The Isle of Wight is a popular British beach holiday destination, located off the Hampshire coast in south of the UK. But I bet you didn’t know that the best Isle of Wight adventures offer more excitement than your typical sun, sea and sand vacation? The top 25 IOW activity holiday ideas below will hopefully inspire you to visit.
If you have decided to holiday in the UK then having to take a ferry to an island makes it feel more like you are going away. The Isle of Wight has a less commercial feel and a more laid-back attitude than the mainland. It is a little like stepping back in time a couple of decades – almost like a holiday in the past.
With most adventures taking place outside you are going to want nice weather. It is well known that the south of England is drier, warmer and sunnier then the rest of the UK. The good news is the Isle of Wight has even better weather than the mainland.
From east to west the Isle of Wight is just 22.5 miles (36 km) wide and north to south only 13.5 miles (22 km) across. This means it is small without being tiny, there is plenty to explore but nothing is ever that far away. And with hills, cliffs, miles of coast and plenty of rural land there is a lot of variety.
Plus as a tourist destination it has all the facilities and infrastructure you could want. Accommodation ranges from luxury hotels, to quaint B&Bs, to low cost hostels and campsites. There are many pubs, restaurants, cafes and tourist attractions.
But the real reason people visit for IOW activity holidays is the sheer variety of things you can do. From hiking to biking, skydiving to scuba diving and kitesurfing to kayaking there is so much on offer that no budding adventurer will ever get bored.
The best Isle of Wight adventures all start with a ferry or hovercraft crossing. We took the Wightlink Car Ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne which takes about 45 minutes – you could also travel from Yarmouth to Lymington. For a family of four with a car it costs around £80 to £150 depending on the time of year and time of travel, or just £12.60 per foot passenger.
We were on the new Victoria of Wight, Wightlink’s flagship that set sail in 2018. It uses an eco-friendly hybrid energy system and is the greenest vessel to serve the Isle of Wight. There are large comfortable passenger decks with plenty of room both inside and outdoors.
With the current Covid-19 restrictions the ferries have a lower capacity than normal meaning they are not busy. There are also hand sanitising stations, one way sections and social distanced queue areas for the cafe and toilets. But there were no queues during our visit in the middle of August.
The loading and unloading of the ferry has been sped up with the upper and lower levels of the ferry being loaded simultaneously. If you are not driving, Wightlink run a foot passenger ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde Pier that costs £14.90 per adult. It takes 22 minutes and at both ends the ferry terminal is near the train station.
Please note, the best Isle of Wight adventures below range from multi day activities to a day trips and extreme experiences. While you could focus a holiday on any individual activity the IOW activity holiday ideas below would also lend themselves well to a multi activity break.
Lets begin with sailing – something the Isle of Wight is very famous for. Cowes Week is one of the oldest and most famous sailing regattas in the world. But Cowes is just one of many places to sail on the island, there are more than 15 marinas dotted around the north and east of the IOW.
There are also around 15 sailing and yacht clubs on the Isle of Wight. Most offer tuition and have a variety of boats to use. Sailing around the island is very popular, during the annual race most crafts do so in about 7-10 hours but you could spend a week circumnavigating the island and exploring many beautiful anchorages.
If you like your watersports motorised then there are a range of high speed crafts to choose from. Jet skis can be rented at a few places with no experience required. Power boating requires a licence and you can do a course at Bembridge Harbour.
Compton Bay on the southwest coast of the Isle of Wight is probably the best surf spot on the island. It is a beautiful beach and swells range from two to five feet. Low to mid tides offer the best conditions, with southeast or northwest winds best. There are surf schools offering lessons and gear hire.
But Compton is far from the only place you can surf on the IOW. On the southeast cost both Shanklin and Sandown often have good surf. While you are unlikely to get barreled these beaches have a different aspect so can be firing when Compton is not. Ultimately learning to surf is one of the best IOW activity holiday ideas.
