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If you are planning a trip to the Isle of Wight, read on to discover an array of fascinating things to do. The Isle of Wight is loaded with maritime history and surrounded by stunning natural beauty, offering something for everyone.

Your trip will expose you to a rich history dating back to the Roman conquest. From exploring the lavish Osborne House to delving into local heritage at East Cowes Heritage Centre, this guide will take you through some must-visit attractions. 

Let’s dive deeper into our comprehensive list of things to do in Cowes and the Isle of Wight, and make your visit to this enchanting island unforgettable.

The region is full of historical gems and places you can enjoy on your own or with your entire family.

Things To Do on the Isle of Wight

Visit Osborne House

Located in East Cowes, Osborne House is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting the Isle of Wight. This former royal residence was once home to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, making it an essential destination for history buffs and fans of British royalty alike.

Built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer retreat for the royal couple, Osborne House showcases Italian Renaissance-style architecture designed by Prince Albert.

Guests can have a special view into the life of one of Britain’s famous rulers and get an idea about their family life and leisure time pursuits.

If you visit, expect to be captivated by stunning interiors adorned with opulent furnishings and priceless works of art from around Europe. Some highlights include

  • The Durbar Room: A grand banqueting hall showcasing Indian-inspired design elements that pay tribute to Queen Victoria’s role as Empress of India.
  • The State Rooms: Lavishly decorated spaces where official functions were held during Queen Victoria’s reign.
  • The Private Apartments: Intimate living quarters offering insights into daily life at Osborne House for its royal residents.

In addition to exploring the main house, you can wander through beautifully landscaped gardens surrounding the estate.

These picturesque grounds include terraced gardens, tranquil ponds, fountains, and even a Swiss Cottage for Queen Victoria’s children.

Osborne House is the perfect destination for families, with plenty of activities and interactive exhibits to entertain children.

There is even a Victorian-style play area where kids can dress in period costumes and participate in traditional games. Your children will enjoy discovering the games their grandfathers used to play.

Head Out to Carisbrooke Castle

Located in the heart of the Isle of Wight, Carisbrooke Castle is a stunning medieval fortress with over 800 years of history to explore.

This imposing stronghold has been a royal residence. In addition, it was the residence where Charles I was confined during the English Civil War.

Carisbrooke Castle dates back to Roman times. Romans initially built it as a fortification. Throughout its storied past, Carisbrooke Castle has hosted numerous historical figures like Queen Elizabeth I and King Henry VIII.

The architecture at Carisbrooke Castle showcases various styles from different periods in history – including Norman, Gothic, and Tudor influences – which are evident in features like its keep, gatehouse towers, chapel ruins, and domestic buildings within its walls.

One unique feature to enjoy is the working donkey-powered well house where you can witness adorable donkeys drawing water up from deep underground. Other attractions include:

  • The Museum: The castle houses The Museum at Carisbrooke, showcasing artefacts related to local history along with memorabilia connected to royal residents who once called this place their home.
  • Royal Apartments: Explore rooms where Charles I spent his final days before his execution, including the King’s bedroom and sitting room.
  • Wall Walk: Take a stroll along the castle walls for breathtaking views of the Isle of Wight countryside and beyond.

This historic attraction is perfect for families, history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, or anyone looking to immerse themselves in the rich heritage of the Isle of Wight.

With engaging exhibitions and hands-on activities for children, such as dressing up in medieval costumes or trying their hand at archery during special events, there’s something for everyone at Carisbrooke Castle.

If you’re planning a visit to this magnificent site on your trip to Cowes and the Isle of Wight, be sure not to miss other nearby attractions like Newtown Old Town Hall, Isle Of Wight Speedway, and Quarr Abbey.

Enjoy Nature at the Ventnor Botanic Garden

Located on the south coast of the Isle of Wight, Ventnor Botanic Garden is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and gardening enthusiasts. This remarkable garden features a range of uncommon and foreign plants, thanks to its particular microclimate that allows subtropical species to grow.

