Bournemouth is one of the most popular English seaside towns, with 7 miles of sandy beach, a thriving city centre and vibrant nightlife. There are many Bournemouth attractions for all ages, like the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery & Museum, the Oceanarium and Hengistbury Head. In the 1800s, Bournemouth became popular with those people suffering from health problems thanks to the fresh sea air. It became a favoured destination of affluent holidaymakers, and the arrival of the railway in 1870 further contributed to its ascent. In the 1900s, famous authors Enid Blyton and JRR Tolkein were residents.
Things To Do In Bournemouth
Bournemouth beach is rightly famous for its golden sand, and it’s also the home of Britain’s oldest beach hut, built in 1909. Visitors can walk, cycle or run for miles in either direction, or simply take in the sea views from the comfort of their beach towel.
Bournemouth Pier dates from Victorian times but has been completely renovated and houses an amusement arcade, climbing walls and the world’s first pier to shore zip wire. If you’re wondering what to do in Bournemouth with kids, then this is a good place to start.
Check out our vlog from the zipline, would you dare to do it?
There’s a nice bar and grill on the pier with a large outdoor terrace, Key West, where you can watch the zip wire action or recover from your own session!
Oceanarium, aka Bournemouth Aquarium is close by and a good option for a rainy day. Adults and kids alike will enjoy Bournemouth Land Train, taking you between Alum Chine, Bournemouth Pier and Boscombe Pier. From Boscombe Pier, you can walk to the scenic headland at Hengistbury Head.
Bournemouth has some award-winning gardens, totalling over 842 hectares. Upper, Central and Lower Gardens have been Green Flag winners since 1999. It’s a lovely 3 kilometer walk from Bournemouth Pier up to the outskirts of Poole. The Lower Gardens boast a popular mini golf, an aviary, bandstand and Street Food Corner.
The Upper Gardens are something of a hidden gem – we’d been visiting Bournemouth for many years before discovering them! Follow the path from the Lower Gardens and you’ll come across ornamental red bridges, a tower folly and finally, a Coy carp pond. Another garden that you should not miss in the Bournemouth area is Compton Acres, one of the most beautiful private gardens in the UK.
One of our favourite things to do in Bournemouth is to visit The Russell Cotes Art Gallery & Museum. It’s a fascinating place that was a birthday gift from Sir Merton Russell-Cotes to his wife Annie. Built in the Art-Nouveau style, it was completed in 1901. The couple were passionate about art and amassed an impressive collection on their travels. They donated their home and the collection to the town of Bournemouth in 1907, continuing to live there for the rest of their lives. There are over 1,000 objects including some beautiful Pre-Raphaelite paintings, such as Venus Verticordia by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The views from the house and gardens towards the sea are stunning.
Bournemouth city centre is known for its shopping and people come from miles around for some retail therapy. Beales is the oldest Bournemouth department store, and there are a good number of independent boutiques here and in nearby Westbourne. The Arcade is a Victorian covered gallery that’s good for gift shopping in Bournemouth. It has stores such as Cath Kidston, Waterstones and several jewellers. Castlepoint Shopping Centre has many well-known stores such as B&Q, Marks & Spencer and Topshop.
Places to Eat in Bournemouth
Ventana Grand Cafe is a stylish 2 rosette restaurant on East Overcliff. Located inside The Cumberland Hotel, it has an Art Deco vibe and very friendly service. They serve delicious food that is beautifully presented and there’s a great wine list, as well as locally made Giggi gelato.
For a great cup of coffee in the town centre, head to South Coast Roast. As the name suggests, they roast their own coffee beans and also host regular supperclubs.
Ice cream fans will enjoy the artisanal flavours at Giggi Gelateria, as well as at Lollipop Gelato Lab. A few doors down from Lollipop, you’ll find the quirky Flirt Cafe Bar which scooped The Family Eating Experience Award at the 2017 Bournemouth Tourism Awards. Enjoy a “sexy OMG hot choc” whilst sitting on an airline seat.
West Beach is a great place to relax and enjoy Bournemouth seafront while tucking into a great plate of seafood. Fish and chips is a British seaside classic and Chez Fred in Westbourne is a family run business established by Fred and his Dad Pete in 1989. It’s a smartly decorated restaurant that prides itself on the finest sustainable fish and tasty chips overseen by Big Steve, the Chief of Spud Operations – yes really!
When to Visit Bournemouth
Any time of the year is enjoyable, just bear in mind that the beach does get busy on Bank Holidays. Bournemouth Air Festival is the UK’s largest air festival and hugely popular. This year it takes place between 31 August and 3 September, and it’s advisable to book accommodation well in advance.
Weather in Bournemouth
The weather in Bournemouth is generally pretty good. Dorset is one of the 3 sunniest counties in the UK and Bournemouth is blessed with an average 7.7 hours of sunshine in Summertime. Still, it’s advisable to bring an umbrella with you outside of the Summer months, as you would for the rest of the UK.
What to Wear in Bournemouth
For walking along the beach, espadrilles or wedge shoes will come in handy and nautical accessories will add flair. Those sea breezes can get chilly at times so a lightweight bomber jacket will help keep you warm. Bournemouth is a great place to do watersports, so neoprene swimwear will also come in handy.
Getting to Bournemouth
Bournemouth Airport flies to a number of overseas destinations including Geneva, Ibiza, Krakow and Turin. For flight timetables and the best prices, check Skyscanner here. One of the most relaxing ways to visit Bournemouth is by train, with South West Trains reaching London in under 2 hours. If travelling by car, take the A35 from the Suoth or West and the A338 from the North or East.
Where to Stay in Bournemouth
The Cumberland Hotel is one of the best hotels in Bournemouth, thanks to its spectacular views over the coast. The iconic Art Deco building has been carefully updated to retain many original features . The heated outdoor pool is a lovely place to relax and enjoy a cocktail. Its neighbouring sister hotels have more facilities for guest to enjoy, such as an indoor pool, games room, squash courts and award-winning spa. The food here is second to none, with Ventana Grand Café holding 2 rosettes and Mirabelle Restaurant doing some great set menus. If you can tear yourself away from that pool, it’s just a few minutes walk to Bournemouth seaside and the beach.
See our vlog for the full list of things to do in Bournemouth:
We hope that we’ve inspired you to visit Bournemouth and try out some of these experiences for yourself. Which would be your favourite Bournemouth attractions?