Despite the short-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic on both staycations and international travel, 2022 saw a 2% increase in the number of visitors to the Isle of Wight (when compared with visitors from 2019).
Of course, the Isle of Wight is a particularly popular travel destination, especially among Brits who are looking to book an affordable trip within the boundaries of the UK. Still, these numbers make for impressive reading, especially given the wider economic climate and the rising cost of living.
One of the island’s most beguiling and popular locations is Sandown, which is a seaside resort town that sits just to the north of Shanklin. There are certainly plenty of things to do in Sandown, and we’re going to explore just a few of these below!
Things to do in Sandown
#1. Dinosaur Isle
Students of the Isle of Wight will know that the location is nicknamed ‘Dinosaur Island’, as it remains one of the best places in Europe to discover fossils.
So, what better thing to do in Sandown than visit the so-called “Dinosaur Isle”, which has the distinction of being Britain’s first purpose-built dinosaur museum?
Housed in a stunning pterosaur-shaped structure that towers over Sandown’s picturesque blue flag beach, this museum features a huge selection of artefacts and discoveries, each of which have been combined and organised to create a truly unique educational experience.
Here, you can take a stroll through a bygone age, where dinosaurs stalked the earth and human life was still some 65 million years away. Inside the museum, fossils have been collated and carefully presented within interactive displays, in an attempt to narrate this time on earth chronologically and in a way that makes sense.
The site is also home to a fully recreated and realistic landscape, which is enhanced by the types of smells, sounds and sights that you would have encountered during the Mesozoic and similar eras.
Of course, this carefully constructed backdrop is also home to life-sized dinosaurs, including the museum’s very own ‘Neovenator’. This particular creature is a genus of carcharodontosaurian theropod dinosaurs, and was discovered after the analysis of several skeletons from the Early Cretaceous period.
You can spend several hours roaming the museum, while pre-booked trips and guided tours are also available upon request. The site’s guided fossil hunts are particularly fascinating, especially if you want to absorb as much knowledge and information as possible.
The venue is located on Culver Parade in Sandown, while adult and child tickets cost £8.00 and £5.00 respectively. Children under the age of three can gain access for free, while you will have to pay extra for guided fossil tours.
#2. The Wildheart Animal Sanctuary
Of all the things to do in Sandown on the Isle of Wight, a trip to the stunning Wildheart Animal Sanctuary on Yaverland Road is highly recommended.
A truly immersive location, the sanctuary is home to some wonderful creatures and species of animals, including lions and a broad range of primates. Interestingly, the facility has recently incorporated two gigantic bamboo domes to house even more primates, with these structures thought to be the first of their kind in the whole of Europe.
The advanced and iconic geodesic structures tower over the surrounding buildings in Sandown, creating a vast and unrivalled multilevel space in which inhabitants can roam and thrive.
Other popular animals at this large, 33,000-acre location include tigers, meerkats, lynx and reptiles, so in addition to being groundbreaking, the Wildheart Animal Sanctuary enables you to see a huge range of creatures that have been rescued from poor or inhumane conditions around Europe.
Once again, guided tours are available here, through which you’ll learn about each individual animal and the journey that they’ve taken to the sanctuary. If you’re travelling with a young family, you’ll also find a large animal playground in which kids are free to play, while the Wildheart Café combines a vast array of food and drink with spectacular views of Sandown Bay.
Adult tickets cost £14.85 here, while children aged three and upwards can gain access for £12.65 per person. While you could happily spend the day here, the site is also close to the stunning Yaverland Beach, so you can head on over there to unwind if the weather permits.
#3. Sandham Gardens
Next on your list of Sandown, Isle of Wight things to do is a trip to Sandham Gardens, which are also located on Culver Parade and just a stone’s throw from the aforementioned Dinosaur Isle.
This certainly offers a great day or afternoon out for people of all ages, with the location home to some spectacular gardens (as the name suggests) and also opposite the UK’s best beach as voted for in Countryfile.
The latter refers to the excellent Sandown Bay, of course, which is directly beneath Sandham Gardens and combines golden, sun-kissed shores with an array of stalls and even some thrilling watersports.
As for the gardens themselves, they’re also home to a number of exciting activities. These include Skynets: The Big Bounce, which is essentially a huge, open-air bounce park with huge sky nets suspended above the ground. Here, children can play and bounce with one another in complete safety, with the high walls of netting negating the need for harnesses without endangering the welfare of children.
There’s also Sandham go-karts and Dino Islands: A Golf Adventure, the latter of which is a crazy golf course with multiple holes and a stunning visual theme.
If you want to enjoy some refreshments, you can purchase hot and cold drinks alongside sweet treats at the venue’s Ice Cream Shack. Due to the location’s close proximity to Dinosaur Isle, you could also combine these two excursions on the same day, spending a good few hours at each one.
Ideally, for any day out, this also enables you to seamlessly combine two of the best things to do in Sandown on the Isle of Wight, ensuring that you make the most of your time when visiting the island!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. Is Sandown suitable for families with children?
Absolutely! Sandown is family-friendly, with activities like crazy golf, a fun fair, and the popular Sandham Gardens, which features a playground, water play area, and amusements. The sandy beach is also perfect for building sandcastles and paddling.
2. Are there any water sports or outdoor activities in Sandown?
Yes, Sandown is great for water sports and outdoor enthusiasts. You can enjoy activities like paddleboarding, jet skiing, kayaking, and even paragliding. The town also has scenic walking and cycling routes for those who prefer land-based adventures.
3. What is the best time to visit Sandown for a seaside holiday?
The best time to visit Sandown for a seaside holiday is during the summer months, from May to September. The weather is generally warm and pleasant, making it ideal for beach days and outdoor activities. However, some attractions and accommodations may be more crowded during this time.
4. Are there any events or festivals in Sandown throughout the year?
Yes, Sandown hosts various events and festivals. Some of the notable ones include the Sandown Illuminated Carnival, Sandown Regatta, and the Sandown Kite Festival. Be sure to check the local event calendar to plan your visit around these exciting happenings.