Though the glorious Isle of Wight has all the traditional cream teas and clifftop walks you could possibly dream of, sometimes it’s fun to fill the itinerary with trips and activities that are a little further off the beaten track. As an island with a culture and vibe all its own, this pretty place is the perfect spot to find eccentric shops and less than obvious ways to while away an afternoon in the south coast sunshine. Read our guide to the most unique experiences in England’s Isle of Wight.
Take a ghost tour of the island
Though postcards from the Isle of Wight often show candy-striped beach huts and sparkling sands, there’s actually a darker side to the island’s history. With myths and legends surrounding many of the buildings and monuments on the Isle of Wight, there’s plenty of places to explore which are on the thrilling side of spooky. For maximum chills, book a ghost walk with Ghost Island.
Inside the futuristic white building of Dinosaur Isle, be transported millions of years back in time to the days of the dinosaurs. A terrific day out for children and adults alike, there are detailed displays, lively activities and larger-than-life model dinosaurs. Whether or not you’re a fan of these prehistoric reptiles, there’s plenty to learn and some mysteries to unravel at this interactive museum, which is also home to a world-famous fossil collection.
Vintage trains from the London Underground dating back to 1938 still run along Ryde seafront and pier. With the old-school ‘Mind the Gap’ signs on the trains and platforms, it’s a pleasant trip down memory lane. Not only that, but this throwback train ride is a breezy way to take in the loveliness of the island’s coastline.
For the awww-factor to your otherwise hardcore island holiday, what could be lovelier than stroking a friendly alpaca? These cuddly pals can be found at West Wight Alpacas along with goats, chickens and adorable knitwear shop The Yarn Barn. Go for a walk, or a trek if you’re feeling adventurous, with these gentle beauties. There’s also a café with a tasty menu of snacks to choose from.
To combine the excitement of a geological treasure trail with a bracing march across the island’s stunning landscapes, book yourself onto one of several popular fossil tours. Wander and learn, maybe even discovering one of these ancient time capsules on your way. The Isle of Wight even boasts some permanent ‘dinosaur footprints’, to be found at Hanover Point, which are protected by the National Trust. Experts advise that the best time to see the prints is after a storm. There’s something truly magical about spotting these impressive shapes in the land, and imagining the long-forgotten era when these giants roamed the Earth.
While a snapshot of these candy-coloured shelters is obligatory for any self-respecting Instagrammer visiting the Isle of Wight, far fewer are those who have the luxury of lunching in one of the pretty huts. Even better, hire the hut as accommodation for the whole of your stay, for a true taste of the English seaside. Tuck into some salty fish and chips from the comfort of your hut as you gaze across the channel.
Not for the faint-hearted, but if a little vertigo gives you thrills, then spying Alum Bay’s pretty striped sands from above could be just the ticket. With all the excitement of a (gentle) fairground ride and spectacular views of land and sea, this cable car is a unique way to take in the beautiful cliffs. Make sure you’re sharing the carriage with someone to squeeze, and breathe in the fresh sea air from high above its crashing tide.
If simply admiring the stripey cliffs of pretty Alum Bay wasn’t enough, you can take home your own little slice of the island by heading along to Alum Bay Sand Shop. Fill a little bottle with layers of the different coloured sands from the patterned cliffs as a take-home memory of your visit to the Isle of Wight. Choose from uniquely shaped jars such as love-hearts, guitars, skulls or teddy bears, and scoop in the sand to make a one-off piece of the beach to keep forever.
Layered Isle of Wight Sand | Courtesy of Sammy Pedley
With fairytale characters and (yet more) dinosaurs hiding in the bushes, Blackgang Chine theme park is the ideal place to let your imagination run wild. With roller coasters and fairground rides galore, it’s a fun-packed way to spend the day with family or pals.
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. This is also an exceptional spot to wrap an arm around a loved one and watch the sun set over the sea.
For that quintessentially British holiday feel, book yourself into one of Vintage Vacations‘ cosy caravans. Mixing the whimsy of the Carry On films with modern amenities and tasteful decorative touches, these bonny mobile homes stay put on the plush green lawns of the campsite. There’s something truly exciting about waking up to breakfast in a deckchair on the grass.
Caravans in The Meadow, Vintage Vacations | Courtesy of Sammy Pedley