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What to do and see in Poole

PUBLISHED: 15:14 25 April 2014 | UPDATED: 15:14 25 April 2014

Guitar player on the Quay (C) Poole Tourism

Guitar player on the Quay (C) Poole Tourism

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Buoyed by the fresh sea air and its spectacular natural surroundings, there is a big emphasis on outdoor entertainment and activities in Poole. As the lighter evenings approach we take a look at what the town has to offer, day and night

Home to the largest natural harbour in Europe and with more Blue Flag beaches than anywhere else in the UK, it is no surprise that much of what goes on in Poole is centred around the sea and quayside.

One particular spectacle is the BLD Dream Machines when, every Tuesday from April to September at 6pm, 1,000 motorcycles come together to compete for the ‘Bike of the Week’ competition alongside a host of other activities to keep everyone entertained.

On May 5, organisers are promising a touch of Covent Garden in Poole when the best street entertainers and artists will be taking over the town and capturing people’s imaginations for Street Arts on the Quay; while the Mini Steam on the Quay railway festival on May 17 and Poole Regatta on 22-26 May finishes off a very busy month.

Nothing heralds summer in Dorset like the firework displays in Poole, which have become a real local institution. Summer Breeze Fireworks are back on July 24, taking place every Thursday for six weeks through until the end of August. Rockley Park Quay for my Car is also held every Friday in July and August between 6pm and 9pm with sports cars, Minis, Beetles and Porsches amongst the confirmed theme nights planned so far.

Folk on the Quay on 28-29 June features ceilidhs, folk dancing and of course live folk music with three outdoor stages and fringe events along the Quay; while sporting highlights come in the shape of the Sandbanks Beach Volleyball Festival on 5-6 July followed by the British Beach Polo Championships on 11-12 July. The finale of the MSA British Rallye Championship Rallye Sunseeker takes place in Poole on 18 October.

For something a bit different, head to the Poole Thai Festival in Harbourside Park, which will be held on 6-7 September this year. Not only will you get the chance to sample Thai cuisine at its best, but you will also see Thai music and dance overlooking the harbour. Inside Out – Dorset’s Art Festival – will see a performance in an usual place in Poole Park on 12-13 September and Circ VOST will be performing Boo, with trapeze artists flying and falling amongst a beautiful bamboo frame set at aerial height.

There will be more fireworks, with a magnificent display on 5 November over Poole Quay, bringing to an end another year of outdoor events in the town. For full event details, visit www.pooletourism.com.

Something new

There is always something new to see in Poole and there have been a number of restaurant openings ahead of the summer season. The Stable on Poole Quay opened back in January, serving award-winning, gourmet pizzas, artisan pies and superb local cider. The Lamb Roast pizza is ever-popular with Dorset lamb and vegetables from West Country farms, while the Sandbanks Scorcher pizza incorporates Naga chilli grown on the South Coast.

In the suburb of Penn Hill, Jenkins & Sons is a restaurant and café with a distinctive 1920’s theme that has also been open less than twelve months. Set in a former butchers, the menu’s speciality is fine meats and fish - though there are some lovely vegetarian dishes too! It is also a great place to knock back a few British craft beers and wines or a coffee and a slice of cake.

We have to give a mention too for Pete Miles of Storm, who featured in Ben Fogle’s ITV series Harbour Lives last year. The restaurateur and fisherman has launched The Cruel Sea, giving seafood lovers the unique opportunity to buy fresh shellfish and catch of the day from its shop front. The venue also doubles up as an atmospheric bar and restaurant, serving tapas style taster dishes with locally produced beers and fine wines.

The Ark at the centre of Poole Park re-opened last December following a £1.4m refurbishment. It’s a real winner with children with a soft play centre, play frame, ice rink, café and ice rink and this Easter the doors will be opening on Glow Golf at Quay Amusements on Poole Quay. The luminous 9 hole putting course is a modern take on the old seaside favourite pitch and put, with a round costing just £2.75 per person.

Old favourites

With its long established traditions for ceramic production, no trip to Poole would be complete without visiting Poole Pottery Retail Outlet. Here you can see artist demonstrations, discover how pottery items are made and also design your own plate, bowl or mug. As well as limited edition home and glassware, you can also buy jewellery, toys and clothing.

Alternatively, head to quay and take a boat trip to the National Trust’s Brownsea Island, famed for its red squirrels, as well as being the birthplace of the Scouts in 1907. Tower Park, which includes a multi-screen Empire Cinema, Bowlplex and Splashdown Waterpark is ideal for a visit, especially when a rainy day puts pay to outdoor activities.

Where to stay

FJB Hotels are currently offering special accommodation packages to stay in Poole during Easter. Dinner, bed and breakfast is available from £184 per room based on two adults sharing at The Sandbanks Hotel, which also includes Funsters children’s activities over the school holidays. There is also the option of a Watersports Academy taster session for an additional £20 per person. For more information visit www.sandbankshotel.co.uk. At the Sandbanks’ sister hotel The Haven Hotel, dinner, bed and breakfast is available from £199 per room based on two adults sharing. The option of an Indian Head Massage in the fantastic Harmony Spa can be added for £31.50 per person. For more information visit www.havenhotel.co.uk.

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