The Ventnor Botanic Garden dates back to 1970 when it was built on the site of a former Victorian hospital. The Royal National Hospital for Diseases of the Chest was oce here, taking advantage of Ventnor’s mild climate for treating patients with respiratory conditions. 

Ventnor Botanic Garden has several themed gardens representing different geographical areas such as Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Mediterranean countries like Italy and Spain. Make sure not to miss out on:

  • Echium Collection: Home to one of Europe’s largest collections of Echiums – towering flower spikes native to the Canary Islands that attract bees and butterflies.
  • Palm Collection: A wide variety of palm trees can be found throughout the garden including Chusan palms, which are particularly well-suited to Britain’s climate.
  • Succulent Bank: Showcasing an array of drought-tolerant succulents such as Agave americana and Aloe polyphylla which create striking architectural displays.

If you visit Ventnor Botanic Garden, expect to have a tranquil and immersive experience, with paths going through lush plants and vibrant flower displays.

Guided tours, workshops, and special occasions such as art exhibitions, outdoor theatre shows, and seasonal festivities are all on offer at Ventnor Botanic Garden.

For those looking to relax after exploring the gardens or enjoy a meal with stunning views of the sea, Edulis Restaurant is located within the grounds, offering delicious meals made from locally sourced ingredients. 

Visit Northwood House

Located in the heart of Cowes, Northwood House is a stunning Grade II listed Georgian manor house that gives visitors an opportunity to step back in time and experience the elegance of 19th-century England.

Originally built in 1838 by esteemed architect John Nash for George Ward, a wealthy merchant and philanthropist, Northwood House was later given to Cowes Urban District Council with instructions to maintain it as a public park.

Over the years, it has served various purposes such as hosting parties during Cowes Week Regatta or acting as headquarters for several local organizations.

Nash’s signature neoclassical style can be seen throughout this magnificent mansion – from its grand facade adorned with Ionic columns to intricately designed ceilings featuring elaborate plasterwork.

The surrounding grounds are equally impressive; spanning over 20 acres filled with manicured lawns, mature trees, and vibrant flower beds which provide picturesque views at every turn. 

There’s also plenty of space for picnics or strolls amidst nature’s beauty.

Some attractions you can enjoy at Northwood House include:

  • Tennis Courts: For sports enthusiasts looking to stay active during their visit, there are six all-weather tennis courts available for public use.
  • Children’s Playground: A well-equipped playground provides a fun and safe environment for younger visitors to enjoy.
  • Events & Functions: Northwood House is also an ideal venue for hosting events such as weddings, corporate functions, or private parties. The house offers several elegant rooms that can be tailored to suit any occasion.

Check Out the Needles Old Battery

The Needles Old Battery is a historic coastal defence battery located at The Needles on the western tip of the Isle of Wight.

The building has been part of Britain’s coastal defences against potential French invasion since 1862. For over one hundred years, the Needles Old Battery played an essential role in protecting the Solent’s strategic waterways.

In 1945, after serving as an important defence against enemy forces during World War II, the Needles Old Battery went through its decommission. 

Today, managed by the National Trust, this well-preserved fortification provides a unique insight into Victorian military engineering and life during wartime.

Visitors can explore various parts of this impressive structure, including gun emplacements and underground tunnels used for ammunition storage and transport. During World War II, the building gained an original searchlight installation.

If you visit, do not miss these attractions:

  • Tunnel Tour: Take a guided tour through one of the underground tunnels that used to move soldiers quickly between different areas within the battery complex.
  • The Parade Ground: Wander around this open space where soldiers would have drilled or relaxed during their downtime while they were in residence.
  • The Tearoom: Enjoy refreshments with breathtaking views over The Needles rocks and lighthouse from a building that was once an officers’ mess hall.

Beyond its historical significance, the Needles Old Battery also has some of the most stunning views on the Isle of Wight. From the top its cliffs, visitors can take in panoramic views of the Needles rock formation and lighthouse and Alum Bay’s famous coloured sands. 

