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Although the Isle of Wight, set off the south coast of England, might not be world-famous, it has long been a popular escape for British yachties, cyclists, hikers and romantics. Its surprisingly mild climate, unspoiled beaches and award-winning island cuisine are among draws for visitors.
Fun fact: Even with an entire empire at her feet, the late Queen Victoria purportedly considered Isle of Wight her favorite vacation spot.
Here is what not to miss on your first trip to the destination.
Explore by Land and SeaThe Isle of Wight is often considered the perfect cycling destination. For adventurous clients, recommend that they pedal along the island’s 200 miles of quiet country lanes, scenic off-road routes and tracks on former railway lines. Those who don’t want to push themselves too hard can opt for an e-bike, a new offering from the charming and laid-back Seaview Hotel.
On the water, the activities are endless: kayaking, sailing, swimming, paddleboarding — you name it. Another option is building a sandcastle on one of the island’s many picture-perfect beaches and watching the world go by.
Get Up Close With NatureA must-do on any itinerary is to visit The Needles, one of the most photographed groups of rocks in the world (although the ensemble shrank from four to three when, in 1764, the 120-foot rock known as “Lot’s Wife” crashed into the sea).
The jagged white-chalk cliffs rise like shards out of the water, reminiscent of the backbone of a prehistoric sea monster. Take the spectacular chairlift ride to the beach and the sand cliffs for the best views of the stunning westerly coastline, then create a personalized souvenir by following the tradition of filling a glass bottle with layers of differently colored sand from Alum Bay.
Indulge in Culinary DelightsFor a small island, the Isle of Wight has outstanding food and drink on offer thanks to a mellow climate that ensures a huge variety of quality local produce.
Visit award-winning restaurants such as The Little Gloster for fresh seafood straight from the fisherman's catch, complemented by locally brewed beer, wine or cider. Afterward, finish your meal with seasonal, fruity ice cream.However, if smelly bulbs are more your thing, then head to Europe’s largest garlic farm in Newchurch, featuring offerings of chutneys, relishes and even garlic beer. The Garlic Farm offers weekend tours, starting from Easter to September, as well as workshops featuring cooking demos, foraging and garlic growing. Prices start at $13 per person.
Travel Back in TimeFarringford House is a dramatic Gothic property and was, for 35 years, the residence of Alfred Tennyson, one of Britain’s most popular poets. It reopened in 2017 after several years of transformation from a hotel back to a historic home.
Great efforts were undertaken to furnish it with original pieces of the Tennyson family or, if unavailable, with matching period items. The charm of Farringford House lies both in its function as a time capsule and with the entertaining staff who can tell stories from their own honeymoon at the back-then hotel, or how to source original 19th-century wallpaper.
Farringford House can only be visited by appointment from late March to late October. House tours cost $14, while tours of the gardens cost $3.
Visit a Historical Amusement ParkBlackgang Chine is the U.K.’s oldest entertainment park, celebrating 175 years in this year. This Victorian landscaped-garden-turned-theme park sits right on top of the cliffs and excites visitors with an eclectic mix of attractions, themed worlds and rollercoaster rides.
Don’t miss its oldest draw: a skeleton of a whale that had washed up near The Needles in 1853.
Walk in Royal FootstepsQueen Victoria’s vacation retreat, Osborne House, is a magnificent palatial home with extravagant interiors. The royal family spent many summers at the Osborne House, which was built between 1845 and 1851, and the nine children particularly loved the Swiss Cottage, a small chalet made just for them.
Walk through the private apartments including the queen’s bedroom, where she died in 1901; nursery rooms; and royal bathrooms, before stepping outside in the walled garden. Stroll down to the waterfront for stunning views out to sea and pop inside Queen Victoria’s bathing machine (a changing hut used in the 18th and 19th centuries) to see where the monarch got undressed.
Guided tours are available daily at 10:15 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. from April 1 through Oct. 31 and cost $30 per person.
www.english-heritage.org.ukThe DetailsIsle of Wight Tourism www.visitisleofwight.co.uk