There are a million reasons to take your motorhome to the Isle of Wight. It’s an island of beauty, mystery and intrigue. So named by early inhabitants for the rocky cliffs that rise out of the sea, it has hosted countless historic figures, like Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens, and Queen Victoria, not to mention world-class musicians that have frequented its festivals over the years. Its shores have revealed the remains of 25 different species of dinosaur, been the historic site of weapons testing and wartime raids, and its stories include starling reports of paranormal activity. The coves, caves and bays beg to explored, whilst 70 miles of coastal track make for excellent hiking, and exciting cycle trails have been made from the island’s disused railway network.
The Isle of Wight Road Trip Itinerary
To make life easier for you, we’ve planned our dream Isle of Wight road trip, starting in East Cowes and motoring anti-clockwise around the island. Whatever your choice of activity, there’s also the opportunity eat great food and taste local brews at the end of each day, and there are plenty of motorhome pitches for less than £20 per night within close reach of numerous attractions. Many also offer discounts on ferry crossings when you book your accommodation online with them.
Ferries depart from the mainland at Southampton, Lymington, or Portsmouth. The services arriving at East Cowes, Fishbourne or Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight carry vehicles. Assuming you start your trip at the very north of the island, in East Cowes, as soon as you arrive, cross the bridge and head west on the A3054. Stop at Newtown nature reserve on the way to Yarmouth harbour. This reserve ideal for birdwatchers, home to oystercatchers, egrets, sandpipers and more. The ancient woodland surrounding the creek is also perfect for spotting red squirrels, butterflies, and other birds. Check out Yarmouth Harbour and castle too, whilst you’re passing through town.
On the West of the island, there are picturesque beaches and sea coves abound. Totland Bay, a picturesque sandy beach, is ideal for swimming, with clear turquoise waters and views reaching to the mainland. Next along is Alum Bay, famous for its dramatic cliffs, coloured sands and the Needles which provide the beach with natural shelter. Rising proudly 30 metres out of the sea, the Needles are huge stacks of chalk off the western tip off the island. This prominent icon is definitely one of the top Isle of Wight places to visit. You can get a cable car down to sea level and a boat to get up close. Alternatively, you can opt for the sunset view after driving all the way up to the top of the hill, missing other tourists and any parking fees at this hour. Luckily, COVID has not prevented the cable chair and boat trips, but bear in mind that these are weather dependant!
Head to down to Freshwater Bay from the Tennyson trail. Explore the caves and coves more closely by kayak (on a flat day with the right tide). If surfing is more your thing, don’t miss out on Compton beach. This sandy beach is reminiscent of the Cornwall or America’s West Coast, and also makes for exciting fossil-hunting. Nearby parking so you can bring everything you need to this do-it-yourself beach. If walking or biking are higher on the agenda than water sports, follow the coastal route between Freshwater and Compton. After the day’s coastal adventures, or for some well-deserved post-surf grub, fill your boots with an award-winning burger at the Cow, best enjoyed seated outside and taking in the views of Tennyson Down, The Solent and The New Forest. Stay at the award-winning Heathfield Camping nearby in Totland.
On the southern tip of the island, Catherine’s lighthouse in Niton has many spooky stories surrounding it. On 1st June 1943, three keepers on duty were killed by a bomb striking the area during World War 2. There’s a memorial plaque for the three men inside the lighthouse, who are all buried in a nearby churchyard. Legend has it, a ghost still walks the tower of, the now, fully automated lighthouse. Other local tales include ghostly animal sightings, unexplained footsteps and vanishing items.
Regain your wits at Steephill Cove, a pretty hidden beach, accessible only by foot. It has become a foodie hotspot, with the Boathouse Seafood Restaurant serving freshly caught crab and lobster, and the Crab Shed serving fresh crab pasties. The Cove Coffee Shop is also bursting home-made cakes, ice-cream, and other goodies to fuel the second half of your trip.
The Isle of Wight boasts 70 miles of coastal walks and cycle routes. The coastal path can be split into 6 manageable sections, and we’d recommend the stretch from Ventnor to Shanklin as you head east. After wandering through the gorgeous Ventnor Botanical Garden, hike to the sweet seaside village where the mysterious Shanklin Chine waits. A recently awarded important area of natural conservation, the magical beauty of this gorge has been appreciated by artists for centuries. Its waterfall and chasm-like sides are walled in lush vegetation and towering trees, which are lit up on summer nights.
Eastern Isle of wight has more points of interest instore. Continue to Bembridge, as the Lifeboat Station there is not to be missed. Running since 1867, you can talk to guides and learn all the incredible stories of the brave volunteer crew over the years. Whilst east, stay at the secluded, wooded campground of Whitefield Forest Touring Park. Visit Goddards Brewery – the oldest brewery on the Isle of Wight, and one of the first independent craft beer producers in the UK – in the beautiful surroundings of Barnsley farm. On this side of the island, it’s worth opening your camper’s doors early for sunrise. Soak it in as you walk down Ryde pier, one of the islands 11 piers and supposedly the world’s oldest, having officially opened in 1814.
Wind your way back to East Cowes, stopping in at Osbourne Castle to revel in the grandeur of Victoria and Albert’s holiday mansion, still filled with all their lavish possessions. It might be overwhelming after the sweet simplicity and freedom of the campervan you’ve been road tripping in, but we know which lifestyle we prefer!