Wightbay’s Ultimate Guide to the Isle of Wight

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Treasured for its breath-taking scenery, old-world charm and mild climate, the Isle of Wight has long been a hot-spot for family holidays and romantic weekend getaways. Full of surprises, this compact British county can offer visitors so much – from the spectacular Needles rocks and coloured sands of Alum Bay; to gourmet food, award winning attractions and world famous sailing regattas and music festivals.

 

Whether you’re part of 140,500 population, or one of the million annual visitors to this magical landscape, it can sometimes prove challenging to decide on the best places to eat, drink, explore and visit. So we’ve taken on the task of hand-picking a selection of the very finest the Isle of Wight has to offer, aiming to appeal to a wide variety of ages, interests and tastes.

 

Holidaymakers will love our brief run-down of places to stay, choice of outstanding IoW shops and recommended kids attractions and events, while hens and stags should find our suggestions of fun activities inspiring.  Residents of the island are sure to uncover some hidden gems in these listings, including ideas on things for couples, families and even free stuff to do!

 

Our selections are based on a combination of local knowledge, published reviews and awards recently received.

 

So now please take a look below and learn more about this unique and magnificent island!

 

CONTENTS

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Blessed with outstanding local produce, beautiful surroundings and restaurants catering for all tastes, the Isle of Wight is a foodie haven. So what stands out in the island’s now nationally-recognised food scene? We’ve selected our top 5 places to eat, so here they are, in no particular order:

 

Priory Oyster Restaurant, Seaview

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With its romantic setting overlooking beautiful gardens and the glistening sea, the Priory Oyster Restaurant, at the Priory Bay Hotel, Seaview, is really very special. Dress smartly and splash out for this fine dining experience! There’s a focus on fresh, local ingredients, with innovative twists on classic dishes. You’ll also find organic and biodynamic wines, local beers and ciders. Seafood guru Rick Stein is a fan, and mentions the Priory Oyster Restaurant in his Seafood Lovers Guide, saying:  “The quality of everything we had at lunch testified to a love of only the freshest produce from the sea.”  Don’t worry if you’re not a fish fan. The very meaty Sirloin of Isle of Wight Beef served with hand cut chips, bone marrow and béarnaise comes highly recommended!

 

What diners say: “With a location that is unrivalled on the Island – nestled atop a small valley overlooking the tranquil bay — guests and diners at Priory Bay can enjoy what has to be one of life’s simple pleasures, al-fresco dining.”  Island Life.

Website: http://www.priorybay.co.uk/food-and-drink/priory-oyster            Telephone: 01983 613146

 

The Three Buoys, Ryde

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Great food with a view, and plenty of fish and vegetarian options – we think this sums up The Three Buoys, and the online reviews are full of praise for this “just amazing” place. To reach this gastronomic gem, stroll out of Ryde towards golden Appley Beach (or make use of the ample parking or free taxi service) and you’ll discover a wonderful elevated one storey restaurant with outside terrace and sea views. Inside the decor is calm and tasteful. Head chef Damian Kowalski is known for his big flavours and imaginative menus and the results are utterly delicious. We reckon veggies will love the Vegetarian Tasting Plate of brie bonbons, chip shop battered halloumi, red pepper and basil polenta wedges – yum!

What diners say: “The food is delicious, the views fabulous, and the staff very helpful. All the food that came out of the kitchen looked great and if you don’t eat meat there is plenty of choice and I can recommend the Halloumi main course. My husband had the fish and chips as a main course and said it was fantastic – very thin and crispy batter. It was obvious that not all the clients were holidaying on the island – staff were greeting people who were ‘regulars’, which usually says quite a lot.” Andrea H via TripAdvisor

 

Website: http://www.threebuoys.co.uk/         Telephone: 01983 811 212

 

The Little Gloster, Gurnard

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This Scandinavian-influenced restaurant is perched between beach huts on a headland just west of Cowes, and affords breath-taking panoramic views of the Solent. The food is excellent too, so we’re not surprised that The Little Gloster has recently been awarded ‘Restaurant of the Year’ in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, and is featured in the 2015 Michelin Guide.  We particularly enjoyed the tasting platter for two – flavoursome Bembridge crab and crayfish cakes, home-cured gravadlax with caviar and crème fraiche, melt-in-the mouth breaded plaice fillets with tangy tartar sauce. The vietnamese pork belly was sweet, juicy and just spicy enough. You can also enjoy amazing breakfasts and ‘breakfast cocktails’ served from 9.00am to 11.00am, and there’s a decent kids menu, not to mention lovely desserts, so The Little Gloster is ideal for family get-togethers. In the evenings its the perfect spot to unwind and watch the sunset, glass of wine in hand!

What diners say: “I really like it here. There were plenty of little indications of thoughtfulness: different sorts of bread to go with different elements; multiple little side bowls of water or dipping sauce or tartare, or for shells. Beautiful gravlax.  Zoe Williams, food critic via Telegraph

Website: http://www.thelittlegloster.com/                  Telephone: 01983 298776

 

Fine Nammet, Shanklin

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Fine Nammet at the heart of buzzing seaside resort Shanklin has proved a hit with locals and visitors alike in recent years. Trip Advisor endorsements are excellent with diners full of praise for the “wonderful food and lovely atmosphere”, for example. We agree that there’s a lot to love here – thoughtful menu, comprehensive wine list and superb service for starters. Around 80% of ingredients are delivered fresh to the restaurant from local producers. “All of our meats come from island farmers, the fish come from local waters and we use seasonal Isle of Wight vegetables,” say owners Paul and Jenna. For a knock-out meal, try the Chef’s Signature Dish – slow roasted lavender infused lamb shoulder, and if you’ve got room, the old school Eton Mess – heaven! At the time of writing Fine Nammet is only open for evening service, but keep checking the website – the fun lunchtime menu might well be back by popular demand!

What diners say: “We have seen for ourselves what all of the fuss is about. With decent local ingredients, plus very courteous and prompt service, a decent wine list and (if you stick to the set menu) astonishingly good value for a meal of this quality it was all very fine indeed.” – Food bloggers Matt & Cat via Matt & Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide

Website: http://finenammet.co.uk                          Telephone: 01983 300 335

 

Cantina, Ventnor
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Ventnor is becoming known as a foodie hotspot on the Isle of Wight, and here at Cantina on the High Street we reckon you’ll find the most delicious pizza on the island. Restaurant owner Klaus Kuhnke, a successful chef and champion of local produce and artisan foods, explains that it’s all about slow-rising sourdough. Besides pizza, you’ll find innovative dishes such a fresh crab with coriander mayo and spiced avocado, chestnut pasta with mushrooms and truffle oil, meat loaf with kimchi and cheddar mash. This food is exciting, tasty and decent value. A hearty and varied all day breakfast menu, lovely sharing plates, tempting specials, desserts and cocktails await you here. And the bread and pastries – baked on site – look beautiful too!

