Best Family Leisure Bike Cycling Routes on the Isle of Wight

Red Squirrel Trail Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is the perfect place to explore by bicycle—with traffic-free cycle routes, quiet country lanes, and wonderful places to visit. For family bike rides and leisurely tours, it is tailor-made. In this blog post, I have picked five of my favourite Isle of Wight cycling routes for families and casual cyclists.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #1 — West Wight Wander

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 71 kilometres (6.3 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Flat (50 metres elevation gain)
My first route is suitable for even those with young families or for those inexperienced on a bike. It begins in the town of Yarmouth—a great starting point; with a large car park and plenty of cafés and restaurants in the town.

From Yarmouth, the route follows the disused railway line alongside the Western Yar River through to Freshwater. This is a traffic-free and shaded route, which is perfect for a summer cycle. Look out for the wildlife and enjoy the views.

When you arrive in Freshwater, the End of the Line Café is an ideal stopping point for an ice cream or coffee, before getting back in the saddle for the second half of the ride.

The route back to Yarmouth uses a quiet lane that takes you through to Thorley, before re-joining the disused railway line for the last section back to Yarmouth. This route is an ideal way for children to get comfortable riding on the road, and there is little climbing or descending.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #2 — Lighthouses and Smugglers

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 11.7 kilometres (7 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Flat (140 metres elevation gain)
My second route is a hidden gem. The Undercliff Road used to link Ventnor and Niton, but several years ago the road slipped away in a cliff fall; it has been reinstated, but only as a bike and footpath. This development means that from Ventnor to Niton you have an almost traffic-free cycle route on pristine tarmac alongside the coast.

Starting from the large car park at Ventnor Botanic Gardens, this route heads west along the road through to Niton; passing along the southern coastline of bays that are famed for their smuggling history.

When you reach Niton, you can head down to the iconic St Catherine's Lighthouse—one of the most beautiful buildings on the Isle of Wight.

If you are looking for a refreshment stop on this route then The Buddle Inn at Niton is the perfect place to sit in the sunshine in the summer, or in front of a roaring open fire in the winter.

The route back is predominately downhill retracing your tyre tracks. Freewheel home with a smile.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #3 — Medina Meander

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 17.5 kilometres (10.8 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Flat (90 metres elevation gain)
This route takes you from Cowes down the western bank of the River Medina to Newport, and then back up the eastern shore path to East Cowes—where you can recross the river on the Cowes Chain Ferry back to Cowes.

The Sustrans National Cycle Route 23 takes you on a beautiful traffic-free route from the end of Artic Road in Cowes through to Newport Town Quay. From here, you travel back up the eastern side of the river through Seaclose Park (ironically named, as it is one of the further points from the sea on the Island).

When you reach Island Harbour you have to take a short detour inland and head northeast through to a crossing over Whippingham Road to get onto Alverstone Road. The road rises a little as you climb up Alverstone Road and turn left towards Whippingham.

You cross back over Whippingham Road and make your way into East Cowes on a quiet backroad. Descending into East Cowes, you then head to the Cowes Chain Ferry where you can make your way back across the Medina to your start point.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #4 — West Slow Lanes

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 20.5 kilometres (12.7 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Flat (140 metres elevation gain)
This route takes you out west onto the lanes between the villages of Brighstone and Chale. The route begins from the car park in Brighstone village, before heading east out through the lanes.

The quiet roads skirt around the back of Shorwell, and down to the Wight Mouse Inn at Chale—an ideal family friendly pub stop to refuel.

After a refreshment break, you have a short section along the famous Military Road—with its spectacular views; before heading inland again to return to Brighstone village.

This route is filled with beautiful sea views and countryside scenes.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #5 — East Wight Beaches

  • Difficulty – Easy
  • Distance – 21.4 kilometres (13.3 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Flat (190 metres elevation gain)
This route starts and finishes on Ryde Seafront, and takes you through the to the picturesque coastal villages of Seaview and St Helens.

The route starts heading east along the esplanade from Ryde, cutting in slightly at Puckpool Park, before re-joining the seawall at Seaview Duver.

