“ The Needles Park / Alum Bay / Isle of Wight / PO39 0JD „
"The park is free to enter" states the Pleasure Park's adverting, and indeed it is. We parked our car here with the primary aim of getting a close up view of the Needles.
As we found, there is a choice of visiting the National Trust property slightly further up the coast at the Old Battery, or for those wanting more of a thrill, there is a choice of boat trips which leave from here.
* Park? Park where? *
The park may be free to enter, but for those travelling here by car, parking will set you back £4. Probably a reasonable rate for any popular tourist attraction, so in we drove. There was one staff member in a hi vis jacket taking the fee at the entrance, but it would have been helpful to have had some staff monitoring where the free parking spots actually were. We arrived on a lovely warm June day and the car park was pretty much already full up. In other places, there might be several staff waving you to nearby parking spots, but not here.
So we did what twenty other cars were also trying to do, and that is driving up what are really quite narrow corridors, to find that, yep it's all full here, and reversing back to the main drag, only to try another one, and then another.
By the time we actually found a spot, my teeth were clenched and I was all set to leave. Not a good start, but then that's just because I'm a sourpuss. My spirits were bound to lift once we got into the park.
* Entering what is "the island's most famous and best value attraction for all the family". *
In all fairness to the Park's management, a pleasure park - any pleasure park - is primarily aimed at those with children. Not having, or bringing any with me when we visited here, most of the attractions were in all likelihood not to be geared towards me or my husband. That's not to say I'm a total grinch. I've been to the three Disney resorts in California, Florida and Paris, and enjoyed all of them. I can also remember spending a lovely day with riends at Margate's Pleasure park, which has since closed.
Primarily it has a large outdoor area with rides, with several eateries and a large gift shop here. So far, so bland. Two of their more unique visitor attractions though are the sweet factory and glass factory.
* The sweet Manufactory *
We didn't visit, but it seemed very popular when we were there. Here you can watch staff making boiled sweets - and get samples- which you can then of course buy at their sweet shop only next door.
* The Glass Studio... *
... is where you can watch demonstrations of all manner of things being blown from glass, from killer whales (not life size presumably) to more standard bottles and vases. It would have been of more interest to us if it weren't already full of a school party, and so we skipped past it.
* Raising a glass *
For three years, starting in 1897, Gugliemo Marconi had worked in what became his Wireless Telegraphy Station. In what is now the grounds of this Park, he went from sending wireless messages to a boat just off shore, and subsequently to Bournemouth nearly 15 miles away, and then further afield. The rest as they say, is history.
The only nod to Mr Marconi's achievements left here are a stone monument and a licensed bar named after him. We admired the monument, then went and had a drink in his honour. We didn't have anything to eat here, but the drinks were reasonably priced.
Marconi's Bar is fully licensed, so was ideal for those visiting sans children, but there are various other cafes and one proper restaurant here for those wanting a more child orientated eatery.
* The rides. *
Those with small excitable infants wanting to play on all the rides will soon discover that although the park is free to enter, the rides - each and every one of them - will cost you. The cheapest when we were there were demonstrations in both the glass studio and sweet manufactory which are £1 each. That's right, pay to watch someone making boiled sweets, then get dragged next door by your offspring to buy more!
More expensive are the teacup ride and carousel ride, which were both £2 a go. A newer ride which only opened this year is the Vintage cars ride, in which you travel round and around a track in a car which wouldn't have looked out of place in 30s Chicago if they weren't so colourful. A less expensive £1 each, these were probably the only thing that I would have been tempted to go on, though for a family of four it seemed like a very fast way to lose nearly a fiver.
* There must be something worthwhile here! *
So far, I haven't done a good job of selling the park to you, but there are some more pleasant attractions here. Well, one at least springs to mind. That is the beach. As beaches go, it's not up there with the West Indies or the Seychelles. The sand isn't a perfect golden hue, nor is it lapped by the Indian ocean or surrounded by palm trees, but it does have colour. And views of a sort.
As far back as the mid 19th century, Alum Bay was noted for having colourful sands. A total of 21 differing shades is claimed to exist here, though to my eye most of those blurred into one very similar colour. Still, to see the famous cliffs here, a visit to the beach is necessary. There is the option of taking the chairlift down the Cliffside, or walking down the nearby stairs. The chairlift would undoubtedly give an excellent vantage point of both the nearby Needles and the bay itself. The price was £3 for a one way 'lift', £4 for a return journey, or £6 for unlimited travel on the chairlift all day long. Quite why anyone would want to spend all their time whizzing up and down on a chairlift I don't know, and more importantly why they'd want to part with £6 for the pleasure is even more baffling, but the option is there.
