When the British weather takes a turn for the bright and sunny, Bournemouth is the place to be.
As a former student of Bournemouth University, I had only three years to make the most of this bustling seaside resort before the trials of grown-up life drew me back home. There’s something quite refreshing about coastal life and not just because the sea air clears up my hayfever in a jiffy. While my housemates spent their mornings – and afternoons – tucked up in bed (likely suffering from one too many Jägerbombs), I enjoyed exploring the many delights this corner of Dorset has to offer.
The highlight of Bournemouth is, of course, its award-winning beaches. Voted by holidaymakers as one of the best beaches in Europe, a trip to the Bournemouth seafront is a cheap alternative to the sandy shores of Alicante or Lanzarote. You can’t go wrong with a lazy day at the beach (unless you forget to apply sun lotion – ouch). During the peak season and during unexpected heatwaves, crowds tend to cluster around Bournemouth Pier, close to town and recreational amenities, but with seven miles of golden beaches between Hengistbury Head in the east and Sandbanks in the west, there’s no excuse not to find your own private patch of sun, sand and sea.
However, Bournemouth has plenty more at hand than a day at the beach. Book your stay at the Bournemouth Seafront Hotel and you could equally take advantage of the town’s thriving nightlife.
For food lovers and rumbling bellies alike, Bournemouth has a wide variety of restaurants to choose from, including popular chains, but an evening meal at one of Bournemouth’s independent eateries makes for a unique dining experience with delicious cuisine cooked up from local produce. Directly opposite the Bournemouth International Centre, close to the pier, is ‘The Crab at Bournemouth‘, serving fresh fish and seafood caught off the coast. If you don’t mind an evening stroll along the promenade, a personal favourite is ‘Urban Reef‘, just a short walk eastward by Boscombe Pier.
If, after your meal, you’re feeling partial to a boogie, Bournemouth also has a ridiculous number of bars and nightclubs, popular among the town’s student scene, as well as with visiting stag and hen parties. For something a little different to the usual discotheque, try a night at ‘Lola Lo’, a tiki-themed nightclub next to Bournemouth Square, or ‘Halo’, set inside a grade II listed church next to Debenhams. Students often take up most of the dancefloor, but if you would prefer to avoid us young’uns, Saturday evenings attract a more mature customer.
If and when your hangover subsides the next morning it might be worth shying away from the crowds and visiting a few of the area’s other hidden gems. For scenic views of the coast and countryside, hop on the number 50 bus from Bournemouth Square to Swanage, and make sure you grab yourself a seat on the open-top deck. If you fancy a taste of nostalgia, one of Swanage’s local attractions is its heritage railway. As part of a university assignment, I was lucky enough to ride in the cab of one of its steam locomotives, but sadly this opportunity is not available to all visitors.
Finally, a much overlooked part of Bournemouth, yet one which I highly recommend visiting, is the village of Pokesdown, two miles east of central Bournemouth. As part of an ongoing regeneration project, the main street is lined with an assortment of independent boutiques selling handicrafts, vintage fashions, antiques and more. ‘Clobber‘ the oldest vintage shop on the street, is a wondrous emporium of men’s and women’s fashions from bygone eras. Another favourite is ‘Love From Hetty & Dave‘, a colourful shop filled with the most adorable handcrafted leather jewellery and accessories. Be sure to speak to the lovely Zoe, who you will find sewing away at the back of the shop.
All in all, Bournemouth has much to offer the eager visitor, from beach breaks to vintage shopping. But why listen to me rabbit on all day, when you could be enjoying the South Coast sunshine yourself? Gather your friends, book in a weekend and, for goodness’ sake, remember to pack sun lotion.
For more information about Bournemouth take a look at our Get Up & Go Guide