The Isle of Wight is a beautiful island off the south coast of England, famous for its stunning scenery, sandy beaches, historic attractions and lively festivals.
It's also easy to explore without a car, thanks to its excellent public transport system and network of cycle paths and footpaths. Here's how you can enjoy a memorable weekend getaway on the Isle of Wight, using public transport and your own two feet.
The easiest way to get to the Isle of Wight without a car is by taking a train to Portsmouth Harbour and then catching a Catamaran to Ryder Pier Head. The sea crossing takes 22 minutes. The catamaran connects directly with the Island Line train service, which runs along the island's east coast from Ryde to Shanklin. You can book train and ferry tickets with the National Rail Enquiries.
Where to stay
For this itinerary, we recommend staying at The Haveloc, a charming guest house in Shanklin, one of the most popular seaside resorts on the island. The Havelock offers comfortable rooms with sea views, free Wi-Fi, a heated outdoor pool and a delicious breakfast. It's also within walking distance of Shanklin Beach, Shanklin Chine, Shanklin Old Village and Shanklin train station.
Day 1: Explore Shanklin and Sandown
After checking in at The Havelock and dropping off your bags, head to Shanklin Beach for fresh air and sunshine. You can relax on the golden sand, swim in the clear water, enjoy water sports or stroll along the esplanade. If you travel with kids or youths, the Shanklin Seafront Family Entertainment Centre, which has arcades, crazy golf, bowling and go-karts, is an excellent place to visit.
For lunch, you can choose from one of the many cafés and restaurants along the seafront or head to Shanklin Old Village for some traditional pub grub. We recommend The Crab Inn, which serves hearty dishes made with local ingredients, such as fish and chips, steak and ale pie and crab salad.
After lunch, you can explore Shanklin Chine, a natural gorge with waterfalls, woodland and wildlife. You can follow the footpaths along the stream, admire the views from the bridges and platforms, and learn about the history and ecology of the chine at the heritage centre.
From Shanklin Chine, you can walk or take a bus to Sandown, another popular seaside resort on the island. The walk is about one hour, so wear good walking shoes.
Sandown has a long sandy beach, a pier with amusements and rides, a zoo with exotic animals and a dinosaur museum with fossils and skeletons. You can spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying these attractions or simply relaxing on the beach.
You can treat yourself to dinner at The Reef, a contemporary restaurant overlooking Sandown Bay. The Reef offers a seasonal menu of modern British cuisine.
After dinner, you can catch a bus or train back to Shanklin and enjoy a good night's sleep at The Havelock.
Day 2: Discover Newport and Cowes
After breakfast at The Havelock, take a bus or train to Newport, the island's capital town. Newport has a variety of attractions to suit different tastes and interests, such as museums, art galleries, shops, markets and parks.
One of the highlights of Newport is The Caisbrooke Castle. This medieval fortress was once the home of Charles I during his imprisonment before his execution. You can explore the castle's ramparts, towers, gatehouse and museum and meet the famous Carisbrooke donkeys who work the well-house wheel.
For lunch, you can head to Quay Arts, a cultural centre on the banks of the River Medina. Quay Arts has a café that serves delicious homemade food, such as soups, salads, sandwiches and cakes, and a gallery showcasing local and national artists. You can also browse the gift shop for some unique souvenirs.
After lunch, you can take a bus or a bike to Cowes, the sailing capital of the island. Cowes is famous for hosting the annual Cowes Week regatta and being the birthplace of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. You can visit Osborne House, the royal residence where Victoria and Albert spent many summers with their children. You can see the lavish rooms, gardens and private beach where they relaxed and entertained.
Alternatively, you can visit The Classic Boat Museum, which displays a collection of historic boats, yachts and maritime memorabilia. You can learn about the history and heritage of sailing on the island and see some impressive vessels, such as Sir Alec Rose's round-the-world yacht Lively Lady.
For dinner, you can enjoy some seafood at Murrays, a cosy restaurant in the heart of Cowes. Murrays serves fresh fish and shellfish from local sources, such as scallops, mussels, lobster and crab. You can also try some of their signature dishes, such as seafood paella, fish pie and seafood platter.
After dinner, you can catch a bus back to Newport and then take a train back to Shanklin. Alternatively, you can stay in Cowes overnight and catch a ferry back to the mainland the next day.
Practical travel advice
The Isle of Wight is a safe and friendly destination. Still, taking care of your belongings and personal safety is always advisable.
The currency used on the island is the British pound sterling (£).
The island uses the same electrical plugs and voltage as the mainland UK (230V, 50Hz, type G). You may need an adapter if your devices have different plugs.
The island has a mild climate, with warm summers and cool winters. The average temperature ranges from 9°C in January to 19°C in July. You may need a jacket or sweater for the evenings and a raincoat or umbrella for occasional showers.
The island has good mobile phone coverage and internet access. Still, some rural areas may have weaker signals or slower speeds. You can use Wi-Fi at your accommodation or public places such as cafés, libraries or tourist information centres.
The island has a range of health services and facilities, including hospitals, pharmacies and doctors' surgeries. You can call 999 in an emergency or 111 for non-urgent medical advice. If you're visiting from abroad, you may need to pay for some treatments or prescriptions.