We took the stairs, with our dog, both ways. Despite it being a long way down - it probably took us about 3 minutes to reach the bottom - we saved ourselves about pound a minute each! There are nigh on 200 stairs here, so those less mobile or with buggies would find the overpriced chairlift their only realistic option.
A short walk along a tarmac path at the bottom and you reach the beach. We had by then already visited the NT site the Old Battery and seen the Needles up close, but for those interested, here is where several boat trips leave to get a close up view of the Needles and around the small bay.
The beach itself is unremarkable, even slightly disappointing. The sand is more a rough shingle which would be no good for those with buckets and spades. The cliffs though are certainly more colourful and interesting to behold than those at Dover, say, or Brighton. I'm glad we took the trouble to see them, but for those wanting a relaxing day by the seaside there are much nicer, and more easily accessible beaches on the island.
We were at the park almost until closing time, and perhaps the tide was coming in, which made the beach seem even less hospitable but we had a little walk up and down and took some photos of the Needles, and then headed back to the steps for the walk up again.
Incidentally, Michael Portillo had been filming at the park and took the chairlift only a day or two before we were there for his television show Great British Railway Journeys. I wonder if he got a free ride?
Another plus point for the park is that it has good access to the Needles by land. A bus travels every 30 minutes from just inside the park entrance up the headland and stops at the Old Battery. At £5 return for adults it isn't cheap, but those willing to walk will find the park has the easiest and quickest route there too.
Anyone wanting to visit should note that there is one ATM in the grounds, which is situated in the gift shop. Needing to use it ourselves, we were disappointed to find that it's one of the few that still charges for withdrawals at £1.75 a pop.
* Would I recommend a visit? *
I would have to say no. I appreciate the park provides employment to many locals, and all of the staff we spoke to were very responsive and pleasant. It seems unfair to charge £4 to park here, and then expect parents to pay for all their bambino's amusement rides once they're inside, some such as the chairlift, which are frankly exorbitant.
Its location at the most westerly tip of the island, and the views of the Needles and colourful cliffs wouldn't be enough to tempt me to want to visit again. Had we not taken the bus to the Old Battery from here, I would have left feeling disappointed.
Curiously, this park has already been reviewed six times on Dooyoo and all the reviews that I've read were far more positive than mine, albeit they were all written a while back and much could have changed in that time. Perhaps take what I've written with a pinch of salt - or colourful sand - and visit anyway. Just remember to take lots of cash.
* Opening Times *
2 April to 30 October - 10am to 5pm every day.
Every Thursday between 28th July and 25th August this year they are holding a 'Magic in the Skies' fireworks night which starts at 6.30pm.
1 November to 25 March - Open at 10am although closing times will vary depending on the weather.
Isle of Wight
Telephone: 0871 720 0022
For those without a car, there is a regular Number 7 Southern Vectis bus which comes from Newport to Alum Bay and stops just inside the park entrance.
If you decide to visit the Isle of Wight this year you may spot the Needles rocks on the way over on the Ferry. If you travel Wightlink Lymington to Yarmouth this is quite easy to do, as this well known and unique landmark is situated on the South Western shore. The white rocks are a jagged line, with a lighthouse at their farthest point, the tallest rock apparently used to resemble a needle, with a hollow "eye", but this tall column was partly destroyed during a storm sometime in the 1800's.
The Needles Park is just a short busride from Freshwater, or nearby Totland Bay. Carparking will cost you £4 (used to be £3), and then entry to the Needles Park is free.
The first things you come across are rides and amusements. No good if you are a teenager in search of a death defying scare (though you could try the Chairlift, only joking), but if you are a family with young children they may like the Driving test or the Pirate ship, which is pretty ancient as it was around about 20 years ago when my children were small.
Then walk on further, and you come to souveneer shops, amusement arcades, and some Fairground attractions. I have been on the Carousel more than once, but then I do like Carousels. This is all pretty OK, but its certainly possible to overspend.Obviously its all pretty commercialised, but the Needles themselves are still hidden from view.We usually find its best to head straight for the beach itself, then enjoy the amusements later , if thats your thing.
Now comes the special bit. The beach can only be reached via a smallish, but totally spectacularly high chairlift, or via a series of steep steps. The view from the chairlift is amazing, but as I've no head for heights, the steps down, and back are the way for me, surprisingly this method is also quicker! The steps look pretty daunting, but are easily achievable if you have an average degree of fitness, they are free, and exercise is good!
This is not to criticise the Chairlift though. It costs £4 per person down and back. The entrances and exits seem well supervised, although if you are able bodied you have to jump on quick, and pull the bar down (children must be accompanied by an adult), if you are disabled, perhaps on crutches, the attendant will temporally slow it right down, so that you can get on and off safely. I saw several elderly or disabled people down on the beach, and I thought that was great, that they could enjoy a high chairlift ride, obviously braver than me!
