Over the weekend, we celebrated Chris’s 25th Birthday which consisted of staying down in Southsea at an Airbnb to be closer to Goodwood. We were looking for things to do and subsequently a spontaneous trip to the Isle of Wight occurred. It’s somewhere I’d visited a lot over the years and Chris didn’t know much about. We visited Isle of Wight in a day and managed to pack in a lot.
We booked the 2.30pm ferry from Portsmouth to Fishbourne with a return time of 7pm giving us just four hours to explore the island. FOUR HOURS?!! I hear you cry, erm isn’t that impossible. Well you must remember three things; we like to do crazy spontaneous day trips; the Isle of Wight isn’t that big, so it really is possible to visit the Isle of Wight in one day.
- Book a ferry from the mainland to the Isle of Wight
- Visit the Needles and Alum Bay
- Walk along the beach at Freshwater Bay
- Drive along the military road from Freshwater to Blackgang
- Visit the Wishing Well where Mermaid gin is distilled
The Wight link ferry departs from Lymington and Portsmouth, we took the car ferry from Portsmouth, but you can also take the hovercraft from Southsea or opt to go over to the Island as a foot passenger. We travelled from Portsmouth to Fishbourne and had a heart stopping moment when we found ourselves on a slope and Chris’s hand brake wasn’t working. After a few backwards rolls, (amazingly the ferry usher and the guy in car behind were clueless) Chris wacked it into gear and parked up. It was quite windy, but we popped up onto the sun deck for a while to admire the coastal landscape. The journey takes about 45 minutes in total including loading and unloading from the ferry and there are cafes on board for you to purchase refreshments. Make sure you take a look at the Ferry timetable here.
We drove straight from Fishbourne ferry terminal to Alum Bay, The Needles Park. Opening times vary depending on the time of year you visit so please check before you travel by clicking here. The Needles is one of the most famous and popular tourist attractions on the island, formed from chalk and flint, these huge stacks of rock lie off the western point of the Isle of Wight and were originally part of the mainland, over time coastal erosion played its part and caused the rocks to split. The name ‘Needles’ comes from the steep pointed nature of the rocks and the attraction at the top of Alum Bay cliffs includes a sand shop, chairlift and amusement park with other shops and activities.
Visiting during the low season of September meant that everything shut at the park by 4.30pm and we arrived around 3.50!!! We weren’t deterred though as we are masters of appreciating things within a short space of time.
In order to protect the cliff for future generations, the Needles discourage visitors from collecting their own sand by encouraging them to create unique sand ornaments in the Sand Shop. Both being cat lovers we picked a plastic cat model for our shared sand creation. There are plenty of other models you can choose though from plastic animals to glass lightbulbs and even keyrings in the shape of the Isle of Wight.
Then the fun part we headed over to the sand area, there were 21 different shades (more on why so many varieties later) of sand to pick from. But we both had our favourites and set to work taking it in turns to create our mini sand masterpiece. When we’d finished we gave our cat to the lady responsible for filling, sealing and adding extra design elements to the sand creations.
Our cat was a little wonky and looked slightly drunk this was mostly due to our rushed attempt to fill him before the shop and the chairlift shut. Naming him Marcus, we were quite happy with his special looking qualities, he gave us something to improve on for our next visit to the Needles and more importantly it was a lot of fun and something we could keep for a long time.
Located right next to the sand shop, the chairlift was our next stop. Something I’d loved as a child and Chris was really looking forward to experiencing (He might have been here before but wasn’t totally sure). Journeying from the top of the Alum Bay cliffs we were treated to the most spectacular view of the iconic picturesque Needles Rocks. With a dramatic drop at one point you feel as if you are plummeting into the turquoise waters of the Solent! If you get to the area earlier enough you could enjoy a pleasure boat trip from the beach which takes you even closer to the Needles.
We opted to keep both feet firmly on the ground and use our time to walk along the pebble beach. The multi-coloured sand cliffs are breath takingly beautiful; orange, red, white, brown even green in some places….
Chris enjoyed throwing the pebbles into the sea whilst I nerded out about the rocks. To keep things simple the different colours are caused by variations of mineral deposits. Originally the sands were deposited by longshore drift.Years past and tectonic plate activity pushed the sands up into vertical cliffs.
After exploring the beach a little more, we headed back for our return journey on the chair lift. You can walk back up but the chair lift is much more fun! We got ready for our photo and pretended we were on a theme park rollercoaster.
The Military Road
The Military road runs along the coast between Chale and Freshwater Bay. Built originally in the 1860’s as part of the island’s defence. Its purpose was to enable troops to move from their barracks, it was closed to the public however until 1936. Back in 2002, Top Gear did a feature on the Isle of Wight where Jeremy Clarkson drove along the Military Road in an Aston Martin Vantage.
This stretch of road is the most beautiful one you will find on the island. Offering gorgeous views of the Alun Bay cliffs and Freshwater Bay. We drove from the Needles to Freshwater Bay stopping for a windswept photo opportunity along the way. You can wander down to the beach itself and when the tide is out enjoy rock pooling. Or you could just park at the top and tuck into a tasty ice cream.
Isle of Wight gin distillery, Ryde
Both being keen gin enthusiasts, we could hardly go home without visiting the home of the Isle of Wight Gin distillery (the one and only on the island). Located within a old pub – the Wishing Well. We received a friendly welcome from the staff who explained the history of the gin and the distilling process. Set behind a window you can admire the still whilst learning about the botanicals that go into producing the gins.
We enjoyed some samples of the gin before ordering two gins. One Mermaid gin and tonic and one Victory gin and tonic both served with garnish and ice. We were surprised to learn more about the plans for expansion; adding another building with still, vineyard and expanding into brandy and rum in the future. You can sit inside and enjoy the contemporary décor or opt to stay outside on the decking (as we did). There are some really lovely views of the vineyard and bee hives as well. At the moment please do be aware that construction work is happening. The bar is open 11am-11pm so you might hear building noises during your visit.
Sadly, it was time for our return journey home – but we had a great day out! Another one for the scrapbook I think.
Visiting the Isle of Wight is very easy and a lot of fun. You could also explore the idyllic villages of Shaklin, Osborne House and Carisbrooke castle.
You just need to consider the fact that crossing the Solent is quite expensive. Baring this in mind you might want to book a ferry that travels off peak. Either very early before 10am or mid-afternoon around 2.30pm as we did.
How would you spend your day on the Isle of Wight? I’d love you to let me know in the comments.