Thanks to its excellent transport links, the Isle of Wight is a perfect destination if you fancy a break which avoids those long motorway queues and shouts of ‘are we there yet’ emanating from the back seat.

Leave the car at home and why not head on over as a foot passenger. The fun starts as soon as you get on the ferry and you can take your pick of ports to disembark from - step off onto the east or west coast with Wightlink, the north with Red Funnel and into the heart of Ryde with Hovertravel. Wherever you choose, our Southern Vectis bus network will be ready to take you onward on your journey and there will be plenty of things to do to keep you and the whole family occupied - read on for our pick of some of the fun things you can do on your own two feet…

Applely Tower at Ryde beach, Isle of Wight

Ticket to Ryde

Arrive via Hovertravel straight onto Ryde Esplanade or with Wightlink FastCat and take a scenic stroll down the UK’s second-longest pier. Opened in 1814, this historic pier gives you a great view of Ryde’s bustling Union Street. Head up the (fairly steep) hill, where you will find plenty of independent boutiques, pavement cafes and, on adjoining Cross Street, a Christmas shop open all year round - yes, even in August.

If adrenalin is high on your agenda, a trip up an oak tree should do the job. Goodleaf Tree Climbing is located in Appley Park, just a short walk from the renowned golden sands of Appley Beach. Welcoming climbers of eight years and over, you can take on the 70ft oak tree, estimated to be over 200 years old! Book online in advance.

Would it be a trip to the Isle of Wight without fish and chips on the beach? We didn’t think so. There are a few traditional fish and chip shops along the Esplanade - we recommend sitting on the sea wall and watching the lights of Gunwharf Quays and the Spinnaker Tower twinkle as the sun sets - just watch out for the seagulls!

Or if you fancy eating in, The Duck overlooks the Canoe Lake, complete with swans (both real and ones you can ‘pedalo’ on!) and ducks, hence the name. The menu changes regularly to reflect the season and the local produce on offer. Expect uncomplicated, yet exceptional food.

From Ryde, you can easily access one of the Island’s oldest attractions. The Lilliput Doll and Toy Museum can be reached by Southern Vectis buses 2 or 3 and is also on the Island’s railway line. Holding over 2000 unique items, including Russian Dolls and plenty of well-known cartoon characters, it’s step back in time as a child of the past.

Monkey Haven, Isle of Wight

Bus to the heart of the Island

Thanks to the Southern Vectis regular bus service and network across the Island, you can get to pretty much anywhere you fancy as a foot passenger. Newport is the capital town and sits in the very heart of the Island. Here you will find two of the Isle of Wight’s top attractions. If swordfights and beheaded kings are your things, then Carisbrooke Castle is a must-visit. It was here that King Charles I was imprisoned and after two failed escapes, was taken back to Whitehall for his execution in 1649.

Monkey Haven sits on the outskirts of Newport and is home to a wide array of monkeys (naturally!) but also owls, meerkats, reptiles and all sorts of creepy crawlies. Stroll around at your leisure or join the organised keeper talks.

On foot in Fishbourne

If you’ve come over on the Wightlink car ferry as a foot passenger, chances are you’ll be arriving in Fishbourne.

From here, you can take a flat walk along the coastal path directly to Quarr Abbey, the Island’s only monastery and home to a small group of Benedictine monks. Set in stunning grounds, Quarr is a popular destination for families, thanks to its interesting architecture, an abundance of wildlife, resident friendly pigs, an art gallery and of course, excellent homegrown produce served in the pretty tea shop.

The Fishbourne is the perfect spot to relax, close to the sea and also super convenient for the Wightlink car ferry. Here you’ll find a mix of local ales, fine wines and fresh, local food.

Dog in the sea, Isle of Wight

Car-free in Yarmouth

If you’ve come over via Lymington, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the historic market town of Yarmouth. The history of the town is evident all around you, with Yarmouth Castle in front of you soon as you step off the ferry. Originally one of Henry VIII’s coastal fortresses, it’s now looked after by English Heritage and is a fantastic spot for a picnic, with views across The Solent and over the busy Yarmouth Harbour.

Take a stroll up the pretty Grade II Listed Yarmouth Pier, where you can enjoy views out to sea and of the West Wight coastline. The end of the pier is a great spot for crabbing, you can get everything you need from Black Rock Charters shop just around the corner. If you get the bug, why not book on one of their mackerel fishing trips or a pleasure cruise that takes in the Island’s most iconic landmark - The Needles.

