I’ve blogged before about the sheer awesomeness of Vintage Vacations, a spot in Isle of Wight near Ryde where you stay in vintage Airstream trailers in a sylvan field (am I overdoing it now? I can’t tell. I love it so much). We cook our meals on the tiny gas stoves in the trailers and eat on the rainbow striped picnic tables; spontaneous cricket and football games are the order of the day.
The holiday news out of Isle of Wight earlier this summer was all about bad weather at the festival. I kept wondering why all those visitors didn’t ditch the idea of music in the mud and instead check out all the other great family things to do on the island. I love that moment when you’re on the ferry at Portsmouth, sipping a cup of tea and crossing the water to the island where visiting feels like returning to simpler pleasures.
This small but well-considered family-owned amusement park is an Isle of Wight institution. It has a hedge maze, a waterslide, a rollercoaster that thrilled our group ranging in age from 8 to 13, a real-life chutes and ladders…and many more attractions. I really liked the Crooked House – a walk-through attraction with vignetttes that could have been cribbed from the children’s story rhyme (why doesn’t every amusement park have one?). Perfect for the better part of an afternoon, plus they have lawns for picnicking and a playground.
*Rainy day outing* On a day that it was bucketing down, we drove out on the pier (not much to see but interesting for a quarter hour) then popped across Ryde Esplanade on the waterfront to this adorable chocolate shop. Situated in a listed Victorian building – an old chemist’s – it sells all manner of cocoa products. There are fancy handmade chocolates, bars, patisserie and to-die-for hot chocolate. Sip the thick, sweet nectar at one of the small tables while the children bite the heads off their chocolate bunnies.
Who knew allium sativum could be so much fun? This farm has a cafe, farm store, tasting room, field walk and roaming chickens. You can even stay at one of three onsite cottages that sleep up to 10 or do one of their yoga weekend retreats. We spent an afternoon smelling the gorgeous oak-smoked bulbs in the shop, tasting the chutneys and butters and doing the farm walk and ticking off the animals on the fun kids’ worksheet. If you’re there in August, there’s a Garlic Festival for even more onion-genus fun.
You know how sometimes you visit animal attractions and leave feeling a bit depressed by the tiny enclosures and the vaguely grim surroundings? That’s not how you feel here. The haven is home to rescued primates and birds of prey, and their homes are as spic and span as the landscaped paths for visitors. In the summer there are daily events – watching feeding time, getting up close with the owls, and learning more about the species living here. The overall feeling is a home where the animals are well cared for, and you leave with a better understanding of these fascinating animals. There’s a cafe along with two play areas, catering to under-5s and over-5s, where they can release their own inner monkeys.
Our instructions were to take a turning down a back road and meet our leader in a field, but don’t pet the goat – he bites. The location is secret, in the middle of a big field. We were hooked into harnesses and after a safety briefing, we learned how to lever ourselves up. We hung upside down and climbed into a hammock high in the branches. We looked out over the countryside. The children clambered up to a bag holding treats at the very top of the tree. This is advanced tree climbing, natural enough for tree-huggers and adventurous enough for thrill seekers.
Disclosure: I travelled to the Isle of Wight on the ferry as a guest of Wightlink. All the opinions in this post are my own.
Information on travel to Isle of Wight:
I travelled to the Isle of Wight with Wightlink (0871 376 1000 www.wightlink.co.uk) on its 40-minute Portsmouth to Fishbourne crossing, one of three routes.
Car ferries also operate between Lymington and Yarmouth (35 minutes) and there is a passenger catamaran service from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pierhead (22 minutes).
A Wightlink Super Saver short stay return ticket (valid for up to 4 nights) for a car and up to four passengers costs from £56.
More advice for visiting Isle of Wight