View of Hurst Castle from beach at Fort Victoria Country Park

Fort Victoria is truly a hidden gem, located just on the outskirts of Yarmouth, a short walk along the shore or via car, with free parking. Fort Victoria is the ideal place to spend a summer's day or for a few hours whilst waiting for the ferry home. 

Cannon at Fort Victoria Country Park

The fort was built in the 1850s, now partly demolished, the sea facing structure is all that remains and has been converted into a series of small attractions and facilities, although one section still houses a Victorian cannon. The grounds were developed into a free to enter Country Park in the late 1960s and hosts a variety of wildlife including Red Squirrels. Laid out in a series of woodland trails there are wood carvings to discover, the main footpath which was the old military road for marching soldiers between Fort Victoria and nearby Fort Albert terminates at a breathtaking viewpoint looking out across the Solent to Hurst castle. 

Woods next to the shoreline at Fort Victoria Country Park

The shoreline at Fort Victoria is totally unspoilt and is a brilliant example of a natural coastline where the woodland meets the shore and signs of ever changing erosion are present, there is brilliant rockpooling opportunities and during peak times the park ranger hosts guided beach walks pointing out what you can discover for a nominal charge. 

There is an opportunity for fossil hunting along the shore, a close inspection of the sand and gravel in the intertidal zone will often reveal fossilised turtle shell and crocodile bones - previous inhabitants from the distant past, examples of what to look out for can be seen in the Visitors room alongside information on the history of the Fort and the wildlife in the park. 

When the tide is in, the Fort is a popular spot with anglers as plenty of mackerel is caught from the sea wall during the summer months and many hours are spent with children crabbing. If you haven’t come prepared for crabbing there is a shop on site that sells all your crabbing and beach essentials. 

A word of caution about the sea though, the fort overlooks one of the deepest and narrowest parts of the solent, this means the sea gets deep very quickly and the currents are very strong, bathing is strictly prohibited at all times for your safety. However it also provides one of the best viewpoints to watch the west solent shipping and small pleasure craft going about their business. On clear days from the rooftop viewpoint you can see as far as Poole Bay. 

If you are spending the day, mealtimes are well provided for with onsite Cafe Verdi serving homemade meals or if you are bringing your own food there is a lawned area overlooking the Solent for picnics. There is a dedicated picnic area and also a barbeque area where you can have your own barbeque. It is advisable to pre book a BBQ area with the Ranger during peak times.

Attractions at Fort Victoria Country Park

To make the most of your day, take the opportunity to explore the park's attractions. The north wing of the fort houses the Isle of Wight Reptilarium, a small licensed zoo that specialises in reptiles, and the Planetarium which is a 360 degree immersive dome experience with a variety of films exploring the stars. There is also a small exhibition on locally born scientist Robert Hooke. 

In the westward section of the building you will find the museum and gift shops. The gift shops sell a variety of beach essentials and souvenirs as well as a few quirky additions such as a Pirates toy cabin, Steampunk workshop, sweet shop and a Penny Arcade. The Museum is an exhibition space that tells the story of the HMS Gladiator which sank at the fort in 1908. All of the attractions are privately owned and operated by local businesses so it's always worth checking with them for opening times before your visit.

Car parking is free, toilets are well maintained and have disabled and baby changing facilities.