August on the Isle of Wight means Cowes week, the Isle of Wight International Scooter Rally and the incredible St Helens Fort Walk – made possible by the low summer tides that enable thousands of folk to walk out to sea and around the usually inaccessible Fort.
We joined the 2.5 million tourists that descend on the Isle of Wight for a two week family holiday in August, and here’s what we found out.
Getting to the Isle of Wight
It’s just a six-mile ferry journey from the Hampshire coast to the shores of The Isle of Wight. It’s not far, but for us northerners, those extra few miles and a ferry boat ride across the Solent, have for some reason dissuaded us from making the trip.
But this summer we booked our tickets.
How difficult could it be to hop on the ferry, towing a twin axil caravan, with two kids and a dog tow?
Ferry to the Isle of Wight
We reached the Red Funnel terminus early (seriously, we were early!) and we were guided into a holding bay by a helpful member of staff. And there you have it, the hard work was done.
Red Funnel operates from Southampton to East Cowes. Ferries run on the hour taking 55 minutes. We opted for a return ticket for a car and a twin axle caravan, costing us approx £180. We got a discount through our holiday park Whitecliffe Bay Holiday Park
Wight Link ferries also run from Portmouth, Fishbourne, Lymington and Yarmouth, and they too provide options for caravanners. Prices seemed to fluctuate, so when you find a ferry at the right time and the right price, get booking!
We had just enough time to stretch our legs before being waved on to the ferry. Once on board and in our designated spot, we left the car behind to explore the boat.
The crossing takes just over an hour; enough time to wave goodbye to the Plymouth shoreline and enjoy a reasonably priced breakfast from the on-board cafe, before returning to the car for the rest of our journey.
The Isle of Wight
The island is 23 miles long and 13 miles wide, with much of it being designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s a mixture of traditional seaside towns, quaint country villages, and beautiful unspoilt beaches.
The drive from Cowes, where we arrived, to our holiday park, took half an hour. Rolling hills, not much traffic, happy days on the Isle of Wight.
Whitecliffe Bay Holiday Park
Hillway Road, Bembridge, Isle of Wight, PO35 5PL
A sprawling holiday village found on the east of the island, close to the village of Bembridge – recently crowned best UK village by Countryfile Magazine.
The site overlooks a calm private cove with beautiful views, where enormous tankers rest for days, before booking a slot to shore.
Whitecliffe Bay is large site with a mixture of holiday chalets, static caravans, and a touring and camping field.
There are plenty of facilities and a daily programme of activities and entertainment for the kids. The summertime fun also includes an outdoor cinema on the headland overlooking the bay, pretty cool.
Parts of the site, including an indoor and outdoor swimming pool (that the kids loved) are newly refurbished, also the Nab Bar & Restaurant, overlooking the outdoor pool and with awesome views out to sea.
Worth a mention… The touring and camping facilities are set the furthest away from the main facilities and the beach. They are within walking distance, but good to know if you have little ones. And there’s a public road running the middle of the site, definitely a consideration for families.
Whitecliffe Bay Beach
Whitecliffe Bay beach is a hidden gem. It is perfect for families, has calm waters, and is great for paddle boards and canoes. The beachside café is a fabulous spot, but a word of warning, there are no toilets on the beach, so don’t get too carried away with the afternoon beverages it’s a steep walk to the top.
What to do on the Isle of Wight
No trip to the Isle of Wight is complete without visiting the Needles.
Perhaps (like us) you are unsure exactly what these are then let me explain….
The Needles, on the west of the island, are magnificent 30-meter tall pinnacles of rock formed over many years by coastal erosion.
Like most visitors, we arrived at The Needles car park (£3) at the top of Alum Bay. We headed through the amusements, shops and attractions and trooped down the coastal path and steps to the beach below. The weather and the tide were not on our side, so a relax on the beach was out of the question. We decided to be kind to our weary legs and brave the cable car ride back up to the top of the cliff.
Hold on to your hats (and your kids) as you dangle precariously from the chair lift and swing back up to the top of the cliffs. Gulp.
The Old Battery
We didn’t manage the 20-minute walk along the cliffs to The Old Battery. The gale force weather and an unhappy toddler conspired against us.
The views from the Old Battery are said to be fantastic. It’s open daily until the end of August, 10.30am-5pm, but closes in bad weather (hence us not visiting). Adults £3.60, children £1.80.
If traditional seaside vistas are your thing, then Sandown is the place to go.
Beach huts, a golden sandy beach, and the backdrop of a Victorian pier. Sandown is a bit like stepping back in time. We spent a few sunny afternoons on the beach, swimming, digging and discovering sea glass – a new favourite pastime.
In true staycation style, when the Great British rain arrived, we escaped the downpour and spent an afternoon on Sandown Pier. Slots, 2p machine’s and an indoor play area kept the kids more than happy for a couple of hours fun.
Just a mile along the coast from Sandown is the quaint seaside town of Shanklin. Here we enjoyed traditional seaside fun, cafes on the promenade and a lovely little fun fair.
Voted the UK’s village of the year by Countryfile Magazine, Bembridge is a lovely spot, and well worth a wander.
The beaches at Bembridge are fabulous. And there’s an impressive RNLI launch that stretches way out to sea.
10 Isle of Wight facts
I love a few fun facts. So here are 10 things you might not know about the Isle of Wight:
- No motorways. You won’t find one on the island.
- Red squirrels are flourishing. Look out for them they’re lovely.
- Officially the sunniest place in the UK.
- The island has more overseas visitors per year than it does residents – 2.4 million visitors in 2017 compared with a population of only about 140,000.
- It is said to be the most haunted island in the world.
- Host to the world’s biggest gathering of vintage and modern scooters. The Isle of Wight is home to the International Scooter Rally in August each year with between 4,000 and 7,000 participants.
- Blackgang Chine, an amusement park in the south of the Island, was established in 1843, making it the oldest in the UK and, some even claim, the World.
- The Isle of Wight is a hot spot for finding a dinosaur or two, with over 20 species of dinosaur having been found on the Island. Dinosaur footprints are visible at Compton Bay, near Freshwater, at low tide.
- In Victorian times you would have been well placed to ‘celebrity’ spot. Residents are said to have included Charles Dickinson, Queen Victoria, and Charles Darwin
- The UK’s oldest pier. Ryde pier appeared over 200 years ago and it’s also the UK’s second longest.
Why so special?
The Isle of Wight is quaint, British and surprising, all in equal measures. Visit, and you will step back in time and enjoy an unspoilt taste of the UK.
Whitecliffe Bay is a great location for families with touring caravans. We especially enjoyed the safe and very quiet private beach. It didn’t feel busy even in the middle of summer.
Curious Campers is for caravan loving folk looking for holiday ideas, destination reviews and things to do with the kids, that are a little bit different and definitely a bit special.
We hope to champion caravanning and shine a spotlight on beautiful and unusual places that we and our kids find fascinating and fun.
Forget the stereotypes, caravanning in cool. So when we do something that makes us smile, we write about it, because we want to share that joy with other people, just like you.
100 things to do down South
Check out our list of the top 100 things to do down south… and guess what? The Isle of Wight has just been ticked off the list!