What diners say: “Many people say that Ventnor is fast-becoming the food mecca of the Isle of Wight. We reckon it’s already here and are pleased to see Cantina add to the already fantastic choice of places to eat out. Klaus is a successful chef, who’s also responsible forArtisan Foods and The German Deli at Borough Market. The food on offer at Cantina, however, has a distinct Italian feel to it.” Sally Perry, On The Wight

 

Website: http://www.cantinaventnor.co.uk/             Telephone: 01983 855988

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From cosy village inns, to lively seaside music bars and gastropubs, the Isle of Wight has plenty to offer those looking for evening entertainment. So we’ve selected our favourite five venues, and here they are, in no particular order:

 

The Red Lion, Freshwater

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This archetypal English pub in the ancient village of Freshwater is surrounded by beautiful IoW countryside and is a haven for walkers and foodies. Thanks to a great selection of real ales and fine wines, plus a good-value menu, the Red Lion has won awards and clocked up rave reviews on TripAdvisor in recent years. Cosy, traditional interiors, crackling log fires in winter, and top quality home-cooked food all year – this is the place to hole up for a relaxed evening with the one you love. Rich in history – parts of the pub originated in the 11th century – you’ll feel yourself stepping back in time as you sip a real ale and tuck into a hearty homemade pie. Well behaved dogs are welcome, but be warned – mobile phones are not!

What reviewers say: “A comfortable and interesting venue, good and stimulating company, and great service – to find all this in one place is a delight. The Red Lion hit the spot for us – the idyllic setting is just the beginning of the pleasures of this classic English pub.” – Matt & Cat via Matt & Cat’s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide

Website: http://www.redlion-freshwater.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 754925

The Yarbridge Inn, Brading near Sandown

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This busy family run pub on the way to Brading village and close to Sandown boasts a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ from TripAdvisor. The Fox family have built this great reputation by consistently delighting their customers with a friendly atmosphere, attentive service and good quality freshly cooked food, always beautifully presented. This is the ideal place for a stop off for a beer after a hearty countryside ramble or simply for a fun family get together! The lunch and evening menus are extensive covering meat, fish, veggie and kids options, while the beer selection is excellent too. Evenings spent here are cosy and welcoming throughout the year. Well done team Fox!

What reviewers say: “The food here is out of this world. It seems to get better each time I visit and to be frank it was brilliant the first time. The beers are beautifully kept and there is always a great selection. The 6X this year was a treat. There may be other pubs/restaurants in the area. But if you want a sure fire belter of a meal this is the place.” WSStarr on TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.theyarbridgeinn.co.uk/index.html        Telephone: 01983 405585

The Lifeboat Inn, East Cowes

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The famous Lifeboat Inn overlooks East Cowes Marina and is situated on the waterfront of the Medina River. It’s long been a favourite with the yachtie crowd who flock in the summer to enjoy the chance for al fresco eating and drinking, but is equally loved by the locals. This traditional pub prides itself on being family-friendly and offers an extensive  food menu with daily specials, and a popular under 12s menu at very reasonable prices. In the summer, visitors get settled on the large outside decking area – the perfect riverside spot for sipping a cool lager or tucking into a gourmet burger or chargrilled ‘sizzler’, while taking in the views.

What reviewers say: A pleasant atmosphere in a waterside pub next to a Marina and the river Medina in East Cowes. Good food and good service. Recommend their “sizzlers”. Fabulous decking area to watch the activity on the water.” Rachel W via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.thelifeboatcowes.co.uk/         Telephone: 01983 292 711

 

The Spyglass Inn, Ventnor

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Famed for its spectacular location on Ventnor Bay, and with hundreds of years of maritime history within its walls, the Spyglass Inn remains an iconic building on the Isle of Wight. Satisfied customers applaud its quality grub, well kept beer and lively atmosphere. We think this is an idyllic spot for lunch and an afternoon pint by the water’s edge, but the Spyglass is also a renowned music pub. In the evenings you can catch live bands playing trad jazz, blues and bluegrass, folk and classical guitar. Look out for the fascinating historic pictures and artefacts around the pub for a flavour of the inn’s seafaring past – smugglers, shipwrecks and all!

What reviewers say: “Clearly aimed at the tourist trade but they still make the effort to make everyone feel welcome and to enjoy their experience. Love the interior with all the nooks and crannies and one day we’ll manage to get one of those tables with a sea view I’m sure! Genial landlord with friendly staff, good variety on the menu, biggest portions on the Island (at least we’ve not seen bigger!!) great location and the perfect place to eat after a day out in the fresh air.” KeredWH via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.thespyglass.com/          Telephone: 01983 855338

 

The Black Sheep Bar, Ryde

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The Black Sheep Bar and ‘Club Lounge’ on Union Street in the heart of Ryde is a successful bar that ticks a plethora of boxes. With theatrical decor and an extensive entertainment programme throughout the year, this is the place to enjoy stand-up comedy, live music, burlesque shows and jazz nights. Tapas is also a big hit with peckish visitors, and we’re sure the recently updated menu won’t fail to tempt you with its delicious meat, fresh seafood and vegetarian dishes, perfect for sharing. We were bowled over by the cocktails! Try a perfectly mixed Mojito, Pina Colada, or Margarita, or sample the wonders of a Black Sheep Bar ‘Hard Shake’ – the Drunken Monkey is a taste sensation – blended gold rum, banana liqueur, milk and plenty of ice cream!

What reviewers say: After dinner elsewhere on the high street, we visited the Black Sheep Bar unplanned. Love the decor and the cocktails were fab. Nice friendly service from the guy on the bar. Would recommend the Hendricks Teapot for sure! We will be back soon.” – Cosyfeet via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.theblacksheepbar.co.uk/         Telephone: 01983 811006

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Whatever the weather, families are spoilt for choice on the Isle of Wight when it comes to planning trips and adventures. From meeting exotic animals to activities like sailing and go-karting, there is a vast amount of choice across the island. We’ve done the legwork and picked out our Top 5 Family Days Out:

 

Carisbrooke Castle, Newport

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Whether you visit Carisbrooke for the 1,000 year old castle, the donkeys, the fascinating museum or the Edwardian garden, you’re certain to have a really enjoyable, rewarding day. Originally a Saxon fortress, Carisbrooke Castle was famously a royal prison to Charles I, and so is steeped in English Civil War history. It’s a classically beautiful and compact castle which is a pleasure to to walk around, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore and stunning views from the castle keep. There’s plenty more to entertain the kids here – donkey well demonstrations, fun ways to learn about history in the museum, and a tearoom filled with delicious cakes and snacks. If the weather’s good, don’t miss the Princess Beatrice Garden, designed by TV gardener Chris Beardshaw, and based on the original garden retreat of Queen Victoria’s daughter. You really do get a lot for your money here.

What visitors say: “A very varied trip back in time with plenty of exploring of battlements, museum, donkeys driving wheels to get water from a well, special events or constructive children’s activities in the craft room……the castle had it all. Full marks to English Heritage on a most enjoyable visit. Heartily recommended.”

