For a bucket and shovel holiday on the Isle of Wight, Shanklin is a beautiful getaway that ticks every box.
There is a long golden sandy beach surrounded by an esplanade on the sea wall with a crazy row of golf courses, arcades, ice cream parlors and fish and chips.
But Shanklin isn’t just its seaside, you’ll find a coastal canyon in Shanklin China, covered in ferns and rare moss, and capturing the hearts of Georgian tourists like Jane Austen and John Keats .
Old Shanklin Village is a chocolate box scene with thatched cottages and small craft shops, while Rylstone Gardens is a great place to enjoy afternoon tea or watch an outdoor concert in summer.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Shanklin:
1. Shanklin China
A favorite of tourists for over 200 years, Shanklin Chine is a coastal canyon that cuts through soft sandstone cliffs.
There’s a heritage center detailing the canyon’s natural and human history, as well as trails and walkways cut from the canyon walls for a better view of the lush vegetation and waterfalls.
The Chinese ridge is 400 meters long and has a drop of 32 meters, and little has changed since the great Romantic poet John Keats eloquently described it during his stay in Shanklin in 1819. Other prominent early visitors were Jane Austen and JMW Turner.
On summer evenings, you can visit Chine Lumierè at night, where trails, waterfalls and green canyon walls are framed by ethereal lights.
2. Shanklin Beach
Shanklin Beach stretches for a mile and is one of the best on the island.
The beach juts gently into the sea, so there is plenty of shallow water for young beachgoers to frolic.
Behind a high seawall with an esplanade, every amenity a family could possibly need for an energizing or relaxing afternoon.
Shanklin’s Victoria Pier was destroyed in the infamous cyclone in October 1987, which left a semi-circular bench on the promenade.
Further south, things get a little quieter, towards Shanklinchin, where there is a charming row of painted beach huts.
3. Shanklin Esplanade
Shanklin’s reputation as a family holiday destination is enhanced by all the activities at the foot of the cliffs behind the beach.
Along the sand is a long paved walkway with clear views of the sandstone cliffs, where the coastline juts out to the south of Shanklin Chine, where vegetation grows.
The Esplanade has a bowling alley and three miniature golf courses, two of which we’ll cover below.
On top of Summer Arcade packed with ticket redemption machines, Jungle Jim’s is an indoor play area where younger kids can run wild on the occasional rainy day.
For the kids, here are some tried-and-true seaside favorites like fish and chips, ice cream and waffles.
4. Shanklin Old Village
Head to Shanklin Chine, where you will taste Shanklin before the tour at twee Old Village, home to some of the oldest houses on the Isle of Wight.
On Main Street and Church Road, the old village is filled with thatched cottages, cozy bars, tea rooms and restaurants.
The alley next to the Village Inn bar is a charming little stable with six arts and crafts studios and a shop selling many fine trinkets.
In the middle of the old village is the Vernon Cottage Gift Shop, which doubles as a tourist information point in Shanklin.
If you need a little time to research a map or flyer, there is a cosy patio and garden area with seating outside.
5. Ryllstone Gardens
There is no entry fee for this beautiful park on the cliff top at the southern end of Shanklin Beach, within the Rylstone estate.
Rylstone Gardens is hard to find on the road, but it’s on the edge of the old village.
At Rylstone Gardens, you can play a round and putt or crazy golf, and sit down for a cream tea or crab sandwich in the tea room and in the shaded sun trap overlooking the crazy golf course.
There is an outdoor stage in the park’s clearing, and afternoon and evening concerts are scheduled throughout the summer.
6. Shanklin Theatre
The stately Shanklin Theatre opened as a college in 1879 with a playroom and reading room, and in 1913 became Shanklin Town Hall. After a fire in 1925, the neoclassical building was converted into a theatre, sharing space with the city council (headquartered in the basement, now a bar) from 1934 to 1995. The auditorium’s capacity has recently been upgraded to 615, and the site is the backbone of the Isle of Wight’s cultural landscape.
Many of the country’s top stand-up comedians tour the Shanklin Theatre for a night or two, and in 2019 it’s Henning Wayne, Al Murray and Mark Steele.
The show features tribute performances throughout the year, as well as productions from renowned recording artists, musicals and touring companies such as the Blackeyed Theatre and the Isle of Wight’s own Spotlight.
The company is responsible for the popular “Beyond West End” stage show each summer.
7. Pirates Cove and Jurassic Bay Adventure Golf
Shanklin’s Esplanade’s first choice for families is a pair of crazy golf courses, both designed with imagination and attention to detail.
The pirate-themed course features waterfalls, fountains, caves, palm trees and a fully equipped replica of a pirate ship.
The Jurassic Bay course, like its neighbors, has 18 holes, is set in tropical vegetation, and features convincing dinosaur models such as Triceratops, Velociraptors and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Pirates Cove Fun Park is filled with the latest trends in outdoor entertainment such as zorb balls and mini-karts, as well as bumper boats, bouncy castles and trampolines.
8. Isle of Wight Donkey Sanctuary
The 60 acres of bucolic countryside on the Isle of Wight is an animal sanctuary that provides a happy home for more than 90 donkeys and around 25 horses and ponies.
Shelters receive animals abandoned by farms and families due to environmental changes or confiscated due to poor living conditions and care.
