Best beaches on the Isle of Wight

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Best beaches on the Isle of Wight

‘All of England in miniature’ is a phrase often used to describe the Isle of Wight’s diverse range of beaches.

Visit the esplanades of Sandown and Shanklin and you’ll find resorts that deliver sandcastles by the bucketload and waffle cones piled high with rum and raisin ice cream. Meanwhile, just 10 miles away on the southern shores, walkers clamber across isolated rocky beaches beneath steep cliffs.

The geology of the Island’s beaches holds a history that attracts experts from around the world. Millions of years of movement and globally significant fossils are revealed in the layers of rocks at beaches such as Yaverland and Brook - perfect for any budding scientists in the family.

For holidaymakers, the diversity of the Island’s beaches means that you can enjoy something different every day with only a short journey between resorts.

Here’s our selection of some of the Island’s best beaches that are perfect for a UK beach holiday. Why not book a few nights at one of our cottages by the sea to experience them first hand?


Compton Bay, West Wight

 Looking down the sweeping stretch of golden sand at Compton Bay with the chalk cliffs in the background

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Large car park, free for National Trust members

Accessibility: Climb down about 25 steps down to the beach from the Hanover Point car park

Facilities: Toilets, ice cream van in high season

Compton Bay’s crumbling cliffs and unspoilt views have earned it a place in many visitors’ hearts. The Sunday Times Travel Magazine sung its praises and named it in the world’s top 50 beaches. You won’t find seaside amusements here but you will find a sandy beach at low tide and attractive cliffs made from chalk, greensand and clay.

Most visitors arrive at the Hanover Point end of the beach, which is relatively easy to access down a few steps. For the locals’ experience, park up at Compton Farm and walk down the steep steps that lead to the far end of the beach. It’s much quieter here and the views from the top of the cliff are breathtaking. On a summer’s evening you’ll find surfers catching waves as the sun sets. Perfection!


Appley Beach, East Wight

The near white sand at Appley beach in Ryde

Lifeguard cover: Yes, during peak times

Parking: Large pay and display car park

Accessibility: Easy access to the esplanade and then a handful of steps to get on to the beach

Facilities: Toilets, cafes, swimming pool, playgrounds and water refill point

The popular Appley Beach throngs with activity in summer and is well equipped for each and every type of beachgoer. The fine golden sands and expansive beach draws in a good crowd for frisbee throwing, kite flying and sun-worshipping. Out on the water, the Island’s Hovercraft buzzes back and forth across the Solent while yachts sail past. Behind the beach there are a couple of good playgrounds, including one overlooking the sands and another in nearby Puckpool Park.

Appley’s long esplanade is suitable for a wander with a pushchair and it is punctuated with cafés and pretty beach huts.

If a dip in the sea sounds a bit too chilly then you can find warmer waters in the community owned swimming pool next to the beach. On sunny days, the roof glides open to offer open air swimming.


Freshwater Bay, West Wight

The shingle beach at Freshwater Bay backed with the impressive chalk beach

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Pay and display parking just over the road from the beach

Accessibility: Easy access to the main esplanade, although it does get quite stony after storms. There are half a dozen steps to get onto the beach itself.

Facilities: Toilets, ice creams and a beachside bar

It’s two for the price of one here, as West Wight beach is really two beaches. It’s a great spot for watching the world go by while tucking into an ice cream from the shop, which raises money for the local lifeboat.

The main beach is mostly stony, giving it a lovely sound on a quiet day of the pebbles being dragged up and down the shore. You’ll also find patches of sand at low tide for those who can’t resist a bit of sandcastle building.

Round to the right of the main beach is a second bay that’s more sheltered and is backed by steep cliffs beneath Fort Redoubt (just visible on the right hand side on our webcam). This beach is excellent for crabbing or just enjoying a few moment’s quiet before you head up into Freshwater where you'll find one of the best vegan cafés on the Island, perfect for a relaxing cuppa and a piece of cake! 


Sandown Bay, South East Wight

Looking out across the golden sand at Sandown Bay on the Isle of Wight

Lifeguard cover: Yes, at peak times

Parking: Lots of pay and display car parks and some esplanade parking

Accessibility: The walk along the seafront is flat and well maintained. You’ll need to climb down about a dozen steps to get onto the sand

Facilities: Toilets, playground, cafes and bars

For old-fashioned fun at the seaside, take a trip to the Island’s south east coastline, which stretches several miles from Sandown to Shanklin via Lake.

Sandown draws in the crowds with its traditional pier alongside minigolf, playgrounds and bouncy nets. From here you can hire a paddleboard, splash around with a kayak or even learn to surf.

At the far end of Sandown, you’ll find Yaverland Beach. This is a good choice for dog walkers and dinosaur hunters as the cliffs around here are famous for discoveries of prehistoric fossils, some of which are displayed in the nearby Dinosaur Isle museum.


Alum Bay, West Wight

The beautiful multi-coloured cliffs and sand at Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Large pay and display car park

Accessibility: Reaching the beach requires a chairlift or a climb down a long set of steep steps 

Facilities: Toilets in The Needles Pleasure Park, café and souvenir shop

The famous multicoloured sands of Alum Bay have been a must-see location for Isle of Wight visitors for decades. Crowds continue to gather here to see the 21 shades of sand in the cliffs – and to fill up a souvenir sand sculpture. Visiting geologists will be fascinated by the fossils amongst sandstone, clay and chalk, which span 50 million years of coastal history.

For the full experience, ride the chairlift down from the top for a memorable view of the bay and the Needles Lighthouse. At the beach you’ll find a choice of two boat rides, which head towards the lighthouse. The high speed boat is recommended for thrill seekers!

