I love the Isle of Wight, I really do. I have many happy memories of family holidays there and still love visiting as an adult because there’s always something new to discover. It may be just 23 miles wide but this beautiful island, off the coast of Hampshire, has plenty to see and do. As a youngster, I ticked off the main tourist attractions such as Blackgang Chine and The Needles but having a four-legged friend in tow allows you to really explore.
Dog-friendly Isle of Wight: the must-sees
You could spend weeks in the Isle of Wight and barely scratch the surface but travelling with a dog means you have to rethink your sightseeing slightly. Fortunately though, so many places here welcome pets, you won’t be missing out.
One of my favourite places to visit on the island is the Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary, between Shanklin and Ventnor. Home to more than 90 donkeys and 25 horses, it is open to the public seven days a week.
Dogs on leads are welcome – even in the tea room. Entry is free but the sanctuary relies entirely on donations so dig deep. If you take a shine to any of the residents, you can also “adopt” them for as little as £20 a year. Cute!
Fort Victoria Country Park, near Yarmouth and Freshwater, is well worth a visit, too. The fort, which was built to guard the Solent, now houses a planetarium, model railway and underwater archaeology centre. But for dogs, the surrounding country park is the main attraction. It is open all year round and consists of a mix of beach and woodland. There is also a small cafe onsite, which is open from Easter until the end of October.
A trip to Quarr Abbey, between Binstead and Fishbourne, is also a must. This impressive red-brick monastery has been home to a small group of Benedictine monks since the 12th century. Today, you can tour the abbey, sit in on a service or enjoy the gardens, where the monks grow their own fruit and veg and rear pigs and chickens.
Dogs are allowed to explore the grounds on-lead and there are some nice woodland trails to follow. There is also a tea room and monastery shop packed with local produce. Dogs are not allowed inside but there is plenty of outdoor seating.
Dog-friendly Isle of Wight: the best walks
With more than 500 miles of footpaths, the Isle of Wight was made for walking. Start by exploring the 23-mile Red Squirrel Trail, which winds through the countryside and is mainly traffic-free. Honestly, I can’t sing its praises enough. Whoever came up with the idea for the trail is a genius!
Running from East Cowes to Sandown, the pathway is popular with both cyclists and walkers. As the name suggests, it’s also a great place to spot the island’s native red squirrel. The trail follows the old railway line and is mostly paved so can be enjoyed all year round. There are also lots of attractions to stop at along the way.
You can’t come to the island without exploring some of its beautiful beaches, either. From vast, sandy expanses to secluded pebbly coves, there truly is something for everyone. Many beaches have restrictions during the summer but some are dog-friendly all year round. These include Yaverland, just outside Sandown, and Bembridge. Click here for more specific information about the beaches.
Compton Bay and the Downs, which is owned by the National Trust, is also great for dog walkers. You can follow the scenic 7.5-mile trail that takes in Afton, Brook and Compton Bay – but be aware there may be livestock in the area so keep your dog under close control. The walk starts and finishes at the Freshwater Cliffs car park.
Dog-friendly Isle of Wight: the best pubs and cafes
The food on the Isle of Wight is fantastic and dogs will be welcomed almost everywhere. The Sun in Calbourne is fantastically dog-friendly. Treats are always kept behind the bar for pups popping in for a pint. There’s also a large beer garden. The pub offers a range of delicious home-cooked meals such as pies and chilli. There are some great vegetarian options too and even a separate gluten-free menu.
Equally as impressive is the Star Inn in Wroxall, which offers vegan dishes alongside light bites and pub favourites. Dogs are welcome throughout the pub, which also does great quality food to take away.
For a meal with a view, you can’t beat The Spyglass Inn in Ventnor. Situated right on the water’s edge, this maze-like pub is full of nautical memorabilia. The former smugglers’ haunt is a big hit with tourists who come for the sea views. Rooms are also available.
And if craft beer’s your thing, head to The Ventnor Exchange. This quirky bar, which opens at 5pm daily, is housed in the former Post Office. It has more than 50 brews from around the world, not to mention an excellent selection of vinyl. Well-behaved dogs are welcome.
Dog-friendly Isle of Wight: where to stay
There is a whole host of dog-friendly accommodation on the Isle of Wight, from eco-friendly glampsites to posh boutique hotels. We loved the Newchurch Nook – a rustic garden lodge that’s right on the Red Squirrel Trail.
The 16th Century Bugle Coaching Inn in Yarmouth welcomes pets, and is just a mile from Fort Victoria Country Park. Lower Hyde Holiday Park in Shanklin is also super dog-friendly and close to the beach.
How do I get to the Isle of Wight?
There are two ferry companies that travel to the island – Wightlink and Red Funnel. Both carry dogs free of charge and have excellent onboard facilities, such as cafés selling local produce. The ferries are also great when it comes to helping plan your trip. They carry lots of magazines and leaflets with touristy information, so stock up!
Wightlink car ferries run from Lymington to Yarmouth and Portsmouth to Fishbourne. There are around 150 sailings a day and both routes take approximately 40 minutes. Dogs must either be secured in your vehicle or you can keep them with you. Pet-friendly areas are clearly marked.
If you’re not taking a vehicle, make the most of the fast ferry from Portsmouth to Ryde, which takes just 22 minutes and is a joy to travel on.
Red Funnel sail from Southampton to Cowes. The car ferry docks in East Cowes with the journey taking around an hour. Alternatively, the Red Cat hi-speed foot passenger ferry will get you to West Cowes in approximately 25 minutes.