Famed for its professional sailing, stunning Victorian architecture and vibrant festival atmosphere, Cowes is one of the most popular towns on the Isle of Wight. As the summer arrives and sailors migrate to this sailing capital, Cowes bursts to life with holidaymakers, sailors from across the globe and local people looking to enjoy to friendly, summer atmosphere of the Island's northernmost town.
But it's not just the summer time when Cowes is a great place to visit. There are events and attractions open throughout the year that will keep the whole family entertained. In East Cowes lies Queen Victoria's favourite holiday home, Osborne House. Take a short trip from West Cowes to East via the floating bridge (chain ferry) and make your way up through the town to witness Prince Albert's stunning garden design and architecture that influenced the rest of Cowes' designers and builders.
Start your Isle of Wight holiday in Cowes and enjoy the relaxed, Island atmosphere of this nautical town.
Keep scrolling to find out about some great things to do whilst you're here, beautifully presented accommodation and places to enjoy a bite to eat by the sea.
Cowes has a wide range of things to do for families, couples and groups of friends alike. One of the main activities in Cowes is, of course, sailing but there are plenty of other options for those who’d rather stay on dry land!
This small maritime museum is packed with local maritime history – everything from shipbuilding to sailing. Consistently popular with visitors of all kinds, it’s well worth a visit.
The grounds of the beautiful and historic Northwood House, which is now a function and wedding venue, are available to wander through all year round. Dog walkers, picnickers and ramblers are welcome to stroll through the gorgeous gardens and take a break from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.
For those wanting to join in the sailing buzz, there are plenty of charter companies that hire out ribs, boats and yachts. Cowes is also one of the most popular shopping destinations on the Isle of Wight, thanks to its plethora of boutique stores, specialist nautical shops and quirky gift shops along the pedestrianised High Street. The Parade is a fabulous place to take a stroll along to the nearby village of Gurnard. Gurnard is a great place to take a picnic and watch the sunset over the rows of beach huts into the sea.
Queen Victoria’s favourite English residence, Osborne is responsible for the rise of the ‘Victorian invasion’ of the Island in the mid-19th century. A lasting legacy of architecture and interesting buildings draws many visitors to the Isle of Wight, and Osborne House is the jewel in the crown.
An interesting, quirky and laid back museum in East Cowes, showing off boats of all description, including sailing, adventure and early racing boats. Staffed by volunteers, it’s a dream for sailing aficionados. Coffee and tea is also available for those who want to take a break from boats!
Great for family swimming and very quiet as it’s tucked away from the main town. An adventure playground and paddling pool along the Esplanade will keep kids happy and there is a café for refreshments. In fact, both sides of Cowes have award winning beaches with amazing views of the Solent.
Click here to see a full list of things to do in Cowes.
When it comes to finding somewhere to eat in Cowes, you'll be spoiled for choice! From ice cream parlours and beachside cafes to chic drinking spots and fine dining restaurants, this nautical hot spot has it all...
One of the top rated restaurants in Cowes, Mojac’s is popular with locals and tourists alike. Specialising in coeliac food, it’s a good choice for those with special dietary requirements.
Situated on the High Street, The Mess is a must-visit! Fresh, tasty food made with local ingredients makes it a great choice for breakfast, lunch, dinner or just drinks.
‘Good pub grub’ goes alongside a wide variety of real ales, making The Anchor the discerning choice for a hearty meal and a few beers from the Goddard brewery.
For a classic English breakfast and superior café grub, Eegon’s is a very popular choice.
For dinner with a view, walk along Cowes seafront into Gurnard, a small village by the sea. The Woodvale is a popular choice for visitors and locals alike thanks to the tasty food and a spectacular view as the sun sets over the row of green beach huts.
Take a look at our Places to eat in Cowes page for a full list!
The Cowes Week Sailing Regatta is one of the largest sailing events in the world and draws thousands of people to the Isle of Wight every year. Usually taking place in the first week of August, Cowes Week dates back to 1826 and remains phenomenally popular. It has been known to more than double the population of Cowes and East Cowes for its duration! As well as the spectacle of the Solent rammed with boats of all sizes, visitors can enjoy the festive atmosphere in the town itself. There’s loads of live entertainment, parties, gigs to enjoy as well as the 40 races taking place every day. The dates for 2016 Cowes Week are 6th to 13th August.
In 2016, Cowes has snagged another fabulous sailing event, as it plays host to the Solitaire Bompard - Le Figaro the leading annual solo sailing race. Running from 22 June to 26 June 2016, it’s well worth visiting for lovers of sailing and families who are looking for some laid back fun in the early part of the summer holidays.
This world renowned yacht race starts and ends in Cowes and is quite a spectacle! Head down to the Parade bright and early on July 2nd 2016 (about 8.30am - see their website for further details) to watch the first boats setting off. Following the boats on their journey is a great way to explore the Island, or perhaps you'd rather spend the whole day in Cowes and wait for the boats to start arriving home in the afternoon.
There are lots of different kinds of accommodation in Cowes, for families, couples or group holidays. It’s important to book early for the summer months, as the town fills up really fast. A number of hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses are in the town itself, with various other accommodation, including guest houses, camping, holiday parks and caravan parks on the fringes of the town.
Thorness Bay Holiday Park offers plenty to do, even in late season. Brilliant for children with clean and spacious caravan accommodation.
A gorgeous B&B with good size rooms. Just a short walk from the town, The Caledon (pictured below) boasts beautifully presented accommocation, offering something a little bit grand and a little bit homely!
A great central location, matched with friendly and approachable hospitality makes The Union Inn hugely popular with returning visitors. Good pub food and comfortable rooms make it a good choice to be part of the action.
A dog-friendly B&B with beautiful gardens, Ward Avenue Bed & Breakfast is a great lower budget choice.
Take a look at our Places to Stay in Cowes page for a full list.
As one of the gateway towns to the Isle of Wight, Cowes is well served with links to the mainland via Red Funnel ferry and passenger catamaran.
The main bus service in Cowes is Southern Vectis Route 1, while single decker buses branded Red1 serve the Red Jet passenger terminal. Both go to Newport so visitors can easily get across to the other side of the Island.
East Cowes is linked to Ryde via Southern Vectis Route 4, and to Newport on Routes 5 and 25.
Cowes is the start of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path and the old, now disused railway line is a well maintained cycle track. It's a great and easy to use route, particularly for cycling beginners who want to leave the car behind and explore the Island's countryside. For more information about the great cycling routes the Island has to offer, visit our Bicycle Island section.
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