Rich in history, and bustling with exciting attractions, Cowes has something for every tourist. A tiny seaside town of around 10,000 inhabitants, divided between East and West by the River Medina, Cowes is beautiful!
Tourists can take a chain ferry known as the Floating Bridge from East Cowes to West Cowes to explore the scenery.
But what if you’re not sure what to explore? With so much to do and see, it can be hard to know where to start. Don’t worry! We’ll guide you through our top picks on the most entertaining things to do in Cowes and the Isle of Wight.
What to do in Cowes: Top Isle of Wight Attractions
The former summer home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Osborne House was built between 1845 and 1851. If you haven’t visited Osborne House, you haven’t really been to Cowes. You must see this sprawling estate and its lavish, opulent rooms!
As you wander through this exquisite home, you will see what royal life was like during the Victorian era. Osborne House will thrill architecture lovers and history buffs alike.
So start in the State Rooms and admire the grandeur of their lavish decoration. From there, you can explore the Private Apartments of the Osborne House. Get an intimate look at how royalty lived. Peek into their decadent bedrooms, dressing rooms, and more.
Then head out to the Swiss Cottage, a charming wooden structure built for the royal children. Visitors can learn about the daily lives of the royals through interactive exhibits. From the Swiss Cottage, head to the Gardens & Grounds and stroll through landscaped gardens lush with exotic plants, or walk through the scenic trails on-site.
From the State Rooms to the Gardens and Grounds, no matter what you explore At Osborne House, you will be wowed by the beauty.
Eager for more history? Then step back in time with a visit to Carisbrooke Castle, This medieval fortress was built during the 11th century, with walls and towers added over the centuries to bolster this stronghold.
There’s so much to see at Carisbrooke Castle. The castle’s museum contains over 35,000 items, including paintings and decorative art. Learn about life within these ancient walls, and hear the stories of the famous prisoners in this castle.
If you want an exquisite view, head to the Ramparts and take in panoramic vistas across the island’s landscape. This setting is perfect for capturing stunning photographs.
Bird watchers must visit Carisbrooke Castle’s Dovecote. This 800-year-old structure is among the oldest birdhouses in England, and it is still in use!
Don’t forget the Captain’s Room! Exquisite wood carvings adorn the walls of this room that was the home of Captain Robert Holmes when he served as Governor-General. The Captain’s Room is a must-see for every visitor to this castle.
Carisbrooke Castle’s interactive exhibits are fun and engaging for visitors of all ages, while its scenic surroundings provide a tranquil atmosphere for relaxed walks and picnics. Visiting this medieval fortress is definitely among the top things to do Cowes.
If you’re looking for breathtaking views, look no further than The Needles. Coastal erosion formed these dramatic chalk cliffs over millions of years, and these striking natural formations rise out of stunning turquoise waters. The Needles are a photographer’s dream and a must-see during your visit to Cowes.
The best way to appreciate the beauty of The Needles is to take a ride on the chairlift from Alum Bay down to the beach below. As you glide through the air, enjoy the panoramic views of this magnificent coastline. For a closer look at this iconic landmark, stroll along the pebble beach or take a chartered boat.
The Needles is the most beautiful view that you will find in Cowes. So why not pack a picnic and adventure through this tranquil corner of the Isle of Wight?
Ventnor Botanic Garden
This enchanting subtropical garden features a unique microclimate. Exotic plants from around the world thrive here. Ventnor Botanic Garden is on the island’s south coast and features 22 acres of themed gardens. You’ll find flora from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and more.
Take a guided tour to learn fascinating facts about plant life and conservation efforts at the garden, or join in their gardening workshops.
After you explore the garden, stop by for lunch in the Plantation Room Cafe. Savour gourmet meals made with locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy the stunning views overlooking the gardens and the sea beyond. If you prefer lighter, more casual dining, check out Edulis Restaurant.
This garden will refresh and inspire you, whether you’re interested in learning about different plants, or want to enjoy fresh air in a serene setting.
If you’re after excitement and adventure, look no further than Blackgang Chine. Opened in 1843, and located on its picturesque south coast, this is the Isle of Wight’s oldest theme park. Besides its thrilling rides and attractions, Blackgang Chine hosts entertaining live shows. From swashbuckling adventures to mesmerizing magic performances, there’s always something exciting happening at Blackgang Chine.
If you’re a history enthusiast, Yarmouth Castle is an attraction you won’t want to miss. Commissioned by Henry VIII in 1547, Yarmouth Castle is a well-preserved reminder of England’s past. This castle served as a defensive structure and a symbol of royal power on the island for centuries.
Yarmouth Castle became a protective fortification during the Spanish Armada and Napoleonic Wars. Today, it serves as an important historical site managed by English Heritage.
Cowes Maritime Museum
If you have a passion for sea-faring history, visit Cowes Maritime Museum. Located in an old sail loft in East Cowes’ historic waterfront district, this museum gives visitors a fascinating glimpse into the island’s nautical past. Here you can explore artefacts and displays of tales of sea life on the Isle of Wight.
The museum hosts special events throughout the year. These include guest lectures from renowned maritime historians and knot-tying or navigation workshops. Lovers of all things nautical will find this among the best things to do in East Cowes.
We think Cowes is the most picturesque seaside town in Southern England! With tons of museums, castles, gardens, and royal houses, there are so many things to do in Cowes. If you’re ready for an unforgettable trip in Cowes, book your stay with us.