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Things to do in the Isle of Wight for Families
The Isle of Wight is a brilliant family holiday destination for either a short break or a full week long holiday. If you get good weather there are some stunning beaches, but we are talking about the UK here so we’ve got to be prepared for inclement weather, luckily there are plenty of Isle of Wight activities to entertain you on less than sunny days.
We travelled to the Isle of Wight in May 2017. It was May half term and the girls were 3 and 4 years old. This Isle of Wight Itinerary worked brilliantly for their age and would certainly work for toddlers or slightly older children too.
Isle of Wight Family Holiday: Travel Logistics
We took the ferry from Portsmouth, and given that we were only travelling from Sussex the journey took far longer than expected. The queues around Portsmouth were epic, we clearly weren’t the only ones headed to the island for half term! Plan plenty of time if you don’t want to miss your ferry!
The ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Fishbourne is 45 minutes. You can also travel Portsmouth to Ryde in 22 minutes (pedestrians and cyclists only, no cars) or you can travel from Lymington to Yarmouth in 40 minutes. Lots of Isle of Wight residents actually commute to the mainland for work, and it’s not surprising when you consider the short journey times.
Oh the ferry ride … What a fun experience for the little ones. The holiday definitely started on the the ferry for our girls – it’s all about the journey right?!
The weather was slightly overcast and cold on the way out so we spent most of the journey inside the ferry, we took colouring books for the girls and they loved having their little table, some snacks from the cafe and the fabulous views of the water out of their window. The journey home had better weather and we spent most of the crossing outside on deck.
We stayed in an AirBnb within walking distance of Yarmouth, right on the sea front and having taken our car on the ferry we had the freedom to travel all over the island to explore.
Isle of Wight Top Attractions
You cannot go to the Isle of Wight and not visit The Needles; it is one of the top attractions in the Isle of Wight. The Needles are part of the iconic scenery of the Isle of Wight and must form part of any Isle of Wight Family Itinerary.
There is plenty of parking available at The Needles Landmark Attraction and National Trust Members get a discount. Check out how to become a National Trust Member here.
The Needles are 3 stacks of chalk just off the coast at Alum Bay and according to their website https://www.theneedles.co.uk they are one of the most photographed groups of rocks in the world! Which is handy, because looking back at my photos of the day we visited I didn’t take many pictures of the rocks at all! Almost all my photos are of the kids.
The area has been turned into an Isle of Wight theme park or ‘Landmark Attraction’ and there’s plenty to do there besides look at the chalky rocks and lighthouse. The Needles was one of our favourite days out on the Isle of Wight.
The Needles Chairlift
We loved the chairlift down to Alum Bay Beach. It has great views and once at the bottom the girls could play in the sand and have a paddle. It’s not the most impressive beach by any means, it’s small and busy with all the other visitors coming down the chairlift but so long as it’s not pouring with rain, it’s a lovely spot to watch boats, paddle in the clear water and collect pebbles and shells (are you even a parent if you don’t leave every beach with a pocket full of special shells or stones?) before you head back up the chair lift. It’s also where you would board the Pleasure Boat for a trip around the rocks and lighthouse if you wanted to add that to your Isle of Wight family itinerary.
Once you’re back up on the Alum Bay cliff top there are plenty of things to do. Children loved the Victorian carousel and there are lots of other rides and traditional games for the family. We had kid’s entertainment in the form of a magic show. You can watch your favourite, traditional sweets being manufactured in the sweet factory and of course, buy them in the sweet shop. We really liked watching the glass blowing in the Alum Bay Glass factory. And again you have the chance to by Alum Bay Glass in the shop attached.
And not to be missed – the Sand Shop. Alum Bay has such a beautiful, natural variety of coloured sand and creating sand souvenirs has been one of the traditional things to do in Isle of Wight since victorian times. In the usual way, there are around 21 different colours to use in creating your unique sand art. The shop has a (very sensible) policy of only collected sand from natural rock fall so not all colours will be available at all times.
This is a great day out on the Isle of Wight for families if you know the weather will be mixed. There’s plenty of indoor and outdoor options for keeping everyone entertained. Tapnell Farm is an old dairy farm with animals, indoor and outdoor play and a lovely restaurant on-site, The Cow.
The farm also has accommodation options and for those with children age 8+ there’s also the new Aqua Park to explore.
The highlight of the day for our girls was getting their faces painted (I have no idea if face painting can/will happen with Covid restrictions in place??) and bizarrely Isla spent an awful lot of time acquainting herself with the brightly coloured statues of dairy cows surrounding The Cow restaurant. Isn’t it fascinating what captures the imaginations of little ones?
The UK’s oldest theme park!
I remembered coming to this Isle of Wight theme park as a child and desperately wanted to bring my own kids as one of our Isle of Wight days out. At age 3 and 4 they LOVED it!
Don’t arrive expecting lots of big rides at this theme park. There are some rides but the main focus is on the different themed lands to explore. There are ships to clamber aboard in Pirate Cove, saloon doors to swagger through and a fabulous show to watch in Cowboy Town. My two were equally delighted and terrified by the life size dinosaurs in Restricted Area 5 and they were utterly enchanted in Fairyland. My favourite land was Underwater Kingdom, an immersive ‘under-the-sea’ experience in the forest.
The lack of big rides makes this theme park brilliant for younger kids or those who aren’t quite such thrillseekers. It also means there is far less queuing than your average theme park. There is lots of walking, running, climbing and exploring to be done so expect tired little legs at the end of the day!
The Isle of Wight Beaches
If you get a nice weather day the beaches are beautiful. I recommend checking out https://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/things-to-do/beaches to find a lovely beach near where you are staying.
As always with all hospitality and attractions – please check current social distancing requirements on the venue website.
There are so many wonderful things to do with kids in the Isle of Wight. Have I missed any that you would add to the list?