Returning visitors will notice a few changes on the Isle of Wight in 2024. Some things have disappeared, some are due to re-appear.
Here are five big things to look for. We will alternate between good news and bad news for a bit of balance...
1. The return of Totland Pier
A few years ago, Totland Pier looked destined to go the same way as Shanklin Pier and Ventnor Pier. The metal structure was increasingly holey. It's now been rebuilt and is due to open as a restaurant at the wet end of the pier with hotel rooms at the dry end of the pier. The latest information we have is that it will open at Easter 2024.
2. A closed Robin Hill
We don't yet know what the future holds for Robin Hill, which was put for sale by its owners a couple of months ago. I have been sending Mrs Guru slightly potty with my 27 point plan of what I would do if I owned Robin Hill. We are just a couple of million short, so if anyone wants to pitch in then please get in touch.
Since you asked, my plan includes a series of slacklines in the woodland to make a ninja assault course, as well as a games arcade that takes you through the history of gaming. I would stick a roof on the toboggan run so it can stay open in the rain. The amphitheatre would become a woodland cinema and an army of robotic mowers would cut the grass (Ed: I think that'll do...).
Luckily the Isle of Wight has plenty of other activities for primary school and junior school aged children, including Blackgang Chine and Tapnell Farm Park.
3. The revival of The Albion
Mrs Guru and I have often looked at the Albion and felt it should have been absolutely buzzing with activity. Its location in Freshwater Bay is probably the most spectacular of any hotel on the Isle of Wight. Yes, there are lots of good hotels with sea views on the Isle of Wight but Freshwater Bay has an all-round appeal. Some Isle of Wight beaches look a bit sad in winter, whereas Freshwater Bay has crashing waves that make it a nice place for a winter walk.
We don't have an opening date yet, but there was a post on the Facebook page of the sister-hotel (Sentry Mead) saying that they have 'the target of opening the doors in Spring 2024 still very much in mind'.
4. The death of the Devil's Chimney?
The Isle of Wight has suffered a few landslips and cliff falls in recent months, presumably due to the huge amount of rain in late October 2023. The most catastrophic was the December 2023 landslide between Luccombe and Bonchurch, which has left the Smugglers' Haven Tea Gardens perilously close to the cliff edge.
Thankfully, no-one was hurt but The Devil's Chimney has either been destroyed, buried or made inaccessible. It was apparently created by a landslip in the first place, but it's still awful to see such a quirky rock formation and walking area disappear.
It has caused problems on the roads in and out of Ventnor - which may well drag on for a long time.
First time visitors may like to look at some of the alternative walks on offer.
5. A terrific Isle of Wight Festival lineup for 2024
I usually get exceedingly frustrated by whingebags who complain about the Isle of Wight Festival lineup. As I've said many times, when I was growing up in Carisbrooke we had to catch a ferry to see anyone we had heard of. The Isle of Wight music scene was limited to folk trios singing sea shanties in pubs. Since the Isle of Wight Festival returned we've witnessed the like of Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Robbie Williams, REM, Jay-Z, The Who, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac and Pink.
And yet, when the Isle of Wight Festival line-up for 2024 was announced the whingers were largely silent. Were all the negative-Nigels on holiday together complaining about something else? Or were they - finally - happy with a line-up announcement that includes Green Day, the Pet Shop Boys and The Prodigy?
Take a look for yourself at our Isle of Wight Festival 2024 guide.
**Away Resorts Discount Code: Save 10% via this link with discount code IOWGURU10 - expires 31/12/24**
Away Resorts now owns four different holiday parks and lodge resorts with hot tubs on the Isle of Wight. They're a popular choice, partly because they'll get you a hefty discount on the Isle of Wight ferry if you stay with them.
Away Resorts has run Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park in the East Wight for donkeys' years, but in 2022 they merged with Aria Resorts and took on three other lodge parks including:
They're all dog friendly and offer hot tubs and a range of different types of accommodation, but which is best?
The short answer (for those who don't want to read all my waffle) is that St Helens Coastal Resort gets the best reviews but it's small and simple, whilst Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park is the best for a beach holiday and has the best facilities. The Lakes Rookley is cheapest in our price comparison.
Here's our guide to which is best Away Resorts for you, along with a price comparison:
Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park - Best Beach Location, Biggest, Best For Busy Families, Some Sea Views
Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park is a big, busy, family-friendly holiday park on the outskirts of Bembridge in the East Wight.
