Secret places on the Isle of Wight

Places to Go

Secret places on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is packed with headline attractions, such as the iconic Needles Lighthouse, Queen Victoria’s Osborne House or Carisbrooke Castle. However, there are many lesser-known days out to discover and explore...

Historians will enjoy Newport’s Roman Villa, which hides between houses on a residential road. Or how about the tiny church in St Lawrence or Culver Down’s unrestored fort, which kept a watchful eye over the Solent? Wartime secrets can also be found amongst the amusements and ice creams of Sandown and Shanklin.

Beach lovers can discover hidden gems in all corners of the Island. To the north is a secluded beach just outside of Cowes that offers spectacular sunsets and to the south is an isolated bay that displays remarkable remnants of a Victorian plan to create a new resort.

Eagle-eyed nature lovers may be able to spot one of the rarest birds of prey from a stunning clifftop location or admire a mighty oak, which locals call The Dragon Tree.

Finally, there are the out-of-the-way eateries, such as the restaurant by the sea that serves up Japanese inspired dishes or a quirky café that can only be reached by foot.

Ready to explore? Here are our favourite off-the-beaten-track, secret places to visit on the Isle of Wight. 


Newport Roman Villa, Newport

The ancient uncovered remains of the Roman villa in Newport on the Isle of Wight

The Romans occupied the Isle of Wight for around four hundred years and gave it the name Vectis. Seven Roman villas have since been discovered, although most are undisturbed and are yet to give up their secrets.

The biggest and busiest is Brading Roman Villa with its famous mosaics and well-preserved walls. However, those in search of something different should head for Newport Roman Villa, which sits on an unassuming residential road in Shide - a truly hidden spot!

It is thought to have been constructed in 280AD and was discovered in the 1920s when a homeowner began digging foundations for a new garage.

Archaeologists discovered such luxuries as underfloor heating, which suggest that the building was part of a grand estate in the centre of the Island. Families can follow the discovery trail or try out activities such as mosaic making and a Roman play kitchen.

The Villa is small and only opens during peak season so it’s worth a quick check online before visiting.


Bembridge Fort, Culver Down

The historic brick of Bembridge Fort, jutting out from the hillside on the Isle of Wight

The National Trust and English Heritage look after many of the Isle of Wight’s finest historic buildings. Carisbrooke Castle and Yarmouth Castle are both fantastic family days out but the National Trust’s ‘unrestored’ Bembridge Fort is one for true explorers.

It sits on Culver Down, overlooking the eastern coastal resorts of Sandown, Shanklin and Lake. The fort was one of many built in the 1860s around the Isle of Wight’s coastline. Others include the Old Battery at The Needles and Fort Victoria in Yarmouth.

On a tour, you will be able to see the hexagonal shape of the fort, which was built to accommodate more than 100 men. Six imposing guns once aimed out to sea to fend off the threat of French invasion and during the Second World War it served as a base for the Isle of Wight’s home guard and turrets were added to improve visibility.

Booking is essential as tours are carried out by volunteers and only take place once a week. The tour is only open to those aged 10 or older because restoration of the fort is very much a ‘work in progress’!

Whilst you are visiting the Fort, you might like to take in The Culver Trail, which is a four mile Island walk with impressive coastal views.


Gurnard’s hidden beach, nr Cowes

The golden tones of the shingle and rock beach hidden by Gurnard's beach on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is blessed with a coastline of contrasts, which has given it a reputation as ‘all of England in miniature’. Most of the rocky and rugged beaches can be found around the isolated south coast – but there are exceptions.

Gurnard’s main beach is an Instagram favourite with its row of green beach huts providing the foreground to the sunsets in the background.

However, take a small walk and you will find the village’s second beach, which is much less visited but just as scenic.

You can discover this hidden gem by walking behind Gurnard Sailing Club along Shore Path. After about 100 metres, you’ll climb down onto a shingle and sand beach that’s backed by woodlands.

Take it from us, it’s best visited at low tide on a summer’s evening when the Solent switches from its daytime sparkle to a magnificent orange as the sun sets over Southampton.

Extend your visit with a walk into yachty-Cowes, which has a good selection of independent shops and chic places to eat.


St Lawrence Old Church, South Wight

The historic and tiny St Lawrence Old Church on the Isle of Wight

Historic churches and other fascinating places of worship are scattered throughout the Isle of Wight. St Lawrence Old Church holds a special charm and is tucked away in a discreet location in the South Wight.

At one stage it was thought to have been the smallest church in England, before it was extended. It’s certainly one of the oldest on the Island, with a history dating back to the late 12th century.

Inside, you’ll find wooden beams, traditional pews and an aisle down the right hand side to make the most of the space.

Take a look at the neatly compiled list, which records every rector of the church, right back to 1201. The church operated without electricity until 1970!

It can be reached by wiggling your way down Seven Sisters Road, which leads to the famous Undercliff Drive in St Lawrence. Take care as you enter – the doorway is much lower than most church entrances so you might need to duck!

If you’re fascinated by St Lawrence Old Church then you might also like a visit to St Agnes Church. This small building in Freshwater Bay is more modern but its thatched roof and links to Alfred, Lord Tennyson make it a local attraction.

Royalists should head for St Mildred’s Church in Whippingham, otherwise known as Queen Victoria’s Church. The Queen’s daughter was married here in 1885 and was buried at the church 60 years later.