The small beach is rocky, with spectacular cliffs, from which come the Alum coloured sands. You can cool your feet in the sea (love this). If the sun is shining nows the time to enjoy your sandwiches. Then complete the experience with a reasonably priced boat trip. There are two to choose from,either the fast boat £7 per person, or the slow boat at £5. The fast boat is noisy and popular, but the slow boat appeals to me more. You enter via a wooden jetty,you sit quite high above the water, but its a lovely peaceful, and relaxing trip of (I think)about half an hour. You get quite an interesting commentary, passing close to the Needles, and Lighthouse, you have a closeup view of the cliff Battery built to guard against the threatened invasion of the French back in the 19th century, and a panoramic look at the cliffs which supply the coloured sands. There are supposed to be 22 colours! On a sunny summers day the sea is turquoise, on a duller day grey and green, and I remember it all pale, pearly and misty.
The trip is over, and you are back in the Needles Park. Medals are for sale, if you've been on the Chairlift .
If you have kid(s) with you they will probably enjoy filling a transparent plastic container with layers of coloured sand in the shape of a cat or dog (cheapest size £4.50 unfortunately) to take home. You can also purchase Alum glass, which is very attractive, but moderately expensive, our youngest family memberhad her face painted very skilfully by a lady near the Carousel who charged £3 which I thought was very reasonable.
We had a drink of coffee at a sort of cafe pub place, with settees on the way out. My coffee was a little weak, but I like it strong. Toilet facilities are available, down by the Carousel, queues not too long, and they are ok.
Firework displays take place on a regular basis, and last year there was a childrens entertainer holding little shows on the way out.
The Needles Park is a must if you holiday in the Isle of Wight..I am not a lover of amusement parks, preferring the natural and unique aspects of this place, but it is a cheery place to go with kids. Not to be missed.
The Needles, Alum Bay, Isle of Wight
I have recently revisited the Isle of Wight after many years and have written a few reviews on various attractions on this glorious island, which may help you understand how much I love this lovely island.
******The Needles: An Overview and Quick History******
The Needles has always been one of the top attractions on the Isle of Wight, and through the years it has seen many changes. It was once a simply an amazing view attraction with self-obtaining colorful sands. It has now developed and become a small park along side the original glorious views.
The Needles are located at the far west of the island over looking Alum Bay with the main attraction of the perfectly formed Needles, an array of nature-shaped cliffs leading out to a now unused lighthouse.
The original lighthouse, a famous landmark on the island, was originally erected in 1785, at the time well above sea level. Only a few years before, the cliffs had fallen into the sea with a crash which was said to have been heard all around the island, shaping the rocks into the now known array which has given it the title of 'The Needles'. Over the years, despite the working lighthouse, many ships have been wrecked on the Needles.
In more recent years, The Needles have seen the closure of the man-run lighthouse and more attractions centering on Alum Bay and the Needles. Some I will cover below.
******Attractions at the Needles******
As mentioned above, The Needles Park has been brought into the modern day world by adding various attractions. With some places, this could easily be seen as ruining a great natural attraction, though luckily, it only seems to enhance the enjoyment of the park.
Attractions are on a pay-as-you-go scheme, with bulk tickets being sold at the entrance to save you time and money. Some of the main attractions are as follows;
* Children's Rides - In the main part of the high level part of the park, a medium sized range of children's rides and attractions are available.
 Teacup Ride - The newest ride in the park aimed for younger children, yet allows parents with toddlers on. A fair length ride and exciting for the very young.
 Junior Driving Track - This ride is for children aged between 4 - 11 (with height restrictions). It is fun, exciting and even educational! The realistic built road is brilliant and is equipped with great scenery, working traffic lights and zebra crossings. There are also a small range of different vehicles for the children to choose from. When the children finish their go on the ride, they each receive a unique driving license (for children of course!). My 5 year old brother loved this ride! The cars are easy to use and very safe and seem to be the most popular ride in the park.
 Carousel - Everyone loves a traditional ride, and the carousel is one of the favorites. Each horse has a unique name, which is chosen from the most popular children's names so your child can often find a horse to match their own name.
* Jurassic Golf - In the center of the main high level part of the park is a small crazy golf course with a prehistoric genre. This is a huge hit with adults and children alike. It is slightly on the small size and can become quite packed, though at busy times a limited number of people are allowed in at any one time. It is a 9 hole course, many holes 3-4 par and is equipped with a story telling board around the course to give even more fun.
