Photo Courtesy Bournemouth Tourism
Contributor Maria Fedele shares her tips and tactics for a memorable seaside stay in this story about the top things to do in Bournemouth
The sound of waves caressing the shore and the stillness of the vast expanse of silken golden sand greet visitors who venture to Bournemouth to escape, unwind, breathe. It is a luxury that many city slickers take for granted: fresh air and peacefulness.
Fortunately, only a mere two- hour train ride from London’s Waterloo Station, Bournemouth feels a world apart from the frantic pace of the city. It’s the perfect place to kick back and chill as the gentle waves of relaxation disentangle any tension.
To help you get the best out of your visit to what’s widely considered one of the best seaside places to visit in England, check out our list of the very best things to do in Bournemouth, Hampshire.
The Top Things to do in Bournemouth, England
Spend a Night or Two in a Bournemouth Beachfront Lodge
When it comes to deciding where to lay your dead in Bournemouth, you’re certainly spoiled for choice. If boutique, secluded lodges positioned practically on the beach are your idea of perfect seaside accommodation, then the Bournemouth Beach Lodges are hard to beat.
These 15 colourful, compact, and fully equipped huts line the coast next to Boscombe Pier and are a perfect base from which to explore the nearby seafront shops. Sleeping five people comfortably, the pet-friendly two-story interiors have all the necessary amenities packed into a cosy design.
Bi-fold glass doors open up to a private wooden deck, providing the perfect perch to laze back on the loungers supplied and enjoy the uninterrupted views of the glistening English Channel. The staff are friendly and helpful, gladly accommodating any requests and happy to advise about local haunts.
Learn more from their website at www.bournemouthbeachlodges.co.uk
Walk the Bournemouth Coast Path
Not only are Bournemouth Beach Lodges comfortable and close to the water, they’re also great for those wanting a to explore the excellent the Bournemouth Coast Path. This 20-mile-long hiking trail practically passes right past your lodge’s front door and is a fun way to get to see the coastline around Bournemouth.
Part of the fun is getting to take the Christchurch Harbour Ferry, which shaves off a three-mile detour through Christchurch itself. For those wanting to walk even further afield, the Bournemouth Coast Path connects up with the much longer South West Coast Path National Trail. This 630-mile route stretches all the way to Cornwall and Somerset.
Sample a Great English Breakfast at the Urban Reef Restaurant
The Urban Reef Restaurant, a stone’s throw away from Bournemouth Beach Lodges, is a local beachfront institution serving locals, visitors, and the occasional famished surfer. Perpetually busy, the atmosphere is relaxed and mellow, with colourful wooden décor and casual seating.
The Urban Reef is what Sunday mornings are all about, with large glass windows through which customers with cups of steaming hot coffee can watch whitecaps roll in while chilling to the sound of Jack Johnson. Friendly, attentive staff greeted us as we shuffled into one of the upstairs booths and hungrily studied the basic yet hearty menu.
Their version of a full English breakfast, the ‘Surf’s Up’, is well worth making the journey all the way up from London for, and the veggie version was just as delicious. The café is just as busy in the lunch and dinner hours, and rightly so: it really is a little slice of heaven.
Check out their website at www.urbanreef.com.
Enjoy a Bournemouth Afternoon Tea
On the top floor of the Hilton Bournemouth you will find the Level8ight Sky Bar. It’s a hidden oasis above the town which provides unparalleled birds-eye views of the dramatic coastline.
Acclaimed as the highest bar in the South West, it is an opulent, vast, and classy space with lashings of gold and dark velvet. Ornate rugs, brass trimmings and cushy deep-seated chairs adorn the room while attentive waiters greet and seat guests.
I visited on a bright, sunny Sunday afternoon when High Tea is served on tables skirting the expansive glass windows. While watching the clouds roll over Bournemouth, efficient staff served us pots of steaming tea, tiny sandwiches, and delectable cakes, including scones with lashings of jam and clotted cream, moist carrot cake, Victoria sponge, and berry cheesecake were all eagerly devoured.
Riley Recommends: For reviews, rates, and reservations, check out our affiliate hotel partner at Hilton Bournemouth.
Savour a Great Bournemouth Restaurant
The Bournemouth area has an endless amount of fantastic dining options. A little further out of town in Poole, Rick Stein Sandbanks restaurant comes highly recommended.
Serving high-quality fresh seafood along with sweeping views of the Dorset coastline, the countless positive reviews are defiantly warranted. Visit the restaurant’s website here for further details.
Back in the centre of Bournemouth, visitors are spoiled for choice with a plethora of dining options catering to all tastes. The bars are busy, too, and there is a bustling nightlife centred within walking distance of the main avenue. Live music emanates from rustic pubs and within dimly lit cocktail bars, breezy jazz music can be heard.
Hang-out on a Bournemouth Beach
Ahhhhhh…. those beautiful Bournemouth beaches. The endless, sandy, beautiful beaches are Bournemouth’s crowning glory. Gleaming azure waters as far as the eye can see, the soothing sound of waves crashing on the shore, and the rejuvenating scent of fresh sea air combine to produce a calming sanctuary, an oasis from the craziness of modern life.
If you get itchy feet, there are a number of water sports you can engage in. These include zip lining across the sand, surfing lessons, stand-up paddle boarding, or even sailing are all on offer to thrill seekers. And, of course, simply claiming your spot on this seven-mile-long beach and hanging out can be adventure enough.
Visit Bournemouth Tourism’s official site for further beach info.
Explore Compton Acres
Further inland, there is a haven of a different kind. Compton Acres is a sprawling sanctuary of privately owned gardens located at Canford Cliffs, between Bournemouth and Poole.
The expansive grounds, spread out over 10 acres, are the perfect place to immerse yourself in the wonder and beauty of nature. The effort and care that has gone into preserving the garden is astonishing. As you stroll or take a guided tour through the labyrinth of winding paths, you will explore all of the magnificently designed sections. These include the romantic Italian Gardens, to the Palm Court, Wooded Valley, Water Gardens and, finally, the intricate Japanese Gardens.
There are also two cafés in which to sit and enjoy the peace and quiet of the gardens, one offering sensational views of the coast, as well as a garden centre and gift shop.
Visit their website at www.comptonacres.co.uk for further details.
Enjoy a Day at a Bournemouth Spa
To cap off a restful weekend, head to the Eforea Spa at the Bournemouth Hilton hotel for a luxurious treatment. The swimming pool, spa and sauna are all blissfully relaxing and maintained to an exceptionally high standard. The staff are friendly and accommodating, creating a calming atmosphere where one can leisurely unwind.
Despite the area being a tad on the small side, of which I could imagine would be cramped when busy, the facilities are a dream to use and a fantastic way to while away a few hours.
Learn more at www.hilton.com/en/hotels/bohtmhi-hilton-bournemouth/spa/
Contributor Maria Fedele is an adventurous traveller and freelance writer from South Australia who has lived in Paris and London