August on the Isle of White means Cowes week, the Isle of White International Scooter Rally and the incredible Fort Walk inspired 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 White for a two week family holiday in August, and here’s what we found out.
It’s just a six-mile ferry journey from the Hampshire coast to the shores of The Isle of White. It’s not far, but we live up north and those extra few miles and a ferry boat thrown into the mix has always seemed a step too far to tempt us across the Solent
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 tow?
Ferry to the Isle of White
We reached the Red Funnel terminus early and we were guided into a holding bay by a helpful member of staff. And that was 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 two adults, two children, a dog and a twin axle caravan and it cost us approx £180
Wight Link ferries also run from Portmouth, Fishbourne, Lymington and Yarmouth and they too provide options for caravanners. Prices seemed to fluctuate so we opted for the crossing that was the best value and met our timings.
We just had time to stretch our legs before being waved on to the ferry. Once aboard and guided into our designated spot, we parked up and left the car behind to explore the ferry.
The crossing takes just over an hour and it was enough time to wave goodbye to the Plymouth shoreline and enjoy a reasonably priced meal from the on-board restaurant, before returning to the car for the rest of our journey.
The Isle of White
The island is only 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, rolling hills with quaint country villages, and beautiful unspoilt beaches.
Whitecliffe Bay Holiday Park
The sprawling holiday village is found on the east of the island, close to the small village of Bembridge, recently crowned best UK village by Countryfile Magazine.
The site overlooks a calm private cove with beautiful views, and where enormous tankers rest out to sea 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 activities located around the site. The daily programme of activities and entertainment for the kids and the summer entertainment, which includes an outdoor cinema on the headland is really good fun.
Parts of the site are newly refurbished. This includes an indoor and outdoor swimming pool that our kids loved, also the chilled out Nab Bar that serves up some great food and overlooks the outdoor pool and has views out to sea.
Whitecliffe Bay Beach
The beach at Whitecliffe Bay is a hidden gem. It is perfect for families, with calm waters, so great for paddle boards and canoes. It has a spot on beachside café, but a word of warning, there are no toilets down on the beach, so don’t get too carried away with the afternoon beverages it’s a steep walk to the top.
Worth noting… the touring and camping facilities are set further away from the main facilities and beach than the other accommodation, and the park is split into two by a public road, definitely a consideration for families. It a fifteen-minute walk from the caravan/camping area to the pools, bar and access to the beach, completely doable, but good to know if you have little ones.
What to do on the Isle of White
No trip to the Isle of White is complete without visiting the Needles. If (like us) you were unsure what this is then let me explain….
The Needles, on the west of the island, are magnificent 30 meter tall pinnacles of chalk and flint formed over 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 guys (and your kids) as you dangle precariously and swing back up to the top of the cliffs. Gulp.
The Old Battery
The weather and an unhappy toddler conspired against us, so we didn’t manage the 20-minute walk along the cliffs to The Old Battery, a Victorian fort built to ward off the threat of a French invasion. The views are fantastic with exhibitions once inside the battery. 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 set on a golden sandy beach, with the backdrop of a Victorian pier, it’s a bit like stepping back in time. We spent a few days on the beach, enjoying swimming, digging and finding sea glass – a new favourite pastime.
And when the great British rain arrived we escaped the downpour and spent an afternoon on the pier for a few hours of fun. Slots, 2p machine’s and an indoor play area kept the kids more than happy for a couple of hours.
Just a mile along the coast from Sandown is the quaint seaside town of Shanklin. Here we enjoyed similar seaside fun, cafes on the promenade and a lovely little fun fair.
Just been voted the UK’s village of the year by Countryfile Magazine, Bembridge is lovely, it’s worth a wander round.
The beaches at Bembridge are fabulous, along with the RNLI launch that stretched way out to sea.
Isle of White Facts
I love a few fun facts. Here are 10 things you might not know about the Isle of White:
- No motorways. You won’t find one on the island.
- Red squirrels are flourishing. Look out for them they’re lovely.
- It’s the sunniest place in the UK.
- The island has more overseas visitors per year than it does residents – 2,467,909 visitors in 2010/11 with a population of only about 138,400.
- IT is said to be the most haunted island in the world
- The world’s biggest gathering of vintage and modern scooters, The Isle of Wight hosts 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 establishment in 1843, making it the oldest in the UK and, some even claim, the World.
- The Isle of Wight is one of the richest dinosaur localities in Europe, 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 White is fabulous. Step back in time and enjoy an unspoilt taste of the UK.
Whitecliffe Bay is a great location for touring caravans. Great on-site facilities. A safe (and quiet) private beach. It didn’t feel too busy even in the middle of summer.