For a different view of the beach and lighthouse, take a walk along the road that leads to the Needles Old Battery and New Battery. This fascinating headland reveals tales of wartime defence and rocket testing in the 1950s.


Steephill Cove, South Wight

The charming beach at Steephill Cove

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Pay and display at Ventnor Botanic Gardens

Accessibility: Not easy: walk from Ventnor or down a narrow steep slope near Ventnor Botanic Gardens.

Facilities: Toilets and café

Some beaches on the Isle of Wight are easy to access, while others are worth a bit of extra effort! Steephill Cove certainly falls into the second category with no access for cars and a narrow footpath to contend with. The walk to the beach will take you past the cricket club, which makes for a charming scene as the sound of polite applause combines with the lapping waves.

Visitors to the beach are rewarded with idyllic thatched cottages, rockpools at low tide and a popular café. Beach space is at a premium, so it’s best visited at low tide. Deckchairs can be hired from the Wheeler family who have looked after the beach for many decades.

If you have time, park in Ventnor’s La Falaise car park and walk to Steephill Cove via the coastal path. This route features in our guide to Isle of Wight walks and offers gorgeous views along the way. You’ll feel you’ve earned your ice cream when you arrive!


Watershoot Bay, South Wight

Looking over the cliffs at the stony beach at Watershoot Bay on the Isle of Wight

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: On street parking within Niton village

Accessibility: Requires a walk of about half a mile through fields and over stiles

Facilities: None, although nearby Niton has a large pub called The Buddle Inn

The South Wight offers a string of isolated, rocky beaches which are perfect for adventurers looking to escape the crowds as you will often have these beaches all to yourself.

Put on a pair of sturdy walking boots and head for Watershoot Bay, which is one such beach. The easiest way to access it is to walk along the coast from St Catherine’s Lighthouse at the Island’s southernmost point.

If you want to escape to a peaceful spot (while avoiding the clingy power of sand) then this stony part of the Island’s coast can’t be beat.


Bembridge Beach, East Wight

Looking down the sand and stone stretch at Bembridge beach on the Isle of Wight

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Pay and display next to the beach

Accessibility: There are a few steps from the car park to the beach or you can sit alongside the coastal path and overlook the action

Facilities: Toilets, shop and cafés nearby

This wide open beach in the East Wight is a popular one with dog walkers, who can visit all year round without restrictions. Some busier beaches, such as Sandown and Shanklin, don’t allow dogs in some sections during the warmer months.

At low tide, you’ll find Bembridge quietly humming with the sound of crab hunters. The local RNLI shop sells fishing nets and buckets so you can join in the fun of watching crabs scamper out of upturned rocks as you listen out for the squeals of delight coming from fellow searchers!

The beach is also home to a walkway that leads to an impressive lifeboat station. Take a look around and see how the 16 metre long vessel hangs at the top of a long ramp, ready for a rapid launch into the water.


Gurnard Beach, North Wight

The golden sands, promenade and beach huts at Gurnard beach on the Isle of Wight

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: On street parking

Accessibility: The beach has a couple of steps down to it, but the esplanade walk to Cowes is flat and is suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs

Facilities: Pub, toilets and playground

The Island’s north coast isn’t as well known for its sandy beaches, but Gurnard is a lovely spot to spend an afternoon.

The village is a suburb of the famous sailing town of Cowes and enjoys the same views of the Solent with its busy schedule of yachts and large ships. Amateur sailors play on the water from Gurnard’s sailing club, while children will love the maritime themed playground.

Sunsets are Gurnard’s speciality with the golden coloured skies reflecting off the Solent. The picture perfect view is completed with the row of green beach huts that line the esplanade.

For a pleasant walk, head along the seafront towards Cowes. It’s about a mile into the town centre where you’ll find a choice of excellent bars and restaurants - what a way to end a beach day!


Ventnor Beach, South Wight

Looking down the golden sands of Ventnor beach, backed by the popular town

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Pay and display or on street parking

Accessibility: There’s a slope leading down onto the beach or you can sit on the esplanade

Facilities: Restaurants and cafés, toilets and a paddling pool

Ventnor in the South Wight holds a special charm with its steep hills sheltering the beach and its row of cafés and eateries. Pull up a seat at The Spyglass Inn and listen to the sound of live music and the lapping waves. Or for a posh night out, try The Royal Hotel, which has been wowing visitors for more than a century.

Children (and adults) will enjoy the Isle of Wight shaped paddling pool that sits at the bottom of the Cascade Gardens at the Bonchurch end of the esplanade.

On the beach, you can admire the beach huts that once operated as bathing machines to transport swimmers to the water while preserving their modesty. Ventnor is still a good spot for a swim, even if you can no longer be wheeled down to the water’s edge!

Once you're good and salty, why not head up to the nearby Ventnor Park or Ventnor Botanic Gardens, for a turn around some of the best gardens on the Isle of Wight.


Shanklin Beach, South East Wight

Kayaks sit on the golden sand at Shanklin beach waiting for eager visitors

Lifeguard cover: No

Parking: Pay and display

Accessibility: There are a dozen steps down onto the beach, but you can enjoy the atmosphere from the esplanade

Facilities: Toilets, souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes

Shanklin is the neighbouring town to Sandown and it’s another busy resort with a row of restaurants and amusements that overlook the sandy beach.

Start by exploring the town’s ‘olde village’ with its thatched cottages and indulgent tea rooms before heading to the beach via the famous Shanklin Chine.

On the esplanade you’ll find a choice of three different minigolf courses, a small funfair and several places where you can hire watersports equipment. Complete the day by hiring a deckchair and treating yourself to an ice cream!


Ready for your beachy holiday on the Isle of Wight? Explore our lovely cottages and start planning your stay.

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