Bournemouth's main attraction is its beach. At seven miles long and in the sunniest place in the UK it attracts thousands every year. Stretching from Boscombe in the east all the way through to Poole in the west there's plenty of space for family friendly games, surfing and watersports, dog-friendly beaches and barbecues zones. All along the seafront are a whole host of bars, cafes, restaurants, amusements and attractions so you won't have to wander far to find something to keep you entertained.
Although Bournemouth is shedding its traditional seaside image, the historic piers at Bournemouth and Boscombe are still firm favourite visitor attractions. You can walk all along the prom from Boscombe to Poole and there are cliff lifts to carry you up if you're feeling weary. Leading up the cliffs from Bournemouth beach are several of Bournemouth's famous gardens and chines.
Bournemouth has seven miles of clean sandy beaches, and along the twelve mile stretch between Bournemouth and Poole there are eight Blue Flag beaches. The Blue Flag beaches are Alum Chine, Durley Chine, Southbourne and Fisherman's Walk, Branksome Chine, Canford Cliffs Chine, Sandbanks Peninsular and Shore Road.
The beaches are popular for families and lazing around in the sun as well as watersports and surfing. During the summer a whole host of organised games are laid on to keep the kids entertained. Near the seafront is a whole host of beachside restaurants, cafes, bars, amusements and of course Bournemouth and Boscombe Piers. So you don't have to wander too far to find everything you need for a traditional British seaside family holiday.
Bournemouth Beach is zoned into colour coded areas so you can find areas of dog-friendly beach, dog-free beach, smoking free and barbecue areas on the beach. At various places along the seafront in Boscombe and Bournemouth are Bournemouth's famous beach huts. There are 250 beach huts available for hire on a daily or weekly basis. Check the Bournemouth Beach Attractions link right for more information. The ever popular deck chairs are also available during the summer.
When you're ready to head home for the day, there's the Bournemouth Land Trains that run up and down the prom from Boscombe to Alum Chine.
Surfing has long been popular from Bournemouth with some of the best waves off the South Coast at Bournemouth Bay, Boscombe Pier, Southbourne Beach, Highcliffe and further west at Kimmeridge Bay.
Plans are afoot for Europe's first artificial reef off Boscombe Pier. Work is due to start in 2008 and the reef should be in place by the end of the year. This will have the affect of doubling the size of the waves here and should mean there will be more great surfing days throughout the year. Alongside the reef the seafront will be updated as part of the Overstrand redevelopment with retail and catering outlets as well as a surf academy and related facilities. "Super beach huts" are also being designed by Wayne and Gerardine Hemingway MBE that will be available for both surfers and holiday makers.
If you're new to surfing you can book lessons from Bournemouth Surf School. They're British Surf Association (BSA) approved and offer lessons and coaching for beginners to elite level surfers. Either book onto group sessions or personal tuition.
Head west to Poole Harbour for all kinds of watersports including windsurfing, wakeboarding, canoeing and kayaking and kite surfing in the specially designated watersports area. You'll find plenty of places where you can book watersports lessons or hire equipment. Check our Poole webpage, link right. For more family oriented watersports kayaks and pedalos can be hired from Bournemouth beach in the summer. For something a bit faster try the Shockwave speedboat that runs regular short but fast trips from Bournemouth Pier. Contact the Shockwave Marina Office at Bournemouth Pier for up to date prices and operating times. Tel: 01202 558550. It is also available for group bookings. Dorset Cruises also offer boat trips from Bournemouth taking in the east Dorset coast sights. Check the links right.
Bournemouth is renowned for its gardens. The Upper, Central and Lower Gardens have retained much of their Victorian character.
The Lower Gardens has the largest municipally owned rockery which is Grade II listed. It was created in the 1930s using Welsh limestone. It retains some of its original features but as the climate is warming it is now possible to grow exotic species from all over the world. The gardens lead down from The Square to the seafront.
Some of the pines within the gardens were planted by the town's founders, the Tregonwells. The Chines in Poole and Bournemouth are a particular feature of the East Dorset seaside resorts. These are steep sided valleys that lead down to the beaches planted with garden displays and exotic trees. Alum Chine is noted for its tropical garden and over in Boscombe the gardens are home to an Italianate garden.
Meyrick Park right in the centre of town is good for leisure with its 18 hole golf course and bowling greens. Meyrick Park Golf Course was established in 1894 and is a parkland course with lodge, health & fitness club, golf shop and cafe bar. Most of the gardens near the seafront have ice cream and refreshment kiosks within them and you can hire deck chairs to take in the sun.
In the nineteenth century Bournemouth became known as one of the health resorts around Britain's coast and the Victorians started flocking to the town for recuperation and taking the salt air.
Robert Louis Stephenson was one tuberculosis sufferer who came to Bournemouth for his health during which time he also wrote "Kidnapped". Between 1885 and 1888, Stephenson lived at Skerryvore at the top of Alum Chine Road in West Cliff. The house was destroyed during the Second World War but there is a small memorial garden in its place.
Alum Chine is the biggest of the four chines in Bournemouth. Chines are steep river valleys cut into the cliffs. In Bournemouth these have often been planted up with gardens and have shaded paths running through them which can be welcome relief from the summer sun.
Alum Chine has tropical gardens originally planted up in the 1920s with evergreen oaks, yuccas and oddities like Australian bottlebrush. The wave-shaped dry stone walls are made from Portland stone and remind us its origins as an embankment for the local fishermen. There is a Tropical Plant Trail you can follow to view species from all over the world. Check the link right for information. For the kids, there's a Treasure Island themed play area - carrying on the Robert Louis Stephenson theme! Alum Chine is off Mountbatten Road in Westbourne and nearby is Argyll Gardens on West Overcliff Drive.
Boscombe Chine Gardens have already felt the benefit of an injection of cash as much of Boscombe is now receiving.
The gardens were originally cultivated from heath and mire overlooking Boscombe's seafront. Today, the gardens have been opened up and original features like the spa shelters, lodge and some of the original pines planted by the Tregonwells have been retained.
Facilities now include a ball court, water play area, mini golf and terrace cafe. The gardens have been re-landscaped and although they still have colourful planted beds the gardens have a much more modern and cared for appearance.