So you’ve come to the Isle of Wight in the depths of the British winter and you are planning your days on the off chance that a beach walk is really off the cards, with the howling wind and driving rain bringing back dreadful memories of the last two English summers! Fret not! There are some fabulous places open on the Isle of Wight during the quiet season, and unlike the bustling summer months, you won’t have to fight your way through the crowds.
Culver Parade, Sandown, PO36 8QA
If you have a dinosaur crazy little one then this is a must see on the Isle of Wight. The unique geology of the Isle of Wight has made it one of the top world sites for dinosaur fossil finds. This modern, lottery funded museum mixes the best of user friendly academic presentation with great interactives and not just for the kids; dads will love the robotic dinosaur! In summer up to 2,000 visitors a day flock through the door, but on a cold day in winter you’ll have the joy of being able to really relax and enjoy yourselves without battling through the peak season crowds. You can follow the time corridor, clipboards and quizzes in hand, back to the age of the dinosaurs and then enjoy the displays and games together as a family. One word of advice though, it’s worth preparing your over-excited, dinosaur mad toddler that however realistic the model dinosaurs look and sound they won’t jump up and eat them; in this case a little preparation can save a lot of tears! Whatever you do please make time to visit the absolutely excellent education room upstairs. With painting, model making, colouring for little ones as well as an enchanting mat full of cuddly dinosaurs for babies, you will keep every member of the family happy up here. This place comes highly recommended! Check out the website or call the venue for information about their Fossil Walks, these fantastic and memorable walks are for all the family, even the very youngest fossil hunters!
Open daily during winter 10am – 4pm
Tel: 01983 404344 www.dinosaurisle.com
York Avenue, East Cowes, PO32 6JY
It’s worth going to the Isle of Wight just to see this fantastic house. Queen Victoria fell in love with the island and built her family holiday home here. It’s like a magnificent Italian villa set in the most beautiful spot imaginable. It’s so easy to get here, especially if you’re coming in on the Red Funnel ferries, being just a mile or so from Cowes. If you come in before Christmas prepare yourself for some serious Christmas tree envy as the house is decorated to create a perfect Victorian Christmas. You have to leave buggies when you tour the house but the staff were incredible helpful; they have slings for babies and hipsters for toddlers. A word of warning if you have an exuberant child; during the winter, trips around the house can only be done as part of a guided tour. Staff said that children were very welcome but if I was taking my noisy one year old round I might make provision for a swift exit! There’s a café by the entrance but if you want a real treat at the weekend book yourself a table (you really have to book in advance) in the stunning Terrace Restaurant. It’s a world away from your usual historic house self service café; it’s a stylish restaurant which is very happy to accommodate children. All in all this is a simply lovely day out and right at the car park, hidden behind the hedge is a fab play park to reward well-behaved children!
Opening times this winter: Weds to Sun 10am – 4pm
Tel: 01983 200022 www.english-heritage.org.uk
Amazon World Zoo Park
Watery Lane, Newchurch, Sandown, PO36 0LX
Winner of the Isle of Wight Tourism’s ‘Top Attraction’ award and the ‘Good Britain Guide’ Top Family Attraction, Amazon World Zoo Park is a great winter day out for the whole family, you can thoroughly enjoy it whatever the weather! You and your little ones will be able to spot tropical birds, count the crocodiles and enjoy the 200 species of mammal, bird, reptile, insect, amphibian and fish in this education and conservation centre.
Open daily from 10am all year
Tel: 01983 867122 www.amazonworld.co.uk
Brading Roman Villa Morton Old Road, Brading, PO36 0EN
This award-winning Exhibition and Visitor Centre offers a unique insight into Roman life in Britain. This family friendly exhibition space is packed with lots of great activities to really engage the children. You’ll also find a café, shop and lovely grounds. The mosaic floors and extensive collection of Roman archaeology are cleverly presented to interest even the youngest little Roman fan.
Opening Times: 9:30am to 5:00pm
Tel: 01983 406223 www.bradingromanvilla.org.uk
Carisbrooke, nr Newport, PO30 1XY
This magnificent castle is a wonderful family day out which will leave you chatting for days about donkeys and arrow slits! There is so much to do and it is so perfectly set up for young children that you can easily spend an entire day here. See our feature ‘Just the Best Castle in England’ for a detailed overview.
Open daily 10am – 4pm
Tel: 01983 522107 www.english-heritage.org.uk