There are loads of things to do on the Isle of Wight with kids. The island lies just a few miles off the coast of Hampshire in southern England and is a motorway-free oasis. I visited the Isle of Wight one October half term with my husband and ten year-old son. We stayed at the island’s ideally placed Premier Inn (read my review A family friendly place to stay on the Isle of Wight) and had a really enjoyable trip. These are some of the great things to do on the island with children.
Go fossil hunting
In 2009 four year-old Daisy Morris discovered fossils from a previously unknown dinosaur species on Atherfield beach. Thrillingly, the pterosaur species Daisy discovered has since been named after her as Vectidraco daisymorrisae. The Isle of Wight is Europe’s most important site for dinosaur fossils because of its soft clay cliffs which are continuously crumbling into the sea releasing the prehistoric remains which they contain. Compton Bay and Brighstone beach are some of the best places to find fossils. At Compton Bay you can even walk in some giant iguanadon footprints made around 120 million years ago. Dinosaur Isle (below) offers some great guided family fossil walks, which you need to book in advance. Read about our fossil hunting experience in my post Fossil hunting in the Isle of Wight.
A beachside purpose-built museum shaped like a pterosaur, Dinosaur Isle houses the island’s fossil and geological collection and has some fun interactive exhibits. It’s a very hands-on place with animatronic life-sized dinosaurs, a sandbox for excavating fossils, boxes of dinosaur smells (as imagined by someone who thinks about these things) and loads more. There’s also a room for younger children upstairs with soft toys, colouring materials and model dinosaurs to make. The expert paleontologists based here can help you identify any fossils you show them.
This imposing 12th century castle is where King Charles I was imprisoned before he was executed. Carisbrooke Castle is at Newport at the island’s centre and these days is under the care of English Heritage. There are battlements to climb, mini cannons to sit on, ruins to play in and a short film telling the castle’s story. The highlight is seeing the castle donkeys walking inside the huge, old oak wheel to show how it was used in the past to draw water from the castle well. The donkeys seem happy and well cared for and only work the wheel for a few minutes at a time. Here’s Jill showing us how it’s done:
The Needles Old Battery & New Battery
Perched on the Isle of Wight’s western tip The Needles Batteries are now under National Trust care and make for a fascinating visit. It’s a beautiful twenty minute walk to the Batteries along the cliffs from the nearest car park, or you can catch a bus. The Old Battery is a Victorian fort built to defend Britain from French invasion. It was used during both world wars and offers some great views of the iconic Needles rocks as well as a cafe with homemade cakes. The New Battery is very exciting because it was a secret space rocket testing site during the Cold War employing up to two hundred people. Read more in my post Secret rocket testing on the Isle of Wight.
Go to the beach
The Isle of Wight has a beautiful coastline and some lovely beaches so makes a good choice for a family bucket-and-spade holiday in the summer. The beaches are still beautiful outside of summer too and are great places for walking, playing, and fossil hunting at any time of year.
Opened in 1843 this 40-acre theme park is the oldest on the island. Blackgang Chine’s first attraction was a whale skeleton which is still on display today and is the largest in Europe. It’s in a great cliff-top location on the west of the island and besides a roller coaster and water chutes it has themed attractions including dinosaurs, cowboys, fairies and pirates as well as exhibitions of local history and crafts.
Owl & Monkey Haven
The Owl & Monkey Haven is a sanctuary for a range of rescued primates and birds of prey. There are talks from keepers where you can get really close to the animals and you can also book a marmoset encounter for the chance to interact with these cute creatures. There are two great play areas for kids as well as a cafe.
Family travel lowdown: We travelled to the Isle of Wight from Portsmouth as guests of Wightlink. Day return fares start from £38 for a car and up to four people, while short-stay return fares (up to four nights) cost from £48. Wightlink also offers a range of Wight World tickets, which include day return ferry travel and entry to an Island attraction (from £44 for a family of four). Wightlink publishes a series of lovely, free themed guides to the Isle of Wight. Thank you to Wightlink and the National Trust for providing our tickets for the purposes of this review.
More on the Isle of Wight
You can read more about our trip in these posts: