One of the most beautiful and most loved holiday destinations in the UK, the Isle of Wight offers everything from traditional seaside fun – think vintage beach huts, seafront promenades, and bucket and spades, to wonderful boutique shopping and gorgeous beauty spots (especially along the coast).
Throw a mild climate, a 25-mile shore lined with beaches (many of them with golden sands), and a new era of cool in the form of music festivals, yurts, and quirky cafes and you have one gorgeously unique travel destination. Here are the best and most beautiful places to visit on the Isle of Wight…
1. Cowes and East Cowes – the famous beautiful town is sometimes known as “The Yachting Capital of the World”
One of the most famous places on the Isle of Wight – and a great place to base your holiday – this historic seaport has a great combination of being relaxed with a bit of a buzz.
It’s also known as “The Yachting Capital of the World” and as well as regular sailing events it also hosts the famous Cowes Regatta.
Located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina, it’s linked to the neighbouring town of East Cowes by the Cowes Floating Bridge (a chain ferry). Cowes Beach is a short pebble and shell-covered beach to the west of the town front or Parade.
As well as great restaurants, shops, cafes and bars, if you’re into sightseeing there are museums, houses and churches to explore. If you like to step things up gear there are plenty of activities on offer too including swimming, diving, rowing, canoeing, wind and kite surfing.
Our cool and unusual accommodation choice for Cowes – Villa Rothsay Hotel
- To book, check prices or dates for Villa Rothsay Hotel
2. The Needles – one of the most beautiful and most photographed places on the Isle of Wight
The Needles is the name of a structure that is made of chalk and which stands roughly nine feet in the air.
There are actually three such structures, and boat tours are offered daily for tourists who wish to get a much closer look at this true wonder.
At one time, there was a fourth stack in the Needles collection, but it was washed away in a storm in the 1760s.
There is also a lighthouse close to these chalk rocks, and not only are they popular with tourists, but they have been featured on many documentaries developed by BBC.
Our cool and unusual accommodation choice for near the Needles – Enchanted Manor
- To book, check prices or dates for Enchanted Manor
3. Ventnor – a pretty traditional seaside resort and one of Britain’s most famous Victorian health resorts
This seaside town is located on the southeastern coast of the island and has a population of around 6,000.
It enjoyed a buzzing heyday in Victorian times as its gorgeous microclimate and reputation for being fashionable earned itself the nickname of ‘Mayfair by the Sea’.
Although the beach itself is relatively small, it is very popular with tourists and residents alike, and one of its main attractions is its reddish sand that is made mostly out of pebbles made out of flint and chert.
The place still has a Victorian feel with an active art scene and surrounding the beach are pubs, restaurants, cafes, and shops, so if you get hungry or need some souvenirs, you won’t have far to go to get what you need. Make sure you pay a visit to Ventnor Botanic Garden is particularly notable.
Our cool and unusual hotel choice for Ventnor – The Hambrough
- To book, check prices or dates for The Hambrough Ventor
4. Freshwater Bay – one of the most picturesque beaches to explore in the Isle of Wight
Freshwater Bay is a large town located in the western part of the island. It is not only beautiful but it also boasts lots of landmarks that include rock cliffs, a beautiful beachside hotel, hills, lodges, garden centers, and even the remains of an old fort.
There are also some unique structures that have locals wondering exactly what they are, although most people think they are either pottery kilns, ice houses, or crematoria.
You can also find ways to play golf, enjoy sporting events, and attend the numerous festivals the area has to offer, so when you visit the town, you won’t have to worry if there’s enough to keep you busy.
- To book, check prices or dates for Stroud House
5. Sandown – one of Isle of Wight’s finest and most popular beaches in the Isle of Wight
Sandown is a resort town found on the southeast coast of the island, and its beautiful beaches are just one of the reasons to visit it.
Along with sunbathing and swimming, the town of Sandown offers golfing opportunities, a summer carnival, and lots of places to eat, drink, and shop.
