We visited the Isle of Wight for the first time, spending four days exploring this captivating island and everything that it has to offer. Find out more about where we went, what we thought, where we stayed and whether we would go again!
♥ How to get there
We took the Wightlink ferry from Porstmouth to Fishbourne on the way there. We turned up at around 11am for our 12.30pm crossing and were kindly allowed to go on an earlier ferry which started off the trip well. It took around an hour and a half to get from Tunbridge Wells to the port but I had over estimated the journey in case we ran into traffic on the M25. The crossing was smooth, took around 45 minutes and we were excited about our adventure!
On the way home, we decided to take the Red Funnel ferry from East Cowes to Southampton. It is a slightly longer journey to Tunbridge Wells (only be about 10 minutes) from Southampton (compared to Portsmouth) and took an hour. There was plenty of indoor and outdoor seating on both and it was great way to travel!
♥ The Needles Landmark Attraction
The Needles Landmark Attraction in Alum Bay was the first place we visited. Made up of coloured sand cliffs and featuring an iconic chairlift ride overlooking one of the Isle of Wight’s most famous landmarksm, The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse, we headed for the chairlifts first as this was the thing we were most excited about and boy did it not disappoint!!!
The chairlifts start off in a green bushy area and unless you look down at them from the viewing point, you won’t actually realise how high up you are! It was probably a good thing as my six year old apparently isn’t keen on heights and probably wouldn’t have gone on it if he has known otherwise. However he LOVED it and was absolutely fine sitting beside my on the chairlift. I was probably more nervous than him!
We enjoyed playing on the beach at the bottom of the cliff for a while and then headed back up to the children’s rides and attractions. The teacups were a hit with my three year old, while we went on the Vintage Cars as a family and the boys won a few prizes on the ‘hook a duck’ game.
They headed into the 4D cinema after that (I couldn’t go as I’m pregnant) and we then went to the Alum Bay Glass workshop to see how their gorgeous glass creations are made. We left it too late to go to the Sweet Making workshop so can hopefully do that in future.
There’s a decent Cafe at The Needles too with plenty of seating as well. The views across the bay are breathtaking and I think this is an absolute must for any visit to the Isle of Wight. Find out more about The Needles Landmark Attraction HERE.
♥ ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ at St Helens Duver
Visit Isle of Wight and The National Trust have teamed up to host a series of free ‘We’re going on an Isle of Wight Bear Hunt’ events across the Island and there was a Bear Hunt taking place while we were there at St Helens Duver, once a Victorian golf course which is now renowned for being a sandy coastal location with some wonderful wildlife.
We picked up a free activity pack at the beginning and were directed towards task number 1 next to The Lightening Tree. Most of the tasks were nature related and some of our favourites included bug hunting with big nets, playing pooh sticks, using a pair on binoculars to look for birds and of course listening to a reading of the much-loved ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ book.
The aim is to complete each of the tasks and then find the bear and family at the end. The boys got really involved in the hunt and as it was a ver hot day, we were all ready for a swim at the end, which we were able to do at the nearby beach.
The next Bear Hunt will be taking place at St Helens Duver on Saturday 8th & Sunday 9th September 2018. Just like us, visitors will get to immerse themselves in a real-life Bear Hunt experience where they can “swishy swashy through the long wavy grass; splish, splosh through the deep cold river; and squelch squelch through the thick oozy mud.”
There’ll also be a Bear Hunt themed Isle of Wight Literary Festival Youth Zone from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st October, supported by Walker Books. Find out more about both events HERE.
♥ Blackgang Chine
What a super place! Set high up on the cliffs next to the beautiful sparking water, Blackgang Chine is filled with a unique mix of attractions and magical theme worlds. The attraction is celebrating its 175th Birthday this year and as you can imagine, it has evolved exponentially since then, but seems to have also kept its traditional charm.
We got there just before the doors opened at 10am and were one of the first families to enter. We started off by going through the Restricted Area 5 which was full of very-realisitc looking dinosaurs as we made our way through. This leads on to The Giant Bug Walk before ending up outside Dodo Valley.
We spent quite a lot of time up at Pirate Cove which has two enormous ships which the children have free-reign on. There are guns that fire water from the ships which both boys had a turn (or five!) on and it was a great way to cool down on a sunny day.