ScotinEngland on TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/carisbrooke-castle/

 

Goodleaf Tree Climbing, near Ryde

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Fancy catching a birds-eye view of the island, the Solent and the mainland beyond, while reclining in a tree top hammock in a majestic old English Oak? Getting up there – you can climb as high as 15m! – is challenging but fun with award-winning Goodleaf Tree Climbing, which offers recreational climbing in Appley Park, Ryde. Super friendly, qualified instructors teach you all the techniques you need to ascend and descend safely with ropes, and you can reward yourself with a drink and special Tree Climbers Flapjack from the picnic basket once you’re back on terra firma. At £39 for adults and £29 for 8-17 year olds (2 hour experience) we think this uplifting (literally!) and rewarding activity is great value for money. The unique experience attracts people of all ages, and consistently rates well on TripAdvisor.

What visitors say: “Goodleaf tree climbing, run by arborist Paul and his wife Abigail is one of the few recreational tree climbing operations in the country, which is one reason why a day out up a tree is such an unusual experience. The Isle of Wight is a great location for it and the view from the tree tops is beautiful. Now I’ll have some great memories of being twenty feet up an oak tree surrounded by my family and friends, looking out from between the branches at the view over the fields!” Justin Francis via Responsible Travel

Website: http://www.goodleaf.co.uk/         Telephone:  0333 800 1188

 

Blackgang Chine, near Ventnor

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This really is an enchanting place for kids! Blackgang Chine offers 40 acres of themed attractions including roller coasters, log flume and scenic picnic areas. Imaginative princes and princesses will adore the fairy castle, with its turrets, walkways and secret passages, and there’s more fun to be had in Pirate Cove, Cowboy Town and Fantasy Land. ‘Restricted Area 5’ is great fun for the brave! Discover life-size moving dinosaurs including a new family of Triceratops. During the school holidays the park hosts its ‘Big Night Out’ Fireworks Extravaganza every Wednesday evening. The park comes alive with street performers, magicians, live music, a delicious BBQ, and a dramatic musical firework display. You can buy a joint ticket for Blackgang Chine and its sister park Robin Hill to get great value and maximise the fun.

What visitors say: “BRILLIANT! I visited last year with family and it’s a wicked day out! Great for toddlers to teens to adults, plenty of facilities (loos, picnic benches, changing areas), pushchair friendly, drinks and food aren’t massively over-priced either… plus the “dinosaur walk” is great fun. The roller-coasts etc at the end of the park are a little dated but no less fun for that. Easy to find, good family fun and on the beautiful IOW too… who could ask for more?!” Joanne T via Mumsnet

Website: http://www.blackgangchine.com/         Telephone:  01983 730330

 

Wight Karting, near Ryde

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Fun-seeking families in need of a break from the beach should head to Wight Karting for a taste of life in the fast lane! Close to Ryde, this is the island’s only all-weather outdoor floodlit track. People of all ages come to race around the 460m circuit for adrenalin-fuelled action in a safe, well organised environment. Staff here are  ‘absolutely lovely’ according to one TripAdvisor reviewer, and there are many more positive comments online, with good choice of go-karts, fun races, clean facilities and excellent ‘pit stop’ cafe all praised. We like the fact that you can race for as little as £15 per adult and £10 per ‘cadet’ (8 – 11 years old) and can spend time watching the action once you’ve taken your speedy spin.

What visitors say: “On arrival we were instantly impressed with the set-up of this attraction. Informative and helpful staff, great pit stop cafe and waiting area, clean equipment and a good viewing area with screens giving up to date information on races and competitors. Great selection of karts for all ages and abilities. The Track itself has been well thought out and configured , all in all a really good experience.” Mark L via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.wightkarting.co.uk/        Telephone:  01983 565 366

 

Monkey Haven, Newport

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Monkey Haven is flushed with success right now, and easily makes it onto our Ultimate Guide’s Top 5 Family Days Out list. The primate and owl rescue sanctuary close to Newport has just received a VisitEngland Award For Excellence 2015 in the Small Visitor Attraction category – the only Isle Of Wight attraction to have reached the finals! This place is educational, beautifully maintained, excellent value and – best of all – provides a healthy environment for monkeys, gibbons, meerkats and birds of prey who can’t fend for themselves in the wild. Visitors appreciate the Keeper talks, Marmoset Encounters and hands-on ‘Be a Keeper’ days. We loved the spacious play areas, well stocked tea room and knowledgeable staff.

What visitors say: “As a rescue centre (all the animals have found sanctuary here – whether they were bullied in their original groups, or injured and unable to live in the wild) this new home really is a haven. For kids, it’s just a fantastic chance to wander round and see endless monkeys and gibbons, around a dozen different types in total, as well as the birds of prey, including some very beautiful Eagle Owls. .” Cathy Winston via Mummy Travels

Website: http://www.monkeyhaven.org/        Telephone:  01983 530885

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Whether your shared passion is history, theatre, watersports or wine-tasting, there’s no shortage of stimulating activities for couples to do while visiting the Isle of Wight. It’s a land of romantic settings and coastal adventures so there’s plenty to enjoy. To help you choose, we’ve whittled it down to a tried and tested Top 5 for Couples:

 

Osborne House

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Go regal for the day at Osborne House, Queen Victoria’s much-loved family home, just one mile from East Cowes. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions on the island, and we think couples will love the romantic atmosphere at this beautiful English Heritage house. Explore opulent Victorian state rooms, see the famous Swiss Cottage, stroll the pretty walled garden and marvel at the ornate Durbar Room. We rounded off our visit with a delicious Knickbocker Glory from the ice-cream parlour on Queen Vic’s private beach!

What visitors say: I have been here many times and I’m never disappointed. The house is mysteriously beautiful I see something new every time I visit. There’s a delicious tea room in the very well designed gardens. If you go you must visit the beach, it’s a bit of a walk but it’s worth it! The best attraction on the Isle of Wight.”  Chloe Walker via Google Reviews

Website: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/osborne/         Telephone: 01983 200022

 

Pamper package at the Enchanted Manor

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Romance and relaxation are guaranteed at the legendary, award-winning Enchanted Manor Hotel, which is nestled in woodland close to the picturesque village of Niton. With idyllic sea views, and a warm welcome, this unique five star hotel has become a much-loved bolthole for couples seeking a romantic getaway. We recommend booking a beauty treatment or massage, or simply enjoy the woodland walks and secluded gardens. Other options are a champagne high tea or a romantic gourmet picnic. Book you and your partner onto the three-night ‘Enchanted Package’ and bliss out in this magical boutique hideaway. We’re not surprised Enchanted Manor is such a massive hit on TripAdvisor, Cool Places, and QuirkyAccom.com.

What visitors say: “I came here with my husband to escape the pressures of everyday life, and what a healing and relaxing experience had by both of us. Walking into this magical wonderland was excellent therapy. I recommend Enchanted Manor to those who love fantasy art and beautiful surroundings and expect exceptional service. If this is what you desire you will not be disappointed!” Charlotte G via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.enchantedmanor.co.uk/index.html        Telephone:  01983 730215

 

Winetasting at Adgestone Vineyard

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Here’s your chance to learn about winemaking in one of the oldest commercial wine cellars in England – established in 1968. Adgestone vineyard is set in breath-taking rolling countryside close to Sandown, and we think it’s an ideal attraction for couples to enjoy. Thanks to a nifty digital audio tour you learn quickly about viticulture, the grape growing seasons, and the history of English wine. Down in Adgestone’s cellars you’ll see huge fermentation vats, the grape press and the labelling process. You’ll also get invaluable wine tasting tips, and of course the chance to buy. We’re sure you’ll want to linger in this beautiful place, and round off your visit with a cream tea in the licensed cafe.

