One of the most popular coastal towns in the South of England, here’s a guide to all the best things to do in Bournemouth.
The first thing you’re going to need when looking for the best things to do in Bournemouth is some accommodation.
Well having stayed for 3 nights in these cute and cosy lodges on the seafront, we can highly recommend them.
Located along Boscombe Promenade, just a 5 minute drive, 10 minute cycle, or 30 minute walk from Bournemouth Pier, Bournemouth Beach Lodges are ideal for those wanting a quiet yet centrally located stay.
The lodges offer stylish accommodation for up to four adults and two children, each with their own extensively equipped kitchen, toilet, shower room and WiFi.
If you’re into tiny homes or quirky accommodation then even better, because honestly the design of these little huts make sure all the amenities of a hotel are still on offer in such a small space.
You can book the lodges all year round for 3, 4, 7, 10 or 11 nights and prices start from just £350 for a 4 night midweek stay.
An ideal place to base yourself from on your Bournemouth trip.
When visiting Bournemouth it’s pretty impossible to miss the promenade!
This huge stretch of tarmac runs from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head and is approximately 10 miles long. It’s all completely flat, which makes it perfect for strolling or cycling.
In summer an early morning ride is advised, or you can catch a glorious sunset whilst out on an evening pedal!
We hired bikes through Beryl whilst exploring the best things to do in Bournemouth and can highly recommend using them.
Simply download the app, add a payment card, and scan on and off as you use them.
With 1200 Beryl Bikes scattered around Bournemouth, you can pick one up anywhere between the Sandbanks ferry terminal to Hengistbury Head.
Plus with Beryl Bays (designated parking spots) positioned at key attractions, transport hubs and workplaces throughout the city, you’ll always find a bike nearby.
So if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to explore Bournemouth and its many attractions then cycling the promenade is definitely the easiest way to get around.
In July and August cycling is not permitted on the promenade between 10.00am and 6.00pm.
Bournemouth’s Pier, as with any British seaside town, is the heart and soul of its location.
Opened in 1880, at a cost of £2,600, the new Bournemouth Pier was opened by the Lord Mayor of London. Consisting of an open promenade, it stretched to a length of 838 ft and spanned 35 ft wide.
However, two extensions later (in 1894 and 1909) and they have taken the pier’s overall length to more than 1000 ft.
As you can imagine you’ll find amusements, activities and plenty of traditional English food on offer at Bournemouth Pier.
One of its most popular attractions is Rock Reef, an indoor activity centre that includes rock climbing and zip lining, which we’ll come on to shortly.
Bournemouth Pier is a great place to head at any time of the day. Whether it’s in the heat of the sun to enjoy an ice cream and watch the surfers, or when the rain comes down to jump under shelter and enjoy the amusement arcades.
They even have live music and theatre performances on offer throughout the year.
For all the details of exactly what’s on at Bournemouth Pier you can head to The Bournemouth Pier website.
Take a few steps back from the Pier and you’ll find this gem!
Located at the heart of Bournemouth’s award-winning seafront, the Prom Cafe was our favourite spot to grab a bite to eat near the ocean.
A huge bonus is that it has plenty of space inside, so you can enjoy a beachside bite without the fear of a good old British downpour.
With a 5 star food hygiene rating, the Prom Cafe menu is packed with firm favourites, meaning you don’t have to stray far from the sand for fish ‘n’ chips, a pasty or a ’99. As well as lighter lunch and vegetarian options.
The cafe is open from 9am until late seven days a week. So you can start the day with a full English, stock up with a coffee to go, or stop by in the afternoon for a traditional cream tea.
We popped in three times during our weekend visit to Bournemouth and the staff were prompt and helpful each time. Not only that, but the food was fresh, delicious and well priced. Quite surprising for its location!
All takeaway items were served in recyclable packaging which was good to see. Also, they’re completely dog friendly too, so your four legged friends will be made to feel as welcome as you do!
Because who doesn’t love a game of crazy golf?
For us it was a no brainer when looking for the best things to do in Bournemouth.
Smugglers Cove is located directly next door to Prom Cafe, at the foot of Bournemouth Pier, making it and ideal place to jump in and kill an hour on your Bournemouth trip.
Smuggle your ball past treacherous rocks, church ruins and grave stones on this 18 hole course designed for all ages.
They even have a downloadable Scorecard App if you don’t want to keep score using the traditional pencil and paper method!
The big kids that we are, we enjoyed every minute of it and we can imagine it would be a great bit of rivalry for all the family to enjoy!