* Traditional Games Kiosk - Another traditional aspect of the park. Fairly priced and quite fun, though very basic. Included is; Hook a duck, tin can alley and Hoopla. Not a great array of games, but prizes seem to be won quite a lot.
* Sweet Manufactory Shop - This shop is a huge hit. It is an extra £1.00 to enter, which does sound silly to pay to enter a shop, though with this pound you get to learn the history of how sweets have been made on the island, watch them make the sweets and even try a hand at it yourself. Demonstrations, though, are only at set times, so you must check before you enter so you do not miss out.
* Alum Bay Glass Shop - Demonstrations are held at varying times throughout the day (again check before you go for times) on how the famous Alum Bay glass is made. You can see a whole range of items being created, from vases to glass pigs! Again, there is an extra admission price of £1.00, though it is fully worth it as it proved extremely interesting and you are able to purchase many unique items to take home with you. You are able to stay as long as you want, though I would probably recommend visiting on a day which isn't too hot as it becomes extremely hot in the workshop.
* Sand Shop - Unfortunately you are no longer able to collect your own sand from the beach due to danger, though you can visit this wonderful shop and choose your own sand shaped holder and go around the different colored sand boxes, filling your ornaments how you wish. There are approximately 21 shades of sand to choose from, and if you are too lazy to do-it-yourself, you can also buy ready filled ornaments. The shop seems to always be crowded and it became rather hot and claustrophobic at times. It was difficult to move around at busy times, though we did go in the school holidays, so it might not be as bad at non-peak times.
* Boat Rides - Boat trips operate only if weather is permitting from Easter time to late October. We did not go on the boat trip as my husband is afraid of boats (although he came to the island on a ferry - very weird!!). If you want to see the actual Needles close up then this is the perfect option for you. You jet off from a jetty on the lower beach and trip around the caves, cliffs and lighthouse and see spectacular views of the island.
* Chairlift - One of the very first additions to the park. Please look at comments under the 'To the Needles Beach' heading for more information.
******To the Needles Beach******
The main attraction, of course, is the Needles and the beach at the bottom of the cliffs within a lovely sheltered cove. Although, like many parts of the Isle of Wight, parts of the cliff face have eroded into the sea, the beach is still fully accessible.
Myself and my family decided to walk down the 200 plus steps towards the beach - a long hike for anyone and extremely steep so extra care is needed especially with young children. Whilst walking down, we noticed many steps and cliff edges boarded off to prevent accidents, though the staircase itself was completely safe, if not slightly daunting.
Once down on the beach, there really isn't that much to do. It is quite a sheltered area so it makes a great place to picnic and relax, though it is no longer a vast area. It is also a pebble beach, which tends to put some people off. The cliffs are sectioned off by tape as they have become very dangerous, though you are able to see the multicolored sands which are a perfect picture. Unfortunately, you are no longer able to help yourself to the sands like you used to. Instead you have to visit the sand shop (mentioned above).
Also mentioned above are the boat trips. We did not go on this trip, though it is an extremely popular attraction as you are able to go and see the Needles up close. It embarks from the jetty at the far end of the beach.
Another popular attraction (briefly mentioned above) is the chairlift. Facing a long walk back up the hill - the worst way! Myself and my husband decided to take the one way trip back up the hill on the chairlift. I have to admit, though, I was slightly scared at the thought. The lift goes right up the Cliffside and almost vertical at one point (whilst you face forwards and upwards).
The ride is easily to get on. You simply stand on the platform, helped by the staff, and wait until the chair is right behind you before you sit down and have the bar put across you. It is a single bar in front of you and one in the middle of you and your partner (they are all two-seaters). I didn't feel completely safe with this simple bar, and it is good that there are height restrictions which apply, although I did see a few young children on other chairs which was slightly worrying. On the way up, we saw loads of shoes and other various objects sitting on the cliff face, so if you decide to go on this life, make sure everything is firmly attached!
I felt slightly panicky when the lift shuddered and stopped just as we were starting the steepest climb, though we made it to the top safely. I probably wouldn't go on this again, and going down is a definite no for me, though many people love it, so if you are brave enough - give it a try!
******Food, Drink and Gifts******
There are a small arrangement of food shops on the high level of the park, from snack bars to café's. There is also a decently sized restaurant and bar for adults to relax in. Prices vary, and some are quite expensive, but this is to be expected from an attraction like this. I had a coffee and hotdog and although the hotdog was lovely, the coffee was not. It is possibly best to take your own picnic. You can choose from a range of different places to eat your picnic, from the beach to the hilltops as well as various seats and tables around the park.
There are a few different gift shops available in the park as well, again with varying prices. Many gifts are hand made and island made to give that extra uniqueness.
