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Separated from the English south coast by the Solent, the Isle of Wight has been a popular holiday destination since Victorian times. It was first popularised for family holidays by Queen Victoria, who so fell in love with the Isle of Wight that she had Osborne House built as both her summer home and favourite rural retreat. With the Royal seal of approval, the island's popularity as a family holiday spot grew quickly; it became a favourite destination for the relatively new idea of 'holidaying'.
Today, the island is still enduringly popular for family holidays and school trips alike. From the beach towns of Sandown and Shanklin to historic sights such as Carisbrooke castle, from the magic of the steam railways to beautiful chocolate box towns such as Godshill, the Isle of Wight has everything for family holidays. Whatever type of getaway you're looking for, the Isle of Wight has it all. Adventurous? Try coasteering where you'll jump rocks, climb cliffs and swim in caves around the island's coast. For something more luxurious, however, try sailing from Cowes, a town world-famous for its regatta week. Of course, you can always just relax with a cream tea, enjoying stunning views of landmarks like the famous Needles rocks. Read on for my favourite family spots on the Isle of Wight.
Five best picks for family holidays
Stunning views of the Needles
One of the first things which comes to mind when thinking of the Isle of Wight has got to be the world famous view of the Needles, a group of three chalk rocks jutting out into the sea from the island's western-most point. Enjoy the view from the coastal path where you can also visit the newly restored Needles battery from WWII. Take the chair lift down to Alum Bay, where boat tours of the Needles run throughout the summer. Before you go, don't forget to pocket some of the famous Alum Bay coloured sands.
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Cowes for yachting and the sea
Once a year, the elite of sailing descend upon the small marina town of Cowes. Cowes week regatta is one of the highlights of the island's calendar, and is the largest and one of the longest running regatta of its kind in the world. Relax on Cowes beach and watch world-class and weekend sailors furiously duck between each other. Away from the water, wander through Cowes boutique stores and gift shops, or time your visit for the Cowes artisan market or one of the excellent Cowes food shows.
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Relax on Sandown's beaches
On the southern coast of the island, Sandown is home to a sweeping esplanade and long, golden beaches. Sandown was one of the first Victorian seaside towns, and today, the front still has buildings from the Victorian and Edwardian days. But Sandown isn't stuck in the past by any means: attractions include the pier with enough to keep the whole family entertained. Close by, there is the Isle of Wight Zoo, the Dinosaur Isle exhibition of fossils and the nature resort of Culver Down. And, if the beach and all that sand isn't your thing, head out to see the bluebell woods nearby.
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Isle of Wight Steam Railway
Step back in time at the Isle of Wight Steam Railway. Running for five miles through the countryside and stopping at four stations along the way, the steam railway is one of the island's top attractions. At Havenstreet, home of the railway, you'll find cafés, shops and a working museum. Break up your journey at one of the smaller stations and enjoy a nature walk through the woodlands and countryside. The steam railway meets its modern counterpart at Smallbrook junction, where you can journey on to the seaside town of Ryde.
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"It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot", said Queen Victoria when she saw Osborne House. Designed by Prince Albert, the former Royal residence was modelled in the style of the Italian Renaissance palazzo. Today, Osborne House is maintained by the National Trust, which means you can enjoy an intimate look into the lives of Victoria and Albert. It's best to visit in the summer when you can really explore the gardens in bloom, as well as enjoy Queen Victoria's private beach, replete with Victorian entertainment such as the puppet show Punch and Judy.
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