I really enjoyed the Underwater Kingdom which was new to Blackgang Chine last year. It’s an underwater cafe with a vibrant luminescent coral reed and is brought to life with a specially commissioned musical walk through. It felt like a peaceful break on what’s always quite a full-on day with a 3 and 6 year old!
We visited the ‘haunted’ Rumpus Mansion too, but to be honest, the boys were a bit scared and were a bit cross with me for making them go in. Oops! Maybe one to save for when they are older? Next up was Cowboy Town, a replica of a Western town. We bought some fun snaps from the ‘general stores’ and the boys would have spent all day if we had allowed them, throwing the snaps down all over the main courtyard (it seemed to be what all of the kids were doing so we assumed it was ok).
We continued on to Fairyland after that, though the boys weren’t massively interested in it, despite me encouraging them to climb to the top of the castle. I think they may have been ready for more food at that stage! The piece-de-resistance was the Waterforce slide which they could have stayed on all day. My 3.5 year old was just above the height marker so was thankfully able to go on it.
Other attractions we enjoyed while there were the Hall of Mirrors, Snakes and Ladders, Crooked House and Nurseryland. Tickets for Blackgang Chine last for 7 days so if you are staying on the island for more than a couple of days, it’s worth going at the beginning and then returning again and again! Find out more about Blackgang Chine HERE.
♥ Appley Beach
Isle of Wight is infamous for its beaches and I’m sure there are lots of different ones to visit. We went to Appley Beach near Ryde, close to the Hover Travel terminal (see below for more details). It’s a beautiful long stretch of sand and we actually ended up going twice. The second time was in the afternoon and probably one of our favourite parts of the holiday was when the tide went out and we were able to paddle for miles.
We parked at the carpark behind The Three Buoys Beach Cafe and it is just a short stroll from there to the beach. If we had had more time, we would have walked along the promenade and little seaside attractions and possibly tried out the toddler splash pool next to the beach. There’s plenty to do there if you are spending a full day at Appley Beach.
♥ Robin Hill Country Park
Robin Hill Country Park is set across 88 acres of beautiful countryside. We went on a really sunny day and it was great to get some respite from the blazing sun when walking down through the leafy wooded area and playing in the African Adventure playground.
The thing the boys enjoyed the most was the Toboggan Run which they went on at least three times each with their dad. This does have an additional charge of £1.50 per ride for adults and children age 8+ or a 50p surcharge for 3 to 7 year olds who must ride with a full paying adult.
The boys also really enjoyed exploring the African Adventure playground which is themed as an African tribal village. It’s surrounded by all sorts of jungle noises as well as tropical animals dotted all over the play area. My three year old go a bit of a shock when he discovered a ‘snake’ on one of the bridges which he was in the process of crossing and he had to be ‘rescued’ by his dad!
Other attractions at Robin Hill include a 4D motion cinema, a Tree Top Trail (we did the shorter version and the boys really liked this too), a sweet little children’s train ride called Cow’s Express, the Colossus boat ride, a Falconry Area, Butterfly Garden, Adventure Nets (new for 2018), Hilly Billy Snakes and slide and more. We went there after lunchtime but could have easily gone early in the morning and spent the whole day there!
♥ Tapnell Farm Park
We happened to be staying on Tapnell Farm which is also a really popular place for families to visit for indoor and outdoor fun. There is sooooooo much to do there including learning all about animals, getting ‘hands-on’ with daily activity sessions, going wild in the various play zones which includes a huge soft play area.
The jumping pillow and pedal go-karts were a hit too, as well as the decent amount of ride-ons in the soft play area and zip wires in the adventure barn.
The Wallaby Walkabout was a favourite too, with a friendly mob of wallabies, meerkats and goats wandering about. Visiting the farm is great whatever the weather but if there are any rainy days forecast when you are on the Isle of Wight, this could be a good indoor option too.
♥ Hover Travel & Southsea
We had our first hover-craft experience on Hover Travel’s journey from Ryde to Southsea in Portsmouth. The boys were pretty excited by this and it was interesting to see how a Hover Craft operates. Lots of people use this to commute to the mainland as well as tourists too.
