Welcome to Bournemouth! A charming coastal town located on the south coast of England. Famous for its beautiful beaches, rich cultural heritage and vibrant nightlife, Bournemouth is just one of the spots to visit on a coastal weekend away. Nearby, you can find which Christchurch offers a quaint and peaceful escape from the crowds, with stunning natural beauty and historical landmarks. Take a drive to the New Forest for a unique woodland experience, or go for a swim under the natural rock formations at Durdle Door.
Find out the best places to visit — and benefit from some secret tips — in this local’s guide:
Bournemouth Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the UK, offering seven miles of golden sand to enjoy. The beach (and another 11 nearby beaches) has been awarded Blue Flag status for its cleanliness, safety, and excellent facilities. Whether you want to sunbathe, swim, or play beach games, Bournemouth Beach has something for everyone.
The main beach is free to enter and lined with various attractions, including Bournemouth Pier, where you can enjoy stunning views of the coastline, grab a bite to eat at the Aruba restaurant, play arcade games and even zipline back to the beach when you’re done.
Bournemouth Beach has plenty of restaurants and cafes to choose from, and with the centre of town just a short walk away, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Whether you want to grab a quick bite or enjoy a romantic meal with a view, you'll find plenty of options here. My recommendations would be 7-Bone, Koh Tai, The Stables & Ojo Rojo for dinner.
Local’s tip: Through the summer there are also pop-up food vans found within the gardens, just a 2-minute walk away from the beach.
A short walk down the beach and you’ll find yourself at Boscombe beach, a quieter beach with more focus on surfing and beach activities. Enjoy beachside bars and restaurants. Fancy some water activities? Learn to surf, rent a kayak, grab a paddleboard or even play beach volleyball.
Further down the coast you’ll come across Southbourne Beach, a much quieter and family oriented beach with quaint beach huts and small cafes.
Local’s tip: This beach is every bit as lovely as the main Bournemouth beach, but a lot less tourists! This beach doesn’t have the same level of amenities as Bournemouth or Boscombe beach but if you’re looking for a pure beach experience without the hustle and bustle then it’s well worth a visit.
Just a short 40 minute drive from Bournemouth is one of the most stunning and unique sites in Dorset: Durdle Door, a beautiful natural limestone arch located in a stunning bay. Durdle Door is a must-see for anyone heading to the South Coast and is well worth the journey from Bournemouth.
Don’t fancy going to the beach? There’s plenty of other places to visit around Bournemouth
There’s plenty of fun to be had away from the beach too. Nearby you’ll find the Bournemouth Oceanarium, wonder as you see all types of marine life and watch in awe as sharks swim around you in the underwater glass bridge.
See penguins, sting rays and be in awe as you walk underwater in the shark tank.
Down the road from Bournemouth is a quiet and peaceful town called Christchurch. It’s the perfect place to unwind and take in some quaint seaside life. The small town centre is full of local shops, restaurants and pubs and is located around an 11th century church that’s open to the public to visit. From here you can walk down a canal, past a 1,000 year old castle until you get to the Quay, a perfect spot to soak in the atmosphere, play some mini golf or even rent a riverboat.
Local’s fact: Christchurch, New Zealand is twinned with and named after Christchurch in Dorset, even copying the names of the local rivers the Avon and Stour!
Bournemouth 7’s festival
7’s festival attracts 30,000 people every year and is a weekend-long celebration of rugby with teams from all over the UK and Europe competing in tournaments. Throughout the day you can watch the games, ride the fun fair rides and if you’re hungry, there’s plenty of food and drink stalls to try. In the evenings the festival hosts live music acts and DJ sets.
The grounds of the festival are outside of the main city near the airport, so make sure to bring comfortable shoes and suitable clothes for the outdoors as we all know English weather isn’t the most reliable!
Camping tickets are available, but if you don’t fancy camping for the weekend there are plenty of hotels and Airbnbs in nearby Christchurch and in Bournemouth and Boscombe.
Local’s tip: There aren’t many Uber drivers in the area and Ubers can only be ordered from within Bournemouth itself. I’d recommend calling a local taxi company and booking your taxi in advance to avoid issues. At the site there is a large taxi rank to use when leaving the festival.
Bournemouth Air Festival
The Air Festival is an annual event in August that sees over a million tourists visit Bournemouth to take in the air displays. Grab a spot in the gardens in the centre of town, the beach for a more remote experience or even from a boat and watch civilian, historic and modern military planes perform flyovers and stunts in the air.
One of the highlights of the Air Festival is the Red Arrows display, featuring the Royal Air Force's acrobatic team performing breathtaking and dangerous stunts. Other notable displays include the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, featuring Spitfires and Hurricanes, and the RAF Typhoon, showcasing the power and agility of modern military aircraft. The festival also includes a range of ground displays, food and drink vendors, and live music performances. The Bournemouth Air Festival is a fantastic opportunity to visit the town, soak in the sunshine and wonder at the amazing displays.
The New Forest
If you’re tired of the beach and fancy some nature instead, your next stop should be the New Forest: a beautiful woodland that spans over 200 square miles and filled with a wide range of animals including wild ponies, deer, and rare birds.
There are many scenic walking and cycling routes that take you through some of the most beautiful areas of the forest. You can also go on a horseback ride, which is a fantastic way to see the forest from a different perspective.
If you're looking for more adventurous activities, the New Forest has plenty to offer. You can go kayaking or paddle boarding on the Beaulieu River, or try your hand at archery or laser tag at one of the forest's activity centres. For a more relaxing experience, there are many charming villages and towns to explore, each with their own unique character and history. Whatever your interests, the New Forest has something for everyone, and it's a place you'll never forget.
Whether you're looking for a relaxing day on the beach, a night out on the town, or a stroll through the countryside, Bournemouth is the perfect destination. Take advantage of all the town has to offer and that you enjoy your time exploring this beautiful part of England.