Down to the Coast: Things to Do in Poole
Diving into Poole? Here's what to do in this coastal town
Jump right into Poole, a quaint coastal town packed with medieval vestiges, historic sights and a lovely coastline. It’s a quiet and sheltered part of Dorset on the southern coast of England, making it suitable for even the grouchiest of Grinches. If you follow some of our advice, you won’t have to interact with anyone all day. Won’t that be lovely?
The great thing about Poole is that you can also choose to take part in activities and events that are a little livelier, for a sense of the local culture. A morning of water sports out on the waves complements an afternoon of museums or a trip to the park well. And you’ll love the crumbling ruins of the Corfe Castle and some of the medieval structures dispersed across the old-world area in the core of the town. There’s even evidence of human settlement here dating back as far as the Iron Age, so just before ‘insert name of parent on the trip’ was born.
And remember the town’s inspiring Latin motto, which translates as: ‘According to the custom of the Town of Poole.’ Actually, it’s not so riveting in English, is it? Maybe it was better in the original language. In any case, take heed and do as the locals do. Here’s Plum Guide's expert advice on what to do in Poole.
The Beating of the Bounds
We were serious when we said to do things according to the custom of… you get the point. Well, here’s a weird tradition to follow and admire… from afar. The Beating of the Bounds dates back to the 1600s, and involves the Admiral of the Port of Poole (let’s just say mayor to save time). So, the mayor… wait, let’s rewind, here’s where it’s about to get totally bonkers… back in the day, they used to beat up a boy and prick a girl’s hands because – well, we're not sure. Something to do with checking for encroachments in the area of sea designated to the Poole authority. Nowadays, they just ‘symbolically’ beat up kids. It’s pretty unusual, but will be sure to be a lasting memory for your child should you volunteer them.
Dive into Poole's culture
That last recommendation might've put you off, but you'll be glad to hear Poole has a rich and vibrant culture. For cultural things to do in Poole, start at the Lighthouse arts centre – said to be the largest complex of its kind in the United Kingdom (outside London, of course). Here, you’ve got art galleries, studios, a cinema… whatever your mind can conjure up in the realm of performing arts, the Lighthouse has you covered. Pretend you like classical music at a concert by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and you can tell everyone back home how sophisticated you are.
Mosey through the museums
Mosey is a word you don’t hear too often, but it works well with museums, if we’re talking alliteration. Think about that as you amble through the exhibits of the Poole Museum. You’ll learn all about the Iron Age beginnings of the human history here, which your kids will expect you to recount from personal memory. Ever the anecdotalist, you’ll relent and indulge them with wild tales of bygone hunter-gatherer times. See the part of the museum with a focus on the Poole Pottery brand of… well, pottery, of course. Entrance to the museum is free; nicking the displays is not.
For something a little different, head to the Scaplen’s Court Museum, an inn from the 14th century. The period décor and antiques on show help recreate life as it was in Poole from the 15th century to the end of the 1800s.
Hit up the harbour
The Poole Harbour is one of the highlights of the town, with excellent vistas afforded by the Poole Quay. Wander between the yachts and tell your kids you own them all (‘They’re just being refurbished, so we can’t climb aboard right now.’) Point out the vast vessels, from the cargo ships and cruise boats to ferries and personal yachts. It’s said to be Europe’s largest natural harbour. Embark on a boat trip around the islands just off the coast and marvel at the Old Harry Rocks, which are made of chalk. After all that water-based fun, head back inland for a good night's sleep at our lovely Harbourmaster Plum Guide home.
Head to the northern end of the harbour for the Sandbanks Beach, one of the most popular stretches of sand in the region. Stroll along the rear of the beach to admire some of the town’s most exclusive homes – or go the extra mile and stay in one yourself by booking yourself a night or two at this beachfront home. A little west of the harbour’s ferry terminal is the Hamworthy Park, which is a little more secluded and tranquil than Sandbanks. Snap photos of the Arne Peninsula and the Brownsea Island, and let your kids frolic in the paddling pool and play area.
It’s not all about sand on this list of things to do in Poole. Check out the birds and deer in the Arne RSPB Reserve and let your kids pet the pigs and ponies in the Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park. For something a little more urban, visit the Poole Park, where you can go kayaking and windsurfing among other activities. Beat your miniature offspring (not in the traditional Poole way) at miniature golf and take the miniature train around the place.