The quaint town of Cowes is one of the jewels in the Isle of Wight’s tourism crown, with this civil parish located on the west bank of the estuary of the picturesque River Medina.
Interestingly, it faces the smaller, but similarly beguiling, town of East Cowes, which sits astride the east bank of the River Medina. These two towns are linked by the Cowes Floating Bridge, which unlocks a number of activities and tourist hotspots for locals and visitors alike.
But what are the best things to do in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, and how can you make the most of your trip to this iconic location?
Top Things to Do in Cowes
#1. Traverse the Cowes Floating Bridge
I’ll start with the stunning Cowes Floating Bridge, which is a genuinely unique (and functional) landmark which is actually an innovative upgrade on the region’s old chain ferry.
Located beside Medina Road, this floating ferry-cum-bridge links the east and the west of Cowes, enabling you to take in everything the town has to offer on both sides of the water.
Interestingly, the first floating bridge between these two towns was established in 1859, while the current iteration is one of the few in the area that hasn’t been replaced with a physical alternative.
The current vessel that traverses the route is the ninth to have been used since 1859, and is known as the ‘Mainstay Marine’. It also represents an incredibly affordable way to see the town of Cowes, with a foot passenger return ticket costing just £1.50 (and even less when travelling with a ‘Saver’ card).
A single-foot passenger ticket will cost you no more than £1.50, while even lorries up to 7.5 tonnes will set you back a maximum of £9.00. So, regardless of your circumstances, there’s no cheaper or more relaxing way of traversing the town and checking out the main activities and things to do in East Cowes.
#2. Visit the Isle of Wight Military and Heritage Museum
Next up is the Isle of Wight Military and Heritage Museum, which is located on Newport Road and is currently operated by and for a registered charity.
As a potential attendee, you should note that any excess income generated through ticket sales or other revenue streams is used to support ex-military personnel, many of whom may have fallen on hard times.
Inside, you’ll find a huge range of items that hold historical interest, including a fascinating meld of tanks and other military vehicles. You’ll also find rare wartime artefacts and small arms, along with a surprisingly large range of uniforms that span the 1940s to the modern day.
These items offer a fascinating insight into the harsh realities of war, while also helping the venue to deliver on its pledge to commemorate the sacrifices that ordinary people and Isle of Wight locals had to make during times of conflict.
If you want to make a day of it, you can also dine out in the venue’s cafe or seek refreshment in its fully licensed Mess Bar. The latter is a former barracks building, which is key given that the Military and Heritage Museum is also a place where ex-service personnel meet and spend time with one another.
Ultimately, this is one of the best and most rewarding things to do in Cowes, Isle of Wight, as at least some of your ticket price will go towards aiding ex-servicemen who may struggle with an array of physical and mental issues.
#3. Check Out Egypt Point
The latter attraction highlights the rich history that underpins the town of Cowes and its narrative, while the so-called “Egypt Point” is another location that’s dripping with historical relevance.
Egypt Point describes the stunning coastal viewpoint that sits between the parishes of Cowes and Gurnard, while it’s known for being one of Queen Victoria’s favourite places to visit during her lifetime.
England’s second longest-serving monarch had a well-known and irresistibly romantic nature, which is just one of the reasons why she enjoyed casual strolls across Egypt Point at sunset. The location certainly gave her a spectacular, panoramic view of the Solent and surrounding landscape, and it remains a popular hotspot for couples to this day.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert even created a palatial home at Osborne in East Crowes, so that they could take in a number of stunning beauty spots on the Isle of Wight.
Interestingly, Egypt Point also forms part of the Victoria’s Island Trail, which incorporates many of these locations and attractions (including the Church Princess Beatrice was married in and the local yacht club).
So, not only is this one of the most interesting things to do in Cowes on the Isle of Wight, but it also enables you to follow in the footsteps of the UK’s most iconic monarch!
#4. Pay Tribute at the Holy Trinity Church
If you’re looking for free things to do in Cowes, I’d definitely recommend visiting the beautiful Holy Trinity Church in the west of the town.
This is a Church of England parish that boasts exceptional architecture, while the interior is large, dramatic and perfectly compliments the venue’s location on the stunning West Cowes seafront.
The church was consecrated as long ago as 1832, while it was initially built as a convenient place of worship for sailors. To this day, it maintains special links with the Royal Yacht Squadron, with special services held regularly for the Coastguard, Seafarers, and RNLI.
For those of you with a deep historical interest in the region, the church is also home to an eye-catching memorial for the 15 sailors who tragically lost their lives in the 1979 Fastnet Race. This takes the form of a memorial garden that retains an unerring sense of tranquillity, while it also provides exceptional views over the Solent.
Of all the things to do in West Cowes, a morning trip to the Holy Trinity Church is truly ideal, as it’s peaceful, completely free of charge, and home to a unique slice of Isle of Wight history!