It took just 10 minutes to get to Southsea and we stayed there for an hour, exploring the games arcades and getting an ice-cream. However there is lots to do there, with a theme park at Clarence Pier which opens from 11am, so we could have stayed for much longer if we had had time. Overall it was a really fun experience and interesting to watch the hover-craft depart from and arrive at the ports too!
♥ Monkey Haven
Monkey Haven, an award-winning sanctuary for monkeys, birds and reptiles, really was a tranquil place to relax, observe and take some time out from quite a busy day.
The staff there are absolutely lovely – taking time out to talk us through the various animals – you could see they were clearly passionate about what they do.
We also had lunch on-site at the Xhabu’s Tearooms which has a decent amount of outdoor and shaded seating. The food was reasonably priced and the boys liked their lunch box selection which they were able to choose from there, while my husband and I enjoyed our jacket potatoes too.
There are a couple of places for the kids to play too – Cheeky Monkeys play area for the youngest visitors, which features bubble cars, tricycles, springies, and a slide and play hut and the Funky Monkey play area with rope bridges, slides, swings, towers and a see-saw.
My eldest son enjoyed looking at the Owls too, as he is currently a big fan of Harry Potter and the Reptile Lodge with its interactive map, colouring fun and quiz trails is worth a visit too!
♥ Where we ate
On the first evening, my husband ventured out and got us takeaway Fish & Chips from Rainbow Fish Bar near where we were staying in Freshwater. The fish and chips were delicious though there seemed to have been a bit of a mix up with the portion sizes for the fish. However it ended up being more than enough and we would certainly eat from there again.
On our second night, we went to The Sun Inn in Hulverstone (not to be confused with another pub called ‘The Sun’ which isn’t far from it) after our day at St Helen’s Duver and had dinner in their beautiful beer garden. The portions are big (especially desserts) and the atmosphere was very chilled out – a lovely place to spend the rest of the afternoon. The interior of the pub looks lovely too so if the weather isn’t on your side, this could be a good indoor dining option too.
Our favourite meal was at The Cow bar and restaurant on the same grounds of Tapnell Farm. Located in a converted Swiss barn, there is a distinctly ‘cattle ranch’ sort of feel to the place and local beef features heavily on the menu, with vegetarian options too. The kids had half portions from the adults menu (though there is a kids menu too) and my husband and I shared the ‘Chateaubriand’ which was out of this world!!! There is a real buzz to this place and with it’s high ceilings, spacious layout and quirky ‘cow related’ decor and I’m sure this is somewhere we will eat at again.
♥ Where to stay
We stayed at a three-bedroomed family lodge called Poachers Perch, on the west side of the island, not very far from The Needles Landmark Attraction. Poachers Perch belongs to Tom’s Eco Lodges which are based on Tapnell Farm.
The lodge we stayed in is slightly separate to the other accommodation and is located at the beginning of the lane which leads up to the farm. This was fine for us as we were out for most of the day but if we were staying for longer, it could be quite nice to be up in the midst of things with the other guests.
It had everything we needed and had plenty of space for the four of us. I quite liked the fact that there wasn’t a TV, though I did log onto the wi-fi to use my laptop occasionally in the evenings (to watch Love Island no less!). The lodge had a distinctly ‘beach-like’ feel to it and there was a lovely decking area with BBQ. The garden is shared with the larger house adjacent to it though we didn’t really use it as the boys were pretty much ready for bed each time we arrived ‘home’!
There’s a great selection of accommodation at Tom’s Eco Lodge from Safari Tents to Modulogs, Edo Pods and farm cottages as well as several other wood cabins. If we stay there again, I would quite like to see what it would be like to stay in one of the Safari Tents! Find out more about Tom’s Eco Lodge Here.
♥ Our overall thoughts
The Isle of Wight surprised and impressed us in both measures. There’s something special about getting onto a ferry and leaving the mainland behind! We had a busy but very fun-filled few days exploring the island and I still feel like there are lots of other places to see on the Isle of Wight as well as several places to re-visit. This was out first visit but it certainly won’t be our last!
Check out the Visit Isle of Wight website HERE.
Disclosure: Our travel, accommodation and entrance to many of the attractions mentioned above was gifted to us, along with a meal at The Cow Co and Monkey Haven. As always, all thoughts are my own. Thank you to Visit Isle of Wight for inviting us to stay on this fantastic island!