We count ourselves 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 we live!)
If you’re thinking of coming down to Dorset for your family holiday, here are my ideas for some things to do in Poole and Bournemouth with kids…
The main 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 – when the weather is good that is. 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 the pier with a zip wire down to the beach and a rock climbing center.
If you’re 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 the kids can sit and do some crabbing, or you can get a boat to Christchurch or to our personal favourite Hengistbury Head.
Sandbanks in Poole is a great beach that’s very famous for its 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 want to head further afield then I’d highly recommend the National Trust beaches over at Studland – Knoll Beach is our favourite.
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 are lots of facts and interactive screens on the way around. Little H’s favourite bit is the tunnel where the sharks, turtles and more swim above your head.
There’s a cafe inside or a couple of restaurants outside next to Bournemouth Pier.
Mighty Claws Adventure Golf
Slightly out of town you can find Mighty Claws Adventure Golf – an amazing dinosaur themed crazy golf course.
All around the course are moving dinosaurs and even waterfalls and a volcano. There’s also a great pizza restaurant on site with great views over the ‘real’ golf course.
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’re 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.
We have a National Trust membership so have explored lots of Brownsea Island and Kingston Lacy is one of our favourites.
There’s a great house to explore as well as lots of gardens. There’s a play park at the end of a woodland walk, a Japanese garden and lots of cafes to get cake.
Well worth a visit, especially if you visit in nice weather, is Brownsea Island. It’s where Lord Baden Powell held the first scout camps and there’s lots to learn on that subject around the island. It’s also one of the only places in the UK to have red squirrels though you’ll be very lucky if you manage to spot any!
As well as the wildlife you can explore camps, a church, secluded beaches, play parks and walk the whole way around the island.
If you want to head a bit further 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.
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 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!
Check out my blog post on our favourite places to visit in the New Forest.
Also in the New Forest but a whole day out on its own is Furzey Gardens near Lyndhurst. It a beautiful garden setting with lots of fairy doors to find, a thatched cottage to explore and a tea room. You can walk for miles and there are a couple of play parks in the woods.
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’re abroad. Just beware that Durdle Door isn’t really ideal if you have a pushchair or very small children as it’s a very steep stony walk down.
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!