The reserve’s main role is to care for its inhabitants, but it is free all year round, 7 days a week.
The sanctuary encourages donations and purchases from its shop and tea room, while you can please donkeys, ponies and horses in the spacious paddock and learn about each one’s history, personality and habits.
9. Steep Bay Beach
South of Shanklin Chine, the coast changes dramatically as you approach Undercliff, an unusual landslide complex that formed in two stages, after the last ice age between 8,000 and 4,500 years ago, and then in Landslides have occurred in the past 2,000 years.
There is a low sea cliff, below the sliding clay benches, surrounded by mighty sandstone and chalk cliffs up to 100 meters high.
In this wild setting, you’ll come to Steep Bay Beach, accessible only on foot, with rock pools and crystal clear waters, surrounded by beach huts, lobster pots and windbreaker fishermen’s huts.
If swimming is not your thing, you can rent a covered lounger on the small promenade and enjoy super fresh lobster or crab, brought ashore daily for the houseboat restaurant and crab shed.
10. Devil’s Chimney
Near Shanklin, about 3 miles south of town, Undercliff has a strange natural monument.
Here you can navigate a deep and very narrow fissure in the upper cliffs and descend to sites of special scientific interest known as the Bonchurch Landslips, which were formed after a landslide in the 1810s and Trees were planted in the Victorian era.
It’s not a long walk, but it’s a creepy slope with some muddy spots, so you might need a good pair of shoes.
Rumor has it that this route to the sea was once used by smugglers to drag contraband from the water.
At the top of the trail is the Smugglers Paradise Tea Garden, where you can take a break from the arduous climb back to the cliffs.
11. Isle of Wight Zoo
The oldest animal attraction in the Shanklin hinterland, the Isle of Wight Zoo opened in the 1950s and has kept pace with the times, participating in the European Endangered Species Programme and becoming a charitable trust in 2017. On top of that are the pair of African lions and seven tigers, the latter being kept in a human-friendly enclosure with a pond, natural plants and glass viewing panels.
The many other residents of the Isle of Wight Zoo include wallabies, lemurs, spider monkeys, vervet monkeys, common marmosets, royal pythons, stick insects, Madagascar sizzling cockroaches, tawny owls and more.
For an extra fee, you can take part in a variety of animal experiences, become a breeder for a day or learn how to care for a lemur or big cat.
12. Amazon World Zoo
Mainly housing animals from South America, Amazon World Zoo is a conservation-oriented attraction featuring marmosets, parrots, ocelots, tamarinds, giant anteaters and toucans.
You’ll get up close and personal with some bizarre creatures you’ve probably never seen before, such as the arboreal anteater tamandua.
The zoo is set in subtropical vegetation as much as possible, as in Zenathra’s Secret, the sloth hangs upside down from a tree a few meters away.
In Madagascar, you can wander among lemurs, while in the Lost Shrine you can walk on high walkways through the habitat of fennec foxes, armadillos, meerkats and giant tortoises.
13. Breding Roman Villa
Nestled behind Sandown Bay is a charming Roman ruin that was once the ruins of a lavish Roman courtyard villa.
The villa was unearthed in 1880 when a farmer hit the mosaic while building a sheepfold.
Since then, the villa has been a source of charm and was upgraded with a new cover and visitor center in 2004. The site is famous for its mosaic collection, which was developed from the middle of the 1st century AD.
Although the villa caught fire in the 200s, it was occupied until 395. From the sidewalk, you can take a closer look at the remains of 12 rooms, five of which have mosaics depicting gladiators, farm scenes, Medusa, Orpheus, Bacchus, and a man with a strange rooster head.
On the walls of the sanctuary are interpretive panels and display cases containing finds such as coins, jewelry, Samia pottery and games.
14. PLUTO – Subsea Pipeline
Walk the Shanklin Chine and you will see some pipes next to the path, marked PLUTO (undersea pipeline). It is a remnant of a covert World War II operation that fueled the Allied forces on the European continent after the Normandy invasion in 1944. Petrol is pumped more than 130km from Shanklin Chine across the Channel to Cherbourg.
Unfortunately, this ambitious plan failed when the pipeline was caught by the anchor of the escort destroyer.
Shanklin Chine has a small heritage museum about the project, showing a film made in 1994 using rare archival footage of pipeline construction
15. Shanklin to Ventnor Walk
The 70-mile Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a special way to experience the island’s varied coastal scenery, using mostly paved walks and paths.
In Shanklin, you’ll be able to walk on one of the most exciting legs when you enter Undercliffe on your way to Ventnor.
The route climbs the cliff-faced Appley Steps in Shanklin, before taking you to the headland village of Luccombe, which offers stunning views of Sandown Bay to the north.
You’ll travel through the oak, ash and beech woodlands of the Bonchurch Landslips and take a detour to Devil’s Chimney.
The path then returns to the waterfront along Horseshoe Bay’s seawall, which was constructed in 1988 from 6,000 cubic meters of concrete to protect the chalk cliffs behind. After the trip, Ventnor is another lovely seaside retreat with its one-of-a-kind Slope Bay Beach, Blackgang and a tranquil clifftop park.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Shanklin, England
Lowest Price Guarantee