What visitors say: I have popped in a few times over the years, and never been disappointed with Adgestone’s excellent wines. I especially like the Medium and Full bodied Reds and look forward to this season’s new offerings. Located in a lovely place, the owners are friendly and the wine is excellent. Worth stopping for something light to eat and a drink too!”  Stephen Dine via Google Reviews

Website: http://adgestonevineyard.co.uk/index.php        Telephone:  01983 402882

 

Ocean Blue Sea Safari

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Get nautical with your loved one on an ‘Sea Safari’ adventure cruise in a Cheetah Catamaran. Organised by Ocean Blue, these popular hour-long trips set off from Ventnor Haven and whisk you south west along the coast towards the southern tip of the Isle of Wight. Look out for secret smuggling coves, beautiful secluded bays and huge prehistoric landslides during the trip. A really fun element is helping pull up and re-bait lobster pots, as well as learning about the island’s seafood fishing history. Satisfied customers clearly appreciate the educational elements of the Ocean Blue Sea Safari, and love the great views back toward the island afforded from the boat.

What visitors say: “The Sea Safari was a lovely trip: It combined history, nature and a smattering of exhilaration all at a very reasonable cost. Not only did we learn a lot about the history of Ventnor and the surrounding area, we pulled in some lobster pots and then really enjoyed the fast ride back to the harbour.”  Sophewen74 via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.oceanbluequay.co.uk/sea_charters/         Telephone:  01983 852398

 

Apollo Theatre, Newport

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Broaden your cultural horizons at this lively little theatre in a former Methodist chapel in Pyle Street, Newport. Here actors have been delighting audiences since the 1970s and every year the venue puts on a season of seven shows, and hosts a wide variety of visiting productions. From Shakespeare to Tennessee Williams to panto, there’s something for everyone. Regular Jazz sessions and vintage film screenings have also proved a big hit with locals and holiday-makers. The Apollo’s well-stocked bar (try a ‘themed’ cocktail!), and comfortable seating should ensure a really enjoyable night out for any couple. We were particularly impressed by the ‘Art in the Bar’ – wonderful works by local artists, installed for each new production.

What visitors say: “The theatre is small and cosy, allowing a small audience a great view of the stage where we eagerly awaited the performance to start. The biggest praise I have is for the actors’ passionate and believable performances, especially the argument scenes, you could tell there was no holding back and it was very believable. Overall, it was a great experience and I can’t wait for their next play. It’s a great way to see wonderful local talent.” – Kerry Hopkins via Whatsgoodtodo.co.uk

Website:  http://www.apollo-theatre.org.uk/        Telephone:  01983 527 267

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Choosing accommodation for you and your family can be a challenge, especially on the famously welcoming Isle of Wight, where the choice is extremely wide. Overall we were impressed with the standard of guest houses, grander hotels, self catering cottages, camping, glamping and holiday park options on the island. We’ve shopped around and cherry-picked the ones that stood out from the crowd. Here’s our Top 5 Places to Stay.

 

Hillside, Ventnor

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Perched above quaint Ventnor is a delightful 12 bedroom guest house which we think will ensure your stay on the island is blissfully comfortable. Ideal for couples, Hillside is a charming 18th century thatched country house – once home to the poet John Sterling – that boasts calming neutral decor, crisp linen and Danish lighting. We love the fact that the building backs onto National Trust land at the foot of St. Boniface Down, and we wholeheartedly agree with hotel expert Fiona Duncan (writing in The Telegraph) that this place is “airy, harmonious and tranquil”. Top marks too for the contemporary art, sea views, and lovely Scandinavian-inspired menu.

“We stayed for three days at the hillside. We loved the Scandinavian decor and the art which is in all the rooms and public places. Our room had a beautiful sea view. Breakfast and dinner were very good. Staff all excellent, very friendly and helpful and always happy to chat! feeling very relaxed,thank you!” Julie B on TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.hillsideventnor.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 852271

The Royal, Ventnor

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For a taste of luxury on the Isle of Wight we recommend The Royal in Ventnor – widely considered the best large hotel on the island. TripAdvisor reviewers can’t get enough of the “first class service and stunning surroundings”, and we feel the attention to detail in rooms, award-winning food, and the sheer elegance of the place make it worthy of inclusion on our list. Built in 1832, this is the isle’s premier four star hotel, and it’s held two AA Rosettes for excellent food over 16 consecutive years. Spring breaks are fabulous here, just when the gardens are coming into flamboyant bloom, and we think the ‘Royal Retreat’ is a wonderful idea combining a soothing massage and a 6-course tasting menu in the glorious Appuldurcombe Restaurant.

What reviewers say: “The views are particularly marvellous from the hotel’s Riviera Terrace, across the (quiet) road, where chairs, sun loungers and blankets are provided; guests can picnic at this vantage point on sunny days. The hotel is in fine condition, marrying the traditional with the contemporary, with elegant rooms painted in soothing, muted colours, new furnishings and a slick bar area.” Fiona Duncan via The Telegraph

Website: http://royalhoteliow.co.uk/default.aspx        Telephone: 01983 825 186

 

Tom’s Eco Lodges, Yarmouth

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This is ‘glamping at its best’ say enthusiastic travel journalists on The Daily Mail, The Independent, the Sun and The Times; and awards are piling up too. We certainly marvel at the efforts made by Tom and his team to create the perfect eco-camping experience on Tapnell Farm, in a dream rural setting. The safari lodge-style tents have proper beds, wood burning stoves, sofas, flushing loos, electricity and a lovely decked area  – heaven for those morning coffees and evening cocktails! Log cabins and cute timber Wigwams will also be available from summer 2015. Visitors love the relaxed ambience here. Happy campers can collect fresh eggs, meet the animals, play volley ball, hire bikes, or simply laze in a hammock contemplating life!

What reviewers say: “Capitalising on the glamping trend, farmer Tom has created comfortable, spacious tents that sport wood burning stoves, real showers and satisfyingly comfortable beds. It’s ideal for families or friends looking to spend some laid back time together.” Ann Riley via Red Magazine

Website: http://tomsecolodge.com/        Telephone: 01983 897089

 

The Orchards Holiday Park, Newbridge  

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There are so many reasons to stay at The Orchards, an award-winning camping and caravan park near Newbridge towards the west of the island. Fresh from picking up the AA Campsite of the Year Award 2015 for South East England, the Orchards consistently delights holidaymakers with its friendliness, excellent customer care, spectacular rural views and top notch facilities. You can pitch your tent here, bring your touring caravan or stay in a beautifully maintained static caravan. Kids adore the heated indoor and outdoor pools and the grown ups appreciate the spacious pitches, coffee shop, on-site store, clean washing facilities and handy location. We can see that everything is done here to make visitors’ stay as comfortable as possible, so no wonder the plaudits keep on coming for this gem of a holiday park.

