They say a visit to the isle is like going back in time, and in many ways they’re right. There’s no Uber, the beaches have 1950s seafront shelters and people chat to you, too. Thatched-roof cottages have names like ‘Gone to the Beach’, you can pay for a jar of local honey via an honesty box and browse saucy postcards at The Donald McGiIl Museum in Ryde.
A 70-mile coastal path loops the island and takes six days to walk—but there are shorter routes. The Needles, four wedges of chalk that resemble shark teeth, jut out into the sea off the island’s western tip. You can see them from a chairlift that glides down to Alum Bay’s pebble beach. From the top of the chairlift, a roadside path guides you there along a cliff in 15 minutes.
Take time to explore The Needles Old and New Battery, a Victorian coastal defence site that’s now a National Trust spot. From the fort, follow a trail through patches of gorse across Tennyson Down to Freshwater Bay. It’s a one-hour route, or longer if you continue south to Compton Beach or Mottistone Gardens and Estate.
After a pit stop in the outdoor café, continue south on foot or by taxi to Ventnor Botanic Garden, a huge site with a glasshouse plants such as echiums and red-hot pokers. Look out for lizards among the cacti and turtles in the pond.
In the north of the island, near East Cowes, is Queen Victoria’s Grade I-listed summer home, Osborne House. The Drawing Room has buttercup-yellow satin furniture, and the elaborate Durbar Room; despite being the Empress of India, the Queen never visited, so this Indian-style room was as close as she got.
Stroll among the flowerbeds and walk down to the beach to watch boats on the Solent—visit during Cowes Week (Aug) for the world’s oldest and largest sailing regatta.
Save taxi firm numbers, carry a bus timetable and plan which bus to catch when you arrive somewhere, not when you leave. Ryde Taxis T: 01983-811111; Ventnor Taxis T: 01983-855181.
Where to eat Lady Scarlett’s Tea Parlour in Ventnor has a wartime theme and sea views, while Chocolate Apothecary in Ryde serves homemade hot chocolate. The seafood restaurant Three Buoys, also in Ryde, has wonderful sea views.
Where to stay The 24-room Seaview Hotel is two minutes’ walk from Seaview Beach near Ryde—ask about free bus passes and electric bikes. From £99 per night with breakfast for two. High St, Seaview, PO34 5EX. T: 01983-612711. www.seaviewhotel.co.uk.
How to get there Return trains from London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour
take from 90 minutes and cost around £43. www.nationalrail.co.uk. Return passenger ferries from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head take 22 mins and cost £29 with Wightlink. Check out the official Isle of Wight tourist office for more information.