Things to do

Free things to do on the Isle of Wight

Holidays are rarely cheap, especially when kids are involved so we've come up with some great ideas for free. Just pack up for a day of adventure and go.

Holidays can be expensive and self-catering holidays on the Isle of Wight can cost as much or as little as you like. Shop local and eat in to save some pennies, visit a restaurant or pub to push the boat out; the choice is yours. Whatever type of holiday you are after it’s always nice to get something for free and here’s our list of things to do on the Isle of Wight, in no particular order:

Visit Appuldurcombe House

Situated in Wroxall and built in the 18th century this stately house is a shadow of its former self. Now restored in parts the house retains some of it’s elegant past with exposed floors and walls. Parking is available close by and there’s a fairly level gravel path around the house. The gardens are lovely green lawned areas with mature trees providing shade, perfect for summer picnics. Dogs are welcome on a lead and the house is open from April to October.

Appuldurcombe House

Watch the Red Arrows during Cowes Week

During the first week of August the most well- known British sailing event takes place along the shores of Cowes on the north of the Island. Racing takes place all week and the town comes alive with week long activities and entertainment culminating in a dynamic aerobatic display on the final Friday.

Arrive early and spend the afternoon enjoying the buzzing atmosphere, if you arrive later it can be tricky to park. Flying takes place early evening and the beach is the best place to enjoy the spectacle. 

Go bird spotting in Hersey Nature Reserve

Seaview is a lovely village on the eastern side of the Island with some stunning Island holiday homes and a well regarded sailing club. It’s not a place where you’d expect to find a hidden nature reserve but look carefully and that’s exactly what you will find.

Named after Alan Hersey, a former councillor with an interest in protecting the environment at Seaview, the reserve was built in 2002 on the natural flood plain and is now home to a wide variety of wading birds and wildfowl who live mostly in the surrounding reed beds. Take the kids along and see how many different breeds you can see. There’s a hide for bird watching and take care not to disturb the wildlife.

Hersey Nature Reserve in summer 

Fly a kite on Ryde beach

Who doesn’t love a bit of kite flying? On a windy day it’s the perfect pastime for all the family. Ryde beach is a great place to kite fly with a wide expanse of sand and a café at each end, perfect for a quick ice cream or hot drink on a cold day.

When you stop for a breather you can watch the hovercraft skim over the water to the ferry terminal at the pier head or head off into the woods of Puckpool park for a spot of hide and seek. During the summer months Goodleaf Tree climbing offer the amazing opportunity to climb into a tree canopy but you do have to pay for this.

Ryde beach kite flying

Walk to St Helens Fort

This enduring local pastime has been engaging locals for hundreds of years. 4 times a year the spring tide ensures the sea level is low enough to walk to St Helens Fort from St Helens beach. In August when the sea is at its warmest, locals gather together and walk en-mass.

You need to be in the know to find out the date, it’s never common knowledge but if you’re lucky enough to be on the Island at the time it’s an event worth seeing, even if you don’t join in. If you do have a go you need to wear old trainers and keep to the highest point. You will get wet feet either way but if you sway off the route too much it won’t just be your feet getting wet. Once at the fort you can climb up a ladder to walk around it but take note, there won’t be much time so don’t delay for long. 

Walk to St Helens Fort

Walk the length of Ryde Pier

Built in the 19th century, this pier is the second longest in the country and can be accessed by train, car or on foot. Taking the car costs £1 but walking the ½ mile length is free and a great way to view Ryde behind you and Southampton across the Solent.

There’s a café at the end with indoor and outside seating, a great place to watch the last surviving hovercraft skim over the water. Pick a sunny day and enjoy the spectacular scenery, pick a stormy day and dress for the weather; either way this should be on your bucket list. 

Ryde pier

Visit Bembridge Lifeboat station

Since 1867 there’s been a lifeboat station on the eastern edge of the Island, built near to Bembridge Ledge, a rocky outcrop which is covered by shallow water at high tide and a danger to shipping. In 2010 a new station was constructed and guests can take a look around during opening hours.

Located about half a mile from the village centre, there is a pay and display car park nearby and the Lifeboat station shop sells keepsakes at the end of the walkway. The views are amazing, you feel as though you are walking right out into the Solent. During the summer the nearby Lifeboat café offers refreshments and the beach is great for rock pooling. Check opening times before you travel as it is dependent on the time of year.

Bembridge lifeboat station

Watch the Round the Island yacht race

On the first Saturday of July each year, over a thousand yachts race around the Island. It is a real spectacle which can be seen from many vantage points all over the Island. The start line is off Cowes with the first boats setting off at 6.30am. From there they set off towards Yarmouth and there are great views all along the coast from the Needles to St Catherines Point, Bembridge to Osborne Bay. Take a picnic, make a day of it, if there is little wind and the boats make slow progress you can spend the whole day spectating. 

Round the island race

Pay a visit to Quarr Abbey

Situated close to Ryde, the abbey is a wonderful spiritual place to visit. Wonder around the woodland walk, see the apiary, say hello to the pigs and hens, wonder around the allotments and enjoy the tea shop and farm shop. Guided tours, taken by the monks who reside at the abbey, are every first Tuesday of the month (every Tuesday in July and August) and donations are invited for these.

Rosemary Vineyard

The Isle of Wight is one of the sunniest places in England making it an ideal place for a vineyard. Just outside Ryde you’ll find Rosemary vineyard where you can wonder amongst the vines, take in the lovely rolling scenery and discover the different varieties grown. One of our Island team staff went for a visit recently and you can read about it here. Book lunch and free wine tasting is on offer or just take a stroll around, the choice is yours.

Search for dinosaur footprints in Compton Bay

There were 25 different dinosaur species once living on the Isle of Wight and now the bones, fossils and footprints can be found on the shoreline between Compton and Sandown. There are some enormous footprint casts on Compton and Brook beaches and local fossil experts take guided tours to these spots. You can discover them yourself so go at low tide, take provisions and get searching.

 Whatever you choose to do on the Isle of Wight, take a look at our lovely collection of self catering cottages for a holiday to remember.

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