Accommodation on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is not short of charming, locally run places to stay, where the owners will give you space to recharge but still be on hand when required with that life-affirming cooked breakfast. Your options range from elegant town guesthouses and farmhouse B&Bs to camping and glamping in tucked-away woodland corners where you might unzip the tent in the morning to a view of the Island’s downland spine. If it’s self-catering you’re after, then you’ll find that stylish and tasteful conversions of milking sheds and 18th-century buildings abound, many located on working farms where you can, should you wish, either meet the animals or simply soak up the rural surroundings of an Island that holds the concept of ‘slow’ at its heart.
The lists here are not exhaustive but feature personal choices of places that stand out from the crowd, time and again.
Where to base yourself on the Isle of Wight
Yarmouth & the northwest
Visit the delightful own of Yarmouth (smaller than some villages on the Island) for good food and walks along the River West Yar.
Cowes, Ryde & the northeast
There’s more to Cowes than just-landed sailors: museums and a rich maritime history make this is a good choice as a place to stay, as does the quirky town of Ryde and the elegiac and simply charming coastal resort of Seaview.
Tennyson Down & the southwest
Stay in this area and you can take in the magnificence of Tennyson Down and the white brilliance of the Needles, along with some of the most bucolic villages the Island has to offer.
The south of the island offers excellent B&Bs, pubs and caravan stays where you really are far from the madding proverbial.
Newport & around
The Island ‘capital’ has a good deal of interest to make you linger and stay, while its hinterland offers an escape into valleys of rich farmland and high quality food.
Sandown & the east coast
The magnificent five-mile beach at Sandown is a persuasive reason to stay on or near the east coast, with endless walking and cycling opportunities, excellent museums and attractions, and the watery backdrop of the towns of Bembridge, Brading and their marshes to explore.
Getting around the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight has an excellent range of bus services. The vast majority of services are run by Southern Vectis. The centre, north, south and east of the Island are particularly well served throughout the day by buses; the west less so after 17.00. Most services tend to radiate out of Newport, the Island’s capital which sits more or less in the middle of the Island; Ryde is the other bus hub.
For nostalgists there is even a train line that deploys rolling stock deemed surplus to requirements by the London Underground network (though visitors’ enthusiasm for this service is not necessarily shared by Islanders who point to its exasperating unreliability). The Island Line operates in the east of the Island, between Ryde and Shanklin, stopping along the way at Smallbrook Junction, Brading, Sandown and Lake. The total length is 8½ miles and journey time from north to south is around 30 minutes. For most visitors, a brief trip on the train can be fun as you’ll get good views of Brading Marshes and occasional glimpses of the sea.
Just as importantly, the ferry ports on the mainland that serve the Isle of Wight – Lymington, Southampton and Portsmouth – are all well connected by rail with the rest of the UK, making a car-free holiday to the Island entirely plausible and practical, from start to finish.
Walking and cycling
In addition to its public transport, the island is also home to an extraordinarily dense network of public footpaths and rights of way. The beauty of this cat’s cradle of paths is that many places of interest can be visited on foot, either from a bus stop or by walking between one attraction and the next. You can easily spend a week on the Island without need for a car, and just about every sight can be visited through a combination of bus and short- or medium-distance walks. Cycling options cater for all levels of fitness and vary from flat-as-pancake scoots through the heart of the Island to more rigorous steep climbs that will expose any twinges in your calf muscles.