I count myself very lucky to live in Poole in Dorset – I definitely wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the UK. We have beautiful beaches as well as countryside to explore, and there are tons of things to do in Poole and Bournemouth with kids.
Bournemouth was once laughed at for being a retirement town – though recently is more famous for stag & hen parties – and Poole is probably best known for having some of the most expensive houses in the world down at Sandbanks. However, a lot of families come down to Bournemouth & Poole on holiday, and it really is a great place to bring children. (No I don’t work for the tourist board, I just love where I live!)
If you’re thinking of coming down this way for your family holiday, here are my ideas for some things to do in Poole and Bournemouth with kids (all photos are my own)…
The main one attraction down here is obviously the beaches, with the golden sand and palm trees you could be fooled into thinking you were somewhere a bit more exotic! There are plenty of beaches to choose from – if you like busy and slightly touristy beaches then Bournemouth beach is for you, it’s a short walk from the town centre and the promenade is full of cafes, restaurants, bars as well as an amusement arcade, carousel, and other things that will cost you lots of money!
From Bournemouth Pier you can take a stroll past all of the beautiful beach huts and head down to Boscombe Beach with it’s musical pier, surf reef and restaurants and bars. From there you can keep going for miles towards Southbourne and Hengistbury Head.
If you are prepared to drive a bit further outside of Bournemouth then Avon Beach just past Christchurch is lovely, you might have seen my photo of the fab beach huts there. There’s a restaurant and shop, and it’s right next to Mudeford Quay, where all the kids sit and do some crabbing, or you can get a boat to Christchurch or Hengistbury Head.
Sandbanks in Poole is a great beach that’s very famous for it’s golden sand and multi-million pound properties. It has a cafe, shop, and a play park however gets incredibly busy in the holidays.
If you don’t mind being away from the touristy Areas then you should head from Sandbanks to Canford Cliffs Beach (has a shop), Branksome Chine (has a cafe and shop), Alum Chine (has a playpark and restaurant) or Durley Chine (has a cafe and a pub) which are all on the way to Bournemouth beach. You can walk from Canford Cliffs to Bournemouth Beach if you have enough energy, if not there’s a land train that can take you from Alum Chine to Bournemouth Beach.
You can get the chain ferry across to Studland from Sandbanks but make sure you get there early otherwise you’ll be queuing all day!
The Oceanarium is an aquarium right on Bournemouth seafront with lots of amazing things to look at including turtles, sharks, otters and penguins.
You can attend feeding times, and there’s lots of facts and interactive screens on the way round. Little H’s favourite bit is the tunnel where the sharks, turtles and more swim above your head.
The Bournemouth Balloon is located in the Lower Gardens which are between the town centre and the beach. The balloon has been here for years but we only went on it for the first time last summer. We weren’t sure if Little H would want to go up in it but she absolutely loved it, it was us grown ups who felt a bit queasy! On a clear day you can see for miles in all directions, and as you would expect the views are fantastic. Even on a hot day it gets a bit chilly though so take a jacket.
Russell Cotes Museum
If it rains while you are here you could amuse the kids for a couple of hours in Russell Cotes Museum & Art Gallery in the centre of town. They have kids sessions on certain days, Little H loved the ‘Early Explorers’ where children get given a hat, magnifying glass and a map.
Poole Quay is a lovely place for a walk and some lunch, there are lots of restaurants, bars, cafes and ice cream shops. You can have a nose at some amazing Sunseekers (they are built in Poole), go on a boat trip around Poole Harbour and do some crabbing at the end of the quay. You can also walk from Poole Quay down Poole High Street and to the Dolphin Shopping Centre.
If you want to head out of Bournemouth and Poole (& you really should!) here are some more suggestions…
Farmer Palmers is about 10 minutes outside of Poole but definitely worth the drive. It’s not cheap but there’s so much to do that you’ll spend a whole day there. As well as the obvious farm animals and feeding sessions, there’s a soft play, 2 bouncy castles, a park, tractor rides, go-karts, a maze and a woodland walk. Little H recently had her birthday party here and it was a very popular location!
A bit further past Farmer Palmers is Monkey World (from the TV series Monkey Life) which is an amazing day out. Monkey World is an Ape Rescue Centre and you can find out about all of the fantastic work they do and see first hand who they have saved. There’s every breed of monkey you can think of and you can watch the feeding and learn lots about them. There is also the most fantastic park which Little H actually prefers to the monkeys!
A few miles outside of Bournemouth is the very pretty town of Christchurch. There’s shops, lots of lovely cafes, a castle and Christchurch Priory. Our favourite part is Christchurch Quay where you can get a boat down the river to Mudeford and Hengistbury Head, play in the park or if it’s hot there’s a great little splash park called The Quomps.
A visit to the New Forest is a must if you’re coming down this way. There are lots of lovely walks, wildlife parks, museums, and if you want to explore some little villages then Burley, Lyndhurst and Brockenhurst are your typical quaint English villages – just watch out for the New Forest Ponies and donkeys that wander around wherever they like! You could also visit Furzey Gardens near Lyndhurst for a fairy hunt which I recently blogged about here.
Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove
Lulworth Cove is a shingle beach which is completely sheltered and a great place for the kids to paddle and explore. If you walk across the cliff tops you get to Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch. The views are amazing and on a sunny day the colour of the sea definitely makes you think you are abroad. Just beware that Durdle Door isn’t really ideal if you have a pushchair.
I could go on forever as there really is so much to do in this area! If you’re coming to Bournemouth or Poole on holiday and want any more suggestions feel free to get in touch with me. If you have been to the area before leave a comment to let me know what you enjoyed the most!
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