Known for its medieval castles, the famous Needles attraction, and holiday parks bursting with activities, the Isle of Wight also offers brilliant, beautiful and entertaining beaches.
On our hunt for the best and most family-friendly, we’ve split them up according to different areas of the island: East, West, and South. Click on the link below to jump to the best beaches in the area you’ll be visiting…
The best family-friendly beaches are predominantly on the eastern side of the island, but gems like Ventnor Beach and Alum Bay prove there’s something wherever you’re staying.
Plus, everything’s pretty close anyway – the island measures just 23 miles from east to west so you’ll never be too far in the car from where you want to be.
Best family beaches on the Isle of Wight
1. Shanklin Beach – Shanklin, PO37 6HT
Why we love it: One of the best known beaches on the island, Shanklin is a classic family beach: think buckets, spades, amusements and ball games.
There’s the long sandy beach itself (with some pebbles), and then the esplanade, with a paved street hosting several amusements such as the popular pirate-themed crazy golf, go-karting and an indoor play area for rainy days.
You can also expect the essential facilities (toilets, etc), classic chip shops and beachside stores, selling sweets, snacks, inflatables and other beach fare. Cafes and pubs tend to be down the south end of the Esplanade.
All these kid-focused activities mean it’s obviously busy during summer and sunny days, but one mum suggests finding the quieter side under the cliffs to set up camp on the shore.
Dog friendly? Only out of season. That means you can’t take a dog on the beach between 1 May – 30 September.
Is there car parking? Yes, there is. Expect to pay about £7 for a full day.
Where to stay? You’re spoiled for choice in Shanklin: the Shanklin Villa Apartments are just 3 mins away on foot, and the Luccombe Hall Hotel is 5 mins away (but there’s lots for kids to do and it has a pool).
2. Sandown Beach – Sandown, PO36 8JP
Why we love it: The very sandy Sandown is known for being a bit sandier than Shanklin, but also for its pier, which houses trampolines, amusements, crazy golf, souvenir and beach shops, and cafes.
There’s deckchair hire on the beach, and you can get cuppas, fish and chips, the works, from various stands.
It’s a classic seaside resort, so there’s a high street just parallel to the beach too. Therefore, you’re not going to be stuck for loos while you’re out and about.
Sandown also gets a good rep thanks to Steve, who rents out beach huts, and gets rave reviews from holidaymakers and families who’ve hired from him.
Dog friendly? Only out of season. Dogs aren’t allowed on the beach from 1 May – 30 September.
Is there car parking? There’s lots of parking on the sea front.
Where to stay? The Wight Bay Hotel‘s 3 mins on foot from the beach, also has free private parking. It’s the same travel time from Victoria Lodge Apartments, too, if you’d prefer a whole flat for your hols.
3. Appley Beach – Ryde, PO33 1ND
A lovely, clean beach in Ryde, with warm shallow water perfect for paddling, and views of Portsmouth across the water on a cloudless day. When the tide’s out, expect the beach to look really, really big.
So plenty of room for little ones to run and play. There’s also a little pond for kids to splash in, and Puckpool Park nearby, and beach huts to hire.
“If you have small children then take them to Puckpool for crazy golf,” advises one parent, “or a play in the park which has climbing areas, swings etc.”
There are all the usual facilities: toilets and cafes on each end of the beach. Win.
Dog friendly? The Seaview end of the beach allows dogs all year long.
Is there car parking? Yep, quite near to the beach, though it won’t come cheap.
4. Yaverland Beach
Golden sandy beach down the far end of Sandown, ideal for younger and older kids. Especially if they like building sandcastles, shell-picking, running around, or doing cartwheels.
Of course all beaches are busy when the weather’s warm, but generally you’ll find that Yaverland is a bit less packed than its more famous neighbour.
It’s also touted as a great beach for dogs to run and roam free on, so perfect if you’ve come on holiday with a pet.
Finally, it’s the perfect beach for mini dinosaur fans, as – who knows? – there could be some fossils lurking around…
If you’re really keen, you can book a guided fossil walk around Yaverland and the surrounding cliffs, too.
Dog friendly? Sections of the beach do permit dogs throughout the year.
Is there car parking? “Parking is generous,” says one mum. There is indeed a large car park by the beach, which is also where you’ll find the toilets and a café selling the usual.
5. Seaview Beach
Seaview’s a little village near Ryde, with a gorgeous sandy beach and plenty of places to eat.
