The Isle of Wight is home to beautiful beaches, welcoming towns and plenty of activities and attractions. Famous for its sailing, you can also enjoy a wealth of other watersports, as well as walking, cycling and horse riding. However, if you prefer a more relaxing holiday, there is still plenty for you here.
From top attractions to a mouth-watering array of places to eat, there is something for everyone. Once famous for its holiday parks and holiday homes, travellers are increasingly looking to stay in some of the fantastic cottages the island has to offer. If you can’t quite decide where to stay, we have put together a list of the best towns to stay on the Isle of Wight.
Best for: Sailors and boaties
Cowes is a vibrant town with easy ferry connections to the UK mainland. It is famous for its sailing and is awash with activity during Cowes Week. This is the biggest and longest-standing sailing regatta in the world. Sailing aside, you will also find beaches, cafes, and plenty of shopping.
There is a great selection of museums to enjoy here. The Cowes Maritime Museum is a great place to learn about the town’s rich seafaring history and the Sir Max Aitken Museum not only has one of a kind maritime artifacts but is also free!
You can travel between East and West Cowes via Cowes Floating Bridge, a chain ferry across the river Medina that runs 7 days a week, all year round. Both have a fantastic selection of restaurants and cafes to relax after a busy day out at sea.
Best place to drink: The Anchor is conveniently located in the town centre, next to the Floating Bridge and ferry and bus links, making it the perfect spot to have a welcome drink on your arrival in Cowes. The pub has a relaxed and friendly vibe and serves a great selection of beers, wines and spirits.
Best place to eat: Murrays Seafood Restaurant is a local institution that has been serving some of the best seafood in the region to the seafaring community for over 40 years. It can get busy so if you want to make sure you land the catch of the day for supper, it is advisable to book ahead!
Best for: Relaxation and sea air
Freshwater is a great spot for a relaxing holiday. The nearby Freshwater Bay beach is perfect for sunny days, well suited for a picnic, dip in the sea or even some rockpooling. This town is also close to the iconic Needles; take a ride on the chair lift for some excellent views.
Freshwater is close to some of the most spectacular landscapes on the Isle of Wight. You can enjoy fantastic coastal walks to Compton Bay through Comptown Downs, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in just over an hour.
The sea views at Compton are breathtaking and the beach is also known as one of the best fossil hunting spots in the UK. You can find out more at the new Archeology Discovery Centre in the town centre.
Best places to drink: The Red Lion is a cosy and calming traditional country pub tucked away in a quiet location in the centre of Freshwater. With a history dating back to the 11th century, the more recent red brick building has a welcoming and unpretentious decor. With good beer and fine wines, it is the perfect place to round off a relaxing day along the coast.
Best places to eat: Nestled on the Colwell Bay seafront, the Hut is an easy-going beach restaurant offering fresh seafood and classic dishes. With outside seating, the buzzy dining area overlooks the sea and is perfect if you’re looking for a sociable evening’s dining.
Best for: Unique attractions and seaside charm
Found on the east coast of the island, Bembridge is a lovely place to stay. It has three beaches, a harbour, and plenty of cafes and places to eat. Bembridge is also a great spot for sailing and nature lovers can enjoy walks and wildlife spotting at the nearby Culver Down.
The spectacular Bembridge Lifeboat Station juts out into the sea from the beach here and now houses a small museum where you can find out more about the brave volunteers who keep the local waters safe.
No Man’s Land Fort and Bembridge Windmill are also both now open to the public and offer day’s out like none other on the island. If you’re looking to take a curiosity home to remind yourself of your trip, there are also a great selection of vintage and antique shops in the nearby village of St Helen’s.
Best place to drink: The only pub on Bembridge Harbour, the Pilot Boat Inn is popular with visitors and locals alike. The building is decked out with all the trappings of a boat, including porthole windows and British Ensign flag flying proudly, and serves a wide selection of drinks in a friendly environment.
Best place to eat: The Crab and Lobster Inn is a real hidden gem along the Bembridge Ledge, overlooking the sea. This characterful pub is in keeping with Bembridge’s strong links to all things nautical. From the lifebuoys and fishermen’s nets hanging from the ceiling to the superb fresh seafood. It’s a must visit!
Best for: History and heritage
This town was famous with the Victorians as an ideal holiday destination. They were on to something; Ventnor is a sun-trap and has its own micro-climate. There is plenty of historical sites to enjoy here, from the traditional arcade on the promenade to the sub-tropical Botanic Gardens. There’s also a great beach and plenty of fresh local produce.
One of the finest examples of English Baroque, Appuldurcombe House is an English Heritage property with free entry. The fantastic grounds, designed by renowned landscape designer ‘Capability’ Brown, are are also dog-friendly.
There is plenty to explore if visiting for a weekend break but if staying longer, the great road and rail links, make Ventnor a great base for exploring surrounding sites in the rest of West Wight.
Best places to drink: Reportedly the oldest Inn on the Isle of Wight, the Crab and Lobster Tap, is housed in a simple and unassuming stone building. Inside, you’ll be treated to some of the best-kept beer on the Island and a great selection of wines and spirits.
Best places to eat: The Bistro is an award-winning restaurant serving modern European food in an unpretentious and welcoming environment. The traditional Sunday roast special is particularly popular, and for good reason!
Best for: Family adventures
Ryde is easy to get to by ferry from the mainland and is a family-friendly town for a holiday. From sandy beaches to LaserQuest, there is something to keep all ages happy, no matter the weather. There are some great picnic spots and even a canoeing lake with paddling pool if visiting in the summer.
The Waterside Swimming pool, Royal Victoria Arcade and Peter Pan’s Funfair are all popular spots for family day’s out. Family-focused events are held here throughout the year, so be sure to check what’s on.
If looking to enjoy some time away from the kids, Ryde is arguably the best town on the Isle of Wight for a spot of retail therapy. Union Street is lined with boutique shops and is a great place to pick up a gift or something to treat yourself.
Best place to drink: The Blacksheep Bar and Club Lounge is located in the heart of Ryde and is guaranteed to offer a great night out. With live music and entertainment throughout the year, be sure to check what’s on when you visit.
Best place to eat: The bright and spacious Duck restaurant is nestled on the edge of Ryde’s canoe lake, with fantastic views over the Solent. Serving a seriously grown-up menu downstairs, kids are also bound to enjoy the ice cream parlour upstairs.