Stunning beaches, idyllic countryside and elegant sailing towns, the Isle of Wight has it all. The largest island in England, the IOW makes for a great holiday destination, with many attractions and events to entice you.

Newport, found in the centre of the island, has several historical and architectural attractions - as well as shopping, good restaurants and entertainment. Ryde is the island's largest town and has a lovely seafront with sandy beaches. To the north, the pedestrianised maritime town of Cowes is famous for its sailing and yachting events.

Car ferries are available from Southampton via Red Funnel, and Portsmouth or Lymington via Wightlink. High speed passenger services are operated by Red Funnel (from Southampton to Cowes), Wightlink (from Portsmouth to Ryde) and Hovertravel (Southsea to Ryde).

Our favourite things to do on the Isle of Wight

  • The Needles
  • Ryde
  • Brading Roman Villa
  • The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary

The coastline

Given 57 miles of stunning coastline, it's no surprise that sailing and water sports of all kinds are very popular on the Isle of Wight. Sandown and Shanklin beaches are great for swimming and water sports, with traditional resorts offering all of the facilities you might need. Compton Bay is the place to head for surfing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

There are 17 Blue Flag and Seaside Award beaches, including at Shanklin, Sandown and Ventnor. Ryde and Appley offer the biggest beaches, while Bembridge beach has loads of rock pools to explore and is good for families. Colwell Bay is dog friendly and very picturesque.

The Needles are the Isle of Wight's most famous natural attraction, and the chalk cliffs and lighthouse are a must see. The park has a fun chairlift which offers stunning views.

Cowes Week is an eight day sailing regatta held every year on the island in August. It is one of the longest running and largest sailing regattas in the world, attracting a huge crowd of visitors and participants - so is definitely worth a visit if the timing is right.

Dinosaurs, Romans and Royalty

An unusual combination perhaps, but there is a rich history to be explored on the Isle of Wight. Even the first ferry service dates back to 1420!

Known as Dinosaur Island, the Isle of Wight is one of the most important areas in Europe for fossils. You can search for fossilised footprints at Brook Beach and Compton Bay (Island Gems and Footprint Tours both offer fossil hunts) or explore prehistoric tombs around Mottistone. The interactive Dinosaur Isle museum in Sandown is great fun too.

For exploring more recent history, the award-winning Brading Roman Villa, the sole surviving windmill at Bembridge and Quarr Abbey (home to an active Benedictine monk community), are all well worth a visit.

The island also has several castles and manor houses of both local and national significance. Osborne house is an imposing building built by Queen Victoria and has a fascinating history, while Carisbrook Castle, a motte and bailey castle, is where Charles I was imprisoned. 

Other interesting museums on the island include the Shipwreck and Maritime Museum in Arreton, the Bembridge Heritage Centre and the Lilliput Antique Doll and Toy Museum, in Brading. The Ventnor Heritage Museum tells of the history of the island and is also worth a visit.

Festivals

Given the island's excellent walking and cycling trails (500 miles of footpaths and 165 miles of bridleways, with the Isle of Wight Coastal Path a highlight), it should be no surprise that there is a popular walking festival twice a year, as well as annual cycling festival.

The IOW also hosts two major music festivals in the summer - the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival.

Produce is a big deal too - and the Garlic Festival in August is always popular (the region is home to the UK's largest specialist garlic grower). If your visit doesn't coincide with that, consider a trip to the Garlic Farm in Sandown. It's an excellent day trip where you can learn about the different varieties of garlic, its remarkable benefits, and even pick some of your own. There are also farmer's markets every Friday and Saturday where you can purchase award-winning cheese, meat, seafood, honey and more.

The House of Chilli is excellent too.

Several island breweries and vineyards offer tours and tastings - Adgestone is one of the oldest vineyards in Britain.

Family days out

Who doesn't love donkeys? Animal lovers young and old should not miss the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary in Ventnor, where you can meet the wonderful rescued donkeys and see them being lovingly looked after.

Exotic wildlife are on show at both the Isle of Wight Zoo and Amazon World Zoo Park (with parrots and giant anteaters). Monkey Haven is the place to go and meet monkeys, gibbons, capuchins and other interesting animal species, while domestic animals appear at Coleman's Activity and Play Farm Park.

The Butterly and Fountain World in Wootton offers under cover gardens and thousands of butterflies as well as fountains and a fairytale grotto. Parkhurst Forest and Ventnor Botanic Gardens are both some of the few places in England to catch sight of our beloved red squirrels.

If you are looking for a thrill, the Isle of Wight also has three theme parks - including the hugely popular Blackgang Chine, Needles Park and Robin Hill Adventure Park and Gardens.

For something more relaxed, head to Godshill Model Village, or the captivating Mottistone Gardens.

For more ideas, please visit our things to do on the Isle of Wight pages.