Sailors from all over the globe flock to compete in the season's many sailing events, the pinnacle of which is Cowes Week held at the beginning of every August.
Pretty impressive for a place that started out as a bunch of fishermen's shacks, huddled around two forts built by Henry VIII on opposite banks of the River Medina. The two offshore sandbanks, better known locally as cows, gave Cowes and East Cowes their names, and the two are linked with an old chain ferry, which carries cars and foot passengers.
Cowes fishing industry grew into ship building in Elizabethan times, and this evolved into yacht building as the royal family popularised sailing. When the Royal Yacht Squadron moved into Cowes Castle in 1854, the town's destiny was set.
There is a high-speed passenger catamaran service running from Southampton to Fountain Quay in the heart of Cowes, and the narrow pedestrian-only high street has lively pubs and good restaurants, and offers some great shopping, with many of the shops having a distinctly nautical flavour.
East Cowes is the location for the wonderful Osborne House, Queen Victoria's favourite holiday retreat. It is beautifully preserved - frozen in time from the day the Queen died there in 1901. Guests can visit for a snapshot of royal life.