10 of the best family days out on the Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight's best days out for families with young children, including parent reviews of Osborne House, Tapnell Farm Park, Blackgang Chine and Robin Hill
Known for its beautiful scenery, the Isle of Wight also crams an extraordinary range of activities, history and family-shaped fun into a small county. For families, it is an island of summer festivals, sandy beaches and multicoloured cliffs, as well as dinosaur encounters and a home for much-loved red squirrels.
The island’s location off the south coast of Hampshire gives it many more hours of sunshine than most of the UK and yet it is relatively simple to reach (always a bonus when travelling with little ones). The quickest crossing is a 10-minute hovercraft ride, while visitors with a car can watch the sun sparkling on the Solent during a 40-60 minute crossing.
Once you arrive, it's also pleasantly easy to explore, From east to west, the Isle of Wight is just 23 miles wide, so getting around is much quicker than in larger counties such as Devon or Cornwall. From the middle of the island, you have a choice of 20 beaches that little children will love to explore within a 25-minute drive.
Most families staying for a week bring a car but if you arrive on foot there are also regular buses which cover the whole island, and a railway line which links Ryde, Sandown and Shanklin.
Summertime visits offer better weather and festivals most weekends, while off-peak holidays bring the benefit of cheaper ferry prices and shorter queues for ice creams!
Best family days out on the Isle of Wight at a glance
- Best for under 10s: Blackgang Chine - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
- Best for history: Osborne House - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
- Best for summer shows: Robin Hill Country Park - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
- Best for lions and tigers: Wildheart Animal Sanctuary - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
- Best for Thomas The Tank Engine fans: Isle of Wight Steam Railway - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
- Best for a rainy day: Tapnell Farm Park - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
- Best value for money: Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary - Donkey Sanctuary, TripAdvisor
- Best for foodies: The Garlic Farm - The Garlic Farm, TripAdvisor
- Best for sea views: The Needles and Alum Bay - The Needles, TripAdvisor
- Best for sword fighters: Carisbrooke Castle - buy tickets, TripAdvisor
1. Blackgang Chine – The Land of Imagination
– Best for under 10s
Standard entry £23 | Best for ages 3-10 | Best in good weather | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis bus route 6
Blackgang Chine holds the crown as the oldest theme park in the UK and it remains a charming family day out (if you're looking for mainland options, you can see our pick of the best UK theme parks for families here).
Decades of children of all ages have come face to face with the park’s dinosaurs and cowboys or walked through the Crooked House.
There is plenty of space for imaginative play including Fairyland (ages 2-8) and Cowboyland (ages 4-10). Children aged 8+ will love the Cliffhanger rollercoaster, the three-lane waterslide and the Evolution drop tower which was added in 2022. For children aged 2-7, the Underwater Kingdom is a delight that will create precious memories.
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Entry to the park includes free returns for seven days, so it’s best to visit at the start of your holiday. During the summer, the park is illuminated and as night falls, fireworks are launched off the cliff edge for a spectacular finale.
Pros: Seven day free returns, fantastic sea views
Cons: More expensive than other local attractions, the steep hills can be a challenge for pushchairs and wheelchairs
Tickets from Blackgang Chine and Picniq
2. Osborne House
– Best for history
Family ticket from £54.60 | Best for ages 3-10 | Best in good weather | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis Bus routes 4 and 5
Queen Victoria’s holiday home by the sea is a must-visit for royalists and history-loving families, and a beautiful backdrop for a family photo with your little princes and princesses. You can happily fill a day exploring the house, grounds and beach, which cover more than 350 acres. The grand Italian-style house was built at the request of the Queen, who wanted a quiet place to escape from London life.
MFM Top Testers Club parents gave a particular thumbs up to the two playgrounds and the Swiss Cottage. Inspire older children to embrace their culinary potential inside this Alpine chalet, where young royals were tonce aught to cook in a three-quarter size kitchen and given their own allotment in the gardens. See if little ones can spot the royal inscriptions on the individual wheelbarrows.
The walk down to Osborne Bay is pushchair friendly but it is about a mile, so preschoolers might prefer to take the shuttle bus. The promise of an ice cream at the beach may help reluctant walkers! Children aged 3-10 will love the Punch and Judy shows which are a regular feature of summer on the beach.
