10 Free Things to do on the Isle of Wight - Including Ferry Travel

View From Culver to Luccombe across Sandown Bay
One of the best views on the Island - From Culver to Luccombe across Sandown Bay

Every year, the Isle of Wight plays host to various events, many of them are free like the Walking Festival in May and October, the Scooter Rally in August or the Cycling Festival and Classic Car event in September.  You may even be there for the Festival or other great music festivals.  Whatever your reason for going to the Isle of Wight, here are 10 free things to do while you are there.

From dinosaur hunting to free ferry travel, Mediterranean gardens to tiny castles.  Give your wallet a break with 10 free things to do on the Isle of Wight.

The Isle of Wight is only a short ferry ride from the south coast of England and worlds apart from the busy city streets. 
I have put together an insider's guide featuring 10 good reasons to visit the Isle of Wight. All of them are free and I am not even going to include its wonderful award winning beaches or the fact that it has more sunshine hours per year than any other UK resort.

  1. Fossil Hunting
The Isle of Wight is one of the best places in Europe to find dinosaur fossils.  It doesn't require any specialist equipment, just keep your eyes open and you can literally pick fossils up off the beach.
I am not saying that you are going to find whole dinosaurs just lying around on the sand but there is a very good chance that you will find small pieces of bone or possibly a vertebra or tooth if you look carefully.  These are found on a regular basis by amateur collectors all over the island and a particularly good place to fossil hunt is Yaverland.  The beach is easily accessible from the car park and here you could find fossilised oyster shells, dinosaur, crocodile, fish scales, shark spines, and further along at the white cliffs, you may find echinoids and ammonites.  

  1. Dinosaur Isle Museum
Now if you do find something interesting, this is where your second free thing comes in.  Normally entrance to Dinosaur Isle is not free although at certain times of the year, they have free open days off season. This year they have a whole weekend free on the 18th and 19th November 2017 .  However, if you find a fossil take it to Dinosaur Isle, the geological museum in Sandown, only a few hundred yards from Yaverland beach and say that you've found a fossil and need it identified.  Normally, you will be invited to look around the museum for free. Read about the museum here.
fossilised dinosaur footprints on Yaverland beach
Dinosaur Footprint on Yaverland Beach
  1. Churches & Thatched Cottages
Number 3 on my list of 10 free things to do on the Isle of Wight, is to pay a visit to the very old tiny church at Bonchurch, near Ventnor.  It was built in 1070 measuring 48ft long and 12ft wide and still holds weekly Sunday services.  If churches are your thing, there is a 13th Century church which is open every day to the public in the beautiful little village of Godshill which is full of thatched cottages and a popular scene for many Isle of Wight postcards.

  1. Funny Little Castles
For number 4 on my list, we are going to The Appley Tower.  The Appley Tower is a Victorian Folly in the shape of a tiny mock castle and stands proudly on the Esplanade at Ryde.  Although the crystal shop within it is now closed, it is still an unusual site on the beautiful sands of Ryde Beach.

  1. The Quay Arts Centre
Away from the coast, in the middle of the island, is the capital Newport.  Here you will find activity number 6 on the list.  The Quay Arts Centre.  This is an art gallery, open all year round and holding regular exhibitions of mainland and local artists in each of its four galleries.  Its location beside the River Medina makes a lovely setting for a coffee break after you've spent an hour or so looking around the exhibitions.

  1. Walk the Wight
Per head of population, the Isle of Wight has more footpaths than anywhere else in the country.  That's over 500 miles of paths.  Each year, Isle of Wight organises, The Isle of Wight Walking Festival which, this year, takes place from 29th April to 14th May 2017 with over 250 walks including the famous Walk the Wight on 14th May. There is also a mini walking festival later in the year in October.  
Walkers on Walk the Wight
Walk the Wight
  1. Fort Victoria
Fort Victoria, a former military fort is home to the Country Park at Yarmouth and an ideal place for a woodland walk by the sea, a barbecue or a picnic and a rummage around for some fossilised turtles and alligators. Take a walk along the top of the arches of the old gun emplacement for views across the solent to Lymington and Hurst Castle and listen to the Sconce bell buoy as it sways with the tides.  It has free parking all year round, several attractions like the Planetarium  and the new Reptilarium and Turtle Sanctuary (opening April 14th 2017).  It is also the start of the Robert Hooke trail, a geologist and astronomer born in Freshwater.

View over the Solent to Hurst Castle and Lymington from Fort Victoria
View over the Solent to Hurst Castle and Lymington from Fort Victoria

  1. Cycling
There are over 200 miles of cycling routes on the Isle of Wight which is only 23 miles east to west and 13 miles north to south.  It is a great way to see the countryside at a leisurely pace along byways, bridal ways, designated cycle ways and even the roads aren't very busy.  There are various places to hire cycles on the island and if you like company or a guide on your ride, join in the annual Isle of Wight Cycling Festival from 23rd September to 1st October 2017.
Sandown to Cowes Cycle Way on the Isle of Wight
Sandown to Cowes by the Old Railway Track
  1. Donkey Sanctuary

First opened in 1987 to provide a safe and permanent home for any donkey.  With public support, the Donkey Sanctuary has helped over 200 donkeys and become a popular visitor attraction where you can spend a lovely sunny afternoon petting or feeding the donkeys.  It is open from Easter to October, has a gift shop and cafe and is situated between Shanklin and Wroxall.

  1. Getting to the Isle of Wight
This is probably the best money saver.  The Wightlink ferry company has joined Tesco's clubcard voucher scheme enabling free ferry travel to the Isle of Wight from either Portsmouth or Lymington.  All the details about how to convert your clubcard vouchers to free ferry travel are on Tesco's website.  At peak times of the year, this is a saving of more than £100.

Wightlink Ferry
Wightlink Ferry

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