A short skip off the South Coast by car ferry or hovercraft (no, really), Laura Willis shares her Isle of Wight summer: no flying necessary.
Last summer will always be remembered as the “Isle of Wight summer”. We had heard so many lovely stories about this little island that (with a smaller summer budget than normal) we decided it was time to make the move, embrace the open sea and hop on that ferry.
After a drive down to Southampton, the ferry journey in itself was so much part of the holiday experience. Clean, efficient and with spacious seating areas, the £75 crossing (return price) seemed more of a bargain by the minute. The kids loved the ferry and 40 minutes was just enough time for a toilet stop, snack and a peek out on deck as we approached the island.
Whitecliff Bay is perfectly perched next to its own beautiful beach and our decision to stay here was based upon recommendation (fellow campers, you will know how important this is). We managed to keep costs under £200 and this included the ferry crossing as you can add this in to your booking. Our 30 minute drive from the port to the bay was picturesque to say the least and we couldn’t believe how big it all was (we thought you could get around the island in an hour – we were wrong).
The week of our stay also happened to be during one of the sunniest summers we’ve seen and so we were extremely lucky. The staff were friendly and moved us into an overflow field so that the children could play out front without worrying about cars (many games of football with the other campers ensued). With a shop on site, a beautiful beach a stones’ throw away, two swimming pools and a club house, our break was everything we expected. We spent most evenings walking down to the beach, and the local village of Bembridge offers many lovely places to eat and drink.
Cycling the Sunshine Trail was a holiday highlight: you can hire bikes from local village of Sandown and follow the trail from there. There are a few tricky parts but it’s so worth the effort (and there’s a beautiful pub, The Griffin, slap bang in the middle of the trail which has its own maze and sells amazing local cider). There are many other bike trails around the IoW if that is your thing.
Another must-visit is Blackgang Chine. If you purchase a family ticket you can return for free at any point during your stay and my kids LOVED it here. They loved the Dinosaur walk (we came back to an evening walking with dinosaurs event here, which was brilliant) and the totally vintage, wild west walkthrough, complete with a shop selling toy guns and cap guns. It was like stepping back in time.
And another experience not to be missed: the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. You can purchase a rail ticket and spend a whole day, if you like, travelling between specific stations. If you’re lucky, you will even see Queen Victoria (locals dress up to make it a totally authentic experience).
We will definitely be going back soon to tick off the rest of our IoW to do list as there’s plenty left on the island for us to explore.
How to get to the Isle of Wight without flying:
Foot passengers can either take the train to Portsmouth Southsea and then jump on a hovercraft, arriving at Ryde Esplanade in under 10 minutes, or take the Red Jet Hi-Speed passenger ferry from Southampton and arrive in West Cowes in under half an hour.
Writer: Laura Willis for Feet on the Ground
Images: Laura Willis/*visitisleofwight.co.uk