To check availability or book your slot in advance you head to the Smugglers Cove website.
Sunday – Thursday: 10:00 – 17:00*
Friday – Saturday: 10:00 – 18:00*
Last entry 45 minutes before closing.
*During Half Term we are staying open one hour later!
Adult – £9.60
Children (under 16) – £6.60
Adult Group (up to 4 adults) – £36.00
Family Group (up to 2 adults & 3 children) – £28.00
Rock Reef is an indoor rock-climbing complex and certainly one of the best things to do in Bournemouth!
There are plenty of activities on offer, including the Clip ‘N Climb (28 individually themed climbing walls) The Highline
(an indoor aerial obstacle course) but most recognisable is the Pier Zip, found at the end of Bournemouth Pier!
The PierZip is the first Pier to shore Zip Wire experience in the world, with a launch platform towering above the sea giving an exhilarating “zip surf” over the waves.
We spent a couple of hours at RockReef and the staff were great. It’s super child friendly and is therefore kept very clean. The atmosphere was awesome!
Generally the slots available to book are 1.5 hours.
There is also an upstairs cafe with plenty of space for parents and guardians to sit and relax.
From one side of the cafe you can enjoy the outstanding views across the bay, and the other side you can enjoy watching all the action inside Rock Reef!
Overall, one of the pricier things to do in Bournemouth but an exciting combination of fun, adventure, exercise and challenging activities.
Clip ‘n Climb: £11 to £16*
Highline: £6 to £9*
Pier Zip: Single Rider – £15 to £20 / Dual Rider – £26 to £35*
The Ultimate Adventure: £25.00
*Prices vary depending on Off-Peak or Peak seasons.
For opening times and prices, or to book your experience in advance you can head to the Rock Reef website.
As with a lot of the South Coast of England, Bournemouth is quite a popular spot for surfing.
If you’ve never surfed before, when you stand up for the first time there is an uncontrollable, throw your hands in the air and scream feeling, even if it only lasts for a few seconds!
So whether you’re 8 or 88, the only way you can really understand what all the fuss is about is to get some gear and get wet!
Surf Steps is a Bournemouth Surf School that offer a selection of different courses to suit all levels, and requirements. They’re a super friendly team and pride themselves on running sessions which are professional, fun, safe and exciting.
Based on Bournemouth beach, 500m West of Boscombe pier, you’ll probably see a lot of their sessions taking places whilst walking the promenade.
A great activity to break up the day, and one of the best things to do in Bournemouth in summer!
A Basic Group Session:
You will be learning as part of a group.
An introduction to water safety and beach awareness.
Learn how to ride and control a board lying down.
Learn how to ‘pop up’ and ride a board standing up.
All equipment included.
Ideal for beginners.
Duration 1.5 hours.
All participants must be at least 8 years old. If under 10, they must be accompanied by their parent/guardian for the entire duration of the lesson.
Please contact surf steps on 07733895538 or head to the Surf Steps website to find out opening times and availability.
Beginner (Under 16): 1.5 hours – £30.
Beginner (Over 16): 1.5 hours – £35.
Improver: 1.5 hours – £25.
Of all the fun things to do in Bournemouth, the most British has to be visit the amusements.
There are couple of arcades to choose from on Bournemouth beachfront. The most popular of those is Bournemouth Pier
Both sets of amusements are open 10am – 10pm, and are an easy way to kill an hour (especially if it’s raining).
So save up your 2p’s and grab a keyring to take home. It’s a real seaside tradition!
Urban Reef is an informal bar, cafe, deli and restaurant located on the beachfront at Boscombe Promenade.
As soon as we arrived in town, we asked our Instagram followers for the best things to do in Bournemouth, and this was certainly one of the most popular answers.
So on our final day in Bournemouth, before driving home, we ventured out in the rain to see what all the fuss was about.
The result didn’t let us down. The vibe was great, the staff were friendly and they even allowed dogs in which was lovely to see.
On the ground floor you can watch the chefs prepare your dishes in the open plan kitchen, and on the first floor you have great views of the sea.
The opening words on Urban Reef’s website read: “We’re all about taking time to enjoy locally sourced, seasonal food & drink with family and friends. We love smiling, having fun and working really hard to achieve something amazing.”
And that they certainly deliver exactly that!
From a full ‘Surf’s Up’ to Eggs Royale, granola, pancakes or simply a coffee to get you started, their breakfasts are epic!
Urban Reef are also open for lunch and evening meals too, so if you’re looking for a good spot to refuel whilst exploring Bournemouth, we can highly recommend them.