Over the last few years they've spent a lot of money adding flash new accommodation with cool names like TriBeCa and Rockstar. They even featured on a Channel 5 TV programme where Shane Ritchie larked around on the Isle of Wight and said things like "Corrrrrrr, look at that, me old mucker!". If that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will.
Whitecliff Bay has recently stopped offering camping and touring and are focusing on their caravans, lodges and glamping. There's a much bigger choice of accommodation types at Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park than there are at the other Away Resorts on the Isle of Wight.
If you want plenty to do onsite then Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park is your best bet out of the four Away Resorts holiday parks on the Isle of Wight.
It's got indoor and outdoor swimming pools, as well as minigolf, a playground and an arcade.
During term time they have things like Tots Breaks which are aimed at pre-schoolers, whilst during the summer holidays they put on outdoor cinema where you can sit outside and hope it doesn't rain. In peak season, there are free daily activities for kids such as a toddlers' disco as well as things you pay for, such as arts and crafts, archery, disc golf and baby ballet (more details on the entertainment programme here). There's also evening entertainment for grown ups.
The onsite restaurant is a good size and there's also a beach café during peak season.
However, the very best thing about Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park is the location. When the sun shines, the beach at Whitecliff Bay is truly gorgeous and even muscles its way into my top 5 Isle of Wight beaches. It's hard to access unless you are staying at an adjacent holiday park, so it doesn't get unpleasantly busy.
One downside is that the slope down to it is ferociously steep and has claimed the good-natured attitude of many a beach-goer. My wife's language changed from Stepford-Wives-Esque to Tarantino-Esque in the time it took to get from the bottom of the slope to the top.
It's also worth looking at the map to figure out where your accommodation is. The site is split into two with a road going through the middle. That's not a big problem but if you're in the furthest away point then it's getting on for 15 minutes to walk to the beach.
Customers give Whitecliff Bay an average review score of 4/5 on TripAdvisor or 4.2/5 on Google Reviews. That puts it in the middle compared to the other Away Resorts on the Isle of Wight.
St Helens Coastal Resort - Best Accommodation, Best Reviews, Quietest
St Helens Coastal Resort has changed its name a few times. For a while it was called a 'retreat' but it doesn't have the range of facilities you might expect at a 'retreat'. It's also not as coastal as you might imagine - the beach is about a mile away.
However, it's got a lot going for it once you get past the name. For starters, it is the highest rated Away Resorts site on the Isle of Wight, according to customer reviews (4.5/5 on TripAdvisor or 4.4/5 on Google Reviews).
A lot of the lodges and caravans have been added in the last few years so you've got a good chance of a very modern property which isn't looking like it's been lived in by a parade of holidaymakers with hairy dogs.
We made use of the outdoor swimming pool, which is small but good fun (and it was heated). There's also a small playground which was completed shortly after we left.
The location is at the end of a wiggly road past some houses. It's within a pretty coastal village called St Helens in the East Wight which has a large village green. Walking down to St Helens beach will take you about 15 minutes. If you're a bit more determined, you can walk to Priory Bay which is a sandy paradise.
St Helens Coastal Resort is a much smaller resort than nearby Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park, so it's a good choice if you want a quiet base for exploring the Isle of Wight.
There isn't a restaurant onsite, but Bembridge has a good choice and there are plenty of other good places to eat depending on whether you prioritise a sea view or occupying the children whilst you enjoy a glass of Merlot.
The Lakes Rookley - Best for Island Wide exploring, Cheapest In Our Price Comparison
The Lakes Rookley is something of a rarity on the Isle of Wight - a holiday resort which isn't by the beach.
There are plus sides to that, assuming that you've bought a car with you.
You can explore a lot of the Isle of Wight with a short drive. The seaside resorts of Shanklin, Sandown and Ventnor all about 15 minutes away in the car, whilst Compton Bay in the West Wight and Cowes in the North Wight are both 20 minutes drive.
The absolute longest drive from The Lakes Rookley is the 35 minutes to Alum Bay and The Needles lighthouse. Most Islanders wouldn't drive this far unless it was a very special occasion (e.g. a family wedding or perhaps a funeral of a relative, at a push). If you're a hardened mainlander then you'll be used to drives of more than half an hour so it will be fine.
