An island escape with unspoilt beaches, lush gardens and top notch food was the reward after a short ferry trip for Joanna Davis

I HAVE many happy childhood memories of the Isle of Wight.

But I don't think I've learnt to properly appreciate this holiday destination, within easy reach, until now.

This 23 mile wide and 13 mile long island is stuffed with natural gems and activities for families, couples and singles alike.

It's a short 40 minute crossing from Lymington to Yarmouth on Wightlink ferries, which offer comfortable seating and a wide array of on board snacks and meals.

We stayed at resort The Lakes Rookley, close to the centre of the island, which was entirely refurbished earlier this year. The roomy, modern lakehouse slept four of us, boasted a modern all in one kitchen, dining area and lounge and had French doors leading onto a spacious sun deck offering a peaceful outlook onto The Lakes' beautifully landscaped site. Some of the lodges offered lake views.

The resort also offers a newly refurbished bar and eatery where we enjoyed quality pub grub on our first night. There is also an indoor and outdoor pool and and a packed entertainment programme with The Lakes offering a children's disco, interactive quiz and musical performances. Outdoor activities on offer include kayaking, paddleboarding, archery, junior fencing, teddy bears' picnics and films under the stars.

Being centrally located on the island, using The Lakes as a base was perfect because it offered easy access to get to any part of the island.

After visiting Osborne House as a child (and being told I didn't appreciate it), I was keen to make a return visit.

We couldn't have ordered better weather for our stroll around the gardens of Queen Victoria's palatial holiday home, which is on the north east of the island near Cowes. The interior is brimming with the wow factor, with it easy to imagine the Queen and Prince Albert entertaining guests in the opulent state rooms. The sea shimmered invitingly at Queen Victoria's beach, where you can sit inside her bathing machine and sit in the alcove where she liked to sketch. It's no wonder that Prince Albert commented that the view reminded him of the Bay of Naples.

While Osborne House has to be one of the island's most visited attractions with a never-ending supply of day trippers and holidaymakers, it was refreshing to find a peaceful sanctuary on the south coast. Steephill Cove was the beach I wished I discovered as a youngster.

Secreted away and only accessible by walking at the foot of the Ventnor Undercliff area, Steephill is like the resort that time forgot. With just a couple of old fashioned ice-cream parlours, colourfully painted beach huts and a seafood restaurant, you could have stumbled upon an unspoilt Mediterranean cove.

We whiled away a couple of peaceful hours at Steephill after visiting Ventnor Botanic Gardens. The gardens bask in a microclimate of Ventnor's Undercliff and have more than 30,000 rare and sub-tropical plants and trees spread across 22 acres of gardens.

After enjoying excellent crab sandwiches (doorstop size) at the Edulis restaurant we were even lucky enough to spot a red squirrel while wandering around the gardens - a first for me.

While staying in the village of Rookley we became regular patrons of the nearby Chequers Inn.

The atmosphere was excellent and the food was something to write home about at this family-owned business. The four of us greatly enjoyed the pub's inventive takes upon traditional dishes. The lamb rump with watermelon and feta cheese was delicious.

The pub even has a selection of walks starting and finishing at the Chequers for people to do. If you're a keen walker the Isle of Wight has miles of footpaths to take you off the beaten track. We took an exhilarating walk from the Mottistone estate, which afforded us superb views of the west coast of the island.

On return to the National Trust property of Mottistone we wandered around the gardens, which were ablaze with colour. From a rose garden to an organic kitchen garden, there are many varieties to see, plus plenty to taste in the tea garden which serves the likes of carrot cake made using carrots from the garden.

There's nothing like revisiting a cherished location from childhood to see life through less jaded eyes. I couldn't believe just how much there was to see and do as a party of four adults when I returned to the Isle of Wight. It's not only for families, but offers the perfect easy south coast escape for anyone who wants to put the pause button on life.


Joanna Davis stayed at The Lakes Rookley in a self-catering Lakehouse. Four nights at The Lakes Rookley in a self-catering two bedroom Lakehouse starts £156*. The Lakes Rookley offers a range of accommodation from brick built two and three bedroom cottages, some with hot tubs, to Lakehouses and a selection of caravan holiday homes, catering for a range of budgets and party sizes from two to eight. On-resort facilities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, bar & eatery with entertainment during weekends and school holidays and a new children’s activity programme complete with watersports such as paddleboarding and kayaking. The resort also has three bedroom cottages available to buy from £200,000 and two bedroom lakehouses to buy from £184,950 for guests who want to return again and again. / 03333 700 555

Wightlink is the leading cross-Solent ferry operator carrying almost 4.5 million holidaymakers and Islanders across the Solent to the Isle of Wight every year. Eight ferries on three routes complete over 45,000 sailings a year, giving Islanders an easy and frequent service to mainland Hampshire, and tourists an accessible way to enjoy a taste of Island life.

With seamless train connections to Portsmouth Harbour and Lymington directly to the Wightlink terminals, getting to the Isle of Wight could not be easier. Passengers can step off the train from London, hop on a Wightlink catamaran and be on the Island from just 22 minutes, while the car ferries take around 40 minutes from Portsmouth and Lymington. Find out more at

Foot passenger tickets start from £20 per person and from £55.75 by car. Find out more at