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Best beaches, Isle of Wight: where to go for what!

The Isle of Wight has fantastic beaches, but they’re all different. Read on to find out about the best beaches on the Isle of Wight and which is for you!

Take a look at our suggestions based on what you’re looking for in a beach.

Or start with an overview of the Isle of Wight’s best beaches. We’ve also given links to our favourite places to stay nearby.

Tip: If you’re using this to help decide where to stay, you’ll also want to take a look at our guide to the best Isle of Wight resorts and townsOur ultimate guide to cycling the Isle of Wight has lots of useful accommodation suggestions.

A bit about the best beaches, Isle of Wight

North Isle of Wight beaches

Gurnard, Cowes, East Cowes, Osborne beaches

Busy and popular with families. Cowes* is one of the Island’s smartest towns and the regattas in August make it hectic at that time of year.

  • Beaches are sand and shingle, though Cowes and East Cowes don’t have much of a beach. You need to head out of town for that.

  • Views are across the Solent, so it's a busy, more industrial skyline than to the south of the island. Lots of boats and large ships to spot.

  • There's a concrete seafront promenade between Gurnard and Cowes, which is great for buggies and bikes. There's also a shorter esplanade in East Cowes.

  • There's a small playground behind the beach huts at Gurnard beach.

* To explain, there's Cowes and East Cowes. They are separated by a river with no bridge (only a chain ferry), so it's important to understand the distinction!

Beach huts at Gurnard beach

Gurnard beach huts (photo credit: JonDrew/Shutterstock.com)

East Isle of Wight beaches

Ryde, Appley, Puckpool Park, Springvale, Seagrove, Priory Bay, St Helens, Bembridge, Whitecliff Bay, Yaverland, Sandown, Lake, Shanklin beaches

Lots of beaches in this stretch, from quiet little bays (for example Whitecliff Bay and Seagrove Bay) to busy, expansive sandy beaches (for example Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin).

  • The beaches at Ryde and Appley are wide and sandy, thought by many to be the best on the island. At low tide, the sand stretches far out to sea, with little pools that are perfect for exploring. The beaches are backed by archetypal pleasure beach attractions. Near the pier, you'll find an ice rink, bowling alley and traditional fairground play area with a pirate theme, helter-skelter and trampolines. To the east, there's a large boating lake full of swan pedalos and Waterside, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool.

  • On the outskirts of Ryde, a stone's throw from the beach, is Puckpool Park. Housed in a Victorian Fortification Battery once used to guard the Solent, the park is now a historic monument. It has sea views, a children’s play area, tennis courts, mini golf, petanque, and beautiful gardens.
Sandy beach at Ryde, one of the Isle of Wight's best beaches

Ryde beach (photo credit: Ian Woolcock/Shutterstock.com)

Appley beach near Ryde with castle overlooking sandy beach

Appley Tower, Ryde beach (photo credit: Mark S Johnson/Shutterstock.com)

Our family love Bembridge beach, which is quite a contrast to the bustle of Ryde. The lifeboat station and café by the beach are particular favourites. Pick between a golden sand beach on one side of town and a more rocky beach with rock pools.

Sandown is one of the most beautiful beaches on the island. It's much wider than some of the island’s beaches, is in an impressive, sweeping bay and has proper sand. Other highlights:

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    The dinosaur museum is excellent and very close to the front.
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    Our young children (2 and 4) adored the rides on the pier, even if they were a bit young (tip: keep walking - it gets much better when you finally get past the slot machines and escape outside).
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    The Yaverland end of the beach is dedicated to watersports and is often quieter.
  • Don't expect much from the town itself. Sadly, it's quite run down, both in the town centre and along the front. 

  • To the south, Sandown merges into Lake which merges into Shanklin. Shanklin town and esplanade are smaller and a bit smarter than Sandown, though we don’t think the bay is as pretty. Our kids loved Jungle Jims and the dinosaur playground. Follow the sea wall south, and you find smaller coves and Shanklin Chine.
Sandown beach which is wide and sandy with the coast heading into the distance

Sandown beach

Sandown pier with a moody sky above

Sandown pier

South Isle of Wight beaches

Bonchurch, Ventnor, Steephill Cove, Reeth Bay
  • Chalk cliffs and rugged, quiet bays.  Attractive beaches but many take some effort to get to.