As a beach, it’s very sandy, not shingle-y, and you can expect lots of watersport activities available that might be well-suited to older kids, as well as lots of boats and yachts.
Seaview Beach heads on to Seagrove Beach (another popular choice), Priory Bay Beach is also not too far from the family-fun-guaranteed Puckpool Park.
Dog friendly? Between Seaview and St Helen’s beach, dogs are free to roam all year long. Not so much on Seagrove, though. (Confused? Fair enough! Just check all the signs – it should be pretty clear where not to go).
Is there car parking? Yes. One purse-friendly option is to park at the Seaview Beach Café which costs £3 for the full day (if you can nab a space).
Where to stay? The Seaview Holiday Salterns cottage is self-catering and super close to the beach.
6. Bembridge Beach
Bembridge is a pebbly and stony beach (with a bit of sand on the banks and below the high water mark) – so one to bring your sandals to!
Great for water sports, or for dinghy sailing if you’re feeling especially adventurous. It’s also got a harbour, so there are lots of colourful boats going by. Definitely an Insta-friendly place to be.
There’s not a ton of shops or places to eat, but there is a nice café, and a popular pub. These are all pretty near the loos and the car park, behind the lifeguards station.
Dog friendly? Yes, there are no dog restrictions here. Woo!
Is there car parking? Yes, there’s a car park behind the beach.
Where to stay? The Spinnaker in Bembridge is an ideal 10 min walk from the beach.
7. Ryde Beach
Connected to Appleby Beach if you walk far enough, Ryde Beach is probably best known for miles and miles of sand.
An ideal place to set up a blanket, a picnic, and have hours of fun. (Keep your eyes peeled when it’s windy so the sand doesn’t ruin your sandwiches, though!)
Don’t expect loads of shops up this end, though there are the necessary facilities and a café or two, of course, and lots of sunbeds, etc, available for hire.
There’s a fab park area for kids which comes highly recommended by parents, a pool for little ones, and some grassy bits, too, which are never not useful.
Bonus: it’s super close to the Ryde Hovercraft terminal, so you could combine the 2 for a fun-packed day out, as each ‘hover ride’ is only 10 mins long, and is an experience in itself. Maybe you could even travel back to mainland England (in Portsmouth) this way.
Dog friendly? There are restrictions between 1 May – 30 September, so it’s likely your dog won’t be allowed everywhere on the beach.
Is there car parking? Yep, lots of parking in Ryde and near the beach, though it’ll cost.
Where to stay? Ryde Castle is on the seafront and bonus: it’s a Pokemon Go gym, too. (Top tip: try to avoid Room 9, which is above the function room). The Royal Esplanade Hotel is a 7 min walk to the beach.
8. Alum Bay Beach
Alum Bay’s most known as the beach with an excellent view of The Needles: 3 big chalk rocks that jut out of the sea, a landmark of sorts on the Isle of Wight.
It’s also dubbed one of the best-looking beaches on the island, thanks to the dramatic clifftops in the background and – more excitingly for little ones – the fact the cliffs comprise of 21 different shades of multi-coloured sand.
Fab for kids who are interested in science, geology or just like lots of colours ?
Now, there aren’t so many amenities on the beach itself, it’s all very natural – but above the beach is Needles Park, which has toilets, cafes, and souvenir shops (the Sand Shop a particular highlight). There are some merry-go-round type rides, but these have often been slated as a bit tacky.
The journey to Alum Bay can be fun for little ones – if you get there via the chairlift from the park (£3 per person, each way).
The alternative is some steps, which, while not suitable for families with babies and buggies, should be perfectly doable if your toddlers and small kids are keen to walk.
Dog friendly? Yep, but there are some ground rules. “Dogs are permitted onto all external areas of The Needles and onto the beach. They are not permitted in any internal building with the exception of hearing assistance and guide dogs. Dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.”
Is there car parking? There is a car park at the Needles Park, which is £5 per car, according to some reviews we’ve read.
Where to stay? The Albion Hotel sits on the edge of Freshwater Bay’s beach, and is still close enough to get to Alum Bay. Beaches everywhere!
9. Compton Bay Beach
Compton’s a bit of a hidden gem – and it might just remind you of a beach on the Cornish coast. Great for surfing and hanging out with the family, but there’s not a ton of amenities here, so make sure you pack a picnic and a half!
