Easy Escape: A Weekend on the Isle of Wight

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  • If recent airport nightmares have prompted you to rethink a trip abroad, or if the pandemic has sparked a new love for flights closer home, perhaps a weekend in the Isle of Wight has your name in it.

    With gorgeous stretches of white sandy beaches, more yachts and sun seekers than you can rock your rocker stick, and roaring beach clubs serving icy cool roses by the load of a bucket, this year might be the time to swap white Ibiza for a weekend getaway on an island white?

    What do I do

    Whether you’re on long coastal walks, hunting for dinosaurs or sampling local history, there’s no shortage of things to do. Plus, new bar and restaurant openings are successfully putting the island on the foodie map — read on for our top picks.

    Number one on any visitor’s must list is the stunning coastline and specifically the famous Needles. Catch the sightseeing bus or park at Freshwater and walk over the Tennyson Downs to Old Battery to reach the obligatory Needles photo stop. Continue along the coast and watch Alum Bay’s views, cliffs, and multicolored sand, if you’re brave take the old cable car down to feel the warm sand between your toes. Our tip – avoid the cafes and restaurants upstairs and pack a local picnic instead!

    For a classic bucket and candy floss trip, head to the crowded tourist beaches of Ryde, Shanklin, and Ventnor, or for a more subtle call in the pretty beachside village of Seaview. You may even discover someone famous.

    For history buffs, Queen Victoria’s Osborne stay is a must, and Carisbrooke and Yarmouth Castles get good reviews, too. Keep your kids happy on Robin Hill or at one of the many zoos and sanctuaries around the island.

    If you’re visiting in June, be sure to grab a ticket for the Isle Of Wight Festival, which this year has hosted the likes of Lewis Capaldi, Cassabian, Pete Tong, and many more. Likewise, July/August sees thousands flock to the island for Cowes Week – share, watch from the beach or avoid it like the plague, we’ll leave it up to you to decide.

    where do you eat

    If you want to be seen and be seen, head straight to The Hut, a favorite and regular stop on the trails for those in the know.

    Quite possibly the best location for any restaurant on the Isle of Wight, The Hut promises comfort and easy al fresco waterfront dining. If you’re traveling by sea, dock and wait for The Hut’s private boats to pick you up or if you’re coming by land, be sure to organize a trip from one of the two branded Defenders “Surf” and “Turf”.

    We kicked off our go-to with two Hut Painkillers, a seriously easy-drinking mix of dark rum, pineapple, orange, and crème de coco. The Hut aims to make people feel like they went on vacation when they just went out to lunch and we can assure you that a couple of these pain relievers will definitely put you in a brighter mood.

    While deciding on your appetizer, we can highly recommend the sun-dried tomatoes arancini or chorizo ​​with apple juice, garlic and spices. We chose cod tempura tacos and sea bass sashimi to start. The tacos could have packed more of a punch but the sashimi was sexy. Sea bass is back as main dishes, this time with delicious maitake dashi broth, pak choy, and shimeji mushrooms. If you prefer your meals from the mainland, fear not, among the lovely seafood selection we also devoured the Bang Bang Chicken Salad and were pleasantly surprised by the vegetarian and vegan options – the vegetarian scallops particularly intrigued us.

    If you are two years old or over, or if there is a celebration, be sure to try the Fruits De Mer or Surf N Turf plates, where the waiters have to flex their muscles under the weight of the plates.

    The only downside to lunch was that we ate so much we barely had room for dessert, but for professional research purposes only we had Banoffee and Pavlova pie with lemon curd and raspberry sorbet. It’s safe to say that they both got their seal of approval.

    Head to the balcony for a few cocktails before or after dinner and people will watch to your heart’s content. While the weather wasn’t much when we visited, it didn’t dampen our spirits and the view and setting were amazing. However, we’ll be sure to visit again when the sun comes up and the party atmosphere is in full force. News spreads so book your table early to avoid disappointment

    Another favorite for casual alfresco dining or a more refined evening meal is The George Hotel. We sampled English asparagus with soft boiled eggs and Parmesan foam, and tuna tartare because we couldn’t decide whether to make room for the Isle of Wight tomato with marinated crab and tomatoes (heaven). As always, we couldn’t try the house burger filled with onion rings, cheese and bacon – how else?! And for something lighter, the fried cod loin with mussels and Jersey Royals was a win. Make sure to stop during your trip.

    Finally, if you love your garlic food, a trip wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous garlic farm – just pack some mint for later!

    where to stay

    She hides us in the aforementioned George, a 17th century townhouse in the picturesque seaside town of Yarmouth. Having recently undergone a renovation, the hotel has managed to balance the relaxed serenity you crave from a seaside escape with luxurious modern touches and a great beach club.

    Entering to greet you at a grand reception with a sweeping staircase studded with fictitious portraits of the famous George throughout history, boy favorite was boy George who was dotted among other admirals and generals – Bush, Clooney and Best were not in line we would have liked. I expected to see it.

    The bright and luminous conservatory restaurant welcomes you for breakfast, lunch and dinner while the wood-clad bar and reading room provide plenty of cozy and comfortable nooks to enjoy nightly drinks by the fireplace or nice lounging while letting the food go down.

    The hotel offers “comfortable” and “classic” rooms or more distinctive “luxury” and “prestige” rooms. We chose a prestige room with a balcony, providing the perfect place to brew a cold glass of champagne (Bollinger is the house’s choice), while enjoying the views across the private garden set between the water’s edge, castle wall and pier. As the sun rose, it prompted us hard to think about where we’d rather be.

    Soft linen, comfortable gowns, all the usual amenities and a double shower quickly went to the top of all our favorite hotel bathrooms to set up the perfect night. On top of that, the morning newspapers with local shortbread and in-room Nespresso provided all the reasons we needed to stay in bed for another hour.

    The hotel ranks itself as 3* but we have to disagree and in our humble opinion it should pay for at least 4! Make sure to ask for a room with a sea view and if you’re feeling fancy why not arrive by luxury boat transfer. Book your stay here.

    Heading there

    If you’re on foot then hop on a speedboat from Southsea, Portsmouth, the ride is only 10 minutes and there are crossings every half hour. Alternatively, if you’re like us, pack the kitchen sink and travel by car, then take one of the Wightlink or Red Funnel ferries from Southampton, Lymington or Portsmouth.

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