Stop for refreshments at Lily's Café in Seaview if you want some fantastic Island Roasted coffee and homemade cake.

From Seaview you head up the hill, past the Priory Bay Hotel, and then down on to the beach at St Helen's Duver—where a stop off for an ice-cream at The Baywatch Café is highly recommended.

Back on the move, you pedal up through St Helens village and descend onto the St Helens to Brading cycle path—one of the many disused railway lines on the Island, which offers beautiful wildlife watching as it passes through the RSPB nature reserve.

Heading up Quay Lane in Brading, you then cross over and weave your way through Green Lane and Upton to get back to the top of Ryde; from where you descend back to the seafront for a finish on the beach.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #6 — East Wight Explore

  • Difficulty – Intermediate
  • Distance – 28.4 kilometres (17.7 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (310 metres elevation gain)
The eastern side of the Isle of Wight is home to a whole host of great roads, trails, and cycle tracks for family riding. This route is medium in difficulty and at 18 miles long it will be more suited to those families that have a fair bit of experience on a bike.

The route begins at the western end of Ryde Esplanade, before heading through to the historic Quarr Abbey on quiet cycle tracks. From here, you link up with the newly refurbished Wootton-Newport cycle path and head into the centre of Newport Town along the River Medina.

From Newport, the route takes you up onto the Downs, before descending on a fun off-road track into Havenstreet. There is then one last climb up through Havenstreet before heading back into Ryde via a pleasant bridlepath.

With a fair bit of climbing (and descending) this is a route that is better for the fit and adventurous family. With its start in Ryde, you could easily start it from the Wightlink Fast Cat terminal or join it part-way at Fishbourne Car Ferry terminal. Alternatively, Ryde has a selection of long-stay car parks.

Wight Family Leisure Bike Cycling Route #7 — Red Squirrel Trail

  • Difficulty – Intermediate
  • Distance – 48.2 kilometres (30 miles)
  • Elevation Profile – Moderate (230 metres elevation gain)
The Red Squirrel Trail is a signposted family friendly cycle route; combining some of the best Isle of Wight traffic-free cycle paths and taking in several of the Island's most vibrant towns and villages. Officially the trail starts and finishes in Cowes, but it can be easily accessed from multiple points along its route, including Newport, Shanklin, Sandown, and Lake.

The Cowes to Newport cycle path section of the route is a beautiful traffic-free tarmac track that runs alongside the River Medina. Enjoy the river views and the wildlife in the surrounding fields. As you pass through Newport, consider calling in at Grace's Bakery or Caffe Isola for refreshments.

The Newport to Sandown cycle path section is another National Cycle Network route; traffic-free and peaceful, it weaves through open fields and past nature look-out spots. As you pass Merstone Old Railway Station why not pause for an ice cream and explore the Troll Trail! Further along the path, Pedallers Café at Langbridge (Newchurch) is a great bicycle themed café for an afternoon treat.

Arriving in Sandown, the route heads down to the beach and along the esplanade to Shanklin. This beautiful promenade is free of traffic and a flat respite for the legs. Arriving in Shanklin, you could take a little detour to explore the delights of the Old Village before pedalling onto the next disused railway line turned bike path, heading towards Wroxall.

At Wroxall, it is up the hill to Appuldurcombe House. In the summer there are Bird of Prey displays at the house, and you can look round the ancient grounds. It is then a bumpy, but fun track down to Godshill where more classic Isle of Wight attractions await, such as the Old Smithy and Tea Rooms.

After leaving Godshill you head on a sandy path towards Horringford, before re-joining the Sandown to Newport Cycle Path. This time you are heading back towards Newport and then onwards towards Cowes.

Arriving back on Cowes seafront, be sure you treat yourself to an ice cream on Cowes Green. Look out on the yachts racing out on the water, it is the perfect finish to your mini Isle of Wight adventure.

For more ideas for an Isle of Wight cycling trip, check out:

Drop me a message on Twitter (@timwiggins1) or Instagram (@tim_wiggins1) with any questions.

Sustrans Route 23


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