What reviewers say: “Had a superb stay at this lovely campsite, surrounded by countryside we were made most welcome. Immaculately clean everywhere. The shop was reasonably well stocked even though it’s not high season, and the prices reasonable too. All in all had an easy and very pleasant stay. Would highly recommend to anyone.” Avanti2uk via UKCampsite.co.uk

Website: http://www.orchards-holiday-park.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 531 331

 

Vintage Vacations,  Newport   

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Fancy a self-catering holiday with a difference? Then book an iconic Airstream trailer through fabulous Vintage Vacations and live like a Hollywood star on set! This company is now over 10 years old and has a fleet of 13 very cool vintage silver aluminium caravans as well as a range of retro British ‘vans and other super-quirky accommodation options. Each trailer has working kitchen, hot water, showers and electricity – all located in peaceful surroundings just 10 minutes drive from Ryde. Kitsch, vintage decor abounds, so if you love 1950s, 1960s and 1970s style, you will feel perfectly at home here! We love the nifty Bed & Breakfast option too!

What reviewers say: “It’s perhaps unexpected is to see ten  fine examples of US Airstream trailers in a small field near Newport on the Isle of Wight. This is the home of Vintage Vacations, brainchild of photographer Frazer Cunningham and stylist Helen Carey. Their love for all things retro compelled them to import initially just two of these beautiful caravans. The exteriors were in mint condition but they restored the tired interiors, staying as faithful as possible to the mid-century origins. The result is a perfect blend of holiday comfort and retro chic. This is a unique and memorable camping experience in a shiny bubble of fun.via CoolCamping.co.uk

Website: http://www.vintagevacations.co.uk/        Telephone:  07802 758113

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Family holidays can be pricey but on the Isle of Wight there’s a wealth of activities that are blissfully free. We’ve dug deep and found amazing low to zero-cost options to ensure a really fun, inexpensive time. Here’s our Top Five Free Things To Do on the island:

Visit Bembridge Lifeboat Station

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Certain RNLI stations operate as ‘Explore Stations’ – welcoming in the general public to discover and learn, free of charge (although donations are welcome!). Bembridge Lifeboat is one of these, and we’re convinced you’ll find a visit fascinating. Learn about the sea rescue work the RNLI carry out from this station, located at the far eastern end of the island, see the lifeboat up close, and chat to the volunteers on hand. There’s been an all-weather lifeboat on site here for nearly 140 years, and during a visit you get a real sense of that rich history as well as the bravery of lifeboat crews. It’s hugely rewarding, and the gift shop is well worth a look too.

What reviewers say: Bembridge Lifeboat Station is a great little trip out. RNLI class it as one of its discover stations. Not only are they good enough to save people’s lives, they also have volunteers giving free tours! There’s an impressive walkway/pier, although keep hold of little toddlers as there are some gaps along the edge.”  Via Isleofwightguru

Website: http://www.bembridgelifeboat.org.uk/        Telephone: 01983 875127

 

Explore Needles Park & Alum Bay

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Head out to the most western point of the Isle of Wight and you can experience the spectacular Needles Rocks and lighthouse, not to mention stunning views across the Solent, for free. On the clifftop The Needles Park is free to enter (rides attractions are pay-as-you-go) so make the most of the view here and then take the chairlift to the beach (not free!), enjoying incredible views of the multi-coloured sand cliffs of Alum Bay as you descend. Visit Isle of Wight describes Alum Bay beach as one of the most unusual, picturesque beaches on the island, and we think this sheltered spot with crystal clear waters is ideal for paddling and swimming with the kids – the perfect, FREE family activity!

What reviewers say: Get to the Needles Park early in the morning to have it mostly to yourself, as it gets very crowded later in the day, especially in summer. But whatever time of day you come the views of the Needles stretching out west in front of you are spectacular. For another angle on the Needles, walk down to Alum Bay, or take the vertigo-inducing chair lift.” Via Cool Places

Website: http://www.theneedles.co.uk/index.php        Telephone: 01983 875127

 

Ride a Cycling Trail

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Cycling on the Isle of Wight is the ultimate way to see more and spend less. We think biking through lush landscapes, taking in spectacular sea views and stopping off at quaint country pubs for lunch is hard to beat, so no wonder IoW recently scooped top spot in Lonely Planet’s ‘Top 10 World Cycling Routes’. There are over 500 miles of cycle and bridleways here and a great choice of routes to suit every type of cyclist, whether you want a relaxed afternoon ride, or a more challenging circuit.  Visit Isle of Wight says today the island can offer bike-carrying buses, plenty of bike hire, baggage transfer, and new cycle parking across the Island, so what’s stopping you?

What reviewers say: “The Isle of Wight is a cyclists dream destination. Miles of dramatic coastline to explore, rolling hills to trundle over and plenty of pubs on route to quench that thirst for beer. The Totland, Alum Bay, Freshwater and Yarmouth Loop is great cycle route if you’ve got the family in tow. This 10 mile circular is easy and takes you over surfaced lanes, concrete paths and well-trodden cycle paths. The going is a little tough as you head out of Totland, but you’re soon rewarded with spectacular views, chocolate-box villages and an easy and enjoyable ride from thereon!Andreas via London Cyclist

Website: http://www.visitisleofwight.co.uk/bicycle-island        Telephone: 01983 813813

 

Take a Wine Tour

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We wholeheartedly recommend peaceful, charming Rosemary Vineyard, just a short drive inland from Ryde. Here you’ll find a 30 acre vineyard set in rolling countryside. The estate is  one of the largest producers of English Wine, and is becoming renowned for fantastic apple juice and liqueurs too. The owners have generously introduced free guided winery tours taking place every Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday at set times throughout the day. Visitors witness first hand the winemaking process and the equipment used, and can enjoy a tasting of wines, juices, liqueurs and ciders. There’s a well stocked gift shop and The Vine Leaf Coffee Shop is a lovely spot for a ploughman’s, toastie or baguette if you can linger for lunch.

What reviewers say: “For a tour with a tipple, I recommend a visit to Rosemary Vineyard. You can walk through the vines and try their wine and fruit liqueurs for free.” Amy Bryant via Telegraph

Website: http://www.rosemaryvineyard.co.uk/index.htm        Telephone: 01983 811084

 

Art at Quarr Abbey

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Listening to the Benedictine monks sing Gregorian chant at Quarr Abbey is a hugely uplifting experience, and for many visitors to the Isle of Wight, time spent at this spiritual oasis proves a welcome tonic. There is also a free admission Art Gallery here, showing wonderful works from local artists. Quarr Abbey is a striking red brick monastery and church completed in 1912. It’s home to the Island’s community of Benedictine monks, but visitors are able to explore the abbey’s interior and surrounding grounds and find calm places to sit and contemplate life. We very much enjoyed the book shop, pretty tea garden and farm shop, and thoroughly recommend the Abbey’s exquisite home-produced honey.