The Needles Old Battery is accessible by car or public transport with a nearby bus stop serviced by Southern Vectis buses.

Take the Cowes to Newport Cycle Track

If you are looking for a fun and active way to explore the Isle of Wight, consider embarking on the Cowes to Newport Cycle Track. 

The cycle track stretches approximately 7 miles (11 kilometres) between Cowes and Newport, following along the eastern bank of the River Medina.

As you travel through this picturesque landscape, you’ll enjoy stunning views of countryside, woodlands, and riverside scenery. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife too – it is not uncommon to see birds like herons or kingfishers on this peaceful waterway.

This cycling route is suitable for all ages and abilities, making it an ideal choice for experienced cyclists, who can take detours onto more challenging trails, families with young children, or those new to the sport.

Much of the path follows a disused railway line which means it is relatively flat with gentle gradients. There are several bike hire options available on the Isle of Wight. 

There are several points of interest to stop at along the Cowes to Newport Cycle Track:

  • Newtown Old Town Hall: A charming historic building dating back to the 17th century, the old town hall offers insights into the island’s past.
  • Medina Valley Centre: An outdoor education centre, the facility offers opportunities for birdwatching, nature walks, and cycling.
  • Cafes and pubs: There are several spots along the route where you can stop off for a well-deserved break or bite to eat. Be sure to sample some local Isle of Wight produce.

Visit Appley Park

Located in Ryde on the northern coast of the Isle of Wight, Appley Park is a popular public park that offers an array of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. This picturesque park offers a delightful atmosphere and is ideal for families looking to spend quality time together.

The grounds at Appley Park give a lot of space for various outdoor activities. Visitors can take walks along well-maintained pathways, have picnics under shady trees, or take part in sports like football or cricket on the open fields.

Families visiting Appley Park will be pleased by the dedicated children’s play area which features swings, slides, climbing frames, and other fun equipment suitable for kids. 

Appley Tower, a Gothic-style structure built in 1875 that overlooks the Solent coastline, is an iconic landmark within the park. While it isn’t open to visitors due to structural concerns, it still is an impressive sight against the backdrop of lush greenery and the sparkling waters beyond.

Beaches you can access from Appley Park include:

  • Ryde Beach: A short walk from Appley Park, this sandy beach offers a perfect spot for sunbathing, swimming, or building sandcastles. Its shallow waters make it ideal for families with young children.
  • Appley Beach: Located adjacent to the park, this quieter stretch of coastline is perfect for those seeking a more tranquil seaside experience. Its golden sands and clear waters make it an idyllic location to unwind and enjoy the views.

In addition to these attractions and activities, Appley Park also hosts various events throughout the year like outdoor cinema screenings and community festivals. 

Head Out to the Wight Military and Heritage Museum

For those interested in military history, the Wight Military and Heritage Museum is an ideal place to explore on the Isle of Wight. Located in Northwood, near Cowes, this museum offers a unique insight into the island’s rich military past.

The museum has a variety of vehicles, weapons, uniforms, and other mementoes from various eras that have witnessed war. Some highlights include a variety of tanks and artillery from different wars, as well as personal items owned by those who fought in them.

Beyond its impressive artefact collection, the Wight Military and Heritage Museum also features interactive exhibits that engage visitors of all ages.

You can try operating a Morse code machine or experience what it was like inside an Anderson air raid shelter during WWII bombings.

Guided tours are also available to make your visit even more informative and enjoyable.

If you’re looking for something truly memorable and challenging during your trip to Cowes and the Isle of Wight area, consider booking a tank driving experience at the museum.

This seasonal activity allows you to take control of a genuine armoured vehicle and navigate an obstacle course under expert supervision.

Visit the Classic Boat Museum

Located in East Cowes, the Classic Boat Museum showcases an impressive collection of classic sailing boats, powerboats, and other vessels that have played a significant role in the Isle of Wight’s rich nautical heritage.

