Visiting the Isle of Wight for the day may seem like an unachievable trip but, if like me, you live within an hour’s drive of the nearest docks, you can easily jump on the ferry, hovercraft or catamaran and be on the beautiful within 60 minutes. Your choice of transport will all depend on what activities you intend on getting up to when over on the island. If you want to be on the island in 10 minutes you can do so via the hovercraft from Southsea to Ryde. You can be on there in 22 minutes via a catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde or 25 minutes from Southampton West Cowes. With both of these options, you won’t have your own mode of transport once on the Isle of Wight but there are bus services which can take you to the landmarks of your choice and the open top is a lovely way to take it all in on a summer’s day. We chose to take 1 car for 5 of us so opted for the ferry service from Southampton to East Cowes which takes 55-60 minutes. We booked online the night before (it was a last minute, spontaneous decision), we selected our times for departure and printed out our ticket; all very easy and quick to do. On arrival, you simply show your printout and wait in your car until instructed to drive straight on. We paid extra for priority tickets, meaning we drove on and off first so there was no waiting around and no wasted time.
The one thing you can never plan for is the great British weather! The day began very wet, very windy and chilly. Thankfully we left that all behind once we stepped onto the Isle of Wight.
We had pre-planned to visit the famous landmarks The Needles, Blackgang Chine and Shanklin Chine. When we were all children Blackgang Chine wasn’t quite as large as it is today and after browsing through a leaflet on the ferry we realised how much more there is to do and see there now and that we would need an entire day to do it all and that if we went in with a three-year-old there was no way we were going to be seeing anything else that day! Luckily, Jake was understanding and we promised we would go back especially for a day at this attraction.
The drive to The Needles is just stunning. You travel along the coast for most of it and, if you have time, you can stop off to enjoy the views and take photos. The Needles village really hasn’t changed very much over the years and is still as quaint as ever with its cute shops, food places, souvenir shops and small fun fair. The main attraction is, of course, the view of The Needles from the top and from Alum Bay. There are 2 choices for getting down to the bay, either by foot down the many steps or via the chair lift which has been there since 1973. We chose to travel down to the beach via the chair lift… forgetting that as you get older fear grows, this is not for the faint hearted!
The positive is that you get the most amazing views, the negative is you may have your eyes closed for most of it! Jake had to sit on my husband’s lap and due to the weight, only those 2 could go on a chair, leaving me to freak out on the chair behind, screaming at him to make sure he was holding him tight and not to let him go!!
Once safely back on land, there is the choice to walk along the beach or to take a boat trip out to The Needles and the Lighthouse. Due to our time restrictions and with it still being a little chilly we chose to stay on the beach and admire the amazing coloured sands in the cliffs.
The view of The Needles is beautiful:
And Jake, of course, enjoyed throwing the stones…
Once you have taken in the scenery you can either hop back on the chair lift or walk up the many steps back to the top… I chose the latter, but my very brave child decided the ‘ride’ was loads of fun and he wanted to get straight back on it.
My brother in law joked that he knew I was going to write a blog post on the day so I needed to include important facts like how many steps there were back up to the top. I didn’t count them, I didn’t need to, my legs told me it was a long way!… he came to me after and said he counted something around the 268ish mark– I’m sure it’s a fact none of us need to hear! I can tell you that the views are amazing though.
You cannot visit The Needles and not make a sand souvenir– remember doing that as a kid?! The sand shop is still a feature in the village and Jake was eager to fill his own glass pot with the famous multi-coloured sand.
After lunch, we set off for Shanklin Chine. Time had run away with us – as it always does when you have a little one who gets easily distracted by all the arcades – so we knew we wouldn’t have long to explore the area.
The drive took us past the stunning Freshwater Bay and the views were just glorious, especially as the sun decided to really come out by this point.
We were drawn in by Shanklin Chines beautiful photos of their waterfalls on their website… however, it was not quite as spectacular in real life. I assume that due to the lack of rainfall during April the waterfalls were not at their best which was unfortunate for us. At night they do have it all lit up and I would love to be able to see how different it looks. The walk is lovely and if you are lucky you may spot a red squirrel, kestrel or a badger whilst on their nature track. The attraction also houses some birds and chipmunks in enclosures. Their website states that these are rescue birds but because I have a distaste for the use of animals in a setting like this I didn’t venture over to look at them. To me, an attraction like this is already special for its natural features and doesn’t need these ‘extras’.
The beach at Shanklin is lovely and there seems to be plenty to see and do along the seafront including shops, coffee shops, crazy golf and arcades.
With time ticking on we had to get back to Cowes for our ferry. If we didn’t have Jake with us we could have booked a later time to return and taken in much more of the island but for a quick family visit I feel we saw and did plenty and we all had a fantastic day. We would love to return for a weekend or week holiday to visit the rest of what the Isle of Wight has to offer.
Do you have any favourite spots you can recommend?
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