Until a few months ago, I lived unaware that the band Wet Leg made up their name as a derogatory dig at ‘mainlanders’. The taunt definitely gave me a giggle, but a visit to Ryde solidified its meaning – those visiting from the mainland will have to get wet legs to enjoy what the lucky islanders get daily. The question of what to do in Ryde, Isle of Wight, is one I’m excited to answer. There are so many things to do in Ryde. So instead of hopping off the hovercraft and rushing off to explore the rest of the island, hang around for a few days and see the best of this seaside town.
1. Swim at Ryde Beach
You don’t visit the Isle of Wight and not visit a beach. Ryde Beach is the heart and soul of the town. Its esplanade district stretches along the oceanfront, joining up with Ryde Beach and a vast pier (the second longest in the UK). It’s an easy walk from most places to stay in Ryde. And you should most definitely bring a swimming costume because the flat water is enticing for a summer dip. Swimming at Ryde Beach is easily one of the best things to do in Ryde. It is just a classic beach holiday activity.
Ryde Beach is popular for its flat, calm waters. During low tide, the beach is also famously spacious – perfect for sunbathing or just relaxing with plenty of personal space.
2. Visit The Donald McGill Museum
Donald McGill Museum is one of the quirkiest things to do in Ryde. If you are a creative and open-minded person and wondering what to do in Ryde, Isle of Wight, hold your breath and consider this museum. The entire attraction is dedicated to the memory of Donald McGill – a comic artist who created over 12,000 postcards. As a beach destination reliant on tourism, you can see why Donald McGill’s work meant so much to the town and its community.
Not only is the museum an affectionate nod towards Donald’s contribution to Ryde. It is also a time capsule and testament to Ryde in the 20th century. Donald’s work has a journalistic element, as he captured the postcards from real-life observations and attractions. Stroll through the collection and get a better insight into the town and the Isle of Wight.
3. Climb Appley Tower
The Hutt family were the luckiest on the Isle of Wight. Appley Tower is a stunning example of English heritage architecture and was constructed in 1875 along the shores of Ryde Beach. Appley Tower is in mock Victorian castle style, jutting up in a single tower shape. The Hutt family had ocean views and quite literally stepped onto the sand from their backdoor. Nowadays, Appley Tower is preserved as an island landmark, and visitors can climb to the top for beautiful views.
Appley Tower is up there with the best things to do in Ryde if you enjoy history. It’s also one of the few vantage points in the town, so make the most of its good views.
4. Venture to Quarr Abbey
Sipping tea and feeding pigs are two things I, for one, did not expect to go in the same sentence. However, that is Quarr Abbey’s exact selling point. The monastery is still run by Benedictine monks and has a teahouse and farm onsite. Entry to the grounds is free, so visitors on a budget can enjoy the greenery and beautiful architecture of the abbey. The only cost is an optional refreshment in the teahouse. You can also purchase ‘pig nuts’ to feed the pigs outside – which I’m sure you can agree is a worthy investment of holiday money.
Quarr Abbey is a peaceful activity in Ryde. It is ideal for a midday visit if you are wondering what to do in Ryde on a mild day. You can drive from the centre of Ryde in less than 10 minutes or catch the number 4 or 9 bus in 15 minutes. Quarr Abbey is located just west of the town centre and is easily one of the best free things to do in Ryde.
5. Walk along Pig Leg Lane
The English countryside hits the spot. Pig Leg Lane is a lovely, dainty little trail through a wildlife reserve on the outskirts of Ryde. While you’ll need to don wellies in winter and autumn thanks to the mud (a surefire bump back to reality), it is stunning in late spring and summer. The trail runs through woodland and railway escarpment, with plenty of wildflowers and native wildlife.
Mothers: Pig Leg Lane is the one if you want to drag your family on a short walk in Ryde. It’s popular amongst dog walkers and fair-weather walkers as soon as the sun pops out. The trailhead is just a 15-minute walk from the centre of Ryde.
6. Stop by the quirky Isle of Wight Bus and Coach Museum
The Isle of Wight Bus and Coach Museum is dead quirky. A transport museum is niche. But don’t be put off if coaches and buses aren’t your things; the museum displays such an out-there range of exhibits that it can entertain most of Ryde’s visitors. Go with an open mind, and you’ll love it.
The buses and coaches are sat in a massive warehouse-style building, but there are so many that they spill out of the warehouse and into an old parking area. The colours are beautiful, and even the untrained eye can appreciate some vintage exhibits. It is also like a retirement home for slices of living history, which is a nice touch. And the museum goes to great efforts to explain the importance of buses and coaches in the Isle of Wight’s history.