Pros: Beautiful grounds and plenty of open space
Cons: Quite a long distance between the main house and Osborne Bay, mostly outdoors
Tickets from Osborne House and Picniq
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3. Robin Hill Country Park
– Best for summer shows
Family ticket from £70 | Best for ages 3-11 | Best in good weather | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis bus route 8
The sister park to Blackgang Chine is a great choice for children who love to run and explore. Little ones can spend the day exploring the woodland, riding the toboggan run (age 3+) and somersaulting in the bouncy nets. Rides include a swinging ship and a 4D cinema for children who are at least 1.1m tall (approx. 5+) and a slower train journey for little ones who are at least 90cm tall (approx. 2+).
In summer, take a seat in the park’s woodland amphitheatre for family shows from daredevils, dancers and acrobats as the sun sets. There are also festivals throughout the year featuring hot air balloons and celebrations of Christmas and Chinese New Year.
Visitors on TripAdvisor give Robin Hill an average score of 4/5 with 69% of visitors rating it as ‘excellent’ or ‘very good’.
Pros: Free returns within seven days, open until late in the summer
Cons: Toboggan is charged separately, more expensive than most other attractions on the island
Tickets from Robin Hill Country Park
4. Wildheart Animal Sanctuary
– Best for lions and tigers
Family ticket from £46 | Best for ages 4-11 | Best in good weather | Yaverland Car Park 0.1 miles | Southern Vectis bus route 8 or the Downs Breezer
There are several places on the Isle of Wight where children can meet animals, but Wildheart Animal Sanctuary is the best for lions, tigers and lynx. It’s also in a terrific location inside a former seaside fort with the sandy beach of Sandown just a few metres away.
The latest addition are two giant bamboo domes which are home to primates, while your own little monkeys can explore the tiger-themed playground (ideal for ages 3-9).
The focus of the Sanctuary is rescuing animals who have been caught up in illegal trading and travelling circuses. It’s got the backing of some big names including Dame Judi Dench – who sends a birthday card to one of the lemurs each year – and Chris Packham, who is a trustee at the Sanctuary.
Pros: Close to other attractions and a sandy beach, entry price goes to a good cause
Cons: Not as large as some mainland zoos, mostly outdoors
Tickets from Wildheart Animal Sanctuary
5. Isle of Wight Steam Railway
– Best for Thomas the Tank Engine fans
Family ticket from £45 | Best for ages 3-12 | All-weather attraction | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis Bus route 9 or Island Line train from Ryde Pierhead
All aboard! The island’s heritage railway travels for an hour through a scenic inland route on the eastern side of the island. If you’re arriving by car, catch the train from Havenstreet where you’ll also find the playground, falconry and Train Story museum which is full of family-friendly exhibits (ideal for ages 5-10).
Visitors by rail can catch the ‘modern’ train from Ryde, Sandown or Shanklin which connects with the steam railway at Smallbrook Junction. MFM Top Testers Club parent Hannah praised the team here, who she said were amazing with her autistic son.
Pros: Mostly under cover, friendly and enthusiastic volunteers
Cons: No toilets onboard the train, can be a little warm inside the carriages on hot days
Tickets from Isle of Wight Steam Railway and Picniq
6. Tapnell Farm Park
– Best for a rainy day
Family ticket from £50 | Best for ages 1-11 | All-weather attraction | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis Summer Links bus route
Tapnell Farm Park has become a family favourite in recent years and it is a great rescue plan for a rainy day. The former dairy farm has plenty to do indoors for little ones, including a three-storey soft play area for ages 1-7 and trampolines, zip wires and a petting zoo for ages 5-11.
On sunnier days, you can take on the farm-themed mini golf course and burn off some energy on the bouncy pillow (ideal for ages 4-11).
Next door, you’ll find the Isle of Wight Aqua Park, archery, football, golf and a burger restaurant. It’s a great choice if you want to split resources and occupy both toddlers and teenagers at once.
Pros: Large barns with rainy day activities, next door to other attractions for older children, sea views
Cons: Entry is only valid for half-a-day, location is a little bit out of the way
Tickets from Tapnell Farm Park
7. Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary
– Best value for money
Free entry | Best for ages 1-11 | Best in good weather | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis bus route 3
This donkey sanctuary is a lovely spot for children who love animals - and it’s free to visit. The soft-eyed residents made their way to the Sanctuary from all over the country. Blakey, Olive and Barbara, for example, were abandoned in a field in Norfolk before being rescued and brought to the Island - little ones will love getting up close to them.
