The Isle of Wight is the largest island in the country of England, two miles off the southern coast of Hampshire in the English Channel. Its many beaches and popularity during the Victorian era have established the island as a holiday destination for over 100 years. Today, the island boasts medieval castles, Victorian homes, and beachfront boardwalks, as well as stunning natural landmarks, including one of the highest concentrations of dinosaur fossils in Europe.
Isle of Wight Festival
Isle of Wight Festival Image: STILL MOVING
The Isle of Wight is home to several popular music festivals, including the Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival and Bestival. The most well known, however, is simply called the Isle of Wight Festival. Begun in 1968 by the Foulk Brothers, the annual Isle of Wight Festival showcases many of the most popular musical artists. The 1970 festival was particularly groundbreaking, drawing approximately 600,000 spectators, greater than that of Woodstock. Musical artists of that year included Miles Davis, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Joni Mitchell. Today, the Isle of Wight Festival is held at Seaclose Park and has won several prestigious awards for its impressive production. Exceptional performances by Muse and The Rolling Stones are said to have helped earn the Isle of Wight Festival the award for 2007’s Best Major Festival by the UK Festival Awards.
Towns & Villages
Towns & Villages
There are many towns and villages to explore on the Isle of Wight. The seaside resort towns of Sandown and Shanklin are the two most popular tourist areas on the island. Together, they offer a zoo, a geological museum, two 18-hole golf courses, and miles of beachfront fun. Many residents of the Isle of Wight live in its largest town, Ryde. Visitors can enjoy Ryde’s nearly four miles of beaches and the annual Ryde Carnival. Nestled next to the River Medina, Newport and its neighboring quay boast excellent shopping and art galleries. The town of Cowes and its international sailing center draw sailing enthusiasts from all over the world. The slopes of Ventnor offer stunning views of the nearby bay.
Many visitors to the Isle of Wight come in search of its enchanting Victorian past, the pinnacle of which is Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s favorite home, Osborne House. This large home still offers tours, including that of its walled garden and Swiss play cottage, as well. Visitors to nearby Carisbrooke Castle learn the castle’s colorful history, including the imprisonment of Charles I, while young visitors are delighted to interact with the castle’s famous donkeys. The Isle of Wight’s offers stunning natural landmarks, as well. White chalk cliffs frame The Needles Rocks and Lighthouse, two of the most recognizable sites on the island. Some of the best vistas of the Needles are at the Old Battery and the New Battery, a military fort on the top of the cliffs. Needles Park provides a chairlift to the beach, rides and games, and restaurants. The British people are avid walkers, and there are many hiking and walking paths on the island.
The Isle of Wight prides itself on its many well-maintained beaches, 14 of which have won various awards for water quality and safety. The most popular resort beaches are in Sandown and Shanklin. Situated adjacent to each other, these two beaches form a long arc of beachfront area. Visitors can enjoy swimming, various water sports, and beachfront dining. Ventnor Beach is situated under the cliffside Victorian town of the same name, including the popular Ventnor Botanic Gardens. Bembridge, on the island’s east coast, offers beautiful and safe rock pools. During the high tourist season, dogs are not allowed on the busiest resort beaches. The most popular beaches offer deck chair rentals.