Things to see and do in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight: our top picks

By Kingfisher Visitor Guides

The stunning region of Hampshire & the Isle of Wight offers so many things to see and do. Check out some of our top picks.

Sing your heart out

Islanders love it and so do the greatest acts in the world. The Isle of Wight Festival started in 1969 with Bob Dylan and the Band, and around 60,000 attended the following year to see Jimi Hendrix and The Who. Since then, David Bowie, The Police, The Rolling Stones, Liam Gallagher and David Guetta have headlined.

Crowd at the Isle of Wight festival

Make core memories at the Isle of Wight Festival

Discover Mottisfont Abbey

Mottisfont Abbey, a former priory, nestles in the valley of the River Test and is a National Trust operated historic house museum featuring a plethora of ever-changing exhibitions including an on-site gallery. While away an hour or two exploring its picturesque walled rose garden and delightful river walk too. There’s space to run, jump and play, there are plenty of things for families to do here.

Walk the Wight

Where ever you go there are great walks. But, if you want to make an impression, then the annual ‘Walk the Wight’ is a spectacular 26.5-mile sponsored walk across the island. It takes place each May with around 10,000 taking part to raise funds for the Mountbatten charity.

Marvel at Hurst Castle

Hurst Castle nestles on a shingle and sand spit close to the border of Hampshire and Dorset. Offering spectacular views across the Solent while awe-inspiring in its own right, it is an impressive example of the ‘Device Forts’ that Henry VIII commissioned to protect the south coast from invasion.

Exterior of Hurst Castle

Step back in time at Hurst Castle in Lymington

Wildheart animal sanctuary

The sanctuary has a variety of animals, but specialises in two particular areas – tigers and lemurs. The sanctuary also cares for lions, leopards, lynx, racoons, monkeys… and the loveable meerkats. Originally family-owned, it has become a registered charity, The Wildheart Trust, which aims to promote the survival of endangered species.

Enjoy Cowes Week

Sailing is fundamental to the island’s economy and Cowes Week is one of the longest-running regular regattas in the world. Cowes comes alive during the regatta and it is rammed as up to 1,000 boats, and 8,000 competitors ranging from Olympic and world-class professionals to weekend sailors, descend on the town each August. But the grand finale is a spectacular fireworks display on the final Friday.

Sailors racing at the Cowes Week event

Watch sailors compete at Cowes Week

Eat fish & chips at the beach

There’s something quintessentially English about fish and chips, and what better location to enjoy the nation’s favourite than at the beach? Lee-on-Solent’s shingle expanse offers picturesque views across the water to the Isle of Wight while you dine al fresco.

History and heritage

With more country houses than you can shake a stick at, Hampshire is an architecture lover’s delight. From Jane Austen’s House Museum near Alton, to Gilbert White’s House and Garden at Selbourne, there’s plenty to choose from. Don’t miss the beautiful Stansted Park, near Havant, and Stratfield Saye House, which became the Duke of Wellington’s residence in 1817.

Exterior shot of Stansted House

Stansted House in Stoughton

The New Forest

An extensive area of outstanding natural beauty, The New Forest is a fabulous place for escaping the humdrum of everyday life and getting back to nature. Famous for its wild roaming horses, The New Forest offers all manner of abundant and colourful wildlife plus miles of rambling walking routes.

Explore a garden paradise

Sir Harold Hillier Gardens is a 72-hectare arboretum boasting more than 42,000 trees, plants and shrubs. Wandering around the grounds, visitors can take in the impressive collection of oaks, inhale perfumed magnolia and gaze upon beautiful rhododendron. Located just outside Romsey, it’s a horticultural paradise for all the family.

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Family days out in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

Outings for history and heritage buffs in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

The best way to spend a weekend in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight

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Image credits: ©Callum Baker/The Isle of Wight Festival; Paul Wyeth/Cowes Week;; Stansted Park Foundation;

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