Lying just two miles off England’s south coast, and measuring just over 22 miles from east to west, the Isle of Wight offers a slice of tranquil island life a stone’s throw from the bustling mainland. With its picturesque sandy coastline, landscape awash with idyllic natural beauty, historic sites and a dazzling array of enchanting festivals, the island has all the ingredients for a memorable long-weekend break or even a longer stay throughout the year, and autumn is no exception Here we introduce the Isle of Wight, including details of how to get there, where to stay, and how best to travel around the island.
Due to its size and remote location, the Isle of Wight is laden with unspoilt, sandy beaches. With glorious sands stretching for miles, Sandown is an ideal setting if you’re longing to experience a very British day beside the sea and blow the cobwebs away with an autumn walk. If you’re a budding surfer, you can test your skills by hitting the beach’s renowned waves, or explore the traditional pier complete with its quirky crazy golf course and tuck into a hearty portion of fish and chips.
Located just below a village peppered with charming thatched-roofed shops, Shanklin beach is a great spot for pulling up a traditional deck chair and admiring the many beach huts that overlook the shore. At the far end of the esplanade is the Fisherman’s Cottage Inn, a cosy pub on the beach with a rich heritage dating back more than two centuries. Moving over to the west of the isle, beach-lovers can dream of exploring the golden sands and impressive clifftops of Compton Bay. Not only a beauty spot, this beach is great for fossil hunting and surfing, and is only a stone’s throw away from the location of the famous Isle of Wight Festival of 1970, which hosted the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. Also in the west is the small, but family-friendly Colwell Bay – a quieter coastal spot perfect for taking a refreshing dip or peering across the waters to spy mainland England.
Next on the Isle of Wight beach tour is Ventnor, the island’s southernmost seaside spot, which boasts sandy beaches, vintage beach huts and a traditional bandstand, all nestled beneath a quaint Victorian town. The Haven, a short pier located at a key fishing spot, serves up locally caught fresh fish with piping hot chips, while the town is home to a range of quirky, bohemian shops and a tropical Botanic Garden.
Known as the Isle of Wight’s most picturesque beach, Alum Bay is a place where pebbles, multi-coloured sands and topaz blue seas are framed by the iconic white chalk stacks, known as The Needles – a great bucket list addition if you’re dreaming of exploring Britain’s dramatic coastlines.
A set of chalk stacks rising 30 metres out of the sea, The Needles are a natural wonder marvelled at by visitors, locals and photographers alike. If you’re feeling daring, you can enjoy breathtaking views from on high aboard the famous chairlift, which travels over 50m above the beach below. Having reopened on 16 July 2020 with VisitBritain’s We’re Good To Go industry standard, The Needles Landmark Attraction deserves a place on any vista-searching itinerary.
If you’re an active traveller, you can dream of walking or cycling your way along the 68-mile coastal path, which circles the outline of the entire island. This stunning, remote pathway is alive with colour in autumn, and takes in scenic countryside, clifftops and sandy beaches along the way, providing ample opportunity to relax or to stop off for a picnic.
From a walk through history, to soaking up some local heritage or enjoying a fun-filled family day out, the Isle of Wight has attractions for everyone – although you should remember to book in advance and to take note of any extra precautions needed.
Plan a trip to Osborne House, the holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to wander its majestic gardens and grounds. Highlights include a walled garden, elegant terraces with spectacular vistas and a chance to spot The Swiss Cottage, a retreat used by the royal couple’s children.
Once a monarch’s prison, fortress and grand royal residence, Carisbrooke Castle is a historic gem. With parts of the Castle dating back almost 1,000 years, if you’re a history fanyou can dream of panoramic views from the castle walls and strolls beside its authentic moat, before discovering where King Charles I was kept during his imprisonment – including his personal bowling green. Animal lovers will also relish the chance to meet the castle’s resident donkeys! Carisbrooke Castle is now open, but pre-booking a time slot is essential.
Reopening on 25 July 2020 with the We’re Good To Go standard, Robin Hill Country Park offers 88 acres of countryside, woodland and parkland, with adventures around every corner. Families can look forward to an action-packed day on their treetop canopy walk, adventure nets and toboggans. Another family-friendly attraction opening on 25 July 2020 is Blackgang Chine – the UK’s oldest theme park. Packed with an eclectic mix of rides, theme worlds and attractions overlooking the sea, there’s plenty to ignite the imaginations of those of all ages! Alternatively, if you’re looking for a day of autumnal farm fun, you can organise a trip to Tapnell Farm Park, which includes a hay bale go-kart race track, among a host of other attractions. The site is now open but pre-booking is essential.
The Isle of Wight first forged a reputation for being a festival isle in 1969, when the historic second Isle of Wight Festival saw the likes of Bob Dylan play to an audience of 150,000 people, including members of the Beatles. The Isle of Wight festival continues to be a big date in the calendar for music fans worldwide, with the next four-day extravaganza scheduled for 17-20 June 2021.
The Wight Proms is an annual outdoor festival of live cabaret, classical music and comedy, taking place at Northwood House near Cowes. Scheduled to take place from 21-23 August 2020, it offers a delightful mix of entertainment.
Autumn-loving ramblers can enjoy the annual Isle of Wight Walking Festival, scheduled to go ahead in October 2020. Keen sailor? Why not plan to join the Round the Island Race, which is now due to take place in September 2020. Alternatively, you can simply sit back, relax and enjoy the sight of yachts adorning the deep-blue coastal waters.
Another of the island’s eclectic celebrations is the Isle of Wight Garlic Festival, which is set to return with a strong-smelling bang in August 2021. If you’re an avid foodie, the festival offers the chance to celebrate the locally-grown bulb, alongside live music, appearances from star chefs and a host of children’s activities.
As well as all the glorious walking and cycling trails, you can look forward to exploring in many other ways. Other than jumping in a car, the island offers a vast range of handy bus and rail links, ideal if you’re in search of a dose of mindfulness through ‘slow travel’. If you’re longing for a truly stress-free way to get out and about on the isle, why not embark on a seasonal guided tour? These can be themed to cover a day or more, whether you’re looking to discover special panoramic views, maritime and royal history, shipwrecks, dinosaurs or even a local gastronomic extravaganza!
Whether it’s starting an Isle of Wight adventure by train, ferry or hovercraft, there are many ways of travelling to the island. From London, there are regular train services from London Waterloo to Southampton and Portsmouth Southsea, with the journey taking just under two hours. From here, you can hop on a ferry, which can take as little as 23 minutes on the Red Funnel service, departing from Southampton, Portsmouth or Lymington. Alternatively, those longing for an extra adrenaline rush can travel to the Isle of Wight by hovercraft!
From luxurious hotels to quaint, traditional cottages, the Isle of Wight offers a range of places to stay. Head to the official Isle of Wight tourist board for a full list of places where visitors can rest their heads. If you’re longing to connect with nature on your island adventure, you can plan a stay in one of the many camping and glamping options that the island offers. Outdoor-loving autumn travellers can pitch a tent at Grange Farm in Newport (which reopened on 4 July 2020) and dream of having only the sound of the waves below as an alarm, or look forward to a stay in a cosy eco-pod at the tranquil Tom’s Eco Lodge (which reopened 4 July 2020), where you can even hire a hot tub!