What reviewers say: “For a slice of quiet contemplation, Quarr Abbey, a working monastery on the Isle of Wight, is a wonderful place to soothe the soul. It is not just an architecturally beautiful church – there is much more than meets the eye – roaming pigs, café, farm shop, book shop, art gallery and for the first time in its history, very modern ‘monastic internships.” – Sarah Sims via MyIsleofWight.com

Website: http://www.quarrabbey.org/site.php        Telephone: 01983 882420

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Happily the Isle of Wight is free of giant retail parks and soulless concrete shopping malls. Instead those interested in the great British pastime of shopping can delight in small independent stores and very specialist outlets that simply don’t exist elsewhere. Here’s our Top 5 Shopping Destinations (in no particular order) on the Isle of Wight:

Chocolate Apothecary, Ryde

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The Chocolate Apothecary on Ryde Esplanade is an obvious choice for our shopping selection. Fans head here for the sumptuous confectionery, chocs and hot chocolate and because this gem of a chocolate store and cafe is efficiently run and extremely welcoming. There is a vast choice, best described by food bloggers Matt & Cat: “Enticing ranks of exquisite chocolate-covered cherries, truffles, and strawberry cups could be seen alongside hefty slabs of chocolate encasing nuts, fruit and all manner of sweet delights; a chocolate-lovers paradise,” they write. A chorus of fans on TripAdvisor also declare this a “must do when in Ryde”.

What reviewers say: On a day when it was bucketing down, we drove out on the pier then popped across Ryde Esplanade on the waterfront to this adorable chocolate shop. Situated in a listed Victorian building – an old chemist’s – it sells all manner of cocoa products. There are fancy handmade chocolates, bars, patisserie and to-die-for hot chocolate. Sip the thick, sweet nectar at one of the small tables while the children bite the heads off their chocolate bunnies.” – Jennifer Howze via Jenography

Website: http://www.chocolateapothecary.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 718292

 

With Love Betty, Newport  

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Vintage fashion boutique With Love Betty has earned its stripes (and polka dots) in recent years as a much-loved destination store on the Isle of Wight, and with good reason. It’s a treasure trove of beautifully made, repaired and presented vintage skirts, floral dresses, bags, jewellery and shoes, and is the perfect place to find unique items that will enhance any fashionista’s wardrobe. Launched in 2012 by vintage-loving fashion graduate Gemma Aspland, the shop now offers a really rewarding retail experience, and we think you’ll relish quality shopping time here.

What reviewers say: “Tucked away on Watchbell Lane, just off Newport’s main shopping street, is With Love Betty, selling vintage tea dresses, midi-skirts and pussy-bow blouses. Heaven if you’re into prints.”  Amy Bryant via Telegraph

Website: http://withlovebetty.com/#/home/4569486619        Telephone: 01983 718292

 

Isle of Wight Pearl, Brighstone

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Do you like window shopping for beautifully crafted luxury goods, or is there a special gift you need to buy for a loved one? Isle of Wight Pearl is a fascinating retail destination which showcases amazing jewellery, and certainly offers beautiful gift options. In fact here – perched on a scenic coastal headland near Brighstone – you’ll find the largest collection of pearls in the UK. The store specialises in selling top quality Akoya and Freshwater pearls, and on site there’s a design workshop for re-stringing necklaces and bracelets, and you can dream up and order bespoke designs. We would also recommend popping into the Pearl Café for a fresh coffee, light bite or cream tea.

What reviewers say: “An extravagant dream brought to reality in the middle of nowhere. Wonderful displays of pearls from around the world that you can drool over and dream of owning, or splash out and buy along with watches, jewellery and chocolate. Afterwards enjoy coffee and homemade cake which is cheap by comparison and enjoy the views.”  Derek H via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.iowpearl.com/        Telephone: 01983 740352

 

Alum Bay Glassworks

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From perfume bottles to coffee pots to ornamental swans, handmade glass from Alum Bay is widely collected, and famed around the world. This fine quality crystal glass is made by highly skilled glassmakers on the site at Alum Bay, which is what makes this glass studio and showroom, located at The Needles Park, so special. We found visitors transfixed by the glass blowing demonstration, and thought the whole experience well presented and informative. In terms of shopping, this really is the perfect place to choose a special souvenir of your stay on the island. If you can’t decide on the day. you can order online at http://www.alumbayglass.co.uk/index.php

What reviewers say: “Went into Alum Bay Glass on a visit to The Needles. For  £1 you can go into the glass factory and watch a demonstration of the glass blowers making a vase. I was absolutely fascinated and stood there for about 30 minutes watching the craftsman at work. A very interesting display, worth having a look. There is also a lovely little shop where you can purchase a variety of different glass objects that have been made at Alum Bay Glass.”  LindaandPaulW via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.alumbayglass.co.uk/index.php        Telephone: 0871 720 0022

 

Made on the Isle of Wight, Ryde

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What a great idea for a shop! Every item in Made on the Isle of Wight came into being on the island, so the store itself is a celebration of the design, growing and craft talents of local businesses and artists. To get here head along Bullen Road from Ryde, and you’ll find what is essentially a very compact department store selling a vast array. We loved the ceramics and handmade jewellery, the hampers and the original art, and feel that it’s a real achievement to have created a community marketplace that showcases the wares of so many small local enterprises. Foodies flock here for award winning cheeses, jams, wines and fresh fruit and veg, and visitors also rate the Two Ticks Tea Room which spills out into the fragrant garden in summer.

What reviewers say: “A shop selling Island made food, gifts, homewares, wine, pictures, cards and more, founded by people who love the Isle of Wight.”  Via WelcometotheIsland.co.uk

Website: http://madeonisleofwight.com/shop.php        Telephone: 01983 898813

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A packed calendar of events means you’re very likely to catch an amazing show, regatta or festival during your time on the Isle of Wight. From iconic music festivals to smaller family-friendly events and activities, there’s a wealth of entertainment to enjoy. We’ve hand-picked our Top Five IoW Events, and here they are, in no particular order:

Cowes Week: 8-15 August 2015

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Cowes Week racing takes place in the hazardous five-mile-wide channel between the Isle of Wight and the mainland’s south coast. This historic annual event is the largest sailing regatta of its kind in the world, and today it stages up to 40 daily races for around 1,000 boats. In our view, the massive nautical spectacle is well worth witnessing, whether you are a sailing fan or not. The racing, and the on-shore fun and games that surround it, draw in over 100,000 spectators every year. So if you fancy joining the party head to Cowes where the pubs go crazy, live bands take to the streets, and the sailing fraternity let their hair down yachtie style!

What reviewers say: “You can get cheap or free access to Cowes Week. Take a picnic to The Green in West Cowes, a public space, and watch the boats race past the sea wall with spinnakers ballooning. The best day to go is Friday for the brilliant fireworks on the water in Cowes Harbour after the day’s racing is over.” Sophie Campbell via Telegraph.co.uk

Website: http://www.aamcowesweek.co.uk        Telephone: 01983 245 100

Sandown Carnival

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You’ve hit the jackpot if you’re on the island while fantastically colourful Sandown Carnival is taking place! This is one of the island’s best loved events dating back to 1889. The town goes carnival crazy one weekend in July with processions, floats, amazing costumes, food, music and street entertainment. There’s an ‘Illuminated Carnival’ with brightly lit floats in August and another massive Halloween themed carnival celebration featuring fireworks in early November. Best of all Sandown Carnival events are free for locals and visitors to attend. This is thanks to an incredibly dedicated team of volunteers who fundraise tirelessly to ensure the events keep wowing the crowds year after year.