There are many events which occur at specific times of the year. Unfortunately, no events were happening at the time of our visit, though events do include;
* Food and craft Markets
* Special walks
* Firework nights
The park itself is free to enter and there are no obligations to pay for anything in the park unless you wish to.
Rides and other attractions on the main high level part of the park range between £1.00-£3.00 each, depending. These prices include;
Chairlift Return £4.00
Junior Driver £2.00
Games Kiosk - per game £1.00
Jurassic Golf £2.00
Alum Bay Glass £1.00
Sweet Manufactory £1.00
Tea Cup Ride £1.00
Pirate Ship £1.00
Any Outlet £1.00
* 'Supersaver' Ticket (book) £9.00 This can save you 25% on your day out.
If you arrive by car, there is a fair sized car park which costs only £3.00 for a whole days stay. Personally I think that this is a fair price for a full day.
1st April to end of October - Daily 10am till 5pm*
*Later opening on Thursday's in August and throughout the main summer season
1st November to 31st March - Daily 10am till 4pm
Please note limited attractions are available throughout the winter. Please call us for further information before planning your visit.
Hours extended every Thursday throughout August for 'Magic in the Skies' fireworks finale. Some of the Park's facilities / shops remain open until a crescendo of fireworks at 9.30 pm.
******Find the Needles******
A3054 via Yarmouth
B3401 and B3399 via Freshwater
A3055 via Freshwater Bay
The Needles Park is Sign Posted by all the main roads
The number 7 Southern Vectis bus from Newport serves Alum Bay regularly
Bus enquiry helpline 0870 608 2 608
The Needles Tour - an open top bus operates between Yarmouth and Alum Bay. After stopping at the Park it winds its way along the cliff top to the National Trust property
******Contact the Needles Park******
Tel: 0870 458 0022
The Needles Park, Alum Bay, Isle of Wight PO39 0JD
Registered in England: No 3741747
Registered Office: Heritage Attractions Limited, Suite 37, The Colonnades, Albert Dock, Liverpool L3 4AA
Although many things have changed over the years (the collect your own sand - which is disappointing) The Needles continue to be a popular attraction in the Isle of Wight. Myself and my family really enjoyed our day there, although it did not take up all day. To extend your stay, you can always take a walk down the side of the hills overlooking the bay.
If you take a trip to the island, then I would fully recommend traveling down to The Needles, although I wouldn't recommend visiting just for this.
It is true that a lot of the park is aimed at children, but there are also loads of exciting things for adults too, and it makes your holiday complete.
The Needles are located in Alum Bay on the Isle of Wight, the Needles themselves are columns of land that are no longer part of the main land and sit in the sea in the bay.
Alum Bay and the Needles are a very popular attraction on the Isle of Wight located next to Freshwater Bay on the West coast of the Island.
Entry to the attraction is free and all you need to pay is for the car park which is £2 per car not per person. Admittedly I visited this attraction in October and during the summer months the price may well rise.
The two main attractions are natural, one being the Needles and the other the coloured sands on the cliffs, it is the only place in the UK where multicoloured sands can be found. You can also go to the sand shop above the cliff and enjoy bottling the different colours in a variety of shaped and sized bottles.
The main car park and shops are all on the cliff top, the Needles and cliff sands are below, you must go on a ski lift type chair lift or walk down a lot of steps to gain access to the beach and views below.
Walking is the free option and the lift costs: 4 tickets for a return trip (per person) which is £1 per ticket unless you buy the 12 tickets for £9. We did and didn't use them all. It was a waste. I would recommend this if you are a family, or there is more than two of you, then you end up using the tickets and making a saving.
It is quite a scary experience, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who doesn't like heights, has vertigo or who are control freaks, you are not in control at all. We went on it in October and it was raining and very windy, I must admit I don't know why we went on it, I felt like it was going to come off in the wind and we would fall to our deaths, thankfully this didn't happen. I would never take a small child on this though.
In season and in better weather you can also go on boat trips from the beach to the Needles, you go on the pleasure boat and visit the rocks and the lighthouse as well as the Needles.
On site there is also:
Alum Bay Glass Centre - www.alumbayglass.co.uk
You get to watch the whole glass making process from beginning to end and then visit the shop where all glass items have been made on site. This is fascinating to watch and the guys do talk you through the process so you know what is going on. It is also nice and warm inside so good for warming up and avoiding the rain.
Pier Head Shopping Emporium
This is a Victorian themed shopping emporium based around shopping in the Nineteenth century, it is a gift shop where there are many souvenirs and presents.