The Dragon Tree, Brighstone

Welly walkers and puddle splashers will love a trip to the Dragon Tree in Brighstone, which lies across the Buddle Brook. The stream once powered a local mill but now provides a fun spot for splashing in the sun.

The mighty oak across the stream appears to be growing sideways, with its colossal branches stretching out wide. It is thought to have been knocked over by a storm, but wasn’t completely uprooted thanks to its impressive branches.

The local legend is a far more interesting tale!

The story goes that a dragon brought terror to Brighstone’s villagers. A returning crusader fought the dragon, which turned to wood once defeated and took root. Whichever story you believe, you can find it by walking down a footpath off New Road.

While in Brighstone, take a few minutes to visit the village’s charming tea rooms, museum and greengrocers. Brighstone Museum must be one of the quaintest in the country and is run by volunteers.


True Food Kitchen, Niton

The spacious and quirky interior of True Food Café on the Isle of Wight

Earn your supper with a memorable trip to The True Food Kitchen in Castlehaven in the South Wight. This is more than a meal out – it’s an experience!

The quirky restaurant is almost entirely outdoors and can be found at one of the Island’s least-known beaches.

Diners park around a quarter of a mile from the restaurant and make their way down a leafy footpath off St Catherine’s Road. You’ll enjoy views of St Catherine’s Lighthouse before finally reaching the cosy cove with its fishing boats and sea birds.

Once you arrive, you’ll dine on Japanese influenced bao buns, poke bowls and freshly caught seafood as well as Isle of Wight burgers and tempura.

As it is an al fresco eatery, opening hours are dependent on the weather and booking is advised!


Binnel Bay, South Wight

The rocky and secluded Binnel Bay on the Isle of Wight

Binnel Bay is a beach that you can often enjoy all to yourself, while nearby resorts throng with visitors on a summer’s day. The beach is stony with a footpath that requires scrabbling and a good pair of walking boots!

You will find it in the South Wight, which has a string of isolated bays. Head for St Lawrence and walk down Old Park Road. The route down will send you past a pottery and onto a public footpath, with cows grazing in the fields nearby. Once you’ve arrived you’ll likely see cormorants sitting on rocks just off the shore.

You may spot the remains of a wall in the water, which is known as Spindler’s Folly. The story goes that a German entrepreneur saw nearby Ventnor thriving and set about constructing an esplanade. The Victorian-era endeavour was mostly destroyed by winter storms but the remains of the wall were never removed.


Seapot Beach Café, Ventnor

Seapot Café sitting on the waterfront with lots of yachts in the distance.

If you like your cafés quirky and off-the-beaten-track, head for the Seapot Beach Café.

It sits in a stunning spot along the seawall, which links Ventnor and Bonchurch. In front of the café lies the English Channel with Cherbourg and Le Havre the nearest land.

The café serves up traditional ploughman’s lunches with ham, pickles and doorstop bread, or a fisherman’s alternative with prawns, crab and salmon. You can even grab a vegan alternative with olives, hummus, artichokes and sundried tomatoes. Alternatively, tuck into a latte and a slice of something sweet.

The Seapot is very dependent on the weather, with most of the seating outdoors and very much al fresco! Catch it on the right day and it’s a real treat.

There is no vehicle access so you can reach it on foot from Ventnor’s Eastern Esplanade car park or sneak down the steps off Wheelers Bay Car Park.


PLUTO, Shanklin Chine and Wildheart Animal Sanctuary

The elegant entrance to Shanklin Chine, home to one of the most secret places on the Isle of Wight

Visitors to Shanklin and Sandown could be forgiven for missing the towns’ secret role in the Allied victory in the Second World War.

Amongst the waterfalls and the flora and fauna of Shanklin Chine are around 60 metres of pipe, which were known as the Pipeline Under The Ocean (PLUTO). These were discreetly laid in Shanklin in 1944 and continued all the way to Cherbourg. The plan was to send much-needed fuel from the UK to troops in France along a 70 mile pipe.

The other part of the plan required pumping stations to be hidden in Sandown. 13 pumps were placed inside a former fort in Sandown, which is now home to lions and tigers at Wildheart Animal Sanctuary. Another was hidden inside an ice cream shop!

Once it was up and running, PLUTO sent millions of gallons of fuel across the Channel. A small plaque on Shanklin Seafront marks the location where the pipes entered the sea. The plaque itself has a curious history as it accidentally ended up at a scrap yard when Shanklin’s Pier was destroyed in a storm in 1987. Thankfully, it was spotted and eventually returned!


White Tailed Eagles

A white tailed eagle soaring in the blue sky on the Isle of Wight

Ok, so this one might not be a place, but it’s certainly a well kept secret - and a rare one at that!

Twitchers and wildlife lovers come to the Isle of Wight to explore the wading birds of Newtown Creek or the precious red squirrels that hide in woodland. However, the ultimate prize is a sighting of the White Tailed Eagle – otherwise known as the sea eagle.

These magnificent creatures disappeared from the skies of Southern England for more than 200 years. It was on Culver Cliff in the East Wight that the White Tailed Eagles were last seen in England, back when George III sat on the throne and just four years after the United States was founded.

In 2019, the Isle of Wight was chosen as the location for a reintroduction programme. Six eagles were released after hundreds of hours of background work.

They now feast on grey mullet, caught in the shallow waters of the Solent and then make their nests in nearby forests.

We can’t guarantee you’ll spot one, but you’ll want to have a camera with you just in case!


While visiting the magical Isle of Wight, choose from our selection of welcoming holiday cottages on the island to discover the perfect base for your stay.

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