What reviewers say: “Sandown’s November carnival and lantern parade, beach show and fireworks are legendary! It’s a great chance to come along in Hallowe’en costumes for a spooky parade! You can expect a stunning illuminated carnival parade with lots of brightly-lit floats and costumes, marching bands, lantern bearers, fire-based shows and tricks on the beach, sideshows and activities with musical entertainment, competitions and giveaways hosted by Capital FM LIVE from Sandown Esplanade..”  VisitIsleofWight

Website: http://www.sandowncarnival.com/index.php        Telephone: 01983 404726

Isle of Wight Walking Festival, May

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The much-loved Isle of Wight Walking Festival takes place over 16 days in May – exact dates for 2016 to be confirmed. The Walking Festival, and walking events throughout the year are designed for all ages so everyone from energetic tots to go-getting grannies can enjoy the island by foot. We think walking is a wonderful way to learn about the landscape and history of this beautiful island, while also boosting your health and fitness levels. The award-winning Festival has been running now for 17 years and attracts thousands of visitors to the island. Walkers can choose from over 200 scheduled walks – and these may have a literary, historical, geological or foodie theme. We love the variety on offer – Nordic Walking, ghost hikes, walks around historic gardens such as Osborne House, and dinosaur walks for kids to enjoy. Pop on your walking boots and join the fun!

There’s a walking event on 23 – 26 October 2015 which is the Autumn Walking Weekend and all details are on the website www.isleofwightwalkingfestival.co.uk

What reviewers say: “This year marked the 17th year of the Isle of Wight Walking Festival, offering a huge range of choices to appeal to anyone who likes the fresh air. Walkers could join a short fossil hunting walk, a bluebell walk, walking with alpacas, a Cowes heritage walk, a storytelling treasure-hunt walk, a wine-tasting walk, or — for the masochists amongst you — embark upon a massive sixty-six mile walk around the entire Island..”  Thomas Seal via Isle of Wight County Press

Website: http://www.isleofwightwalkingfestival.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 823070

Garlic Festival, August

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For a perfect blend of food and family entertainment head to the super-friendly Garlic Festival which takes place at the Garlic Farm near Newchurch, over an August weekend. Visitors treat their taste buds to weird and wonderful garlic products – garlic fudge, garlic ice-cream, garlic scones – watch local chefs in action, take part in the Garlic Games, and enjoy the beer tent, food stalls, live music and funfair rides. We recommend the Garlic Festival for being a very low cost way to try new foods and have heaps of fun in a very relaxed, green and pleasant setting. We love the idea of celebrating garlic too – it’s been grown successfully at the award-winning Garlic Farm for over 50 years now.

What reviewers say: “Set against a beautiful backdrop of rolling green hills and farmland, the Garlic Festival is located just outside of Newchurch at the heart of the stunning Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival is the island’s biggest summer show and simply the best day out.”  via The Belmont  

Website: http://www.garlic-festival.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 761 475

Isle of Wight Festival, June

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Could this be the perfect music festival? Steeped in rock history – The Who, Hendrix, Dylan and Bowie played in the 1960s and 70s – the Isle of Wight Festival is now firmly re-established as a red hot ticket for music fans. Catch top class live acts, explore the Bohemian Woods, attend a circus workshop at the Kids Zone, and go vintage at The Intoxicated Tea Rooms. For 2015, rock royalty included Blur, Fleetwood Mac and The Prodigy, and beyond the main stage a packed programme guaranteed a four day party. This is the place to stumble upon quirky comedy, dance tents, and games around the ‘Strongbow Tree’. We recommend glamping it up with an alternative accommodation option. Rock on, but sleep well!

What reviewers say: “Where the Isle of Wight Festival excels is in the number of glamping options available. Yurts and tipis could be rented; but worth a special mention are Podpads and their quirky alternatives to the traditional tent. With such a well-organised, vibrant event, weary festival fans are guaranteed to take home some lifelong memories, and perhaps a sore head. If the rest of summer is anything like the legendary Isle of Wight Festival, it’ll be a good one.”  Andrew Day via Cool Camping  

Website: http://isleofwightfestival.com/Default.aspx

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There’s no shortage of amazing pubs, restaurants and beaches on the Isle of Wight, but to ensure your Stag Do goes off with a bang, book up a fun activity too. In no particular order, here’s our Top 5 Isle of Wight Stag Do recommendations:

 

 

Sea Kayaking

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Stag party groups seeking a fun physical challenge before they hit the bars will love an afternoon sea kayaking off the Isle of Wight with Adventure Activities. Reviewers rave about the easy-going but highly qualified instructors who are always on hand to coach and encourage out on the water. Weather permitting, you and your pals will be paddling under soaring cliffs, discovering caves and sheltered bays, and surfing ocean waves. We think this paddlesport session will sort the boys from the men, and guarantee everyone masters kayaking – all in a stunning location.

What reviews say: Spent a wonderful four hours out on the sea with Tim an experienced and friendly instructor, and Charlie a very helpful apprentice. Felt very safe despite the waves and occasional rain shower. Appreciated the coaching session learning new strokes and rescue techniques. One of the few schools specialising in sit on tops and I strongly recommend this centre!”  ChrisTonyMaxi via TripAdvisor

Website: http://isleofwight.adventureactivitiesuk.com/        Telephone:  01983 755 838

Island Paintballing

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Paintballing battles guarantee adrenaline-fuelled fun, so this is an ideal choice to kick start a lively stag weekender on the Isle of Wight. Island Paintballing near Ryde comes highly recommended for its location, top quality equipment and value for money. The centre prides itself on offering “realistic and varied scenarios” with the action taking place in and around outstanding woodlands. Ex-military marshals and qualified first aiders are on hand, and thanks to careful inductions and event planning, everyone gets a slice of the action. Just so the troops don’t go hungry, there’s a barbecue and picnic area on site as well!

What reviews say: Nine of us went for my stag do. There was another stag party on the day and we all had a fantastic time. Wayne got us all interacting and arranged about 10 different scenarios with time for a break in between. Had such a good time, great laugh, different games and Wayne and his wife treated us to hotdogs after. Would highly recommend for stag/work dos!”  Neil H via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.islandpaintballing.co.uk/         Telephone: 01983 401717

Clay Pigeon Shooting

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Which of your stag party lads will show the most steady-handed proficiency when clay pigeon shooting? We love the fact that at Bowcombe View Shooting Ground the ‘Top Gun’ on the day is presented with a trophy or bottle of bubbly! This country sport is a great test of skills and reflexes and the perfect manly pursuit for any stag do. Here at Bowcombe View, near Cheverton on the south west side of the island, clays, cartridges, guns, hearing and eye protection are provided, along with expert coaching. And the setting is perfect – 11 acres blessed with sumptuous rural views.

What reviews say: If you enjoy being out in the picturesque British countryside and fancy doing something a bit different, clay pigeon shooting on the Isle of Wight could be for you!”   RedFunnel Island Guide

Website: http://www.shootingisleofwight.co.uk/index.html        Telephone: 0750 1272 123

 

Sailing Weekend

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The Isle of Wight is a world famous yachting hotspot, and it’s certainly the ideal base for sailing fans about to tie the knot. You’ll be following in the drunken footsteps of royalty – none other than Princes Harry and William attended Peter Phillips ‘do’ here in 2008! So for sailing stags we recommend Ryde-based Windward Sailing. The experienced team will set you up on one of their performance race yachts and provide exhilarating sailing or a more leisurely time on the water – whatever your preference. We love the idea of sailing to yachtie Mecca Cowes, and mooring up for a night to enjoy the lively waterfront pubs and restaurants.