The Isle of Wight Sweet Manufactory
This attraction is done on timed entrance, you must visit and go on the tour at specific times, unfortunately we missed them all so we had to instead just visit the shop and bought some yummy Rubarb and Custards!! The idea behind the tour is to see how the hard boiled sweets are made and coloured. I wish we had chance to see it.
Fun Fair Rides
There are small rides for small children and a play area to keep them entertained. This was all shut on the rainy October day we visited, I think it is more seasonal and opened in the summer months.
There is the choice of the Pies and Pasty Hut or Marconi's Bar or Needles Perk. Food options vary depending on establishment, they aren't too expensive and there is a lot of variety, we opted to have lunch here and bought, 2 sandwiches, a cookie, a cake slice and 2 drinks for £5ish.
I really enjoyed this attraction, it was just a shame it rained and was very windy, but then what did we expect? I would say this attraction is best suited for the summer months and can imagine picnics and families really enjoying it. I would like to go back and see the Needles in all their glory, not through the rain and mist. I think the only thing that would put me off going in the summer, is the small space that the site is on. There isn't lots of space and the beach is a sliver and I can imagine it getting over crowded very quickly.
The indoor attractions like the sweet makers cost money too or tickets, so do the kids fun fair rides.
It is definitely somewhere you must visit on your Isle of Wight holiday.
So, Alum Bay...There are four things that you really need to do when visiting. I would start the day with a trip down to the beach on the chairlift. This way you can see the coloured sands in all their glory in the cliff before visiting the sand shop - I found that it was better to do this first as then you get a feel for why the park is here before you start exploring. The chairlift is great and you get a brilliant view, but be warned, it can be a bit rocky if the wind is blowing.
After coming back up, take a look at the sand shop. Inside you can fill a plastic or glass ornement in the shape of a frog, isle of wight map, bell, lighthouse and more with layers of coloured sand to take home with you. I would recommend the lighthouse for young children - they can't really make any mistakes as it is just a test tube shape, the isle of wight map for school age children and if you want the staff to put a pattern into the sand for you with a piece of wire, the glass bell is a really nice choice for adults. Some of the other shapes can look a little tacky but the basic ones make really nice non-dating mementos of your visit.
After this, take a trip to the Alum Bay glass blowing factory where you can watch glass being blown in the workshop - really interesting and they have some lovely pieces in the gift shop. Once finished here, take in another demonstration in at the Sweet factory. When I was last there they were demonstrating making humbugs and gave the visitors some to try, hot out of the machine! It smells and tastes amazing.
Finally, take an open topped bus ride up to the Needles Old Battery (seperate to the park) where you can see exhibitions of how this building was used during wartime as a lookout post and bunker.
I loved visiting here as a kid and lived just up the road. In addition to the main attractions, there are fairground rides, a good crazy golf course and plenty of parking. You could spend between half and a full day here and then enjoy some lovely walks in the surrounding area of beach and headland
For our first full day on the Isle of Wight, we decided to do a lap of the Island to see what was out there and to basically have a look around as well. We had a few leaflets that we took with us from the Premier Travel Inn to ensure that we knew where we were heading and what we would see. The one thing that my other half and I did agree on was that we should definitely visit The Needles Park.
This place has one big selling point; it is located at the furthest point on the West side of the Isle of Wight at Alum Bay. This not only gives spectacular views of the Needles and the Lighthouse but also some picturesque views of the Dorset coast as far away as Swanage. So if you are a photographer you will have some great opportunities to take some good shots as well as spend the day walking the area, something that I will touch upon later.
We were one of the first to arrive at the Park at about 10.15am, to park a car here it costs just £4. This is not an hour, this is for all day! We walked from the Car Park into the Park proper, which only takes a few minutes as it is adjacent to the Park itself. Taking a step up on the Observation Deck to take our first proper look at the Needles before we went into the Park itself, breathtaking is the only way to describe it. Now I love the fact that if you get somewhere early then the chances are high that it will be empty. It was the same here as attendants were at all the rides ready for the customers to go on them... except there weren't any people around! It is free to enter the Park, as you pay for each ride individually or purchase vouchers that give quite a sizeable discount of 25%.
As the day went on the Park got busy quite quickly, and to my horror the school kids that were on the Ferry turned up, needless to say that shortly after this it was also very noisy as well. They turned up by coach; parking for coaches is totally separate from cars in a separate area closer to the main entrance. This is also where the Bus Service stops and starts with a regular service from Yarmouth to the Park.
For a smallish size attraction I was impressed with what there was to go on, an old fashioned Merry-Go-Round, Tea Cup rides, Crazy Golf with a Dinosaur theme and electric cars for the younger children. Naturally these are aimed at the younger child; however there are plenty for the adults to go on as well. What is nice was there was a penny arcade that the older visitors seemed more attracted to then the younger ones, I went in here and was fascinated by the mechanical level of some of the games that were also wall mounted. There is also a modern type amusement arcade as well, that was busy with a number of jump in rides placed outside the arcade.
