10 Low Cost Child-Friendly Activities On The Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is an idyllic holiday destination. But we all know that holidays with kids can start to rack up the costs pretty quickly, between admission fees, souvenirs and the never-ending requests for “just one more ice-cream!” the pennies slip away.
So, we’ve put together a fantastic list of 10 activities to do on the island that cost little to no money!
Isle of Wight Beaches
For an inexpensive and stress-free day out, most people head for bustling beaches like Shanklin, Sandown, Ventnor or Ryde. Shanklin, Sandown, and Ventnor are excellent for swimming, whereas Appley in Ryde, is a vast stretch of sand at low tide that’s good for beach games. They have plenty of facilities like parking, toilets, and cafes for snacks or lunch.
If you have some budding biologists, zoologists or vets then rockpooling in Bembridge is a winner. If you want something a bit quieter then you could try Colwell, Hanover Point/Compton Bay in the West Wight – though Hanover is particularly well known for body boarding. St Helen’s, Priory Bay or Whitecliff Bay, home to Away Resorts’ Isle of Wight holiday park in the East Wight, Steephill Cove in the South Wight or Gurnard in the North Wight are also all excellent beaches for kids, with each having their own feel about them.
Alum Bay and the Needles
Alum Bay and the Needles is a natural wonder which can be viewed for free (in the off-season or a small parking fee in peak season). The area has become a tourism hotspot with loads of different things to do. There is the chairlift, a handful of funfair rides, the boat ride out to the lighthouse and a shop where you can select the coloured sands to pour into various shapes and bottles. The attractions cost money, however, you can avoid this by just walking down to the beach and taking in how beautiful it all is.
On Sandown Esplanade is a large play area at Sandham Gardens, which is designed for all ages. There’s a skate park and football and basketball courts alongside a play area which includes zip wires that older children can enjoy, as well as an outdoor gym and a toddler’s playground.
Traffic-free cycle trails
The Isle of Wight has plenty of cycle routes down chalk ridges and up hills but it’s probably best to keep it simple for families with little ones.
You could attempt a section of the Red Squirrel Trail as it’s mostly disused railway lines and nice flat paths, however, some parts do go through towns so watch out for cars and dangers then. The whole trail is roughly 32 miles long and encompasses Cowes, Newport, Shanklin, and Sandown. It’s a great way to take in the Isle of Wight’s glorious countryside, woodland, and coastline.
Bembridge Lifeboat Station
Bembridge Lifeboat Station makes an interesting free visit as you can see their impressive lifeboat vessel which is suspended at the top of a slope ready to be released into the sea. There’s a long walkway/pier, but as with many piers, it has gaps so tiny tots might need a helping hand.
Ok, you caught us, this one isn’t totally free if you want the full package…however, once you download the geocaching app is an activity you can do almost anywhere in the world, meaning days of outings for one upfront cost!
The basic concept is you download the geocaching app onto a smartphone, which shows you where little boxes of ‘treasure’ are hidden all over the world, you then have to go and find this treasure. The ‘treasure’ is often a small box full of little trinkets that have been hidden by another geocacher.
You need to sign a log book, swap a trinket (if you wish) and then tell everyone that you found it. There are lots of ‘caches’ hidden across the Isle of Wight, some of which are at landmarks and historic sites.
It’s free for the basic app (search for geocaching intro) or about £8 for the full app which has more features.
Family friendly Festivals and Events
The Isle of Wight is chock full of calendar events, they start around mid-Spring and continue until the Autumn, Child-friendly ones include Carnivals in Sandown such as the Childrens Day, Main carnival and illuminated parade (26th & 27th July, 28th August), Shanklin has a two day event (6-7thAugust), Ryde (28th& 29th August), Newport (25th July), Ventnor (14th& 17th August), and Cowes (8th& 24th August). The Garlic Festival is family-friendly, whilst Cowes Week is good for a wander.
And speaking of garlic….
The Garlic Farm
If you have time, and you’re in the Sandown or Shanklin area, then spending a couple of hours at the garlic farm isn’t a bad idea. Entry is free and you can follow a walking trail through the woods, play on the timber play area, and grab something to eat in the onsite cafe. It is a working farm, and its family owned and run, so you’re helping local economies too. They do free tasting sessions, there’s a free education centre about the history of the island, archaeological finds and the history of garlic agriculture on the Isle of Wight. There are also workshops, classes and a tractor tour at certain times of the year, these activities incur a cost but it’s nominal and isn’t compulsory so that you can attend the farm, you can choose to pay for those activities separately.
Sandown’s Pier is one of four left on the Isle of Wight, the others are Yarmouth, Ryde, and Totland, however Sandown is the only one which offers classic pier style attractions, classic British seaside fun at your leisure, perfectly good to while away an hour if the weather turns or if you want a break from the sand.
Parkhurst Forest is a beautiful large forest, leaving plenty of room to run around, let off steam and spend some time in nature. You can also set up in the specially built ‘hides’ to watch red squirrels in their natural habitat. The Isle of Wight is an important part of the red squirrel story as they’re endangered due to the grey squirrel encroaching on their habitats and forcing them into decline.