10 reasons Bournemouth is the UK's best seaside town
PUBLISHED: 11:19 20 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:47 20 March 2018
From its miles of golden sands to award-winning festivals, no wonder the public voted Bournemouth the UK’s favourite seaside town at the 2017 British Travel Awards
1. Bournemouth’s Beach Scene
Bournemouth has seven glorious miles of golden sandy beaches and combined with Poole, it’s a 10-mile stretch that provides the ideal backdrop for outdoorsy types who enjoy walking, cycling, surfing and sailing. And let’s not forget Bournemouth’s temperate micro-climate!
There are four Blue Flag beaches – Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Fisherman’s Walk and Southbourne. Bournemouth has some of the safest beaches in the country with RNLI lifeguards based throughout the season and the highly successful LV=Kidzone scheme in the summer, aimed at reuniting lost children with their families.
There are also two historic piers to explore: Bournemouth Pier has become a playground for adrenaline-fuelled adventures with a zip-wire running from pier to shore and an indoor high wire and climbing centre; Boscombe Pier is less white-knuckle affair offering a charming musical trail featuring giant chimes and mini golf with edible golf balls that drop into the sea on the final hole and feed the fish!
Seeking some nostalgia? The resort’s legendary cliff lifts still run at West Cliff and Fisherman’s Walk. Another iconic attraction is Bournemouth’s famous land train which welcomed Flotsam and Jetsam to the fleet in 2017. There is now a land train route along the East Overcliff - a wonderful vantage point for spectacular views of the bay and an easy journey into Boscombe.
2. Saturday Night at the Movies
Away from the award-winning beaches, gardens and festivals Bournemouth is a great place to grab a bite to eat and take in the latest movies. The new centrally located BH2 complex, overlooking the beautiful Lower Gardens, offers a state-of-the-art 10-screen Odeon multiplex cinema.
Choose a Premier or Recliner seat and immerse yourself in your chosen film – some of which come in 3D or the very latest eye popping ISENSE to give you the ultimate cinema experience. If you’re bringing little ones along, you can choose to watch in a special crèche screen with a play area at the front - great if your little film goer is a bit restless.
After the film you have a choice of 13 different restaurants situated at the complex: these range from Italian pizza and American style burgers to Greek and Mexican, as well as drinks and desserts from coffee and cocktails to frozen yogurt in 700 combinations.
3. A Walk on the Wild Side
Offering spectacular coastal views, a nature reserve and riverbank, Hengistbury Head is one of the most important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in England.
Sitting between Christchurch and Bournemouth, its wide variety of habitats - heathland, grassland, scrub, woodland, freshwater wetland and coast - supports over 300 types of birds as well as an extraordinary variety of insects, reptiles and small mammals and the flora which is part of this web of life.
The area is also of internationally important archaeology and geology. There is evidence of human occupation of this headland from Palaeolithic hunters to Roman occupation and beyond. Explore the south-facing pebble beach, the imposing clay and ironstone cliffs behind offer panoramic across Bournemouth and beyond to the Purbecks and the Isle of Wight. At the less developed end is Hengistbury Head Nature Reserve, which separates Poole Bay and Christchurch Bay. Start your journey of discovery at the Visitors Centre where you can find out about things to see and do during your visit.
4. A Cliff Top Treasure House
Behind the distinctive façade of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum is a treasure house of art works. Built in the late 1890s as East Cliff Hall this was once the home of Merton Russell-Cotes, a founding father of Bournemouth, who had the Italian style villa built for his wife Annie. In 1907 she donated the cliff top house, along with its fine art collection including some very fine Pre Raphaelite paintings, as a museum for Bournemouth.
Its permanent collections of art and artefacts are complemented by major exhibitions. Current shows include A Question of Guilt: A Crime Writer’s Collection (until 15 April 2018) followed by Making and Breaking the Rules (5 May – 14 October 2018) marking of the 250th anniversary of Royal Academy. Guided tours of the collections are available as well as workshops, talks and special events around the current shows.
5. An ‘Indian Summer’ of Arts
Arts by the Sea Festival (29 September – 6 October 2018) is a hugely successful event that draws in visitors to the area extending Bournemouth’s popular summer season into an ‘Indian summer’ of arts.
Now in its eighth year, the festival features an inspirational selection of performance, theatre, visual art and installation, music and dance and spoken word performed by local, national and international acts and artists. Utilising some of Bournemouth’s best places and spaces from the traditional to the unexpected, there are always plenty of visual surprises and most of the events are free. Following the runaway success of its Plastic Beach theme in 2017, this year’s festival is all about ‘New Frontiers’.