There are drinks, ice creams, a couple of beach toys and a few bits available right by the beach, though. The beach comes in to its own at low tide, when the sandcastle-building potential is at its peak.
Once you’re done, you can go fossil-hunting and even book a tour to help your little one discover dinosaur footprints in the sandstone ledge at Hanover Point.
Like a few of the beaches on the Isle of Wight, you’ll need to navigate some steep steps, but they do lead you to a car park, accessible toilets and a fresh water tap for filling up bottles.
Dog friendly? Sadly not during peak season (1 May to 30 September).
Is there car parking? Yep, further up from the beach there is a car park. You’ll have to pay, of course.
Where to stay? The Wight Mouse Inn – 13 mins away in the car. Top tip: families seem to really love the kids’ play area.
10. East Cowes Beach
Pic shows The seafront at Cowes’ main town
A little bit quieter than some of its counterparts, East Cowes is a peaceful, part-sand, part-shingle beach. It’s generally good for families because it’s not packed, and there’s room to have a proper swim and play about.
Watch the tide times, though – when it’s in, there’ll be barely any beach to play on.
It’s slightly further out from East Cowes town, and is accessible on foot via an esplanade.
On the esplanade is where you’ll find facilities like toilets, shops, cafes, etc. There’s even an adventure playground and paddling pool near a row of green beach huts for kids who aren’t super into swimming.
Dog friendly? Banned from 1 May – 30 September.
Is there car parking? Yep, but not right on the beach. “Parking along the Esplanade is mainly free,” says Visit Isle of Wight. “But there are time restrictions closer to town, or there is a good sized car park” you can use.
11. Ventnor Beach
Like Shanklin and Sandown, Ventnor is a really well-known seaside town and beach. Very popular indeed and so, yes, you can expect it to be busy during hot weather.
It’s a sand and red shingle beach, which has famed vintage beach huts dotted along the way, available for hire.
There’s also all the fare you’d want from a classic seaside town beach: deckchairs and sun loungers for rent, ice-cream vans, amusement arcades, a tapas bar, beachy shops, and heaps of cafes.
Look out for the Spyglass Inn in particular for its nautical-inspired décor and its upper deck terraces which have a fab view of the sea.
Low tide’s a good time to be at Ventnor Beach with little ones, too, for a ridge of rocks appears, which are suitable for older kids to climb on (supervised, obvs). Rest assured, lifeguards are on duty in the summer.
Dog friendly? We’re not 100%, but we think the 1 May – 30 September restrictions apply.
Is there car parking? There are 8 car parks in Ventnor, so you’re bound to find somewhere. Keep your change handy.
Where to stay? Enjoy 4-star luxury and a 3 min walk to the beach at The Royal Hotel.
Or check out The Old Park – complete with a fab kids’ playground – also 3 mins from Ventnor Beach on foot.
12. Steephill Cove Beach
About half an hour on foot (with kids in tow) from Ventnor Beach Steephill Cove Beach comes highly recommended for families looking to explore further afield.
It’s a private sandy beach, a hidden cove of sorts, which is best to visit around lunchtime/early afternoon to guarantee all the few restaurants and cafes will be open.
One mum hailed it a great beach for kids, writing: “Great find and very easy to get to. Short walk down Love Lane – some steep steps and I think there is also a slope you can go down.
“Small beach area, rocks and great cafes/eating places. You can also walk coastal path from Ventnor beach. Deck chair hire and has toilets as well. Worth going for lunch or afternoon tea too.”
Another hidden gem, away from the touristy beaches, but perhaps not the best if you’re manoeuvring buggies and carrying lots of stuff.
Probably somewhere you’d drop by for a walk, snack and a quick play, for a couple of hours, rather than setting up camp for a whole day.
Dog friendly? Yep, dogs can be on leads on the beach until 6pm.
Is there car parking? Yep, though not so close by. You really do have to walk. You can park on the main road for free if you can find a space.
However, we’d recommend parking up at the Botanic Gardens, which has an all-day car park for £5.
Where to stay? If location, location, location’s the key – The Hamborough is 3 mins from Ventnor Beach on foot, and 5 mins from Steephill Cove in the car (21 mins on foot).
Shanklin’s Somerton Lodge is well-priced, and 15 mins from Steephill Cove in the car. Everywhere’s pretty close, so you’ll get to experience numerous beaches from this B&B.
Images: Visit Isle of Wight and Getty Images