As the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary is located in the South Wight, families will find it a convenient place to visit on the way to a splash in the waves on the beach at Ventnor.
Victoria on the MFM Facebook page recommended the sanctuary as being a great place for kids. Reviewers on TripAdvisor agree and 76% of visitors give it five stars.
Pros: Free entry, adorable animals, cafe and toilets onsite
Cons: Mostly outdoors, can be a little windy
Tickets from Donkey Sanctuary and Picniq
8. The Garlic Farm
– Best for foodies
Free entry | Best for ages 3-9 | Best in good weather | Free onsite parking | Southern Vectis Downs Breezer bus route, then a short walk
More than 2,000 reviewers on TripAdvisor say that the Garlic Farm is either very good or excellent and we think The Garlic Farm is well worth a visit for families who are travelling down to the beaches of Sandown or Shanklin.
The farm is free to enter, so it makes a great stop with little ones who can wander round the farm trails or pay a few pounds for a ride in the tractor trailer which runs at peak times. There is also a small playground for ages 3-9 and a restaurant which has a children’s menu.
The farm shop is well stocked with everything from garlic chutneys and mayo through to garlic beer, for parents with more adventurous taste buds!
Pros: Free entry, gorgeous scenery
Cons: No direct bus service, only a small playground, fun for a couple of hours rather than a whole day
Tickets from The Garlic Farm
9. The Needles and Alum Bay
– Best for sea views
Pay as you go for attractions | Best for ages 3 -16 | Best in good weather | Paid onsite parking | Southern Vectis bus route 7 or Needles Breezer
Would a visit to the Isle of Wight be complete without seeing The Needles and Alum Bay? According to MFM Top Testers Club, the famous chalk stacks and multicoloured cliffs are “a must” for a visit to this southern isle.
The best way to arrive is on the Needles Breezer open top bus, which runs during the summer and circles around the West Wight. For outstanding views, stay on the bus to reach the National Trust’s Old Battery or hop off by the funfair for family fun on all the rides.
The chairlift, 4D cinema and high speed boat ride are best for children aged 6+ whilst 2-6 year olds will love the carousel, sand shop and sweet factory.
The Needles is a popular spot, so it is best to arrive early to avoid the crowds.
Pros: Outstanding sea views, free entry, plenty for all ages
Cons: Very busy, long queues during school holidays, no free parking
Tickets from The Needles
10. Carisbrooke Castle
– Best for sword fighters
Family ticket from £20 | Best for ages 5-12 | Best in good weather | Paid onsite parking | Southern Vectis bus route 6 and a short walk
Carisbrooke Castle gives Osborne a good run for its money as the finest historic attraction on the Isle of Wight. King Charles I was famously held prisoner at the castle in the 17th Century and made a number of attempts to escape.
Today, it is the donkeys of the castle that steal the show as they pull up water from a deep well by trotting round an antique treadwheel.
If you’re visiting in the school summer holidays, try and time your visit to coincide with the jousting competitions. Performers on horseback compete to win over the cheering crowd on the King’s bowling green.
There is parking on site, but be aware the nearest bus stop is five minutes walk away along a road without a pavement.
Pros: Family-friendly trails, 360 degree views from the top of the castle
Cons: Uneven floors and steep steps aren’t pushchair or wheelchair friendly, some big drops, tricky public transport access
Tickets from Carisbrooke Castle and Picniq
How we tested
Our MFM reviewer has visited every attraction listed in our top 10 in the last three or four years with his two children, who are now aged five and nine. We looked for details such as value for money, how easy it was to visit with a pushchair, how much walking was required with children and how much time was spent at each attraction.
We also asked parents on our MFM Facebook page for their advice regarding the best attractions on an Isle of Wight holiday and looked at TripAdvisor reviews.
Our top 10 guide isn’t intended to be a ranking. It also doesn’t cover every family-friendly attraction on the Isle of Wight. We’ve included a range of different types of attractions but you will find several other good places which didn’t make the list.
About the author
Robbie Lane is a former BBC journalist, producer and newsreader who now runs Isle of Wight Guru and Holiday Park Guru. He grew up on the Isle of Wight and has spent the last few years revisiting the island’s best family-friendly attractions with his two daughters.
Picture: Isle of Wight Steam Railway
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