  • Ventnor was a popular Victorian resort and offers a more gentrified experience than Shanklin and Sandown to the east. It’s built on the side of a cliff, so bring your climbing legs.

  • We love Ventnor beach. Its red shingle and golden sand sit at the bottom of a series of cliffs that help make this one of the sunniest, warmest parts of the island. The esplanade above the beach has some nice places to eat, including pubs, cafés and an excellent restaurant. There's also a fab kids’ paddling pool (shaped around a map of the Isle of Wight), an attractive Victorian bandstand-like structure, a fish market (next to the bandstand), Art Deco buildings - and a very steep road back up to the town!

  • To the northeast is Bonchurch, a pretty village but small, so don't expect beach facilities - other than a large car park.

  • There's a nice promenade along the sea between Bonchurch and Steephill Cove (via Ventnor). Perfect for kids on bikes and parents with buggies.

  • Steephill Cove is to the south-west of Ventnor. It's small and often compared to Cornwall's craggy hidden coves. It is certainly a charming place, perhaps partly due to the old buildings dotted around the Cove, many of which are upmarket holiday rentals and cafés well targeted to their Boden-crowd clientele. No amusement arcades here thank you very much! The fact you have to walk in also adds to the novelty. You can stroll in along the promenade from Ventnor, park in the private car park on Steephill Road and walk down, or tack it onto a visit to Ventnor Botanic gardens, park there and walk in from the gardens. When we visited, the tide was in, and there was hardly a beach to speak of. What there was was gritty crushed shell rather than sand. However, it was still a pretty place for a picnic lunch and an ice cream after.
Golden sands of Ventnor beach with the town backdrop stretching up the cliff behind

Ventnor beach

The small village set around Steephill Cove

Steephill Cove

West Isle of Wight beaches

Yarmouth, Colwell Bay, Totland Bay, Alum Bay, Freshwater Bay, Compton Bay, Brook beach
  • Towering cliffs and stunning beaches. Located in one of the least populated parts of the island, these are some of the quietest beaches on the island. Many are great for fossil hunting, just take care as rockfalls are common.

  • Yarmouth has a very small shingle beach. Nothing to write home about, though it’s a fun place to watch ships and boats from, especially during Cowes week.

  • Compton Bay offers a pretty, quiet, two-mile stretch of contrasting golden and dark sands. It's backed by crumbly sandstone cliffs, and you get great views of the white chalk cliffs at Freshwater in the distance. It's a good spot for dinosaur fossils too! Don't expect loads of facilities, though at Hanover Point there are toilets - and often there's an ice cream van.

  • Freshwater Bay is a pretty beach just to the south of Freshwater town. It's pebbly though some sand appears at low tide, together with a rock ledge that makes for good rockpooling.

  • We were underwhelmed by Alum Bay. Notions of brightly coloured vertically striped cliffs were met with the reality of muddy brown to muddy yellow bands of rock. The beach is made up of large pebbles. On the upside, the chairlift down is fun (actually, slightly terrifying if, as we did, you have a 1.5-year old on the seat beside you with not belt/safety harness etc and it's quite windy)! There are also great views of the famous Needles rocks and lighthouse. There are an array of activities above the beach, including a glass blowing factory and Alum Bay theme park.
Freshwater bay with stones and a few buildings behind

Freshwater Bay

Famous ALum Bay with its coloured cliffs

View down to Alum Bay (photo credit: Alexey Fedorenko/Shutterstock.com)

What do you want from your beach?

Note: This is not an exhaustive list of the Isle of Wight beaches offering these things! We’ve just tried to pick out some of the best beaches for the things you might be looking for. It also gives an idea of the huge variety on offer.

Looking for...

You could try...

Toddler and child-friendly

The classics (if you don’t mind being surrounded by lots of people in high season):

• Sandown with its golden sand and sandy sea bed. There is a good playground in Sandham Gardens, near the toddler-friendly café at Brown’s Golf course. The pier also has some suitable indoor entertainment and some low-key rides outdoors (e.g. dodgems and helter-skelter). There are toilets and parking nearby, and dogs aren’t allowed on the beach in summer.

