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Things to see and do at Compton Bay and Downs

Looking west from the sandy beach at Compton Bay on the Isle of Wight, with white cliffs, Tennyson Down and Afton Down, divided by Freshwater Bay, in the distance
Looking across the beach at Compton Bay | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Spend a day at one of the Isle of Wight’s best swimming spots. From its sandy beach to open downland with fine views over to Tennyson Down and The Needles, there’s plenty of space to explore, search for fossils, spot local wildlife, surf, cycle or go horse riding.

Play on the beach

Compton Bay has a firm sandy beach, and the tide doesn’t go out too far so it's perfect for swimming. It isn’t too crowded, and there are excellent views towards the Needles and Dorset beyond.

Search for fossils

The Isle of Wight is the richest source of dinosaur remains in Europe. In Compton Bay, look for fossils on areas of the beach recently uncovered by the tide, amongst the loose gravel and stones.

  • Fossilised dinosaur bones and teeth are most commonly black and shiny, with a honeycomb texture.
  • Fossilised wood is also black but less dense, without a honeycomb pattern.
  • Don’t miss the large three-toed iguanodon foot casts at the base of the cliffs just to the east of Compton Bay car park at Hanover Point.

Read our guide to safe and responsible fossil hunting.

Surfers in the sea at Compton Bay, Isle of Wight
Surfers in the sea at Compton Bay | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Go surfing

Compton Bay is the best place for surfing on the Isle of Wight, with convenient beach access from the three National Trust car parks.

Lying on the southern shore of the Isle of Wight, the shallow bay receives good waves from the prevailing south westerly winds. 

The best conditions are low to mid tides, with winds from the south-east or north-north-west, when the swell can be anything from 2 to 5ft.

Kitesurfing and windsurfing

Compton Bay is an ideal place for windsurfing beginners, but Brook Bay to the east is better for intermediates.

Kitesurfing is popular on the Isle of Wight. There are areas to suit all skill levels but to stay safe among swimmers and surfers, it’s best to use Brook Bay.

Please note: there are no regular lifeguards operating in Compton Bay.

Close view of fossils at the disused Loftus Alum Works, North Yorkshire
Close view of fossils | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Walk your dog

Dogs love the breezy walk over the grassy downs at Compton, as well as racing through the tide along the beach.

Beach restrictions apply mid-May to September along Compton Beach but you can walk with your dog between Brook Chine and Hanover Point all year round.

Ride your horse

The bridle paths over Afton, Compton and Brook Down are perfect for horses, being firm under foot and with wide vistas. There are numerous car parks close by for horse boxes.

Bike riding

The off-road Tennyson Trail crosses National Trust land as it passes over Afton Down, Compton Down, Brook Down and Mottistone Down.

This is one of the classics of Isle of Wight cycling, a wonderful chalk track along the ridge tops (be warned that it isn't flat).

There are also more gentle, quiet country lanes and routes to take you from the ferry terminal to National Trust spots on the island.

Family on the beach at Compton Bay, Isle of Wight, are reflected in the wet sand near the edge of the sea

Discover more at Compton Bay and Downs

Find out how to get to Compton Bay and Downs, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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