Entry to the Isle of Wight Bus and Coach Museum is totally free. You can also grab a drink at its tea bar after you look around.
7. Play bowling or laser tag at Ryde Superbowl & LaserQuest
At this Ryde attraction, you can play bowling or laser tag. Or both; indecisiveness defeated. On a rainy day, there’s nothing better than slipping inside Superbowl to get competitive, knocking down bowling pins. You can grab a drink, whack on those crazy bowling shoes, and have a game for less than £10 an adult. Or, if you fancy something even more competitive, you can zap each other with lasers for around £10 an adult for two games. Ryde Superbowl & LaserQuest is lots of fun and brilliant value for money.
This is one of the no-frills things to do in Ryde. To let your hair down, it is a fun and zero-hassle activity – especially if you are looking for things to do on a rainy day in Ryde. After you’ve bowled and zapped away to your heart’s content, there’s an arcade too. You can spend hours on gaming machines.
8. Tackle an escape room at The Lost Crypt
An escape room is another of the best things to do in Ryde on a rainy day. Escape rooms are top-tier indoor entertainment and involve solving a series of puzzles to get out of a locked games room. It is a fun – if relationship testing – an activity for couples, friends, and families. Let’s just say an escape room makes Monopoly look like a sedate bonding experience. Be prepared for tensions to run high in the best way possible.
The Lost Crypt is a brilliant escape room to try. Slotted into the back of a church, all of its proceeds go towards helping the local community. The attraction is a wonderful charitable endeavour and a real stroke of fundraising genius, considering the growing popularity of escape rooms. You’ll have 60 minutes to crack the codes and break out. You should be motivated by the setting, as set in an actual underground crypt, it has quite the spooky ambience.
9. Catch the steam train
The Isle of Wight Steam Railway might not exactly be in Ryde itself, but it is so close that we’ll count it as one of the best things to do in Ryde anyway. Departing at Havenstreet (less than a 10-minute drive from Ryde town centre), the steam train takes visitors on a 10-mile scenic rail ride. The experience takes around an hour. Sat in traditional carriages with the puffing and billowing of the vintage steam train; immersing yourself in the Isle of Wight’s history is a beautiful activity.
Bag a window seat to make the most of this steam train experience. You’ll pass some of the most remote and otherwise inaccessible natural scenery in true style. And when you get back, make sure to visit the Haven Falconry Bird of Prey Centre. The centre is home to the island’s largest collection of birds of prey. You can get up close to all sorts of fabulous birds, plus watch a flying demonstration if you time your visit according to the centre’s schedule.
10. Win at go-karting
Also, just a short drive from Ryde town centre, Wight Karting Go-Kart Track is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Ryde. The 520m track is entirely floodlit and totally state-of-the-art. This attraction boldly advertises itself as suitable for ages “8 to 88” – encouraging multi-generational visitors for a zip around its track. You don a helmet and protective gear, looking like real racing car drivers. There are tons of races to partake in, plus prizes for the winners.
7 minutes by car or 15 minutes via the number 3 bus from Ryde town centre, Wight Karting Go-Kart Track is conveniently located for a bit of competitive excitement. While technically it has an all-weather track, I suggest visiting in nice, clear-skied weather for your enjoyment. Alternatively, you can warm up in the bar afterwards and make the most of that bus route back to Ryde.
To Conclude: What to do in Ryde, Isle of Wight
Hopefully, you are feeling nice and inspired. Ryde is a beautiful seaside town and far more than just a stepping-stone between the mainland and the rest of the island. The community atmosphere and dedication to preserving local history are awe-inspiring. This will stand out immediately to you when you arrive. Culturally, Ryde is teeming with attractions. The range of things to do in Ryde also caters to a more fun-craving mood – so get zipping around on go-karts or taking your friends out in laser tag.
If you are visiting Ryde in spring or summer, consider a whale watching experience as well. The Isle of Wight is one of the best places for whale watching in the UK – it even has ocean view hotels where you could spot whales out your window. Alternatively, chase one of the prettiest sunsets at one of the best places for sunset on the Isle of Wight.
Looking for more island getaways in the UK? Check out our guides on Lundy Island, Brownsea Island, or jump on a UK ferry holiday. These islands are much smaller and perfect for avoiding the crowds that the ever-popular Isle of Wight inevitably attracts.