Isle of Wight Awesomeness

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The Isle of Wight was amazing. I stayed in Sandown, which is a small town on the southeast coast of the island. The guest house I stayed in was the same price as the hostels I’ve been in this trip, but I had a room to myself, free tea & fixings all day, free breakfast, more security (I needed a key both for my room and for the building), it was right next to the beach, and I could see the Channel from my bed. The owner was also quite friendly and nice.

The HMS Warrior harbored in Portsmouth, one of the ports where you can chart passage to the Isle.

The HMS Warrior harbored in Portsmouth, one of the ports where you can chart passage to the Isle.

Tiny train! The train between Ryde (the port where I got on the island) and Sandown is two old metro cars with wooden siding.

Tiny train! The train between Ryde (the port where I got onto the island) and Sandown is two old metro cars with wooden siding.

The landscape there is just gorgeous. The coasts have chalk and sandstone cliffs bounding sandy beaches. The water’s a pleasant temperature and shallow for quite a ways offshore. For being a well-known vacation area, there really aren’t many people there. On top of the cliffs you have rolling heath that gives way to even more rolling heath and forest further inland. The mouths of the rivers on the north coast have wetlands, though I never got to visit them.

The chalk cliffs you can see from Sandown

The chalk cliffs you can see from Sandown. This is the only landscape shot in this post I’ve altered the levels on (the cliffs were clouded by the blue that obscures things at a distance).

These dogs were having the time of their lives digging a hole to nowhere

These dogs were having the time of their lives digging a hole to nowhere

And there’s plenty to do there. Aside from the usual beach things, you can rent kayaks and paddleboats to take out into the Channel. I got distracted watching birds and didn’t notice the wind switch directions on me. It tried to send me to France. I checked the map when I got back and, based on my line of sight with the headlands, I was about 2000 feet out and 4000 ft downshore from where I started. A bit farther than I meant to go… But I grabbed a piece of styrofoam floating out there and saved a ball that four dogs were afraid to swim out to, so it was all good.

There are also historic sites to visit. The Brading Roman Villa, which has a fully intact Roman mosaic. If you’re interested in WWII, there’s an old post (the Needles Battery) looking out onto the Needles. There’s also a giant monument to Lord Alfred Tennyson in the middle of a cow pasture (which the public is given access to).

The Needles

The Needles

I didn't know Her Majesty was a wartime mechanic

I didn’t know Her Majesty was a wartime mechanic

The Tennyson Monument

The Tennyson Monument

If you’re more interested in ‘family fun’-type things, in addition to Dinosaur Isle, there’s a zoo, a wildlife encounter place where you can interact with penguins and owls, and a small theme park.

For outdoors activities, there are plenty of places to go walking. The Needles Headland, for example, is several miles of footpaths through the heath on top of the chalk cliff on the very southwest end of the island. And I walked along almost a mile of beach to go to work (seen in the featured image).

View on Needles Headlands back towards the Needles

View on Needles Headlands back towards the Needles

Some of the coast along the Needles Headlands

Some of the coast along the Needles Headlands

View on the Needles Headlands away from the Needles

View on the Needles Headlands away from the Needles

I didn’t do the “go to all the places!” type of sightseeing here that I’ve been doing in cities. I specifically went to the Needles to look for birds there (a few species don’t nest any farther east outside of Scandinavia). I ended up going through the Needles Battery that I didn’t know was there, then walking along the entire length of the Headlands, visiting the Tennyson monument along the way. Other than that, I just enjoyed what felt like a mini-vacation on the beach.

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