If there is one thing that the Island is famous for (other than yachting) it is having a serious amount of fantastic attractions. If on holiday with the family for a week there is no way you could get round them all – not without needing a holiday to recover! The Island has the oldest theme park in the UK, it’s own Zoo, and more monkeys and dinosaurs than you can shake a stick at, to name but a few.
So here’s our whistle-stop tour of Island attractions…
The oldest and the best – everyone you ever meet who’s holidayed on the Island visited Blackgang at some point in their youth or will remember watching the life size dinosaurs being lifted into the site live on Blue Peter back in the 70’s. Perched on the edge of the chine at Blackgang this first opened in 1843 to entertain the growing market of Victorians who decided the Island was fashionable (as Queen Victoria was holidaying here they thought they should too!). Some of the original attractions are still open to the public, like the hall of mirrors – a huge hit to this day. The park appeals to all ages with everything from fairy castles to rollercoaster and waterslides.
Set within 88 acres of park and downland, Robin Hill is a country park full of things to discover for all the family, from jungle adventure areas to magical ponds hidden within the woods. Robin Hill still has a bit of everything – activities, displays and nature in abundance. And even though the Park is more about nature than thrill seeking there are still plenty of rides to enjoy, don’t miss Colossus, a swinging galleon boat ride, The Time Machine, a 28 seat motion platform simulator or everyone’s favourite the Toboggan Run, a 300 metre twisting and turning course of metal half-pipe, designed as a track for toboggans.
Its all about the birds at Seaview Wildlife Encounter with over 84 different species to meet and learn about. There are flamingos and parrots, penguins and pelicans, and everywhere there are ducks, geese and swans that love being hand fed by all the visiting children. The park also has a reptile house, pygmy goats, alpacas, Meerkats and wallabies to name but a few – so offers a real all round wildlife experience! Make sure you catch the feeding times – especially the wallabies and penguins – for a chance to get really up close and personal with these fascinating creatures.
The Isle of Wight Zoo is a big cat sanctuary, giving homes to rescued cats, from tigers to lions, and is one of the best places in the country to get really close to these spectacular animals. With a big emphasis on conservation, an intimate experience is on offer at the zoo with hands on action with zoo at home, where youngsters can handle guinea pigs, rabbits and even bearded dragons, while learning all about their care needs. Or for a real treat book a ‘Lemur Feeding Experience’ and get to enter the enclosure for a fun time with these mischievous little fellows.
Small but perfectly formed – ones you can do in a few hours
Set in 35 acres of stunning landscape, Calbourne Mill is a great way to pass an hour or two on a glorious, sunny, Isle of Wight day. The only working water mill on the Island (and containing one of the oldest working water mills in the country, dating back to the Domesday Book), there is lots to see and do with museums and displays. You can see the Mill in action daily, where they produce approximately 30-40 tons of flour each year. In season hire a punt on the mill stream, play miniature golf on the putting green or enjoy croquet on the lawn. The Mill has a lovely café selling all sorts of yummy homemade fayre and the children just love feeding the peacocks, doves and ducks that wander freely around the grounds.
Definitely one for anyone with an interest in anything prehistoric! Dinosaur Isle hosts a permanent exhibition of some of the amazing finds that have been discovered on the Isle of Wight over the past decades. It is not until you visit and see them in their reassembled form and maps of where they were found, that you truly understand how important the Island is to paleontologists. And of courses knowing the spots where new dinosaur species have been discovered adds a whole new element to taking a beach stroll along the Island’s south coast! There is something for children of all ages with displays, quizzes and interactive dinosaur models and activities – like smelling dinosaur poo!
OK, so these two are a bit of an oddity, but prove a surprising hit with little ones – especially on a rainy day. Both are undercover and do exactly what they say in the title – one is a hothouse of all sorts of beautiful butterflies that flutter all around you as you walk. Displays explain the different species and their origins and show the chrysalises waiting to transform. Fountain World is entered through an adjoining door and is a most peculiar mix of styles and tastes from Japanese water gardens to Roman fountains. However, with water jets to run under it is a definite hit with the very little ones.
This new attraction to the Island is well thought out and has some really engaging residents – like the Colobus monkeys and the Lar Gibbons whose laughter is seriously contagious! There is a café, great outdoor playground and loads of different monkeys and owls to meet. Catch the daily talks to see them fed and hear about their stories.
Amazon World Zoo Park has a huge range of unusual, rare and exotic animals, but it is more than a just a collection of animals, it is a centre for education and conservation. At the last count it was home to around 200 different species, spanning the entire animal kingdom, including tapirs, sloths, otters and bats to reptiles, birds, fish, insects and spiders – they even have exotic plant life!
The Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary was first established in 1987 to provide any donkey in distress or in need of care and attention, a safe and permanent home. The charity relies entirely on donations and the many fundraising activities held throughout the year. The sanctuary is free to visit and is currently home to lots of friendly donkeys – all of whom love visitors and would love to be adopted too!