Cowes & East Cowes
Home to the oldest and biggest sailing regatta in the world, Cowes is the number one destination for sailors during the summer months. But it also boasts a rich wealth of history and culture with its ‘twin’ East Cowes just across the Medina estuary by chain ferry (subject to availability).
Stroll through the vibrant town and enjoy independent shops and well-known yachting clothing stores, sit at a pavement café or have a restaurant lunch and people watch or enjoy a glass of something cold and watch the sun go down over the Solent before having dinner at some excellent pubs and restaurants.
Take yourself across the water to East Cowes via the chain ferry and enjoy a slice of great British history at Osborne House; Queen Victoria’s seaside residence. Stroll along her beach and enjoy the walled garden and Swiss Cottage. It’s a wonderful spot for families or just to wander through on your own. There are cultural museums, events and galleries to enjoy on both sides of the Medina and you’ll notice the influence of Prince Albert’s ornate designs in the architecture of many houses and buildings. Cowes is featured in the Slow Travel Guide to the Isle of Wight. Why not try a new way of exploring and discover hidden places and local’s favourites in Cowes.
Whatever your taste in food, the size of your party or the depth of your wallet, you won’t have any problem finding a gastronomic delight in Cowes. From tempting tapas, perfect pizza, blockbusting burgers and the finest of dining to the simplest of sandwiches, Cowes will not disappoint.
For families, hungry sailors and visitors alike there is an enormous amount of choice and you can choose from restaurants, pubs, cafes and wine bars offering food from around the globe as well as locally grown and produced fish, meat, vegetables, wine, beer and even gin! Enjoy breakfast, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea and dinner, Sunday roast and the Island’s favourite fish and chips. Treat yourself to cakes, custard tarts, fudge and ice cream, all made or baked freshly as well as artisan bread, cheeses and wine. You’ll be spoiled for choice and in fact, if you were to stay in Cowes for a week, you’d be hard pressed to sample all that’s on offer.
Boutique clothing stores, foodie heavens, beautiful interiors shops and practical chandlers all abound in Cowes. If you’re looking for that necessary piece of rope, a sailing top or a seaside souvenir, artisan bread, cheese or a really good bottle of wine then you can find all of these things down the High Street.
Self-catering, picnicking or eating on the water? There are small independent shops selling local produce and necessities and two larger supermarkets, one in Cowes and one in East Cowes for anything else.
For gift buying or something to take home as a reminder of a good holiday well spent, take your pick from driftwood mirrors, locally produced chutneys, oils and jams, basketry, jewellery and nautical items from the small shops which line the town or stock up on your sailing gear at well-known yachting emporiums. Whatever it is you need to buy or whatever you fancy, you’re sure to find it in Cowes.
There’s so much to squash into your time in Cowes that you might find yourself having a return visit to fit it all in! From beaches to Queen Victoria’s Summer Palace you will find it, in her words, ‘impossible to find a prettier spot’.
There are maritime museums in both Cowes and East Cowes to enjoy, sailing and water sports to partake in, regattas, galleries and shops to enjoy and boat trips to take. Did you know that the first hovercraft was developed in East Cowes? Go and find out all about it in the Heritage Museum. Or see the cradle used by Napoleon Bonaparte for his son amongst the other nauticalia at the Max Aitken Museum.
Take a stroll around the extensive grounds of Osborne and marvel at the views that reminded Albert and Victoria of the Bay of Naples, or visit the recently restored Durbar Room to see the collection of Indian treasures. St Mildred’s Church in nearby Whippingham was where the Queen worshipped. Or you could just buy yourself a picnic, enjoy the sunny esplanade and watch the boats go by or even head up to Northwood Park and snooze under the trees. Walk along the seafront, breathe in that fresh sea air and go for a paddle or a swim if you’re feeling brave! Whatever you decide to do, you can be sure of plenty of the great outdoors.