Basking in the balmier-than-average climate of the South Coast, Bournemouth is one of the places that was responsible for putting the 'great' in the term 'Great British Seaside'. While its beaches are a huge part of its appeal, it's so much more than a bucket and spade destination. Head a few miles out of the centre and you've got everything from the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site to national parks to explore, too. Here's a round-up of the top places to visit in and around Bournemouth.
The 304m Bournemouth Pier serves up the classic British seaside experience. There's an arcade full of retro games like air hockey and grab-a-toy machines. There are fairground rides. Plus, there are both ice creams and fish and chips for sale. Modern additions to this 19th-century pier include a 250m zip-wire that flies you from a 25m-high tower back to the shore. There's a pier toll of £1.20 per adult and 80p for children from April until October.
Bournemouth Beach Huts
Bournemouth's beach huts are one of the city's most recognisable icons - and definitely its most colourful. There are 250 of them available to hire across nine locations including several of the Blue Flag beaches that neighbour Bournemouth. You can hire your hut by the day or week, or longer, and each one comes with three classic deckchairs and a gas ring and bottle. Don't forget your rubber ring.
New Forest National Park
Just a 20-minute drive from Bournemouth, the New Forest National Park covers 219 square miles. Its 140 miles of walking paths take you through tangled woodland, heather-hued heathland and past the expansive pastures where the New Forest ponies roam free. You can find a list of walking routes on the official tourism website. There's also information on cycle routes.
Under an hour's drive from Bournemouth, the horseshoe-shaped archway of Durdle Door is one of the emblems of the Jurassic Coast. It's most easily viewed from the beach that runs up to it. To get here, you can park your car at Durdle Door Holiday Park and follow the path down from the headland to the sand. For a longer walk, start at equally beautiful Lulworth Cove and walk along the coast path to see the arch from above. To avoid the crowds, try to visit between September and May.
The biscuit-coloured sands of Highcliffe Beach, a 25-minute drive from Bournemouth, are a great place for either a cold-weather walk or a summer bask in the sun. On a clear day you can look out over the English Channel to the Isle of Wight. It's also a decent surf break on its day and is generally less crowded than the main breaks in Bournemouth. For a little post-swim sustenance, head to the Cliffhanger Café. Set on the headland that overlooks the beach, it serves everything from Dorset apple cake to plates of fresh seafood.
Hengistbury Head is a strip of headland that juts into the English Channel a 25-minute drive from Bournemouth. Long slivers of beach run down both sides before running further out into the sea. Some people come here to just lounge around on the flour-soft sands. If you feel like being more active you can explore the visitor centre, which explains the history, wildlife and geology of the area.
Brownsea is a Noah's Ark of an island. Its marshes, woodland, heathland and lagoons are home to all sorts of species of wildlife from endangered red squirrels to peacocks. You can catch a ferry over to the island from Poole harbour - a 15-minute drive from Bournemouth - from the middle of March to the middle of November. Once there you can either wander around at your own pace or take one of the free guided walks. There are plenty of picnic spots, but if you don't feel like slaving over sandwich prep, you can grab a bite to eat at Villano Café, near the ferry port.
Old Harry Rocks
Jutting out of the sea like giant white molars, the rock formations of Old Harry Rocks are part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. One of the best ways to see them is on the circular walk that starts and ends at South Beach car park in Studland and follows part of the South West Coast Path - details of the route are on the National Trust website. The drive from Bournemouth takes roughly 45 minutes.
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