The thing that interested me the most was the Chairlift that takes you down to the Beach, from here you can look at the multi coloured cliffs, take a 20 minute boat ride out to the Needles or casually walk along the Beach itself. It is a basic ski-lift that takes you from the middle of the Park across the treetops and straight down the cliff face to the Beach, at £4 per person to ride which I thought it was okay as this was a return ticket. The ride didn't go in a flash and was at a reasonable speed that meant you could savour the journey and take everything in, although the ride down the cliff face was a bit frightening seeing as it felt that it was nigh on a sheer drop! It was £3 to go just one way if you decided to use the stairs to get back up to the top.
At the bottom is the Pier to board the boat for the tour of the Needles, if you go this will cost £5 per person and last for approximately 20 minutes. We walked along the Beach for about half a mile or so and took in the colours of the cliffs that are called The Sands of Time, basically these are the rocks of the cliffs in all kind of different colours from Pinks and Blues to Magenta and Red. This was vaguely reminiscent of a jar of Space Dust from the 1970's and is absolutely fascinating to look at. One thing you need to be aware of is that the cliff face itself is always changing and it looked like there had been a recent rock fall as this area was cordoned off, you can also see that the path and stairs down to the beach have had to be reconfigured because of this as well.
Back up top after the ride up and we took in a Coffee, prices are good at £2.20 for a Latte. The quality of the Coffee is also surprisingly good as I though that this would be where the catering lets itself down, however the cups were a decent size and the drink of good quality. If you fancied a more sizeable meal then there are Restaurants that will cater for this, and both were busy with families with young children sitting outside eating. The lavatories were clean and were checked regularly as was the Park itself. All litter is collected from the bins on a regular basis and staff were walking around collecting the odd piece of rubbish off the floor with a long-handled pan and brush. This impressed me as the foliage was tidy and overall was very clean and well presented with all pathways well maintained and most importantly with an even surface.
Obviously with a place like this there is always going to be the obligatory Gift Shop, here is where the Park excels at something I haven't seen before. They have their own sand shop where you buy the glass holder and fill it with the different colours of sand, the school kids were getting right into this as by now a whole plethora of kids had turned up! It was quite funny as some were attempting to haggle with the staff to get a glass holder that cost £6.99 down to £2, which in turn seemed to wind up the shop staff until the Teacher intervened. The shop was split into two with the other half selling items related to the Isle of Wight such as Island shaped jars already full of sand or Dinosaur fossils that were found inn this region of the island itself.
The glass jars for the sand are made on site and the making of these can be viewed with the Glasshouse by the main entrance, it was far too busy with the hoards of school kids at the time, so we didn't visit here. It would have cost £1 per person to enter to view the glass being made. There are also a handful of other gift shops that stock gifts "for all the family" from the memory cards for digital cameras to Jack Daniels Glasses and novelty key rings with your name on. I felt this was a basic seaside shop that didn't really fit in as these types of items can be bought anywhere you go; it wasn't busy in there at all which kind of backed up my feelings as I didn't feel any connection between what was being sold and the Park itself. Although my other half did find the Jewellery shop interesting as well as the Victorian Arcade that sells items from that era.
As I said earlier, if you are a rambler at heart you can walk literally for miles through the country without actually straying too fat from the Park itself. We saw plenty of people with Trekking Poles started their ascent of the nearby hills and to be honest I wished that I had done this as well at the time, but unfortunately the weather was changing from one moment to the next as it was a case of showers and sun.
Overall I never expected something like Chessington or Thorpe Park with rollercoaster's and water rides; however what you do get is something that is down to earth, lively and something the kids will enjoy for the rides as much as the adults will enjoy for the views and sights that can be seen from both in and around the Park itself. In the end we spent just over four hours here and felt that we had done everything we wanted to do. The tranquillity of the beach to the busyness of the main area of the Park is something that is easily noticeable and is a strong indication of where the focus is as the beach was empty compared to the Park above, although I suspect that bookings for the boat were made for later in the day.
This is definitely a place I would recommend to visit if you go to the Isle of Wight as it is something that allows you to closer than usual with the landscape itself, the history that this place has is something that can be easily noticed and seen with regards to the fossils and although it is a tourist attraction you still have the freedom to leave and go for a walk without worrying about the car or anything. If you don't go for the Park then taking a stroll around the area is the next best thing to do and something that we intend to do next time we visit. One thing we will do is check the Website for this place as there are evening events such as Firework displays, as well as to see what special offers they are currently offering.
