Poole, Dorset is a coastal town which is renowned for its extensive natural harbour and sandy beaches. Poole is home to the largest natural harbour in Europe, and the second largest in the world. The harbour was formed during the last Ice Age, and also forms an estuary of four rivers. The estuary is dotted with several islands, the largest being Brownsea Island which is accessible via ferry. There are many ways that you can make the most of your time in the town, and here are some of the best things to do in Poole.
A Brief History of Poole
Poole dates back to the Iron Age, but the town as we know it began to emerge in the 12th century, when the port started to trade with other nations in Europe. During the industrial revolution, Poole developed rapidly with urbanisation. However, in the late 19th century, the port industry began to decline as deep water ports like Liverpool and Southampton became more popular. At the time, the neighbouring town of Bournemouth started to see a boom in tourism, and quickly expanded into a seaside resort. However, Poole didn’t see the same effects of mass tourism, although it did grow in size due to the demand for goods from Bournemouth. Fast forward to the present day, the lack of mass tourism can be seen as a blessing, as it’s a great destination if you’re looking for a seaside break that isn’t too touristy.
Things to Do in Poole
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park
Farmer Palmer’s Farm Park makes a great day out for families with young children. Offering little ones a chance to meet the animals up close, and even join in with hands-on activities, it is a memorable place to visit.
No list of things to do in Poole would be complete without mentioning Sandbanks Beach. With its soft sands, sparkling waters and panoramic views, it’s no wonder that it has won the Blue Flag award for over 30 years. There are plenty of things to do at Sandbanks, and there are some excellent facilities as well, including crazy golf, mini golf, and a children’s play area. You can also find volleyball, slackline and table tennis facilities. Like all good seaside towns, there are cafes and shops along the promenade. So grab an ice cream, hire out a deckchair or a beach hut, and lay back and enjoy the views out to Studland and Old Harry Rocks.
Poole is the perfect place to have a go at watersports. There is such a huge range of experiences to try, that you’re bound to find something you enjoy. Poole Harbour is a great place to start, and you can find multiple watersports schools and equipment hires here. For adrenaline junkies, Sandbanks is a popular spot for jet skiing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. If you prefer a more laid back way of exploring, then you’ll find that kayaking, canoeing and stand up paddleboarding is a fun way to explore the more sheltered parts of the harbour. Scuba diving and snorkelling is quite prominent in Poole, as the surrounding waters attract a diversity of sea life. Studland Bay and Kimmeridge Bay are known to be some of the best snorkelling locations in the UK.
Venturing out 10 miles away from Poole and into the Hartland Moore National Nature Reserve is worth it to see Corfe Castle. The castle was built by William the Conqueror, and now its ruins are open to the public. Perched on top of a hill looking over the village of the same name, the castle offers a pleasant day out for the whole family. There are tons of activities for kids to get involved in that are all inspired by history – castle quests, historic games and a medieval siege engine. While the kids are playing, you can listen to an audio experience telling the tale of Mary Bankes, a heroine of the English Civil War.
The Poole Museum is South West England’s fifth most visited free attraction. With four floors of exhibits, the museum has a wide collection of fascinating items. One of the highlights is an exhibition on the treasures found from the Swash Channel Wreck, which was one of the UK’s most significant shipwrecks. You can also find paintings, pottery and jewellery, as well as Roman and Medieval finds. Throughout the year, the museum presents talks and tours about the collections, and dive deep into the history of Poole.
Since the Victorian era, Poole Park has been a favourite recreational space for visitors and locals alike. At over 20 hectares, the huge boating lake is a lovely spot for kayaking and rowing. If you prefer to stay on land, head to the tennis courts or the bowling green, or have a go at mini golf. The cricket field and pavilion is home to Poole Town Cricket Club, so you might be lucky and catch a glimpse of some action. The park is a great place to stop and relax, and you can even bring a picnic with you or head to the park’s The Ark cafe.
Places to Stay
Only a six minute walk from Canford Cliffs, Grovefield Manor offers comfortable rooms in an 1895 manor house. The bed and breakfast has good transport links to Poole and surrounding villages, with a bus stop right outside the building.
Hotel Du Vin Poole
The Hotel Du Vin is a 10 minute walk from Poole Harbour. The hotel has 38 rooms and suites to choose from, and there is also a French style bistro that has delicious local cuisine and wine tasting sessions.
Salterns Harbourside Hotel
With stunning sea views over Poole Harbour, Sandbanks and Brownsea Island, the Salterns Harbourside Hotel is a great choice for your stay in Poole. The hotel’s restaurant and bar is located right next to the water, and is open all day.
Places to Eat & Drink
Storm Fish Restaurant
This is a great place to come for some freshly caught, locally sourced seafood. Their aim is to deliver ‘good, honest food’, and although the menu is limited, the choices have been thoughtfully selected.
Karma Mediterranean Grill & Bistro
Get a taste of the Mediterranean at Karma. Specialising in comforting, home cooked Eastern Mediterranean cuisine, this restaurant is located near Poole Quay, just a few minutes walk from the town centre.
The Courtyard Tea Rooms
The Courtyard is a fantastic place to stop by for a healthy light lunch or afternoon tea. With two cosy dining rooms and a courtyard garden area for warmer days, this is a hidden gem worth checking out.