With seven miles of golden sand edging the clear blue waters of England's south coast, it's easy to see why Bournemouth was chosen 200 years ago as the site for a brand new seaside resort, and why it has thrived as a holiday destination ever since.
With its colourful beach huts, candy-striped deck chairs, cosy B&Bs and a traditional promenade Bournemouth is both an old-fashioned seaside holiday resort and a modern, vibrant city, whose great shopping and nightlife make it popular for stag and hen parties. What's more, a recently constructed artificial reef provides excellent surfing opportunities.
Bournemouth is a modern, lively city surrounded by quintessential English countryside, with the New Forest National Park on one side and the beautiful West Country stretching out on the other.
Things to do in Bournemouth
• Bournemouth Oceanarium Bournemouth's aquarium boasts themed areas exploring some of the most fascinating aquatic environments in the world, including the Amazon, the Great Barrier Reef and the Ganges.
Visit the Bournemouth Oceanarium website
• Compton Acres Located on Bournemouth's Canford Cliffs, Compton Acres was purchased as the seaside residence of a margarine entrepreneur. The extensive grounds feature beautiful manicured gardens from around the world, including Japan, Italy, Egypt and India, reflecting the owner's love of travel and horticulture.
Visit the Compton Acres website
• Bournemouth Beach Seven miles of golden sand and sheltered waters which are perfect for bathing have earned Bournemouth Beach four blue flags and the title of 'Britain's Best Beach'. Sunbathing, swimming and watersports can all be enjoyed, as well as the traditional family attractions of the seafront promenade and pier, and on a clear day you can see out to the Needles on the Isle of Wight and Old Harry's Rocks at Purbeck.
Cliff lifts run throughout the summer, and land trains take you along the beach to Alum Chine and Boscombe, where an artificial reef provides surfers with consistent waves.
- • Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum Set in a quirky 19th-century building, the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery houses artworks from all over the world from Sir and Lady Merton's private collection, as well as changing exhibitions. A cross between a Scottish baronial castle and an Italianate villa, East Cliff Hall enjoys a scenic location looking out to sea close to Bournemouth Pier.
Visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum website
- • Poole On the west side of Bournemouth lies the medieval port of Poole. Still a busy harbour, Poole is a popular spot for watersports, fishing and yachting, and has a good selection of upmarket restaurants and lively pubs.
Visit Poole's website
Poole is also where you can catch a ferry to Brownsea Island, a National Trust nature reserve of heath and woodland which is home to native red squirrels and a wide variety of birdlife.
Visit Brownsea Island at the National Trust website
Bournemouth has its own airport located just 6 miles outside the city. Bournemouth's main bus and railway stations are situated to the east of the centre. Regular trains and buses run to London, taking about 2 hours, and there are frequent local services to Poole and other nearby towns.
Bournemouth Bed and BreakfastsCandlesticks Inn
Set in the charming market town of Ringwood, right on the edge of the New Forest National Park and twenty minutes from Bournemouth, Candlesticks Inn offers traditional hospitality in warm and welcoming guestrooms equipped with en-suite bathrooms, TV, WiFi and tea/coffee-making facilities. Meals are served next door in the restaurant, a fifteenth-century thatched building where exposed wooden beams, open fireplaces and a warm welcome help to create a cosy, old world atmosphere.Book Bournemouth bed and breakfast Candlesticks Inn
Denewood Guesthouse offers friendly and relaxing accommodation just minutes from Boscombe's sandy beaches and the surf reef. Twelve comfortable and well-appointed guestrooms are set over two floors, all individually decorated and equipped with en-suite bathrooms, WiFi and satellite TV. Ideal for business or leisure, Denewood Guesthouse offers everything from complete office facilities to a health and beauty salon offering a range of treatments for men and women.Book Bournemouth bed and breakfast Denewood Guesthouse
- • Bournemouth Bay Run (March)
- • Classic Cars on the Prom (March - September)
- • Pier to Pier Swim (June)
- • Bournemouth International Triathlon (July)
- • Bournemouth Free Pride Festival (July)
- • Bournemouth Carnival Week (July - August)
- • Bournemouth Air Festival (August)
- • Bournemouth Fireworks Display (November)
- • Bournemouth Christmas Market (November - December)
• New Forest National Park The New Forest National Park is 150 sq miles of heath and woodland that starts at the Solent and stretches up towards Salisbury. Untouched since Norman times, the New Forest is a popular place for cycling, horse riding and camping, and is famous for its wild ponies.
Visit the New Forest National Park website
• Dorchester Around 30 miles from Bournemouth is Dorset's administrative centre, Dorchester, once home to novelist Thomas Hardy and now boasting a collection of quirky museums including the Tutankhamun Exhibit, the Dinosaur Museum and a 1st-century Roman town house.
Visit Dorchester's website
Just south of Dorchester stand the ramparts of Maiden Castle, Europe's largest Iron Age ring fort, which extend over 20 hectares. Be humbled by history and nature as you stand on the massive earth walls and take in the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.Another example of prehistoric Britain can be found a few miles north of Dorchester. The famous Cerne Abbas Giant is a 180ft chalk figure etched into the hillside and estimated to be anything up to several thousand years old.
Visit the Maiden Castle website
See the Cerne Abbas Giant at the National Trust website
• Lyme Regis Just before you reach Devon you come to the charming seaside town of Lyme Regis, nestled between steep cliffs. Lyme Regis is famous for its literary appearances in Jane Austen's Persuasion and John Fowle's The French Lieutenant's Woman, and also for its limestone cliffs which are dotted with prehistoric fossils. Some of the world's first dinosaur skeletons were uncovered here.
Visit the Lyme Regis website
• Isle of Wight Head from Bournemouth to nearby Lymington, just outside the New Forest, and you can catch a ferry to the Isle of Wight. A popular holiday destination thanks to its mild climate and excellent beaches, over a third of the island has been designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are plenty of activities for all the family, with top attractions including Osborne House, the Needles, Alum Bay and Black Gang Chine. With ferries also running from Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight is perfect for a day trip from the mainland but could easily keep you busy for a week's holiday.
Visit the Isle of Wight website
• Stonehenge The landscape around Bournemouth breathes history, and never more so than at Stonehenge, Britain's most visited heritage site. Just an hour north of Bournemouth, the purpose of the iconic 5000-year-old structure has never been fully established, a mystery that intrigues the hordes of visitors who come from all over the globe to gaze at it. There are also numerous other, less well-known prehistoric sites scattered around the area, including Woodhenge, which predates its more famous sibling.
Visit the Stonehenge website
Other cities around Bournemouth include Southampton, Portsmouth, Weymouth and Winchester.
For travel information about the rest of Britain, go to VisitBritain.com.
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By Eleanor Brown