Just before Christmas, Nick and got an invite to travel to the Isle of Wight for two days with Red Funnel, the ferry company operating between Southampton in South-England and East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.
When we visited the New Forest in 2014, we did a walk where we saw a ferry going to the Isle of Wight and we always said that we still wanted to visit, but as these things go, life happened and we never did. So we were pretty excited that finally we had the chance to travel here!
While we were only here for 2 days and the island itself is MASSIVE, I believe we still got to see quite a bit -and we ate at some amazing places as well. In this guide, I would like to show you an overview of all the places we visited, some of which will be updated with a link to a more in-depth review later. I hope you enjoy our tips!!
8 Things to do on the Isle of Wight in Winter (London Weekend Break)
1. Take the Ferry and Stay in the Harbour
Red Funnel is the original Isle of Wight ferry company. They’ve been taking people (and animals, I suppose) to the island for over 153 years! The company has roots going back to 1820, but back they used paddle steamers for the crossing. Today, you can take a so-called “Red Jet” to Cowes Harbour, which takes you there in about 25 minutes.
We stayed at a self-catering appartment in the harbour, which made it super-easy to get to the ferry (literally 5 steps) and to walk home from the pub (another 5 steps). Especially when you have little time, this is perfect!
2. Have breakfast at the Garlic Farm
The Garlic Farm is one of those must-visit places on the Isle of Wight. Apparently because of the mild weather on the island, it’s the perfect condition for garlic and you won’t find them tasting any better anywhere else in the UK! In August, there is even a Garlic Festival here, can you believe it?!
While most of the activitites at the Garlic Farm are best enjoyed in Spring and Summer, you can still have a good time when you visit this place in Winter. They have an amazing shop where you can buy EVERYTHING made with garlic (from beer and cider to porridge and ketchup…) and you can enjoy a really good breakfast next to the warm fire, while watching the peacocks and squirrels behind the big windown of the restaurant.
3. Visit Osborne House
This seaside home of Queen Victoria is another place you don’t want to skip while visiting the island. You want to take a good couple of hours here, because there is a massive garden, a very interesting guided tour through MANY MANY incredible rooms and even a beach to chill out at! Especially around Christmas, the whole place gets festively decorated, so don’t miss it.
4. Have Lunch at Thompson’s Restaurant
Chef Robert Thompson was the youngest British chef ever to receive a Michelin star. He was only 23 at the time! In 2015, he opened his first solo restaurant in Newport on the Isle of Wight and it’s the place to be if you are a lover of great food. We tried the 8-course (!) tasting menu, which you can read all about in our blog post: Thompson’s Restaurant Review.
5. Go Shopping in Cowes
During our visit, we didn’t have enough time to explore more of the cute little town of Cowes, but on Sunday morning, I had a quick walk alone and saw some amazing shops I would love to come back for.
From interior design items to typical island souvenirs and from interesting shops selling TV & Movie memorabilia to a bread shop I already started drooling over by the look of the facade… enough to explore, for sure!
6. Have Dinner at The Coast Restaurant
This restaurant can be found smack in the middle of Cowes and they serve locally sourced and seasonal food. The whole place is friendly, warm and super-relaxed and around Christmas you can expect some interesting Winter food & cocktails you just have to try!
7. Visit the Christmas Festival
The Cowes Christmas Festival is exactly what you would expect from a local market in a small town… lots of elderly ladies selling their handmade goods to each other, with their men hanging out with each other at the coffee bar, silently hoping they won’t end up with too many candle holders and knitted Christmas ornaments.
Still, if you’re to visit the Isle of Wight around the time the festival is on, you might as well have a look. You could probably even forgive the organisers for holding the event INDOORS, which clearly made the whole event lose a bit of charm. For me, Christmas Markets should be outside, so you have to dress up warm and you can enjoy a mulled wine or cider while looking at lights against a dark sky… but that might just be me.
I did like that you could buy quite a bit food made on the island itself (oils, biscuits, liquor, jams etc.) and there was a short cooking workshop by the winner of Masterchef Britain, which was quite fun… and tasty!
8. Enjoy the Local Pub
After the market, some of us went straight into the pub to enjoy a bit more of the local atmosphere. In Cowes, you have a couple of options, but we enjoyed hanging out at The Anchor Inn as it was closest to our apartment. Cheers!
Transport to the Isle of Wight: From London Waterloo, we took the train to Southampton, where it was a short taxi ride (or bus if you want) to the Red Funnel Ferry Terminal.
The Red Jet passenger ferry takes you to East Cowes in 23-25 minutes and fares start from 9.60 pounds per person (return ticket). You can bring your dog, they travel free!
If you want to bring your car, you’ll have to take the Red Funnel ferry, which goes every hour at peak times and takes around 55-60 minutes. Fares start at 42 pounds per car (up to 7 passengers) for a day return or from 53.50 pounds for a period return.
For more information, please check the Red Funnel website: www.redfunnel.co.uk
Not to Miss when you’re on the Isle of Wight:
Thompson’s Restaurant – www.robertthompson.co.uk
The Coast Bar and Dining Room – thecoastbar.co.uk
The Garlic Farm – www.thegarlicfarm.co.uk
Osborne House – www.english-heritage.org.uk/…/osborne
Where to Stay:
We stayed at the “Fore & Aft” self catering appartment in the marina of East Cowes (www.redfunnel.co.uk/foreandaft).
For more options, please refer to: www.redfunnel.co.uk/isle-of-wight-holidays
I hope you found these tips helpful! Have you been to the Isle of Wight yet, or is it still on your to-do-list? Let me know what you would like to experience while you’re here!
Disclaimer: We were kindly invited by Red Funnel and Four Travel to experience a Winter Warm Weekend including the Cowes Christmas Festival on the Isle of Wight as part of the #RedFunnelIslandFoodie & #CowesChristmasFest blogger campaign. All photos and opinions in this post are 100% our own.