Fort Victoria Country Park is a short walk away and here you will find something for all the family, including the dog! There are a variety of attractions including The Reptilarium, a licensed zoo and terrapin sanctuary with four themed rooms for you to explore and 30 different species to discover. You’ll also find a shipping history museum and exhibition as well as an imaginarium where you can get creative. There is also a charming cafe where you can enjoy tasty cakes or a hot meal. Or you will find the perfect spot to have a picnic or make use of the public barbeque. 

If hunger strikes, Yarmouth has a wide variety of eateries to choose from. If you’ve brought your four-legged friend over too, a trip to Off the Rails is a must. Set on the old railway line that linked Yarmouth to Newport, the award-winning restaurant boasts outstanding views of Yarmouth marshes and Mill Copse. Dogs can choose from their own menu and enjoy a doggy ice cream, whilst those with two legs will be impressed with the unique and varied menu.

From Yarmouth bus station you can take a bus to Freshwater and visit Farringford, the former home of Alfred, Lord Tennyson - poet laureate during Queen Victoria’s reign. Farringford has been painstakingly restored to its former glory and represents life as it was when Lord Tennyson lived here, from 1853 till his death in 1892. Wander around the beautifully restored walled garden and take in the vista from the grounds. Afterwards, why not complete the trip with a stroll to Freshwater Bay where you can enjoy a cream tea at Dimbola Tea Rooms before sitting on the beach watching the sky turn stunning shades of pink.

Osborne House, English Heritage | Isle of Wight

Roaming around Cowes

Taking the Red Funnel Red Jet, you’ll find yourself right in the heart of Cowes Town. Known the world over for its sailing regatta (it's the world's oldest don’t you know), there is plenty to do if you’re a landlubber too. The High Street is always bustling and in the summer months, you can expect live music from one of the many pubs and bars spilling out onto the pavement. One of the most popular haunts with sailors and locals alike is The Anchor. A pub has been situated on this site for over 300 years, although the staff are a bit newer! You can expect hearty food, local ales and live music in the garden.

It’s worth checking out Northwood House’s website to see if any events are on whilst you’re over - there’s always lots going on, such as the fantastic Wight Proms which takes place every August. Treat yourself and the family to a show, choosing from opera, comedy, dance, country, drag and more!

If you find yourself in Cowes on a summer evening, a walk to Gurnard to catch the sunset is a must. One of the most popular places to watch the sun go down on the Island, sit on the green or the small beach and watch the silhouettes of sailors and paddleboarders float by. Dreamy.

After spending the day in Cowes shopping, be sure to stop in at Foresters Hall for a spot of lunch in The Brasserie, before heading back on the Red Jet. 

From Cowes, you can take the floating bridge on foot over to East Cowes, or if you prefer to arrive direct, take the Red Funnel vehicle ferry from Southampton. Here you will find the most famous of all properties on the Island - Osborne. Previously Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s holiday home, the house, garden and private beach are managed by English Heritage and open to the public. Experience royal life as you take in the stunning opulent rooms, including the famous Durbar Room. Designed by Rudyard Kipling’s father, it is adorned with the most  intricate Indian-style plaster work, in order to represent Queen Victoria’s status as the Empress of India.

Children will love playing in the grounds and finding the royal children’s former playhouse, The Swiss Cottage, now complete with a play area and interactive museum; before enjoying an ice cream on Queen Victoria’s private beach.

Family coming into Cowes on the ferry, Isle of Wight

Ready for an adventure?

Of course, heading over to the Isle of Wight as a foot passenger doesn’t mean you are limited to exploring only one area. If you fancy getting active, why not bring over or hire a bike and explore the Island’s many cyclepaths or coastal roads.

Prefer to walk? Well, you’ve come to the right place as the Island has over 500 miles of footpaths, many with breathtaking views as you pass through Isle of Wight National Landscape (formerly known as Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and National Trust land. In fact, the walking here is so popular that there is an annual Walking Festival taking place here, both in Spring and Autumn.

Want panoramic views? A trip on board a Southern Vectis Breezer open-top bus will take you along some of the most scenic routes on the Island, including the famed Military Road and up to The Needles Landmark Attraction where you can ride the chairlift down to Alum Bay, known for its multi-coloured sand.

If you’re spending some time on the Isle of Wight, there are plenty of other places to visit, find more inspiration here.