10 Best Things to See and Do on the Isle of Wight, UK

The Needles, with its red-and-white lighthouse, are one of the Isle of Wight's most well-known sights
The Needles, with its red-and-white lighthouse, are one of the Isle of Wight's most well-known sights | © tony french / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Annie Hopkins
18 August 2020

Just off England’s South Coast lies the idyllic green island we call the Isle of Wight. A brief ferry ride across the waves will bring you to this delightful place, where striped cliff sands and rolling hills combine to make a magical holiday destination. Here’s Culture Trip’s guide to the 10 best things to see and do on the Isle of Wight.

The Needles

Natural Feature
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The Needles, Isle of Wight
© Mr. Nut / Alamy Stock Photo
These three impressive spikes of chalk are around 30 metres high and pierce the Isle of Wight’s seascape just next to Alum Bay. Perched shyly behind the third of these jagged mounds is the red-and-white-striped Needles Lighthouse, and there was once a fourth shard, known as Lot’s Wife, which fell into the sea in 1764 and had the sharp, column-like appearance of a needle, which is where the remaining three shapes got their name. Take a boat trip for a closer look at these unique, natural works of art.

Alum Bay

Natural Feature
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The craggy cliffs at the Isle of Wight’s dreamy Alum Bay are streaked with pretty shades of pink, yellow and gold. Ride the chair lift to gaze at these unique colours or check them out as you wander the beach below. The stripes were caused by the shifting seabed, which was eroded almost 70 million years ago. Around 10 million years later, the bedrock moved, pushing the sedimentary layers upwards, creating the unique pattern we see today.

The Pepperpot

Church
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St. Catherine's Oratory, Isle of Wight at dawn. Known locally as the pepperpot, the oratory is a medieval lighthouse.
© ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo
This peculiar hexagonal tower, otherwise known as St Catherine’s Oratory, could be straight out of a fairytale. It is the remains of England’s only surviving medieval lighthouse, dating back to 1314. The story goes that wealthy landowner Walter de Godeton came into possession of some stolen wine (174 casks, to be exact), which had been on its way to France in a ship that ran aground. The Catholic Church was unimpressed, so as penance, Walter built a lighthouse where a priest would pray for sailors wrecked on the treacherous rocks below.

Ryde Pier

Archaeological site
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A leisurely wander up Ryde Pier allows you to gaze across the sea to Portsmouth and the mainland. There are terrific sandy beaches all along the town’s coast, and a boutique shop or two in which to while away some hours browsing for the perfect souvenir. There is also the Appley Tower, built as a garden folly in 1875, and makes for a perfectly photogenic snapshot of the English coast.

Go-karting

Sports Center
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There’s plenty of action to enjoy on the Isle of Wight, including cycling and horseback riding – but if speed is your thing, then Wight Karting makes for a brilliant day out. With racing for groups and families, there’s a full range of packages to choose from. The all-weather track is over 500 metres long and open all year.

Mottistone Longstone

Ruins
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The Longstone north of Mottistone village with a New Forest Pony - Isle of Wight, England.. Image shot 05/2007. Exact date unknown.
© Malcolm McHugh / Alamy Stock Photo

According to legend, St Catherine once competed with the Devil to see who should be in charge of the Isle of Wight. The Longstone at Mottistone is said to be a sandstone pillar which St Catherine threw down in the contest. It’s four metres tall and two metres wide, suggesting Catherine was not only a saint, but had some serious upper-body strength, too. The stone is, in truth, an ancient burial mound and can be incorporated into a picturesque country walk.

Music festivals

Park
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Whether it’s smooth jazz, club classics, live poetry or yoga workshops that float your ferry, this island’s renowned music and arts festivals are sure to fit the bill. There’s the legendary Bestival or the legendary Isle of Wight Festival, as well as the unusual Eklectika, which showcases electronic, dance and pop acts both big and small.

Shanklin Theatre

Theatre
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Shanklin Theatre, Isle of Wight, UK
© Nikreates / Alamy Stock Photo

Aside from its fabulous festivals, the Isle of Wight boasts a cracking live music scene all year round. There is the much-loved Shanklin Theatre, which hosts orchestra recitals and toe-tapping musicals in equal measure. If theatre’s not your thing, head into any pub on this lovely island and you’ll not wait long to hear of an open mic event or mini-gig from local musicians.

Sandown Beach

Natural Feature
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Sandown Beach on the Isle Of Wight England UK Europe
© ian woolcock / Alamy Stock Photo

Perfect for long, windswept dog walks or even a horseback ride, the beaches on the Isle of Wight are many and magnificent. Whether it’s the sweeping curve of Whitecliff Bay, the pleasant Englishness of Sundown Pier or the tumbledown charm of Steephill Cove, there is fresh air and crashing waves galore on this pretty island. But the long sweep of Sandown Beach has a particular charm. With craggy cliffs looming in the distance and the waves lapping gently at the shore, this is one of the island’s most pleasant spots for an afternoon stroll or seaside picnic when the sun is high.

These recommendations were updated on August 18, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.