5 island adventures off the UK coast

From the fresh sea air to their quiet beaches and exquisite landscapes, it’s easy to see why islands off the UK coast attract adventurers and holidaymakers annually. There’s something thrilling about waving goodbye to the mainland and heading for a solitary rock peeking up from the ocean. But what island locations are best for families? Let’s take a closer look…

1. The Isle of Wight 

The Isle of Wight is an English Channel gem, located just a stone’s throw from the coast of Hampshire. A popular holiday destination since Victorian times due to its mild climate, the Isle of Wight has been crowned a UNESCO Biosphere and offers a stunning array of contrasting landscapes as well as an extensive list of things to experience. It’s a top spot for both camping and glamping, and because it spans just 13 miles north to south and 27 miles east to west, the island is easy to navigate in a short space of time. Accessible by car ferries at Southampton, Portsmouth and Lymington, catamaran from Portsmouth to Ryde, and hovercraft from Southsea to Ryde, getting to and from the Isle of Wight is a breeze. 

Top Isle of Wight attractions include The Needles, a natural phenomenon which consists of three chalk stacks that rise about 30 metres out of the sea; the Steam Railway; Brading Roman Villa; Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle.

The Needles, Isle of Wight

2. Anglesey

Among the best islands to visit is Anglesey. This is the biggest island off the coast of Wales and is home to coastline that’s been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As well as being a walker’s paradise thanks to the Anglesey Coastal Path, which passes craggy cliffs, golden beaches including Porth Wen (where you can snorkel through a rock arch), crumbling ruins, and quaint lighthouses, the island is also a top spot for water sports lovers, offering diving, surfing, powerboating, kayaking, sailing and more. If you’re the adventurous type, you might also enjoy a spot of coasteering which includes exploring part of the island’s 125 miles of unspoilt coastline in many different ways, from walking to swimming.

Top Anglesey attractions include Anglesey Sea Zoo, Pili Palas Nature World, Amlwch Copper Kingdom, and Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens.

Anglesey lighthouse

Anglesey Lighthouse

3. Mersea Island

Nestled between the estuaries of the Blackwater and Colne rivers, about nine miles south of Colchester, Mersea Island is Essex’s best-kept secret. Covering just seven square miles, this is a unique holiday spot that’s perfect for intrepid travellers who love to head off the beaten track. With a traditional beach life vibe complete with pastel beach huts and mouth-watering seafood, Mersea Island makes it easy to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy a simpler existence for a few days. Visit the Jurassic cliffs which provide a picturesque backdrop to the mudflats that are regularly frequented by migratory birds. And don’t miss a trip to the island’s microbrewery, which produces a stout made with oysters.

Top attractions here include The Company Shed, which offers up a show-stopping platter of seafood including oysters and scallops. Bring your own bread and alcoholic beverages, and let the hosts do the rest. Appetite satisfied, you may then want to pop down the road to check out Mersea Island Watersports where you can rent a paddleboard or kayak.

Beach huts at Mersea Island

4. North Ronaldsay 

North Ronaldsay is the northernmost island in the Orkney archipelago of Scotland, and a great place to witness the Northern Lights in the autumn or winter months. If you’re planning a bit of Aurora Borealis hunting in Orkney, then keep a lookout on Facebook groups such as the Orkney Aurora Group, as these provide updates on the potential for a display. There are also many other reasons to visit this island, including the rustic shores which are ideal for a spot of walrus watching. You can also take the 176 steps to the top of the lighthouse, which offers spectacular views of the island and its neighbours, such as Fair Isle and Foula. The seaweed-eating sheep of the island are also an attraction, with the Wool Mill turning fleeces into high-quality yarn that’s exported globally.

The island may be just four miles long and two miles wide, but you can explore many unique sites including the Broch of Burrian, ruins of an extensive Iron Age settlement.

Beach at North Ronaldsay

5. Isle of Portland

Wild, natural and beautiful, the tied Isle of Portland is part of Dorset and marks the southernmost point on the Jurassic Coast. It’s joined to the mainland by Chesil Beach but still has that rugged, unspoilt island feel. As well as being a top spot for fossil hunters, the Isle of Portland is also home to Church Ope Cove, a hidden gem on the island’s sheltered east coast. Here, you can climb down the steps to enjoy some coastal tranquillity or explore the Weares, a spectacular rocky landscape created by landslides and quarrying.

Sailing is a hugely popular activity here, as are other adventure activities like kayaking and hiking. So if you live an active lifestyle, this is the place to be.

Isle of Portland

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