A day in…Poole

Banana Wharf above Poole Quay

Banana Wharf above Poole Quay - Credit: Archant

A harbour town with parkland, islands and a world famous peninsula

Customs House at Poole Quay

Customs House at Poole Quay - Credit: Archant

There are few towns or cities in Great Britain that better embrace their waterside location than Poole. From its charming old harbour to the magnificent new Twin Sails Bridge, the relationship between land and sea here is a harmonious one. Whether walking along its harbour side or chilling out in its 110 acre park, Poole’s relaxed vibe is apparent from the minute you arrive, making it the perfect place to enjoy quality leisure time.

Following the Cockle Shell Trail in Poole old town

Following the Cockle Shell Trail in Poole old town - Credit: Archant

Brownsea Island - home of the red squirrel

Brownsea Island - home of the red squirrel - Credit: Archant

Waterside Bliss

There is no better way to familiarise yourself with Poole and its locale than by taking a cruise around its magnificent harbour. Dorset Cruises (departing from The Quay) offer regular harbour boat trips, as well as excursions to Bournemouth, Brownsea Island and Swanage. Brownsea Island Ferries, which depart from both the quayside and Sandbanks, has a similar selection of journeys available, most notably a trip to the National Trust island of Brownsea – home to one of the UK’s last remaining colonies of red squirrel.

Poole Park was opened by the Prince of Wales back in 1890 and it continues to be one of the town’s best loved attractions. In addition to vast grassy areas, ponds and a large, manmade lake, the park is also home to two children’s play areas, tennis courts, a bowling green, miniature golf and a miniature railway. For on-site refreshments Sevens Boatshed offers breakfast, lunch, afternoon teas and an ever-popular Sunday lunch.

A short chain ferry service connects Sandbanks to Studland on the Isle of Purbeck - this is a must-do journey for visitors to Poole. Not only does this provide the opportunity to visit Studland - the picturesque National Trust beach and nature reserve - but passengers also get a great view of Sandbanks’ millionaires’ mansions on Panorama Road!

Shore Road offers spectacular views across Poole Harbour and its vast number of islands. Poole Harbour Watersports are based here, providing lessons in windsurfing, kitesurfing, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding (a similar range of sporting facilities is also offered at The Watersports Academy in Banks Road). The adjacent Sandbanks beach is perfect for sunbathing and if the weather’s a bit chilly wander along to Banks Road where Sandbanks Beach Cafe, Jazz Cafe or Cafe Shore offer tasty snacks, meals and hot drinks to keep warm!

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Walk through time

A good way to explore Poole is to follow the Cockle Trail - an easy one hour walk through the streets and alleys of the old town. Simply follow the brass cockle shell plaques set in the pavement to discover Poole’s history of smugglers, pirates and sailors. For those who are feeling brave there is a guided ghost walk every Monday and Wednesday (meet at Scaplen’s Court at 8pm). To discover more about Poole’s exciting pirate and smuggler strewn past visit Poole Museum (4 High Street).

Traditional Flavour

In Poole’s old town it’s nostalgia galore. Children will love the Ginger Pop Shop (Old Orchard), which can be found just around the corner from The Quay. This Enid Blyton-inspired store stocks all 150 current print titles from the Dorset-loving author including Noddy, The Famous Five ( Brownsea was Blyton’s inspiration for Whispering Island) and The Secret Seven there are also heaps of vintage gifts and collectables not to mention ‘lashings’ of ginger beer!

Those with a sweet tooth will adore Truly Scrumptious (5 High Street), which sells traditional confectionary measured out from jars – just like in the old days! Expect to find mints, liquorice, gums, chews and jellies not to mention retro classics such as Rainbow Drops, Parma Violets, Fizz Wizz and Love Hearts. More sweet delights can be found at The Fudge Shop (Kiosk 6) on the Quay, next to other kiosks selling piping hot fish ‘n’ chips, soft drinks and local ice cream.

If you’ve left room for a proper meal, Poole has a wide selection of fine establishments. Hotel du Vin’s (Thames Street) bistro restaurant is set within a Georgian town house and has a stylish menu, with a distinctive French twist. From moules marinère to Normandy chicken, the food here is trés magnifique!

For lovers of seafood try Loch Fyne (47 Haven Road) or Storm Fish Restaurant (16 High Street). Storm is run by local fisherman Pete Miles and his wife Frances. Pete catches a lot of the fish on the menu and they pride themselves on sourcing as locally as possible including local rock oysters and palourde clams. They also offer a Kids’ Menu.

For lunch or a lighter meal try DELI on the Quay (Dolphin Quays) overlooking Poole Harbour and Brownsea Island. As well as boasting the best coffee in Poole their classic Dorset apple cake is to die for. They also have soups and sandwiches, made with homemade bread, and you can take home food hampers and wines as well as fresh produce from an extensive deli counter.

Entertainment Galore

If you’re after some world class entertainment then look no further than Poole Lighthouse (21 Kingsland Road) - the largest arts centre in the UK outside London. With its own cinema and 2,400 seater theatre, showing films, musicals, concerts and comedy, the Lighthouse is a beacon for arts lovers. It is also home to the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) who perform a number of summer outdoor concerts with fireworks in Poole and Bournemouth.

During the summer months Europe’s biggest weekly motorbike meet takes places on Poole Quay every Tuesday from 6pm. This popular event, which runs from the first Tuesday in April to the end of September, showcases a glittering array of bikes and their proud owners. On Friday nights between May and August the bikes gives way to cars with themed events such as Beetles, TVRs, Italian Stallions and American Dream.

Out of Town

Just a short drive out of Poole town centre is Upton Country Park, which has over 100 acres of garden, open parkland, woodland and shoreline together with a magnificent Georgian Grade II-listed building which contains tea rooms, an art gallery and plant centre. The newly designed ‘Play Trail’ has plenty of things for children to see and do as they make their way round the park.

If they need to let off some more steam then beat a path to Tower Park - an entertainment complex situated near to Canford Heath. Another family favourite, the site is home to a ten screen Empire Cinema, Bowlplex and Splashdown water park – the biggest of its kind in the UK – as well as a host of restaurants and bars.

Lower Parkstone, known to many locals as ‘the Village’ or ‘Ashley Cross Village’, also has an excellent range of restaurants and bars to explore, including Patrick’s (1 Bournemouth Road), The Grove (28-30 Station Road) and Le Bateau (141-143 Commercial Road).