Anyway, back to The Lakes Rookley. In terms of scale, it is bigger than The Bay Colwell and St Helens Coastal Resort but it's smaller than Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park.
There are two swimming pools, including one indoors and one outdoors. The Lakes are also used for watersports such as kayaking and paddleboarding. Of course, you could do these on the seafront at Shanklin or St Helens but there's less risk of being dragged out to France from a lake in Rookley.
You can eat onsite at The Lakeside Bar and Eatery. Rookley itself doesn't have a huge amount to it (there's a car dealership, but I doubt that would entertain the kids). However, Shanklin, Sandown and Ventnor have lots of places to eat with a sea view. If you are after chain restaurants and fast food then Newport is your best bet (Beefeater, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, KFC, Burger King).
The poshest and most expensive accommodation at The Lakes Rookley are the Lakehouses which have a pleasant view. At the other end of the accommodation range, we found that The Lakes Rookley was the cheapest of all four Away Resorts on the Isle of Wight (see further down for our price comparison).
Reviews of The Lakes Rookley are a little bit behind the other three Away Resorts on the Isle of Wight. Customers on TripAdvisor give it 3.5/5. On Google Reviews it scores higher with a score of 4.1/5. A lot of the older reviews will be from several years ago when it was Rookley Country Park. I would read through the more recent reviews for a more accurate summary.
The Bay Colwell - More Accessible Beach, Quiet, closest to a ferry port
Finally, The Bay Colwell which is a bit of an all rounder.
It is certainly smaller and less well equipped than Whitecliff Bay Holiday Park and The Lakes Rookley.
However, it does have an indoor swimming pool (unlike St Helens Coastal Resort, which has an outdoor pool). It's also much close to the beach than The Lakes Rookley and St Helens Coastal Resort. You can get to Colwell Bay in about five minutes on foot.
There's bike hire, soft play and a coffee shop onsite.
The accommodation is mostly rows of two bedroom chalets which have been much improved in recent years. They're described as 'Cottages' on the website and some of them have hot tubs. The more expensive accommodation are 'Lodges', some of which have an extra bedroom.
It's also the only Away Resorts site in the West Wight. Generally speaking, the West Wight is prettier and less developed than the East Wight (complaints from East Wighters to the usual address, please).
Colwell itself is developed, but the nearby West Wight coastline which runs from Freshwater Bay to Chale in the South Wight is populated by more cows than people.
If you are coming from the Westcountry, then The Bay Colwell is convenient to reach via Wightlink's Yarmouth to Lymington crossing. The ferry takes 40 minutes and then it's a seven minute drive to the resort.
Away Resorts ISle of Wight Price Comparison
We started by looking for a week for the cheapest accommodation available in August 2024. We searched for a seven night holiday. Prices don't include ferry travel, although you can get it for around half price if you book through Away Resorts. Expect to pay about £50 - £150 for the ferry depending on when you travel and how long you stay. From cheapest to most expensive:
We then looked for the same holiday but with a hot tub. So, it's a holiday in August 2024 for four people, staying for a week, excluding the ferry:
So, based on our mini price comparison, The Lakes Rookley is the cheapest of the four Away Resorts on the Isle of Wight and The Bay Colwell and Whitecliff Bay tend to be the most expensive. I would caution that prices vary a lot depending on when you visit and what accommodation you choose.
Review comparison of Away Resorts ISle of Wight Holiday REsorts
As of December 2023, the review scores for the Away Resorts on the Isle of Wight look like this:
All three of the parks have seen big changes in the last few years, so the older review scores are not particularly relevant.
St Helens Coastal Resort, The Lakes Rookley and The Bay Colwell have all changed hands twice in the last few years. They were previously known as St Helens Holiday Park, Rookley Country Park and Colwell Bay Holiday Park until they were bought by Aria Resorts in 2017. Aria Resorts invested a lot of money in the sites and then the company merged with Away Resorts in 2022 (Ed: will there be a test on this at the end?).
My advice is to look at some recent reviews, rather than going on the overall score.
Distance from the ferry ports
The Isle of Wight is not vast, so travel times from the ferries are not a major factor if you are bringing a car. However, if it's a weekend visit or if you have children who don't travel well (i.e. all children) then it's something to consider.
Also, make sure that you get Away Resorts to book the ferry for you. It'll save you as much as 50% compared to going direct.
See our full guide to the Isle of Wight ferries for beginners.
Isle of Wight Guru's Blog