6. Beach Bolt-Holes at Boscombe
A finalist in Dorset Tourism Award for Glamping Business and Alternative Accommodation of the Year 2017, Bournemouth Beach Lodges are part of the ongoing regeneration project of Boscombe seafront. Situated just ten metres from the water’s edge these contemporary timber lodges are perfect for a family holiday, a romantic escape or even a lone adventurer seeking beachside solitude within easy reach of a cappuccino or cocktail.
The 15 lodges, available for autumn and winter stays as well as spring and summer breaks, have a private south facing decked area with views over the bay. Innovative space efficient design means they can sleep up to four adults and 2 children, and come with a shower, toilet, Wi-Fi, TV, heating as well as a fully equipped kitchen. There is also one lodge specially adapted for people with accessibility requirements.
A number of the lodges are dog friendly and their beach location is second to none. Not only are you well situated to explore Bournemouth’s many attractions, activities, bars, restaurants you are just 500m from Boscombe Pier and a pebble’s throw from a dip in the sea.
7. Explore Bournemouth’s ‘Coastal Villages’
Located to the east of Bournemouth is Southbourne. Along its pretty high street you’ll find bistros, cafes and independent retailers, as well as food, gift and craft shops. It even has its own brewery Southbourne Ales. Nearby is Hengistbury Head Nature Reserve if you want to escape the madding crowds.
Boscombe bustles with a selection individually managed stores, cafés and it is home to Bournemouth’s only regular, open air market (Thursdays and Saturdays). If you’re looking for antique shops, vintage clothing outlets and second hand gems then head for Pokesdown. A stroll along the prom at Boscombe reveals an array of fun beachside activities including surfing, paddle-boarding and volleyball; if chilling to the sound of the surf is more your thing there are plenty of casual dining options with lovely sea views.
Westbourne boasts a magnificent Victorian Grade II listed shopping arcade as well as a wealth of galleries, delicatessens and independent shops and stylish boutiques. You’ll also find an extensive range of cafes and restaurants whether you’re after a reviving coffee, light lunch, afternoon tea with all the trimmings, cocktails with the girls or a romantic supper. Wander through Westbourne into Alum Chine to its tropical gardens and wooded chine and admire the sparkling sea beyond.
8. Keep on Running
Now a major fixture on the town’s event calendar, the Bournemouth Bay Run takes place Sunday 8 April 2018. There are four races during the morning, allowing people of all ages and abilities to run – the Half Marathon, the 10k Race, a 5k Fun Run and a 1k Children’s Fun Run.
Supported by the British Heart Foundation, the Health-on-Line Bournemouth Bay Run is set to welcome more than 4,500 runners. Organisers are encouraging runners and kids to #beyourownhero and embrace a superhero theme.
9. Enjoy a Very Vintage Vibe at Bournemouth Air Festival
Free and by the sea – 2018 Bournemouth Air Festival (30 August – 2 September) is so more than just an award-winning air show. This summer’s aviation extravaganza promises four days of great entertainment including a Very Vintage Weekend, thrilling displays of aircraft and a superb Night Air line-up. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the RAF and the Very Vintage Weekend will embrace a bygone age of aircraft, dance, music and attractions. Night Air includes atmospheric dusk displays, pyrotechnics fireworks and live music. During the day, Pier to Pier stalls and hands on activities from the Royal Navy, Army, RAF and big name brands will keep family members entertained. The festival site opens from 10am daily until 10pm (6pm Sunday), with air displays early afternoon.
10. Walking in a Christmas Tree Wonderland
Bournemouth’s Christmas festivities start in November and for 2018 there is an exciting new attraction as Bournemouth’s public gardens and town centre light up with over 100 dazzling trees. The Christmas Tree Wonderland will be Europe’s first trail featuring themed Christmas trees from around the world set against a backdrop of twinkling lights and illuminations.
To get a bird’s-eye view of proceedings take a ride on the big wheel at Pier Approach. Afterwards you can skate under the stars at the outdoor ice rink in the Lower Gardens, enjoy a gluhwein from the Alpine Lodge, pop into Santa’s grotto, then browse the stalls in the Alpine Market for tasty treats and quirky stocking fillers. Along with live music, entertainment and illuminations across the resort late night shopping in the run-up to the big day will be a truly festive experience and finishes off Bournemouth’s year in spectacular style.