Getting from London to the Isle of Wight by train
The fastest way to reach the island from London is to catch a train to Portsmouth, followed by a ferry service from Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head. If you buy a ticket on Trainline, you won’t have to worry about purchasing separate train and ferry tickets – it’s all included in your booking.
The journey takes around 2h 37m on the fastest services. If you’re after a return ticket, the best option is an Off-Peak Return for £74.20. This allows you to take any Off-Peak service to and from the Isle of Wight within a month. Just do a quick check before setting off that your train is Off-Peak; most on this route are.
If you’re not sure when (or if!) you will return, Anytime Day Singles for £56.20. On weekends, Super Off-Peak Day Singles are available for £52.*
Let’s have a look at the journey in more detail.
London Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour – 2h 03m
Departing from Waterloo, you’ll catch a South Western Railway (SWR) service to Portsmouth Harbour. This is the closest railway station to – yep, you guessed it – the harbour! If you live in south-west London, you can hop on the train at Clapham Junction instead of trailing all the way into Central London.
The London-Portsmouth service runs along the South Western Main Line, forking off at Guildford onto the Portsmouth Direct Line. The trains on this route contain Standard and First-Class carriages, toilets and plug sockets. SWR uses a mix of Class 442, 444, and 450 passenger trains between London and Portsmouth, many of which were refurbished between 2017 and 2019. Long-story short – they’re a perfectly comfortable way to travel to Portsmouth!
Next up, you’ll catch a ferry to the Isle of Wight. The ferry terminal is located within Portsmouth Harbour train station and is well-signposted.
Portsmouth Harbour to Ryde Pier Head – 22m
Ferries between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight are operated by Wightlink, but don’t worry, tickets bought through Trainline are completely valid for use on their services.
The ferry from Portsmouth Harbour is the quickest route to the island, taking just 22 minutes to cross the Solent. It takes you to Ryde Pier Head, a train station and ferry terminal situated at the end of the pier. From here, a 15-minute amble down the pier gets you to Ryde, or you can hop on a train to explore the east side of the island.
Other routes from London to the Isle of Wight
The alternative route from London is to travel by train and ferry to Yarmouth, a town on the west of the island. This is a handy route if you want to explore the western side of the Isle, as it takes the best part of an hour and a half to travel by bus from Ryde Pier Head to Yarmouth.
London to Yarmouth takes 3h 10m on the fastest services, requiring two changes. First, catch a train from London Waterloo to Brockenhurst. At Brockenhurst, change on to a service to Lymington Pier. From here, you can catch a 40-minute ferry to Yarmouth. Wightlink also operate ferries on the Lymington-Yarmouth route and your ferry ticket is included in your Trainline booking.
Trains on the Isle of Wight
You don’t need a car to explore the island! The Isle of Wight has its very own railway, the Island Line, which runs from Ryde Pier Head along the eastern side of the island to Shanklin.
What’s more, the award-winning Isle of Wight Steam Railway connects to the Island Line at Smallbrook Junction – in fact, that’s the entire reason this station exists! There is no pedestrian access to Smallbrook Junction as its sole purpose is to connect the Island Line to the steam railway heritage line.
As for other transport connections, Southern Vectis runs bus services on the island. The largest bus station is in Newport, where you can get to most areas of the island. The busier east side benefits from more bus connections than the quieter western and southern sides. Have a look at the bus network map on Southern Vectis’ website.
Things to do on the Isle of Wight
There’s plenty to do on the Isle of Wight, right from when you arrive in Ryde. The town has a Benedictine monastery, Quarr Abbey, where you can feed the pigs and enjoy a cuppa in the tea rooms. Appley beach is also a nice spot, although there are plenty of other sandy beaches on the island.
Hop on the train to Sandown for the Isle of Wight Zoo and Dinosaur Isle – both are guaranteed to enthral the kids. Continue on the train to the final station on the line, Shanklin, to wander through the Shanklin Chine, a leafy ravine with fascinating natural features.
The west coast is quieter but boasts stunning scenery and awe-inspiring geographical features. The Needles are perhaps the best example of the island’s rugged geography – three stacks of chalk rise out of the sea on the Isle’s western-most point. They’re well worth a visit; open-top buses ferry passengers between Yarmouth and Alum Bay, where you can get a good view.
Check out the Isle of Wight Guru for in-depth travel tips, reviews of the island’s beaches and advice on choosing accommodation.
*Prices correct as of October 2020.