Family holiday ideas on the Isle of Wight

A holiday on the Isle of Wight is unique in many ways and none more so than its ability to cater for the wide ranging needs of a family on holiday.

Irrespective as to how long your stay is on the Island there is a plethora of family orientated activities for all tastes and interests.

So you have arrived on the island, what do you do, and where do you go? The following is just a chosen cross section of the vast amount of family activities that can be found on the Island.

Wherever, or whatever, you wish to do is never far away.

Animal Attractions

Known locally as the zoo on the beach, the unique location of the Isle of Wight Zoo provides a spectacular setting. For a chance to see big cats, both lions and tigers, and the opportunity to meet the wallabies for a real hands on animal experience the zoo caters for all expectations. This family run zoo is where care, conservation and education about animals come together.

alpaca-isleofwightFor a truly unforgettable and original animal experience Alpaca Walks offers you the opportunity to lead your very own Alpaca on a trek across some of the many scenic trails on the island. A close encounter with the friendly Suri Alpacas enables both children and adults to learn about and these friendly animals in a relaxed and professional environment. And should you be tempted the Alpacas are for sale!

Amazon World Zoo Park has a combined total of over 200 different species of mammals, birds and reptiles on display. These often rare and exotic animals are housed at the zoo as they form part of the large conservation breeding programme the zoo operates. With both displays and meet the animals sessions Amazon World enables children to get a fascinating hands on experience.

One of the many multi-award winning attractions on the island is the Owl and Monkey Sanctuary. Go along and meet the gang in organised sessions where both children and adults can get up close and personal with the monkeys and owls. Situated in a tranquil environment you can sit back and watch the animals relax and play. A diary of daily events is organised to provide an opportunity to learn about the animals in a fun and engaging way.

History brought alive

Osborne House is a true slice of British history that is simply unmissable. This Royal seaside palace, the summer home and rural retreat for Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their nine children is a lavish testament to the Victorian age. With sumptuous state and family rooms it is possible to acquire a true understanding of daily life in the palace for Victoria and her family. A stroll through the large manicured grounds leads to a view of the Solent Prince Albert likened to the Bay of Naples. The private beach area allowed Victoria some much needed privacy and it was there that she took to the waters with the aid of her bathing machine for the first time in her life. Restored, it now sits looking out over the very beach that Victoria and her children spent many happy times playing on.

One of the many special attractions contained within the large manicured grounds is Swiss Cottage. This royal playhouse, constructed in the highly popular mid-nineteenth century Swiss style, was a gift from Victoria and Albert to their children. With funding from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage has undertaken the refurbishment of this exceptional monument to our Royal history. Opening in early 2014 the work carried out will provide vivid new displays, a garden trail and a new play area.

carisbrooke castleLocated in the heart of the Isle of Wight sits Carisbrooke Castle, a motte-and-bailey constructed historical monument that also has an exclusive royal connection. It was here that King Charles I was held after his defeat in the English Civil War. Children can soak up the history by dressing up as Norman soldiers or Civil War troops. Grown-ups can roam through the new Edwardian style Princess Beatrice Gardens or attend with the children the feeding and grooming sessions at the Castle’s donkey centre.

History further comes alive with the Brading Roman Villa, with its award winning visitor centre and museum. Situated in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty on show are some of the finest Roman archaeological remains in Britain with the highlight being the preserved mosaic floors. Interactive displays will occupy little hands while grown-ups can take in the Roman Gardens before moving onto the meadow trail. A cafe and shop will round off a fun and educational trip down history lane in superb surroundings.

Dimbola is the former home of Julia Margaret Cameron, famous victorian photographer and the museum at Freshwater Bay, has regualr photographic exhibitions and a really good tea room.Open all year but may close early in winter. PO409QE tel 01983756814, www.dimbola.co.uk

Dinosaur Island

The Isle of Wight is Dinosaur Island. This being the case it seemed appropriate that the UK’s first purpose built museum, Dinosaur Isle, dedicated solely to the display, study and education of Dinosaurs, should be built on the island. Based in Sandown the pterosaur shaped structure houses life sized reconstructions and animatronic dinosaurs. Fossil collections combined with innovative displays will entertain, educate and stimulate young minds. Should the desire to explore firsthand the many fossils to be found on the islands beaches guided tours will enable young hands to unearth their very own fossil.

Other attractions

For those children and families who literally want a ‘hands on’ activity Chessel Pottery Barns, situated near Yarmouth, allow both imagination and creativity to go hand in hand. Paint your own pottery or capture your child’s hand and footprints for posterity. With year round seasonal activities and gift shop and cafe on site the family are able to acquire their very own personalised mementos.

steamEvery child loves a steam train and the Isle of Wight Steam Railway provides the opportunity to take a ride back into a bygone era. Why not unwind and discover a unique view of the island from the comfort of the lovingly refurbished Victorian carriages. The living, breathing, working museum allows you the opportunity to hop off and on at your leisure as you travel along the scenic route from Wootton to Smallbrook Junction. Those with a desire to delve deeper into both the history and
the workings of the railway can take time out to visit the museum and the Carriage and Wagon workshop.

Island Theme Parks

The home of Bestival, itself home to many of the world’s major musical acts (New Order, Stevie Wonder, Elton John) Robin Hill Adventure Park and Gardens is the imate child friendly outdoor adventure park. Set in 88 acres of picturesque countryside it is easy to understand why Robin Hill is often the first port of call for children and families during their stay on the island. With rides, gardens, a number of adventure play areas and woodland gardens to explore, you will be hard pushed to find a more action packed day. A giant maze and troll bridges stimulate the imagination which is then taken all the way up to eleven with a visit to the 4D motion cinema. A tractor train runs regularly for those wishing for a more sedate experience.

blackgangLocated at the southern tip of the island is Blackgang Chine. Opened in 1843 it is Britain’s oldest amusement park and many of the attractions are linked to the area’s history as a centre for smuggling. Rides, slides and themed lands of imagination will occupy children all day long allowing older family members to relax and take in the picture postcard views offered up by the parks coastal setting. Plenty of themed gift shops and refreshment facilities enable all tastes to be catered for.

The Isle of Wight’s most iconic and famous geological feature, The Needles, is also home to an amusement park which looks down on the three chalk stacks from the cliffs above. Based in Alum Bay you can ride one of the fifty chairs down to the beach below and back again on the park’s main attraction the Chairlift. Boat trips, rides and a 4D cinema experience are just a small part of the attractions on offer for children looking for fun and thrills. The Pier Head Shopping Emporium enables older family members to purchase among the many gifts on offer handmade Alum Glass as a memento of their visit. Children can also take home their own memento after watching the onsite sweetmakers. How long these delicious mementos actually last though is another matter!

Isle of Wight Beaches

seagullsIt really is a matter of taking your pick from the vast array of beaches which are dotted around the island’s entire coastline. Pebble, rock or sandy beaches are all easily accessible and offer children the choice to fossil hunt, fly a kite and go crabbing. Most beaches have both toilet and refreshment facilities meaning you can spend the whole day rock pooling or possibly taking advantage of the views on the North coastline beaches and watching the large ocean liners, some famous, some not so, slowly making their way across the Solent into Southampton.

Whatever you decide to do, we hope you thoroughly enjoy your family holiday on the Isle of Wight!