Last weekend we headed out on a family adventure to a new destination—the Isle of Wight! David's cousin Stephen is in town visiting us and we wanted to take him on a bit of an adventure on his one and only weekend in the UK. With rainy weather forecasts in many parts of the UK this weekend, we opted out of our original plan for wilderness camping in Scotland (I was not devastated, I assure you). Having heard various snippets of information about the Isle of Wight, we decided it would be a fun destination for an overnight visit instead.
The Isle of Wight is part of England. This makes things for us—especially with Spark—much simpler. She can travel to and from the Isle without any kind of passport check. For the Michiganders reading this, think of the Isle of Wight like Mackinac Island. It's still Michigan, just extra quaint and touristy. That's pretty much the Isle of Wight. With a few major differences. We'll talk about those in a later post, though.
So...how do you get there. Since the Isle of Wight is, you guessed it, an island, it isn't accessible by train. The only way to get there is by ferry. There are several ferry ports throughout the southern coast of England that have connections to the Isle, it just depends where you want to leave from. In our case, we departed from Lymington. The ferry that services Lymington is called the Wightlink and it goes directly to the adorable seaside town of Yarmouth on the west side of the Isle of Wight.
In order to take a ferry to the Isle of Wight, you have to book tickets in advance. Check out the different ferry options then, if you're staying overnight on the IOW, contact your hotel or accommodation. In many cases it seems that IOW hotels have deals with the ferry companies to get you a discount on your crossing.
The drive from London to Lymington is quite pleasant. Once you get out of the greater London area, you'll enter some interesting areas including the New Forest and Hampshire, a.k.a. Jane Austen country. We passed through some really charming little villages and lots of green rolling hills as well. It's about a two-and-a-half-hour trip by car. If you don't own a car in the UK, we'd highly recommend grabbing a Zipcar. We don't have a car over here so the several Zipcars located in our neighborhood have been extremely useful. You can read more about that here! Anyway, Zipcar does allow you to take their vehicles on the Isle of Wight ferries and that's what we ended up doing since it was cheaper than renting a car from a typical agency.
Once we arrived in Lymington, we went straight to the port. You need to arrive at the ferry port thirty minutes prior to departure to line up. You cannot just show up at departure time, the ferry will already be completely loaded with vehicles and foot passengers and well on its way—the process is a pretty well-oiled machine. So arrive at least half an hour early and follow the attendant's instructions for lining up. Once your car's in line, you can put it in park and wander around Lymington if you so choose, just be back at least fifteen minutes ahead of departure. There's even a Costa coffee shop onsite at the port, so you can grab a cuppa for the road...er...sea.
Then, once departure time starts, get back in your car and drive onto the ferry as instructed. This can be a bit of an ominous process as the inside of the ferry is quite narrow, but the friendly Wightlink employees guide you through it with ease. Once your car is in park, you have to exit it and head inside. You are not permitted to stay in your car (or leave your pets there) on Wightlink. That meant, in our case, that David, Stephen, Spark, and I headed inside to the pet-friendly part of the boat. This encompasses several rows of plane-style chairs with huge panoramic windows. The ferry ride is only about thirty minutes and the ship is huge, so it's pretty comfortable. Even on the extremely windy days we traveled, the boat was not bumpy.
The only downside in our case was the extremely aggressive Jack Russell Terrier behind us, ironically called "Buddy." He decided his ferry ride wouldn't be satisfactory if he didn't spend it trying to attack Spark from under the seat. So that was...fun. But Spark, as always, was a relaxed passenger and after a short ride, we got to escape Buddy and his oblivious owner and head back to our car. Disembarkment was smooth and quick and soon we were driving around Yarmouth! We had made it to the Isle of Wight.
Our 30-ish hours on the IOW were really memorable and totally worth the bit of travel it takes to get there from London. More details from our trip to come, so stay tuned! In the meantime, make sure to follow our Youtube channel to catch David's videos about our latest adventures!