What reviews say: Excellent weekend for my stag party, brilliant sailing, super weather. We were all looked after very well. Exceptional professionalism from the Skipper (Mook). Also great service prior to trip for what to do in Cowes/Southampton. I would highly recommend!”  Jack via Windward Sailing site

Website: http://www.windwardsailing.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 612800

Cycling Adventure

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Are you and your mates ready for challenging road and off-road riding around the Isle of Wight? We reckon this is a great stag weekend activity which allows you to explore hidden gems around the island, take on a physical challenge, and have a good laugh along the way. The fantastic team at Island Cycling Adventures offer fully-guided, bespoke off road experiences. You can go on a 3 hour trip or book a five day adventure holiday with food and accommodation planned out for your party. So slip on your padded trousers, pack your trusty camera and enjoy the best of the island in the greenest way possible!

What reviews say: Experienced, knowledgeable and friendly guides. Great bikes (Giant XC 29ers with XT group & good Avids). Great route from The Garlic Farm with some incredible views and a perfect balance of climbing vs descending. This is a great way to get the most from a bike ride… sure you could find the bridleways yourself but this team make everything so easy – perfect if you have limited time but want maximum fun.” Barnthebearsmyname via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.islandcyclingadventures.co.uk/        Telephone: 01983 882390

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Looking for fun hen do ideas that will ensure everyone enjoys the experience and the bride-to-be has an absolute ball? We’ve scoured the Isle of Wight for what we believe to be the Best 5 Hen Do Activities, so in no particular order, here they are. Have fun ladies!

Paddleboard adventure

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Energetic hens will love venturing out on the water and trying their hand at paddleboarding – with the expertise of Freshwater-based Adventure Activities. Reviewers praise the way paddleboarding is taught in a fun yet safe and informative way by the Adventure Activities staff. Once you’ve mastered the basic technique you’ll be paddling along the shoreline, under impressive cliffs and into caves, all the while enjoying the beautiful seascapes that make the Isle of Wight so unique. We think this is a fantastic way to learn a new skill, tone up your leg and arm muscles, and get some fresh air before hitting the cocktails!

 

What reviewers say: We had the most amazing time paddleboarding for my sisters hen party! Just the right balance of supervision given without being overbearing. We loved having the freedom to try things out and explore. Thank you for a fantastic experience, would definitely recommend.”  Kyli W via TripAdvisor

Website: http://isleofwight.adventureactivitiesuk.com        Telephone: 01983 200022

Lakeside Park Hotel Spa Break

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Located four miles west of Ryde, the Lakeside Park Hotel Spa comes highly recommended. Its serene lakeside setting, gardens, orchards and superb food and facilities will provide the perfect relaxing environment for hen party pampering. The spa has four beauty treatment rooms and a relaxation room, offering facials, massage, manicures, pedicures, waxing and special treatments. Online reviews applaud the attentive staff, light and airy rooms, free WiFi and comfy beds. A recommendation from Taste of the Wight confirms the reliability of the food – also described on TripAdvisor as “superb”.

What reviewers say: “We had a lovely room overlooking the lake, well worth the difference in money. Food is excellent with a lovely choice, with great variety of puds. The staff have been so helpful and reflect a hotel that is doing its utmost to keep a high level in customer service. At breakfast we were asked which table we would like to sit at which is a breath of fresh air. The pool is warm and the adjoining jacuzzi inviting, along with the steam room and sauna availability. I would definitely recommend and return to this hotel with no hesitation. Well done the Lakeside Park Hotel.” Carolyn C via TripAdvisor

Website: http://www.lakesideparkhotel.com/index.php        Telephone: 01983 882266

Boat Charter

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What could be more glamorous for the bride-to-be than relaxing on a luxury yacht, taking in the outstanding scenery of the Solent and The Needles, while catching up with best friends? We love the idea of chartering an ocean-going yacht, high speed RIB or luxury power boat with First Contact Boat Charters to guarantee a day to remember. The boat will be skippered by expert sailors so you’re in very safe hands, and this super-special occasion will be both exciting and memorable for everyone involved.

What reviewers say: “By the end of the weekend I was exhausted, but felt ridiculously healthy and refreshed. Three days in the company of Phil and his colleagues had shaken the urban cobwebs out of my system. I’m already saving up for my next hit.” – Jonathan Thompson via Independent on Sunday

Website: http://www.islandactivities.co.uk/hen_party_weekends.html        Telephone: 07774614883

Chessell Pottery Barns

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Just a short drive from Freshwater on the western side of the island, we found this happy haven of creativity, and we think artistic hens will love spending an afternoon painting pottery here! Chessell Pottery Barn combines a long-established pottery studio with craft shop and courtyard cafe. Book a session to paint items of your own – perhaps a classic Emma Bridgewater teapot, or a handmade earthenware bowl – from a wonderfully wide selection. Let your artistic juices flow; make something truly unique that will remind the hen of her time on the island. Ask for details of the special Hen Party Package that includes pottery painting, and the full afternoon tea on a stand.

What reviewers say: “Channel your inner Emma Bridgewater at Chessell Pottery Barns, where the ceramic designer’s handmade teapots and plates are available to paint. While they’re being fired, take afternoon tea in the pretty garden.” Amy Bryant via Telegraph.co.uk

Website: http://www.chessellpotterybarns.co.uk        Telephone: 01983 531 248

Champagne Tea at the Royal Hotel

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Give your hen a right royal treat – a luxury afternoon tea just as Queen Victoria enjoyed it! In the sumptuous surroundings of Ventnor’s Royal Hotel, opt for the deliciously dainty Royal Tea, or push the boat out with a classy Champagne Tea. We absolutely loved the stylishly calm atmosphere here and the views over Ventnor Bay can’t fail to take your breath away. According to Cool Places “the cakes, scone and sandwiches are to die for” while satisfied customers report ‘delightful’ and ‘polite’ staff on TripAdvisor. Get dressed up and enjoy every moment of this fun, extravagant experience in the most perfect of settings.

What reviewers say: “Sitting in the hotel’s Colonial-style conservatory the Royal Afternoon Tea features a dainty assortment of sandwiches with traditional fillings followed by an exquisite selection of cakes, meringues, patisseries and freshly baked scones and cream all prepared lovingly by their talented patisserie chef. The tea menu varies with the seasons and features 6 refreshing JING teas. The perfect spot to stop off while exploring vintage Ventnor.” The Editor via MyIsleofWight.com

Website: http://royalhoteliow.co.uk        Telephone: 01983 852186

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We hope you’ve enjoyed our Ultimate Guide to the Isle of Wight, and have found plenty of new places and activities to try. Remember that there is always more to be discovered, so if you think you’ve come across a hidden gem we’ve missed, why not share it with us on our Facebook or Twitter pages?

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