I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing than enjoying time with my family in and around some of my favourite Isle of Wight beaches. From seafood and sundowners at Colwell Bay, to rockpooling along the shoreline and barbequing sausages outside our family beach hut, the island has everything we need for a perfect day out.
It’s also an ideal summer getaway. And with staycations at the top of the holiday agenda this year, there’s never been a better time to discover its joys for yourself. The following round-up of my favourite spots on the island are a great place to start.
We’re based in West Wight and I love nothing more than to get up before the rest of the family are awake and head to my favourite swim spot at Freshwater Bay for a sunrise dip. When it comes to family beach time, however, we head a little bit further along the coast, to beautiful Compton Beach.
Compton is one of the island’s best-kept secrets: two miles of sand on a shoreline that’s the right side of rocky and is flanked by sandstone cliffs with a dramatic white-chalk cliff in the distance. Even getting there is a treat – a sweeping cliff-top drive along the military road that takes my breath away every time.
I can’t begin to calculate how many happy hours we’ve spent fossil-hunting and rock pooling here – and it’s not just us. The beach is a favourite with local surfers. Rumour has it they look out for any big swells or weather fronts on the US east coast and lie in wait for it to hit at Compton a few days later – and the water quality is rated as excellent* by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
The thing I love most of all about Compton is just how rustic and unspoilt it is. If you’re lucky, a local ice cream truck might be there when you visit but that’s about it – it’s a true bring-all-you need spot. We love it.
Much better known is Colwell – one of the most popular and picturesque beaches in West Wight for families. No wonder. The waters here are calm and clear (rated excellent by MCS*) and the shoreline has a lovely gentle slope that means the water remains relatively shallow, even at high tide. There are good facilities, too, with beach hut shops selling everything from snacks to wet suits and deckchairs and beach huts for hire if you want to make a day of it.
It pays to check the tide tables before you visit because the tides come in very high on the shoreline. That said, even when we do come when there’s little of the beach itself to access, it’s never a wasted visit. The views from here are spectacular. There are always plenty of sailing boats out on the water and Hurst Castle’s impressive fortifications are clearly visible on the mainland. There’s also a seaside cafe right near the beach and The Hut – one of our favourite restaurants – is just a short walk along the sea wall and has a lovely big terrace. We love to come here late in the afternoon for seafood and sundowners – there’s nowhere better to catch one of the incredible sunsets Colwell is famous for.
Lovely Ventnor beach, on the other hand, is the place to come to watch the sun rise – which we were fortunate to be able capture at its most glorious while shooting our Love Ocean brand film last year.
Ventnor is the southernmost beach on the Isle of Wight. A favourite with both locals and visitors, its popularity dates back to the 19th century when well-heeled Victorians would flock to this well-known seaside destination to ‘take’ the sea air. The vintage beach huts that still line the sand-and-shingle beach are from that time. Back then, however, they were bathing machines, fully equipped with wheels to transport the gentry down to the sea, where they’d bathe in modest privacy. Fortunately, times have changed.
What hasn’t changed is Ventnor’s place as favourite spot for swimming. Don’t be put off by the ridge of rocks that ring the shoreline that appear from beneath the waves at low tide – though they are perfect for kids to climb and explore when they do. If you head for the middle of the beach you’ll discover a channel that that was cleared of rocks by the fishermen many years ago, which makes it perfect to set off from for a swim.
For more information and to find out more of what there is to see and do on the Isle of Wight, visit visitisleofwight.co.uk
* Rated 2018