Their full seasonal menus are available on the Urban Reef website.
Breakfast Menu: Daily 9-11am
Lunch Menu: Daily 12-4pm
Evening Menu: Daily 6pm til close
Standing at over 100 feet tall, The Big Wheel rightfully earns its place on the best things to do in Bournemouth list.
This observation ride on the seafront allows visitors and residents to enjoy stunning, panoramic views of Bournemouth beach, pier and town from above.
Take in the sensational scenes in the daytime, or take a ride as the sun is about to set, to see this award-winning resort in all its glory.
The ride goes round twice and lasts 8-10 mins. Each pod can fit 6 people in, although if you’re lucky you’ll get one to yourself.
Sunday – Thursday: 10.30am – 9pm
Friday – Saturday: 10.30am – 10pm
*Please note that Bournemouth’s Big Wheel will not operate in very adverse weather conditions.
Senior Citizens: £5.00
Family (2 Adults + 2 Children): £20.00
It wouldn’t be a trip to the British seaside without a tray of Fish & Chips!
Harry Ramsden’s is the most famous, and arguably best, of its takeaway kind in the UK.
The business has 35 owned and franchised outlets throughout the UK and Ireland, so when you find one you kind of have to treat yourself!
Located on the beautiful Bournemouth seafront, moments from the Oceanarium, Harry Ramsden’s Bournemouth Pier restaurant is believed to be one of the largest Fish & Chip restaurant in the world with seating for 420 diners.
Boasting a large indoor restaurant with views over the seafront, outdoor terrace seating and a takeaway, Harry’s in Bournemouth is conveniently situated on the ground floor next to the beach. It also has a really friendly team waiting to make your visit a memorable one.
Their most popular dish is the ‘World Famous Fish & Chips’ but they also have a selection of traditional alternatives available to cater for every taste.
Whether you choose a Freshly Baked Pie of the Day, Wholetail Scampi, or a Beef, Chicken, Cod or Halloumi Burger, there are great meals on offer!
Harry’s also have a selection of deals on meals for kids and over 60’s!
So although their prices are a little bit more expensive than your average chippy in the area, this branch of the long-standing fish ‘n’ chip restaurant chain is a popular hit with tourists and locals!
Daily: 11:30am – 8:00pm
If art and history is your thing, then this could well be one of the best things to do in Bournemouth!
Just half a mile (a 10 minute walk) from Bournemouth Pier, the Russell-Cotes Museum is a Grade II listed building originally known as East Cliff Hall.
Set on the top of the East Cliff, with stunning panoramic views of the sea, the building was originally a gift from Merton Russell-Cotes to his wife Annie.
The construction began in 1897, and was completed in its first form in 1901. It was an extraordinary, extravagant birthday present – lavish, splendid, and with a touch of fantasy.
A dream house on a cliff-top, overlooking the sea, Mr Russell-Cotes set the standard high for future men!
Together the couple filled this exotic seaside villa with beautiful objects from their travels across the world, and lined the walls with a remarkable collection of British art, creating a unique atmosphere in a most dramatic setting.
When the couple eventually passed, Merton (1835-1921) and Annie Russell-Cotes (1835-1920), they sealed the house in time, and gave it to the future.
With four purpose-built galleries, there’s so much stunning artwork to see in the Russell-Cotes.
Having travelled a lot ourselves and bought a lot of souvenirs in our time, we were blown away with the treasures contained in the house. However, the house itself is also special in the architecture, and the amazing stained glass everywhere.
With a regular programme of exhibitions, talks, tours and events, you visit the official Russell Cotes website for more information.
Saturdays, Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays: 10am – 5pm
Adult & Senior Citizen: £7.50
Child (5-17 yrs): £4.00
Child (under 5): FREE
Family (up to 2 adults & 3 children): £20.00
All tickets can be purchased on the day of your visit.
The Lower Gardens in Bournemouth are only a five minute walk from the main shopping centre, the beach and the pier.
They make for an easy place to take a stroll through if you’re looking to head into town for some shopping, or just fancy a change of scenery.
We had a lovely stroll through whilst Christmas shopping in Bournemouth town in December and even saw a few squirrels along the way.
They are Grade II Listed Gardens, so as you walk through you’ll be amazed by the beautiful floral displays that combine a range of colours, textures and scents.
The Gardens also have plenty of activities to keep visitors busy, including music at the Pine Walk bandstand, an aviary, mini golf course and an art exhibition in the summer.