The next attraction we went for was going to be a toss up between the Steam Railway or The Garlic Farm!
The Needles park is situated on the West side of the Isle of Wight at Alum Bay, between the places of Freshwater and Yarmouth. It is easy to reach by car along some of the windy country roads of the island and if you approach from the south, the views of the sea and cliffs are breathtaking. The park can also be reached by bus.
The park is named after the famous Needles rocks and lighthouse, although there is much more to do and see than this.
On arrival at the park, there is an all day parking charge of £3.00, which seems quite expensive. The car park is on a fairly steep slope, so the walk from and to the car can be a little tricky. There are some disabled spaces which are situated at the bottom of the car park, making access easier for people with mobility difficulties.
The car park leads to a fun fair area, which consists of a tea cup ride, a mini pirate ship, a carousel, junior driver and a games kiosk.
All of these attractions are payable separately, so it is easy to soon spend lots of money. The junior driver seems the most popular attraction. Basically, this involves mini motorised vehicles which children from 4 - 11 can drive around roads, complete with traffic lights and roundabouts. It is good fun to watch, as there are usually some near misses, but with only 5 drivers at a time, the queue for this ride can be long.
Prices for the rides are:
Junior Driver - £2.00 or 2 tickets
Carousel - £1.00 or 1 ticket
Games Kiosk - £1.00 or 1 ticket per game
Pirate Ship - £1.00 or 1 ticket
Tea Cup Ride - £1.00 or 1 ticket
Tickets can be purchased individually or a book or 12 tickets costs £9.00.
Other attractions include 'Jurassic Golf', which is crazy golf. This costs £2.00 or 2 tickets per person, the sweet manufactory and Alum Bay Glass, which each cost £1.00 or 1 ticket per person to watch the demonstrations. They both have shops which can be visited for free if ypu prefer not to watch the demos.
I have seen both the sweet making and glass blowing demonstrations. They were both interesting, but my personal recommendation of the two is the glass blowing. Although interesting, the sweet demonstration enables you to only watch one demo, it is crowded and difficult to see and there are set demonstration times. The glass blowing demonstrations, however, are available to watch at any time, viewing is on a raised platform, so it is easy to see and you can watch the demonstrations for as little or as long as you please. Very interesting and fascinating to watch.
In addition to these attractions, the main area of the park has a restaurant, with average priced drinks and food, a bar, a gift shop, a sand shop and other food, drink and clothing kiosks. There are also toilet and baby changing facilities.
One of the main attractions to see, however, is the Needles rocks and lighthouse. There are places within the main area to see this, but the best views can be seen from going down the cliffs to the beach.
This can be achieved in two separate ways. One option to to use the wooden steps and walk down, which leads straight onto the beach. There are a lot of steps and although manageable, I would not recommend this route for less mobile or inactive people, although it is free!!
The second option is to take the chairlift at a cost of £4.00 or 4 tickets for a return trip. I'm not sure if this option would be feasible for anyone who is wheel chair bound as the chairlifts continually move, but at a slow pace, making getting on and off a little tricky for some people. I do think, however, that the chairlifts could be stopped if someone needed more time to get on and off.
The chairlifts go right over and down the cliff edge, giving you fantastic views, but this might be a hair raising experience for people who are afraid of heights!!
There is the option at the bottom of coming off of the chairlifts to explore the beach area of Alum Bay, or alternatively, you can take the trip back up straight away.
Alum Bay is a shingle, pebbly beach and the water can become quite rough, so it is not a good choice for sun bathing. It does give good views of the Needles and the coloured sandstone cliffs, which the bay is also famous for.
Weather permitting, you may have the opportunity of a short 20 - 30 minute boat trip, which takes you out to sea for a closer look at the Needles. We did this last year and I think it cost £4.00 for adults and a cheaper rate for children. I would highly recommend this. You get a different view and perspective of the Needles and also the coloured sand cliffs and this was good value for money.
After exploring the beach, the choice is either a walk back up to the top via the wooden steps, or a return trip on the chairlift.
A final attraction worth mentioning is the sand shop. In this shop, you can buy an empty plastic container, available in various shapes and sizes (Isle of Wight maps, animals etc). You then fill your container up using the different colours of sand that have been collected from the cliffs and then a professional will securely seal your container. This makes a good souvenir, although queues for container sealing can be horrendous.
Overall, the Needles park is well worth a visit, although due to the vast amount of payable attractions, it can be an expensive day out, especially if you have children. Personally, I recommend a walk down to the beach, the boat ride and the glass blowing demonstrations. Beware, however, if you visit at peak times, as you may find that you are queuing for a long time to get into the car park and the park becomes very busy.