Just off the South Coast lies this pretty island – a sunny spot and a perfect destination for a fun-packed 48 hours
There’s no better destination for all things vintage than the Isle of Wight, from grand Victorian architecture to thatched tea shops
The Isle of Wight is only ten minutes from Southsea if you go by hovercraft, which is an adrenaline-fuelled adventure in itself. It’s sometimes known as ‘England in miniature’ as the best bits of the country are compressed into one beautiful Island – there are gorgeous beaches, dramatic downs, ancient woodlands and chocolate-box villages, all of which you can explore by car, bike or public transport, including open-top buses in the summer. For the latter, consider buying a Rover ticket from just £10 per adult for 24 hours of unlimited travel across the entire network of public transport.
Day 1: What to do on the Isle of Wight
Start in Ventnor, a Victorian jewel with Mediterranean terraces rising up from the beach. There are vintage shops and you can look the part for your retro break by getting a glamorous ‘do’ at the Vintage Hair Lounge. Then take in the local air, which Queen Victoria’s doctor declared to be therapeutic, by walking along the coast to the Botanic Gardens. Look out for the giant echiums – huge spikes of pink and purple flowers that can grow up to four metres high. Next, head for the Military Road for a breathtaking drive along the coast. Stop off at Compton Bay and hunt for dinosaur bones, then head for Dimbola Museum & Galleries in Freshwater. This was the home of pioneering Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron – you can see her work alongside a David Bowie exhibition (ends 17 August).Afterwards, walk up Tennyson Down for incredible views over the Needles, one of the most photographed rock formations in the world.
Where to eat on the Isle of Wight
- Lunch: Order crab on chips from Ventnor Haven Fishery and eat it on the beach, then grab a coffee and a terrace seat at the art deco Winter Gardens for ever-changing views of the English Channel.
- Dinner: Indulge in a ‘taste of the Wight dinner’ at the Seaview Hotel. A three-course meal costs around £28 and incorporates seasonal island delicacies such as seafood and samphire.
What to do at night on the Isle of Wight
Look up! This is one of the best places in the country for stargazing, due to the low light pollution. There are also several unmissable events that run into the evening throughout the summer – including Ventnor Fringe (23-28 July) and Jack Up the Summer (10-11 August), a feel-good festival with its heart set in the ’80s and ’90s.
Day 2: What to do on the Isle of Wight
Start at Osborne House in East Cowes, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s palace by the sea. It’s the 200th anniversary of their births and to celebrate, there’s a new trail and exhibition about royal birthdays. Then it’s full steam ahead to the Isle of Wight Steam Railway, which hosts special events such as the 1940s Experience (6-7 July). Jump on a vintage steam train and travel back in time through the idyllic countryside.
Where to eat on the Isle of Wight
Breakfast: Go to The Garlic Farm for a meaty cooked breakfast (mouthwatering vegetarian options also available) and see garlic growing, peacocks and red squirrels in the grounds.
Lunch: Head for Cowes, grab a picnic from French Franks, and walk to Prince’s Green. This is a great spot to watch the boats – including the classic yachts during Panerai British Classic Week (13-20 July), and the racing during Lendy Cowes Week regatta (10-17 August).
Treat yourself on the Isle of Wight
Queen Victoria used to take tea at The Royal in Ventnor and you can indulge in this treat, too. Order a splendid Royal Tea (£23 per head) and get it delivered in a hamper to the Riviera Terrace, which has panoramic views over the Channel. For the ultimate indulgence, order vintage Champagne to go with it. Book at least 24 hours in advance.
With thanks to Visit Isle of Wight.