There are also many family-friendly facilities, and the Yaverland, another resort town, lies to the north of this area. Both beaches are phenomenal, and the beach at Yaverland even has beautiful white chalk cliffs that dot the landscape, making both of these areas memorable.
Our cool and unusual accommodation choice in Sandown – The Townhouse 101
- To book, check prices or dates for The Townhouse 101
6. Compton Bay – one of the most stunning places to visit on the Isle of Wight
Located on the southwest section of the Isle of Wight, Compton Bay is surrounded by beautiful white chalk cliffs and is the place you want to be if you love to surf.
In fact, surfing is one of the things the bay is known for, and if the tide is low enough, you can see dinosaur footprints in parts of the area.
There are also a lot of fossils to be found in numerous places in this area, as well as an obelisk atop Afton Down, which is inscribed with a poem in memory of a teenage resident who fell to his death in 1846.
Our accommodation choice for Compton Bay – Cosy Wolf Bed & Breakfast
- To book, check prices or dates for Cosy Wolf Bed & Breakfast
7. Newport – the charming capital town of the Isle of Wight and the best places to visit
This charming and easy-on-the-eye place is the county town of the Isle of Wight and is often thought to be Isle of Wight’s capital.
It enjoys a great and well-connected location on the River Medina and is known for its lovely architecture, cobbled streets, and quaint alleys.
This is the place to shop in the Isle of Wight and has a wonderful collection of boutique and independent stores. Also dont miss Robert Thompson’s new restaurant, the popular Quay arts centre and the Isle of Wight Postal Museum and just taking a stroll or a bit to eat along its lovely quayside.
Our cool and unusual accommodation choice in Newport – One Holyrood
- To book, check prices or dates for One Holyrood Newport
8. Shanklin – one of the Isle of Wight’s most popular resort towns and best stretches of golden sands
This resort town on the Isle of Wight offers a beach that is divided into two smaller beaches, known as Hope Beach and Small Hope Beach.
There is an esplanade that houses a children’s play area, and it also offers many of the things seaside villages are known for, such as opportunities to shop, eat, and enjoy the nightlife.
There is also a large clock tower that dots the landscape, so whether you want to spend all day on the beach or venture out into the town and enjoy some of its amenities, the area is waiting on your arrival.
Our cool and unusual accommodation choice in Shanklin – The Clifton
- To book, check prices or dates for The Clifton Shanklin
9. Ryde – a seaside town with golden sandy beaches
This seaside resort is located on the northeast coast of the island and has a population of roughly 25,000 people.
Not only does it have a beach you can enjoy, but it also houses a bowling alley, swimming pool, parks, and children’s playgrounds, as well as plenty of places to eat, drink, and shop.
In fact, Ryde is known to be a great place to shop due to a large number of boutique and independent shops.
This charming village is what many people think of when they think of England, and whether you like beautiful churches, castles, pavilions, or sporting events, Ryde won’t disappoint you because it offers something for everyone.
Our cool and unusual accommodation choice in Ryde – Lakeside Park Hotel & Spa
- To book, check prices or dates for Lakeside Park Hotel & Spa
10. Steephill Cove – is often said to be the prettiest place to visit on the Isle of Wight
Steephill is a hamlet near Ventnor, and Steephill Cove lies roughly 400 yards to the south of the town. You can only get to the cove by foot, and one of the best ways to get there is to take the Coastal Footpath.
Once you get there, you’ll see a few kiosks and some self-catering cottages, and you can even buy fresh fish from a market that claims to have been there since the 1500s.
The town itself once had a castle, but it is now the home of a bungalow development.
11. Totland – a picturesque beauty spot and sandy beach
Located at the western tip of the island, Totland has a population of roughly 3,000 residents and has a lovely beach area (a mixture of sand pebbles) as well. It also consists of Tennyson Downs, The Needles, and the hamlet of Middleton.
You can easily take a bus to the other parts of the island, and in the summertime, an open bus will even take you from Totland straight to The Needles so that you can enjoy that attraction.
