Late last year we embarked on our first family trip to the Isle of Wight. We enjoyed it so much that six months later we were back! This time we had the pleasure of visiting in the Summer months meaning longer days and more time to experience the island at its finest. This time our trip would involve a ferry crossing with Red Funnel Ferries from Southampton to East Cowes before spending two nights in a yurt at the Garlic Farm. This fun packed weekend did nothing but reinforce our love for the Isle of Wight. Read on to see why…
Ferry Crossing with Red Funnel Ferries
Red Funnel Ferries is the original Isle of Wight ferry service having operated crossings over the Solent for nearly 200 years. Currently offering both vehicle and hi-speed passenger services Red Funnel can complete up to 35 trips in a single day. Our journey was to take all five of us and our car from Southampton over to East Cowes in a 55 minutes crossing.
Vehicle passengers are asked to arrive 30 minutes before boarding so we rocked up at just after 10:30 am ready for our 11 am departure. Checking in was incredibly straight forward with staff being able to recognise our booking immediately thanks to number plate recognition. Within minutes of arriving into port we were queued up waiting in line to board our ship – The Red Falcon.
We always find a ferry trip adds a real element of adventure to a short break. The children love waving goodbye to our home port from the upper decks as we set sail, before heading indoors to explore the rest of the ship. The Red Falcon has a canteen area where we were able to buy a reasonably priced (and locally sourced) cooked breakfast. There are large lounge and dining areas which we found clean and well serviced.
Wandering around the ship we came across the pet lounge. These furry passengers looked particularly happy with their very own facilities, plus we met some friendly owners who kindly let the children pet some of the canine crew members to help pass the time. Before we knew it the call to return to our vehicles was echoing across the vessel. We had arrived at East Cowes! Isle of Wight…here we come!
Glamping at the Garlic Farm
The Garlic Farm in Newchurch is a well established ‘must-see’ for any visit to the Isle of Wight. The farm’s shop and restaurant are renowned for their unique recipes and gourmet dishes, whilst offering the opportunity to taste an amazing range of garlic inspired products in the farms very own Taste Experience. More recently the Garlic Farm has established itself as a place to stay with a wide range of accommodation including self catering farm cottages and five luxury yurts.
We stayed in Bonnie – a beautiful, custom built yurt which sleeps up to 6 with a double bed in the main living space and a mezzanine for up to 4 children. The yurts are located in a beautiful meadow at the back of the farm, each with it’s own large outdoor living space ensuring privacy and seclusion.
The yurts come with a range of creature comforts including a wood burning stove, USB ports, electric lighting, fridge, hob and ensuite bathroom. In fact the only thing you might have to go without is WiFi, meaning guests can indulge in a bit of digital detox and really get away from it all.
The outside living space has been well thought out with a seated area around the fire pit, BBQ and dining space and a super chilled hammock for lazy afternoons. Our children loved the freedom of the private field which also allows access to a communal games room, outdoor dining space, football pitch, tennis courts and additional hammocks. the perfect set up for making new friends and creating holiday memories.
One thing we love about the Isle of Wight is that there are just so many family friendly activities to get involved in. Our visit this time was only for two nights so we had limited time to explore the island, however we managed to arrange to take part in an organised fossil hunt and hired bikes to cycle the Red Squirrel Cycle Trail to Sandown Beach.
Wight Cycle Hire
The Garlic Farm is located just a short distance from the Newport – Sandown Red Squirrel Cycle Trail so we arranged for the whole family to get on their bikes for the day and explore this part of the island on two wheels. Wight Cycle Hire offer a brilliant bike delivery service so we were able to hop on our hire bikes right from our accommodation without any stress.
The Red Squirrel trail starts about half a mile from the Garlic Farm from which point bike lovers can enjoy miles of traffic free cycling through pretty woodland and farmland. The whole family easily managed the 3 mile ride to Sandown on the coast where we were all rewarded with an incredible few hours enjoying the sunshine on the beach.
A few hours later we headed back on the same route knowing that once we returned to the Garlic Farm we’d all be rewarded with one of their famous ice creams. The return trip filled the whole day with us returning to the farm with just 30 minutes to spare before our bikes were due to be collected. A brilliant way to get the whole family being active whilst seeing what the island has to offer from a different perspective.
The Isle of Wight is regarded as one of the best places in Europe to find dinosaur fossils. Dinosaur Expeditions offer fossil trips at various fossil hot spots around the island offering guidance on where to look and what you may have discovered. We joined fossil expert Oliver on a group hunt at Brook Chine during our stay for a two hour session, which we found excellent value at just £14 for a family ticket.
Oliver’s knowledge about the different types of fossils we were able to find was fascinating! He showed us fossilised dinosaur bones, prehistoric fish scales…he was even able to show us the remnants of dinosaur foot prints on the seas shore. Our eyes were opened up to a world we simply wouldn’t have been aware of if it wasn’t for our guide. To top it off the tour took place on a stunning beach as the sun was going down. What a way to end a day!
Our second visit to the Isle of Wight has firmly established this magical island as one of our favourite family destinations. We’ve been blown away by the long sandy beaches, the prehistoric treasures, the delicious local produce and warm welcome offered to families. I have no doubt we’ll be back very soon. It’s just a question of what we’ll discover next!
Disclosure: We visited the Isle of Wight as guests of Red Funnel Ferries. All thoughts and opinions expressed are our own.