It’s a beautiful setting to just sit and watch the world go by with a coffee, or have a delicious picnic with friends and family, as well as a welcome haven from the hustle and bustle of the town.
If you’re visiting the South Coast of England then no doubt you’ll have seen some of the many other attractions in the area.
Christchurch and Poole are top of that list, and with both just a 20 minute drive in each direction there’s no reason not to visit if you have time!
One of the most popular places on the map of Dorset is Hengistbury Head. A relatively unspoilt and south-facing pebble beach, with imposing clay and ironstone cliffs.
To learn more about the area, the 70 minute Poole Harbor and Islands Cruise costs just £13 per person.
Another spot we have to mention is Splashdown. A water park located at the Tower Park complex near to Poole and rated as the number 1 water park in the UK!
So with plenty to explore, especially in the summer months, getting out and about just a little outside of Bournemouth is highly recommended!
Carrying on from Christchurch and Poole, we actually ventured out to each town for some lovely meals as recommended by the Tourism Board.
Of course there are plenty of funky restaurants scattered around Bournemouth too. So here are a few of our favourites:
Rockfish in Poole
As you can imagine, Rockfish are mad about seafood and their reputation for serving great fresh fish spans more than a decade.
Their neighbourhood restaurants are all by the waterside on the South Coast and that means they’re all about serving the most prized seafood from local waters.
You’ll find all sorts of wonders on the menu so that you can get your seafood fix, from John Dory to hake, from juicy scallops to delicate white-fleshed plaice, depending on the season, the availability and the weather.
We are vegetarian but still managed to enjoy an awesome juicy burger served with UNLIMITED fries! It goes without saying that the unlimited fries were incredible!
To check out their menu, or make a reservation, you find everything you need on The Rockfish website.
The Captains Club in Christchurch
Overlooking the river Stour and located in the historic town of Christchurch, Captain’s Club Hotel & Spa is a small independent luxury hotel with a nautical twist.
As well as being a four-star accommodation though, they also offer delicious dining too.
We headed down on a Sunday evening for a cosy afternoon tea and it was a great memory of our final night in Bournemouth.
Pre-booking is essential if you hope to enjoy champagne, a handmade selection of sandwiches, teas, coffees, scones, and more delicate desserts than you can count.
To check out their menu, or make a reservation, you find everything you need on their website here.
Terroir Tapas in Bournemouth
Terroir Tapas is a zero-waste restaurant & bar which has menus all based on locality as well as seasonality.
A little on the fancier side, think of Spanish Tapas meet fine dining.
Each dish is well thought out, perfectly cooked and the ambience of the restaurants makes it an exciting experience.
There’s an excellent range of vegetarian food on offer and the sustainable low waste concept really is giving Terroir quite the reputation in the area.
All the dishes are prepared fresh in front of you. The portions are quite large (especially the bread & hummus options) and the staff are knowledgeable and clearly passionate about working there, which really added to the experience.
Little touches such as the aquaponic system and David Attenborough playing over the speakers in the toilet made is a stand out restaurant and one we’d gladly recommend!
With a dramatic seafront, Highcliff Marriott Hotel has a with a fitness area and seasonal outdoor pool.
Bournemouth town centre is a 10-minute walk away. Guests get free WiFi in all public areas.
The bright and elegant rooms at Highcliff Marriott feature air conditioning, a 32-inch LCD TV and luxurious Marriott bedding. Tea and coffee making facilities are also available.
The Bournemouth Highcliff Marriott features a striking terrace overlooking Bournemouth Bay.
Offering a terrace and sea view, Westcliff Penthouse is located in Bournemouth, 1.7 miles from Boscombe Beach and 550 yards from Bournemouth International Centre.
This beachfront property offers access to a balcony, free private parking and free WiFi.
The apartment features 2 bedrooms, a flat-screen TV, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and 2 bathrooms with a bath or shower.
For added convenience, the property can provide towels and bed linen for an extra charge.
Situated a 5 minutes walk to Bournemouth’s seafront and new surf reef, The Strand Hotel features free Wi-Fi, free limited on-site parking and a garden.
Thecentre can be reached in by bus.
A flat-screen TV and tea/coffee making facilities are featured in each room at The Strand, and some come with an en suite bathroom. Use of an iron, microwave, hairdryer and laundry facilities are available on request.
A full English and buffet breakfast is served daily in the dining room. Many cafes and restaurants are within short walking distance of The Strand.
For more places to stay in Bournemouth, you can check the latest prices on Booking.com.