While we are talking board and water sports we need to mention kite and windsurfing. Bembridge, Seaview, Ryde, Colwell, Gurnard, Puckpool, Compton Bay, Brook and Yaverland (Sandown) are all popular spots. As a small island you can quickly head to where is best for the wind and tides offering plenty of flexibility for kitesurfers and windsurfers.
If there is no wind or waves it is time to bust out the kayak, canoe or SUP. Paddle sports can be enjoyed pretty much anywhere that you can get to the water. Either bring your own gear and explore or hire what you need – many beaches offer this. There are also companies offering lessons or guided experiences.
There is so much beautiful coastline to explore that kayaking, canoeing and paddle boarding are some of the best IOW activity holiday ideas. Explore the world famous Needles, the caves at Freshwater, try river paddling on the Medina from Newport to Cowes, or paddle the sheltered waters of Ryde and Puckpool.
Some of the best Isle of Wight adventures are to be found beneath the waves. The Isle of Wight is home to at least four different dive centres offering everything from beginner dive experiences, to full on courses and day dives for qualified divers.
As one of the busiest waterways in the world it is no surprise there are numerous shipwrecks. You can dive on U-Boats, Destroyers and even the remains of ocean liners. Furthermore, Sandown Bay is a Marine Conservation Zone so wildlife is plentiful. Snorkelling it good in the clear waters of Totland Bay plus plenty of other spots.
Moving onto the land there are many options to explore the island on foot. The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a 70 miles (113 km) circular route around the Island. It follows mainly public footpaths and minor lanes through a huge variety of landscapes. Take a week hiking between B&Bs, or trek it camping for a few nights along the way.
There is so much walking available. Ranging from short walks in protected woodland with endangered red squirrels to the 27.5 mile (44.3 km) route from Bembridge that crosses the island. There are five AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) to explore including the Needles Headland and Tennyson Down.
Not only can you walk around the island but it can be cycled around too. Many keen cyclists do this in a day, although stopping part way for the night makes a weekend of it. There are also cycle paths running through the centre of the island, for example from Sandown to Newport.
The Isle of Wight Mountain Bike Centre at Cheverton Farm has around 4 km of purpose made trails. There are red and blue routes with berms, humps, table tops, doubles, step downs and other obstacles. There are trails elsewhere on the Island too. Brighstone Down has a fair few routes and there is some nice single track at Brading Down.
The Island Riding Centre offers horse riding holidays near Newport. Whether you want to learn to ride, improve your equestrian skills or get out exploring the countryside, beaches and bridleways of the IOW they have you covered. There are many other stables and riding clubs on the island offering horse riding experiences.
There is no rock climbing in the IOW but you can climb indoors. You’ll find the Islands only climbing wall at West Island Sport Centre in Freshwater. There are seven lines of six to seven metres that are changed monthly and there is bouldering on a traversing wall. Lessons are available.
Located at on the cliffs near Freshwater there is a climbing and water sport experience like no other. Coasteering involves navigating the edge of the shoreline, climbing cliffs, leaping into the sea and much more. Guided experiences are available, this is not something to do without experts.
Saving one of the best Isle of Wight adventures to near the end you can also skydive! From Sandown Airfield, Skydive Isle of Wight offers tandem jumps with fabulous views. There are limited jump dates during the summer so book early to avoid disappointment.
The IOW has an important place in British paragliding and hang gliding history. Sunny weather, good launches and great thermals mean many top British pilots have trained here. Two companies offer paragliding and hang gliding experiences and lessons. Easily one of the best Isle of Wight adventures.
The IOW Hang Gliding and Paragliding club manages around 12 launch sites covering most wind directions. There is everything from a 22 mile (35 km) cliff runs to cross-country and ridge soaring. When the conditions are right it is possible to fly across the Solent to the mainland!
The final activity – and possibly the best of all! – is to fit many different sports into your IOW activity holiday. Make it a multi-activity trip choosing your favourites from the list above. You could do a different activity every day, both exploring the island highlights and having many adventures along the way.
We hope you found these 25 IOW activity holiday ideas inspirational. Visit our guide to Isle of Wight adventure travel to help plan your trip.