Whether you are looking for ideas for a get-away-from-it-all weekend, a week away without the hassle of airports, delays and restricted luggage or simply looking for a magnificent family day out that will leave you glowing with parental contentment for days, the Isle of Wight has everything you could desire. There’s something about hopping on a boat that gives you that lovely feeling of having left it all behind. Close the Isle of Wight may be, but that separation from the mainland gives the island an other-worldliness, far from the commuting, traffic-filled mayhem that is part and parcel of life down here in the busy South East.
But it’s the depths of winter! I hear you cry. No, we haven’t gone crazy; we know that for many of you the Isle of Wight may be a summer destination. However, there is so much more than hazy days with ice cream on the beach and lazy strolls along the esplanade at Ryde. The island is a great place to pop over to during the quieter season. Imagine long empty beaches with crashing waves, deserted roads, no lengthy queues and a chance to savour the many wonderful sights and sounds of one of Britain’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, without having to share it with the vast crowds of visitors who flock here during the summer months. Although some of the island’s attractions do close down in the winter, plenty of great places to visit are still open and you’ll find stacks to fill your days. We’ve put together guides to the best winter beach walks, where to warm up by the sea with a hot chocolate and where to find the best rainy day activities if you’re caught out by a downpour.
Many of us are preoccupied at present with the state of the environment, and of course (in these credit crunch times), with that of our finances. Trips over to the island are a great solution to holiday dilemmas if you want to be green and watch your pennies. No expensive, environmentally unfriendly flights to think about and with the island measuring just 27 miles from east to west you won’t be spending your time and petrol money on long car journeys. The Isle of Wight prides itself on being an ‘Eco Island’. Ambitious plans are reaching fruition to turn it into the world’s greenest island, with hopes to be carbon neutral in a decade. Not just a pretty spot to visit then, the Isle of Wight is very quickly becoming one of Britain’s top travel destinations for those wanting to reduce their carbon footprints.
Where do you head off to when you get there? With several large towns as well as wide expanses of gorgeous countryside there’s something for every taste. East Wight has most of the major towns and is where many of the tourists flock. Ryde is the island’s largest town, with pretty Victorian architecture, a half mile long pier and six miles of beautiful sandy beaches. Newport sits in the centre of the island and is the main shopping area. Cowes in the north is one of the world’s most famous yachting resorts, and has a good range of shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs. Also worth a visit are Bembridge and Seaview on the far eastern tip of the island. Bembridge claims to be the UK’s largest village and has a sailing centre, coastal walks and a couple of great places to eat. Seaview is a very pretty village by the sea with lovely architecture and fabulous views across the Solent. Busy Sandown is packed at the height of the season and is the island’s archetypal ‘seaside town’. Nearby Shanklin has sprawled out from its pretty village centre, replete with thatched cottages and tea shops and is packed with hotels and a lovely beach. Down at the south of the island you’ll find Ventnor, one of the steepest towns in Britain. Its sheltered location and balmy climate led to its becoming a ‘health resort’ during the heyday of the Victorian era. This picturesque small town has the island’s botanical gardens and a very pretty crescent shaped beach. At nearby Godshill you’ll find a quintessential ‘Cream Tea’ English village, packed in summer and a delight out of season.
West Wight seems like a world away from its busy eastern neighbour. More than half of the island is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and most of that is in West Wight. The west side of the island is much quieter and more rural. You’ll find lots of lovely walks and bike rides as well as stretches of empty coastline. Yarmouth lies at the western edge of the isle, a short hop from Lymington in the New Forest and a great location for a day trip, as our ‘Just a Perfect Day’ story shows.
Baby London have travelled right around the island to bring you a choice of days out and snug winter places to eat, whether you’re looking for lobster by a roaring fire or heart warming broth in a cosy tearoom. We’ve also found three great places to stay with kids from three corners of the island. It’s a parent’s paradise and it’s just across the Solent. We’ve even put together a guide to the easiest ways to get over, and manhandled our buggies around the ferry to show that it’s not a problem with these boats to have a ‘baby on board’! So sit back and start planning. We loved this special island and we’re pretty sure that you and your little ones will too!