• Shanklin is a smaller version of Sandown, with a sandy beach that’s good for swimming. There’s entertainment in the form of an amusement arcade and crazy golf, pedalos to hire and various (not particularly high end) shops. There are toilets at both ends of the beach and parking along the seafront. There is also a wide pavement running along the esplanade - a good spot to encourage children with cycling on a quiet day.

• Appley. It’s less good for swimming but has a wide sandy beach, paddling pool and two playgrounds. The esplanade is a good place for pushing trikes and pushchairs.

• Ventnor, East Cowes and Appley all have toddler paddling pools. The one at Ventnor has a map of the Isle of Wight which is quite fun. The one near the Appley Seafront is modern and interactive.


If you prefer your beach a bit quieter and are willing for there to be fewer facilities, try:

• Colwell Bay or Hanover Point/Compton Bay in the west. Colwell Bay is sand and shingle with a gentle slope that is perfect for paddling. Totland Bay is a short walk along the promenade from Colwell Bay. It has a small pier and is safe for swimming.

• St Helen's, Priory Bay (unless you are staying at the hotel you need to walk from Seagrove Bay) or Whitecliff Bay (though note this is near a holiday park so could be busy in school holidays) in the East.

• Steephill Cove in the south. No sand but it's a pretty spot for a wholesome seaside experience.

• Gurnard in the north. The small playground near the beach and the promenade are winners.

Amenities close to the beach

Shanklin, Sandown and Ventnor have a good array of cafés, shops and activities.

Swimming

Sandown, with its sandy seabed, steadily sloping gradient and generally infrequent waves. It’s also won various blue flag awards for water cleanliness.

Shanklin is similar.

Note that some of the beaches on the IoW aren’t safe for swimming due to strong currents. Always check before you swim.

Watersports

• Hanover Point (in Compton Bay) for surfing and bodyboarding - but if you’re swimming beware of the rocky bottom which you only get to see at low tide.

  • • Brook Chine for kitesurfing
  • • Yaverland for windsurfing
  • • St Helens, Dunroamin and Freshwater have shops hiring a range of watersports equipment. You can also take lessons.

Kite flying and ball games

Check times, but at low tide, Appley and Compton Bay can be good. The National Trust suggest Culver Down near Bembridge (but watch out for the cliffs and cars!) and Red Funnel suggests Chillerton Down.

Kayaking

Freshwater Bay for an adventurous experience.

Shanklin and Sandown (or St Helen’s for very calm water).

Fossil hunting

There are lots of places for fossil hunting: Atherfield, Hamstead, Yarmouth, Whitecliff Bay, Gurnard Bay, Thorness Bay, Hanover Point, Chilton Chine, Brighstone Bay, Yaverland, Compton Bay, Brook, Shanklin.

But Dinosaur Expeditions, near Brighstone, say “The Isle of Wight has two main areas where dinosaur bones can be found loose on the beach. The smallest area is Yaverland beach near Sandown with the main exposure approximately 100 metres long. The second area is approximately 6 miles long on the south-west coast of the Island and stretches from Atherfield to Compton.”

Rockpools

St Helens

Bembridge

Lake

Seagrove Bay

Crabbing

Bembridge

Newton Creek

Fort Victoria

St Helen’s

Freshwater Bay

Solitude

Compton Bay (particularly if you walk away from the Hanover Point end)

Brook Chine

Dunroamin beach between Sandown and Shanklin

Steephill Cove: but it’s not accessible by car (see above)

Yaverland near Sandown

Freshwater Bay

Priory Bay: privately owned by the hotel but you can get there by walking from Seagrove

Totland Bay: stony but with a lovely outlook

A gorgeous cove

Steephill Cove - you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Cornwall. But note that there is no direct car access (see above), and there can be a lot of seaweed if you’re thinking of swimming.

Impressive scenery

Priory Bay

Whitecliff Bay backed by tree-covered cliffs. But beware that access to it is through a holiday park and down a steep hill

Sunset

Compton Bay

Totland Bay is also renowned for its fantastic sunset views.

Retro cool

Ventnor - a nice beach and attractive Victorian waterfront.

Endless sea horizons

Ventnor, Shanklin and the Military Road

Found this guide useful?

Banner photo credit: Laurence Baker/Shutterstock.com

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