Former journalist Gavin Foster has lived on the Isle of Wight all his life. He is now busy making sure his young family, Florence, eight, and Elias, seven, also enjoy all that is good about the Island.
Here he describes some of the Isle of Wight indoor activities that keep his family entertained and educated.
“While every holidaying family hopes for glorious weather, I have to be honest here. And in that spirit of absolute honesty I have a confession: there are the occasional days when the sun doesn’t shine here. Yes, strange as it may seem, there have been instances when glorious sunshine doesn’t caress our pristine beaches, tenderly massage our stunning landscapes nor gently warm our towns and villages.
I know it’s hard to believe but there you have it. But as that bombshell sinks in, I will tell you something else.
We are a resourceful as well as hospitable bunch here on the Isle of Wight. We’d hate nothing more than a family lured here by the prospect of unbroken sunshine to be let down on the rare occasions when the clouds roll in.
So you’ll be pleased to know that the Island has no shortage of exciting and varied indoor and all-weather activities just waiting to be explored by you and your family.
Here I mention a few of the places where my family – two kids aged seven and eight – enjoy their spare time on a holiday Island.
Take Chessell Pottery Café where, a quintessential coastal location, you can – and we do – enjoy a brew and selection of stunning snacks including cakes that are out of this world while your kids let their creativity run wild with on-site pottery painting.
Like many kids, my seven-year-old has a fascination with dinosaurs and is a regular at Sandown’s Dinosaur Isle – Britain’s first purpose-built dinosaur museum and visitor attraction. Among items on show here are fossil finds that reveal a Jurassic tale going back 126 million years and also give clues as to the effects of possible future environmental changes.
Still on an educational theme (no really) is the nearby National Poo Museum – an attraction that almost defies description so I will go with that given on their own website that states (perhaps not with the straightest of faces): “The National Poo Museum exists to safely explore the amazing world of poo. Through our unique collection and displays we use quirkiness and family-friendly humour to break through the poo taboo so we can engage, entertain and inform our visitors. We want you to explore the worlds stickiest subject with us, our aim is to change how you think about this most astonishing substance.”
Well who am I to argue and there is no doubting the scatological capacity of youngsters in which case this is an unusual but memorable stop off.
There is more conventional fun to be had with the classic pizza and silver screen combo offered at the Cineworld Complex in Newport where all the latest Blockbusters as well as special movies for juniors are screened. Maybe not one for the purists but a firm favourite in this household.
Just down the road is the Island’s premier indoor play area (at least as far as my two are concerned). JR Zone is a dedicated facility offering indoor soft play and associated activities plus the Island’s only multi-level indoor Laser Storm arena.
Other traditional indoor play areas can be found at Jungle Jim’s on Shanklin Seafront and also Sandown Pier home to attractions including Lost World indoor golf adventure, with special lighting and sound effects, ten pin bowling and Magic Island Play Area. All these play areas offer a wide range of refreshments and eating opportunities so Mum and Dad can unwind while the kids do what kids do with their boundless energy.
And if the weather is changeable and you want to hedge your bets, then there are plenty of places that spread their charms between under-cover and outdoor activities.
Take Tapnell Farm situated on the outskirts of Freshwater nestling beneath beautiful Afton Down (of 1970 IW Pop festival fame). Here the owners have struck the perfect balance needed for an all-weather attraction – there are indoor play areas, opportunities to pet farm animals, climb straw bale mountains, race around the pedal track or tackle the three-storey indoor play area. Here you can also combine play and exploration with tasty grub at The Cow restaurant.
You can also get close to nature at Butterfly World the first butterfly farm opened in a UK garden centre, and only the fifth Butterfly farm in the world. Butterfly World has an expansive collection of beautiful and exotic butterflies from all over the world in under-cover heated enclosures. This is another firm favourite with my clutch.
Hopefully the sun will shine for your visit, but if not, please be assured that there is plenty to do on our beautiful Island whatever the weather!”