1 | Day trip from London
Travel by luxury coach from London and cross over to Isle of Wight by ferry. This tour is offered by our trusted partner, Get Your Guide.
The tour will take you Godshill for the magnificent thatched cottages that seems out of a picture book, to the village of Shanklin (not to be mistaken with Shanklin Chine) and two sandy beaches. You will also have plenty of time to explore on your own. Learn more and book this trip by clicking on the graphic.
4.2 | Multi-day trip to Isle of Wight
This multi-day trip to Isle of Wight is for three days and covers some locations on the south coast of England. This is a small group tour offered by our trusted partner, Get Your Guide.
This tour takes you to key historical landmarks on the island including The Needles, Osborne House, Yarborough Monument and Cliffs of St Catherine’s Down. Includes 2 nights accommodation
Good to know when considering exploring Isle of Wight either independently or on a guided tour
1 | Save time and money
You can save time and money at many of the Isle of Wight’s attractions with pre-booked admission tickets.
You need to book a preferred time slot for both Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle, so purchasing a ticket before day of visit is highly encouraged.
2 | Enjoy unlimited access
For an annual membership, enjoy unlimited access to over 400 properties in England by becoming a member of English Heritage. Both Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle are managed by English Heritage which means you can visit as many times in a year and you can take along your kids as well.
3 | Special deal for Overseas Visitors
Overseas visitors who want a simple way to explore the historical landmarks in England can purchase an attraction pass by English Heritage. For one small price, an oversea visitor has access to over 100 properties including Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle along with Stonehenge and Dover Castle in the mainland which are also visitors’ favourite.
The Overseas Visitor Attraction Pass by English Heritage is valid for 9 – 16 days from first validation and is offered by our trusted partner, Get Your Guide. Alternatively, purchase the Pass from English Heritage. Read the complete guide and why this is an excellent value for overseas travellers > English Heritage Overseas Visitor Pass
4 | Best time to explore the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is a good destination to explore at anytime of the year because of its microclimate conditions. However, the island is at its best in the summer but it is also the busiest and most expensive. To enjoy the island minus the crowd, go in spring or fall. Most attractions are closed in winter.
On a final note…
The Isle of Wight is a splendid island to getaway to whether you choose to explore independently by foot, bike, car, and public transportation or as part of a group tour. The island offer plenty of activities to do along with one of the best scenic views in the UK. The weather is generally better than the rest of UK and getting around is not as awkward as in can be in some islands.
There are more articles on Isle of Wight, England’s best haven if you are looking to plan your own itinerary. Stay at one of the fabulous accommodations on the island and find out where to go for some breathtaking views of the world famous, The Needles.
Affiliate links are sprinkled on all articles. This means that I earn a commission at no cost to you at all from a qualified booking or purchase sale if you choose to use them. As always, I appreciate your continued support.
Sincere wish is that this article has helped you to plan your visit to this remarkable island. However you choose to explore the Isle of Wight, have a splendid timeless vacation.
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4 key ways to explore the Isle of Wight first published at timelesstravelsteps.com. Last update was on September 7, 2022
Sounds like a plan – Isle of Wight is a beautiful haven for many, many things to do, no matter one’s interests. Coastal walks sounds great 🙂
I have so many memories of holidays on the Isle of Wight as a child. I have visited a number of times since but you have inspired me. As I am planning to spend more time in the UK, I love the idea of exploring on the coastal pathways. My Uncle used to go a lot & walk around the island, maybe it’s time I followed in his footsteps 😉
Thank you so much Bella 🙂 Isle of Wight is such a beautiful island and I hope you will visit one day.
looks like such a wonderful place! I love all the cliffs so pretty!!!
I even considered moving to Isle of Wight at one point – such a fabulous island often missed, and you are correct with international travel being less likely this year, Isle of Wight makes a perfect destination.
Nice blog and great timing. We have good friends on the Island and have planned and cancelled a good few visits this last year. With foreign travel looking iffy for this year the IOW has become one of our preferred destinations and we were starting to look at what is possible to do, where to go and the best Ferry route for us
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