This summer, I took my family to the Isle of Wight – a popular destination for families of all ages. I hope that my blogs will help other families plan their adventures for future holidays. In Part 1, I looked at attractions that are available on the Southwest coast, which is where we stayed for the week. This second blog looks at our other excursions during the week, taking us inland and East.
Godshill Model Village – Godshill (Rating: ♥♥♥♥)
I do love a good model village. There’s something quintessentially English about peering down at miniature models of quintessentially English scenes. Godshill’s offering is very good. The village itself is captured with remarkable accuracy and the models of the buildings are superb. The people sadly aren’t modelled to the same level of workmanship, but you barely notice.
There’s a lot of variety here – a boy scout camp site, a football pitch, an airfield and of course, all of the local buildings from Godshill’s nineteen-sixty-something depiction. There’s also a fully working model railway carting tourists, goods and dinosaurs around the village. Children get an activity booklet as part of the entry fee that they can fill in as they go round, which also helps them to spot some of the more quirky elements of the display.
My two-year-old daughter was probably a bit young to appreciate it (though she enjoyed watching the model railway), but give it a few years and this is a place I would definitely come back to as a family.
Shanklin Seafront – Shanklin (Rating: ♥♥♥)
Does anything scream “British holiday” like sea, sand, fish & chips and dinosaur-themed mini golf? Shanklin’s got it all, and is unashamedly a typically traditional seaside town. Unlike the photo above, the day we went was overcast and windy, and the sea was restless. By all accounts the sandy beach is excellent when the weather’s good, but sadly I can neither confirm nor deny this.
We spent our morning in Shanklin at the crazy golf course. It’s very well presented and contains some interesting holes, but it’s not cheap to get in and we did feel as though we were being processed through the course rather than going at our own pace, thanks to the constant stream of visitors queuing up. There’s also a Pirate-themed option, but who opts for pirates when dinosaurs are on offer?
The nearby fish & chips bar we visited was very good, even if you did have to pay to use the toilets. It was a good visit despite the weather and if it’s a good old-fashioned seaside experience you’re after, Shanklin does it better than anywhere else on the island.
Shanklin Chine – Shanklin (Rating: ♥♥)
If you’ve ever looked into holidaying on the Isle of Wight, you’ve probably heard of Shanklin Chine. It’s one of those famous landmarks that makes its way into every conversation that starts, “What do we fancy doing today?” In simple terms, it’s a pretty gully cut into the cliffs that makes its way from the top of the town to the beach.
At night, Shanklin Chine is lit up by colourful lights and lanterns and is, I’m sure, a spectacular sight. However, we visited during the day. With a push-chair. And a sleeping toddler. The experience was not a good one.
It is objectionably expensive for what it is. You’d be pushed to spend more than an hour from top to bottom, and that’s including a stop-off for overpriced ice-cream midway. Without the magical night lights, it’s just a walk through the woods that you could easily do for free elsewhere on the island.
Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary – Wroxall (Rating: ♥♥♥)
In a tourist trap such as the Isle of Wight, finding an attraction with free entry is a rare treat. The Donkey Sanctuary is a charity, so make sure you make a donation when you enter, but it won’t cost an arm and a leg. There’s not much to do here for older children – there’s a tea room and a shop as well as the animals themselves – but toddlers and pre-schoolers will love visiting the dozens of donkeys and Shetland ponies on site.
We spent just over an hour here at the end of the day and got to see some of the donkeys being fed, which was good. It’s not high-adrenaline thrills, but sometimes you just want to spend a lazy afternoon with some friendly donkeys!
Dino Isle – Sandown (Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥)
The last attraction on my list – and the last one we visited on the Isle of Wight on our holiday – turned out to be one of the best. As you’ve probably noticed by now, there is a strong dinosaur theme running through several of the island’s destinations, and some pull it off better than others. This place arguably does it best.
There’s everything for dino-lovers here, from real fossilised skeletons and museum-style displays to controllable animatronic dinosaurs and interactive games. There’s even a working fossil lab on site from which you can buy display fossils at a very reasonable price. In the adjacent room is a sand pit with hidden dinosaur bones that younger children will enjoy excavating.
But best of all, once you’ve finished browsing the main exhibition you can head upstairs to the children’s room, where they have games, toys, costumes, colouring and painting facilities that could occupy the kids for another couple of hours! It’s not unreasonable to suggest a family could spend the entire day here, which makes it excellent value for money. Located right on the Sandown seafront and a stone’s throw away from a broad, sandy beach, this is one place we will definitely be visiting again on our next family holiday to the Isle of Wight.
So there you have it! I hope this has been a helpful guide, but as I said right at the top, there’s so much to do on the Isle of Wight that there are dozens of attractions that I didn’t get chance to review. It’s a great, great place for a family holiday – I’d love to hear your experiences of visiting there and whether you agree or disagree with my ratings. Reach out to me on social media and let’s compare notes!