Some notable examples of boats include Uffa Fox’s airborne lifeboat used during World War II and the famous racing yacht Bloodhound once owned by Queen Elizabeth II. Each vessel has a story about craftsmanship, innovation, and daring adventures at sea.

The Classic Boat Museum also features an extensive collection of maritime artefacts such as ship models, photographs, paintings, and trophies won by local sailors throughout history.

These exhibits provide valuable insights into different aspects of seafaring life – from navigation tools used by ancient mariners to modern-day sailing equipment.

Some highlights of the Classic Boat Museum include:

  • Sailing Skills: The Classic Boat Museum hosts workshops where visitors can learn essential sailing skills like knot-tying or sail-making under expert guidance.
  • Talks and Lectures: Enthusiasts will enjoy attending informative talks delivered by guest speakers who share their knowledge about boating history and marine conservation efforts.
  • Special Events: Look out for special events such as boat races, regattas, and other celebrations that bring together the local sailing community.


Don’t Miss the East Cowes Heritage Centre

If you are a history enthusiast or want to learn more about the Isle of Wight’s rich past, a visit to the East Cowes Heritage Centre is an absolute must. 

Located in the heart of East Cowes, the East Cowes Heritage Centre houses an extensive collection of photographs, documents, and artefacts that showcase the town’s history from its early beginnings to modern times. 

Visitors can explore exhibits with different aspects of local life like shipbuilding, the aviation industry, royal connections with Osborne House, and much more.

Interactive displays engage younger visitors while detailed information panels provide insight into historical events for adults. The destination is perfect for families.

In addition to its permanent collection, the East Cowes Heritage Centre hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year focusing on specific themes or showcasing works by local artists. 

If you want to take home a piece of history, make sure to visit:

  • The Gift Shop: Do not forget to stop by their well-stocked gift shop, where you can find unique souvenirs inspired by the Isle of Wight’s history, such as books, postcards, and locally crafted items.
  • Research Services: If you want to dive deeper into your family’s history or the local area, the Heritage Centre offers research services for a small fee. Their knowledgeable staff can help uncover fascinating stories from the past that will leave you feeling even more connected to this beautiful island.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Isle of Wight famous for?

It is renowned as a world-class sailing destination and hosts the annual Cowes Week, one of the longest-running and largest sailing regattas in the world. The island also boasts historical attractions such as Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle, and Northwood House.

Is it worth visiting the Isle of Wight?

The island offers a variety of activities for all ages, including its rich maritime history, beautiful parks like Appley Park, museums such as The Classic Boat Museum and East Cowes Heritage Centre, Ventnor Botanic Garden, and scenic cycling routes.

It is an ideal destination for families, solo travellers, or anyone interested in exploring the Isle of Wight.

Why is Cowes called Cowes?

The name “Cowes” originated from two separate towns on either side of River Medina: West Cowe (now known as Westbourne) and Estcowe (East Cowe).

These names come from two sandbanks resembling cows that once existed near their respective shores. Over time both towns merged into what we now know simply as “Cow(es).”

How big is the Isle of Wight?

The island covers approximately 380 square kilometres. Cowes covers approximately 2 square miles (5 square kilometres). The River Medina separates the East and West. Its population stands at around 10-11 thousand residents combined. 


A visit to the Isle of Wight offers something for everyone from historic landmarks to natural beauty. From exploring historical landmarks like Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle to enjoying the natural beauty of Ventnor Botanic Garden and Appley Park, there is something for everyone.

Make sure not to forget about East Cowes either – Northwood House and the East Cowes Heritage Centre are great places to learn more about the rich history of the area.

Whether you are travelling alone or with your loved ones, these attractions provide an array of options for entertainment and education.

If you want to experience all these things yourself, book your stay through Isle Escapes. You will not regret it!

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Ed Simpson

Ed Simpson is a recent University graduate who is now specialising in SEO and Digital Marketing with Minty Digital

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