Eschew the trashy charms of Blackpool and Brighton and head to the other seaside town beginning with B. Bournemouth is a
less neon much classier trip. With seven miles of sand, cultural institutions and a food scene not to be smirked at, there are plenty of things to do in Bournemouth. It’s also handily placed near some of the most beautiful spots in the UK, so the day trips around Dorset are going to be filled with quaint seaside villages, actual potential dinosaur fossils, and rolling green hills awaiting frolicking...if you’re into that.
Dorset is one of our new holiday destinations, which take the focus away from big cities and onto outdoorsy destinations and country boltholes. Here at Plum Guide, we go the extra mile to bring you the very best of every destination - so before you start your road trip to the south coast, make sure you read this expert guide.
Take a trip to Westbourne
Also known as The Village (not to be confused with New York), boutiques, independent cafes, thrift stores and bars fill this Victorian shopping arcade. It’s cute, quaint and rammed with things you may regret buying but will enjoy at the time. A replica Bournemouth Pier keyring, for example. Once you’ve browsed the interiors, bookshops and boutique clothing stores, grab yourself a seat at the Bournemouth Colosseum, the UK’s smallest cinema with just 19 seats. Whoever named it must have been having a laugh.
Spend a day at the beach
Beach in Bournemouth, England, UK
A list of things to do in Bournemouth would be incomplete without mentioning the beaches. England’s warmest sea temperatures can be found here; if that isn’t an excuse to brave the waters, we don’t know what is. Tick off all the staples of a seaside break in one day - get sand in your lunch, drop your ice cream, get hit in the face by an errant beachball and top it off with a sunburn. The imaginatively named Bournemouth Beach is close to the centre and a hotspot for families. Durley Chine and Alum Chine Beach both wave the coveted Blue Flag, and you can even rent your own beach hut and pretend you live there (£39 for the privilege, bargain).
Enjoy the festival scene
Though the headliners might be a little different to Glasto, the festival scene in Bournemouth is practically the same. OK, maybe not quite identical, but the town boasts many a party that cover all manner of interests. The annual Bourne Free is always a colourful winner, while Arts-By-The-Sea gives you a big dose of culture and performances. Plus, there are mini parties springing up throughout the summer. Soggy tents need not apply, mind you. We have a dreamy selection of homes near Bournemouth, whether you're after a cosy cottage or a more modern abode. All you need is
a litre of wine an open mind and your dancing shoes.
Stroll through green gardens
Bournemouth has a spectacular amount of greenery, guaranteed to soothe the squinty eyes and clenched jaw gained from hunching over your phone. The Upper, Central and Lower Gardens all proudly boast their Green Flags (Bournemouth certainly has a lot of flags to its name) and each offer something different. The Upper Gardens are quietest, and we do like their little red bridges over the stream. If you’re into nature and walking, someone has created a Tree Trail mapping out the best species to be found. Heroic.
Visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum
For the love of Russell-Cotes - we’re not sure why their tagline makes us laugh. It just does. The contents of this museum aren’t so comic but they are impressive. Cultural treasures from Japan, India, China, Russia and Africa jostle for space with some homegrown greats. The surrounding botanical gardens are also a delight. This gallery and museum was once the private home of Sir Merton Russell-Cotes and his wife Lady Annie, who were both extensive travellers and collectors of beautiful things. They would have made
terrifying great Plum Guide Home Critics.
Head down to Bournemouth Pier
Bournemouth Pier, England, UK
If you’re going to buy a postcard, make sure it features one of Bournemouth's two iconic piers and you can tick ‘Being Original’ off your holiday to-do list. Bournemouth Pier is the biggest of the two. Walk to its tip and survey the kingdom of Bournemouth behind you, as well as the seven miles of sand stretching along the coast. The
idiotic brave can zip line back over the waves.
Take on some water sports Studland Bay
Next on our list of things to do in Bournemouth, we have Studland Bay. Skip the traffic and take a wee ride on a ferry for that ultimate holiday feeling. We're talking about that novel feeling invoked when you’re doing something purely because 'we’re on holiday!’ The chain ferry connecting Sandbank to Studland Bay is just five minutes, and you end on three miles of sand dunes to caper about in. The beach at Stundland Bay is a haven for water sports aficionados and naturists alike (we
do don’t recommend partaking in these hobbies at the same time). Book in advance to secure a table at Shell Bay and feast on fresh oysters as you overlook the sea and hopefully your favourite person.
Spend some time at Brownsea Island
Boats docked at Brownsea Island, Bournemouth, UK
If all you want to do on holiday is practise your survival skills, wear questionable outfits and partake in activities to win badges, you may want to look elsewhere. But if you want beautiful nature, spectacular views and thriving wildlife, you won’t go too far wrong with Brownsea Island. Famed for hosting Baden-Powell’s original Scout camps and a flourishing population of red squirrels, the place screams nature reserve. It’s beautiful.
Book a table at Arbor Restaurant
Regularly topping those annoying Best Restaurant lists, the people of Bournemouth are proud of Arbor. With a Michelin nod and a giant tree inside (yes, inside) it has really good food without the stuffy atmosphere. Difficult to find these days, am I right? Anyway, the food is good, with a menu crammed with locally sourced ingredients, and the people are nice. If you still need persuading, the afternoon tea is served on a three-tiered wooden tree.