Christ Church is the Church of England parish in Totland, and if you like quaint English towns, this one is worth a visit.
12. Isle of Wight Coastal Footpath – covers 67 miles of paths with very scenic views
Also called the Coastal Path, the footpath is 70 miles long and encircles the island.
Since it is waymarked, you can get on the path at any of its points, and it stretches along Sandown, Ventnor, Freshwater Bay, and East Cowes.
You can find bus stations on the route, and part of the path is actually in the streets themselves. Along the way, you can experience some of the most beautiful scenery you’ve ever seen, making this path one of the most beautiful places to visit in the Isle of Wight.
13. Osborne House – the beautiful former holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
The construction of beautiful Osborne House was completed in 1851 and it was built for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It is built in the Italian Renaissance style and even features two large towers.
In past years, the house has been home to the Royal Naval Academy and a military convalescent home, but it is now open to the public and has been renovated.
If you love castles and especially architecture, this is one house you have to see while on the Isle of Wight. The outside is magnificent, but the inside is so ornate and detailed that this is what you might concentrate on the most while you’re there.
14. Mottistone Manor – a gorgeous Elizabethan manor house owned by the National Trust
This beautiful mansion was built in the late 15th/early 16th centuries and boasts some of the most beautiful gardens you’ve ever seen.
It is not open to the public, but that doesn’t mean you can’t view the outside of the manor and the gardens as you pass by the facility. Its gardens are dotted with color and therefore it has an ambiance like few other manors do.
The manor is a National Trust building and a listed building, and it has been remodeled and renovated several times to get to the beautiful building it is today.
15. Bembridge – a pretty village home to sandy beaches and a harbour
Bembridge lies at the easternmost point of the island and is home to roughly 4,000 residents.
Many of its residents are very wealthy, and the town itself is only 3.5 square miles in size. In the town itself, there is a public library, a post office, a few schools, a fire station, and many other amenities that sometimes only bigger cities get to enjoy.
There is also a beautiful beach, a war memorial, and a lifeboat station, as well as a lighthouse and a Coast Guard lookout. It is a charming village that you won’t want to miss if you’re visiting the Isle of Wight.
16. Nunwell House and Gardens – a stunning historic English country house
The Nunwell House is located in Brading and has been around since the 11th century. The Oglander family occupied it from the Norman times until 1980, and since then it has been open to the public.
It is a magnificent home that anyone would love to tour, but it’s the grounds that give it most of its notoriety.
There is a large lawn and a grove of ashes and limes, not to mention 5.5 acres of garden with a beautiful lily pond. If you love beautiful gardens and old castles, this is one tourist attraction you won’t want to miss.
17. Calbourne – a lovely old place that has long been a natural haunt of artists from all over England
This village lies on the western side of the island and has a very quaint and interesting look.
It consists of a garage, a church, a post office, and a public house called The Sun Inn. There is also a cricket team that plays there, so it is a little more than just a few old buildings.
Nevertheless, if you like small towns with a lot of ambiance, Calbourne is worth the trip.
It is only 73 square miles and is home to less than 1,000 people, but you will get an eyeful because it is a beautiful town indeed.
We also have posts on…
- The most beautiful places to visit in Hampshire
- The most beautiful places to visit in Dorset
- The most beautiful places to visit in Somerset
- The most beautiful places to visit in West Sussex
- The best places to visit on the Isle of Man
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Beth Pinches – writer and photographer
Beth was born under a wandering star, with drama in her veins and ink in her pen. After stints studying theatre in Dublin and Utrecht she used her creative streak to see as much of the world as she could on as little money. She toured Italian Schools with a children’s theatre troop, lived as an au-pair in both Rome and Washington DC, explored the British countryside, worked her way through much of Europe, Salsa danced in Cuba and road tripped down America’s west coast where she discovered her spiritual home; Portland, Oregon. Other places she loves include Croatia, Finland, Japan and India. In between adventures, travel writing and performing she resides peacefully with her family, cats and ukulele. Find Beth on Linkedin or Facebook.