Why this strip of sand, on the Dorset coast is such a great place to work, rest and play.

Great British Life: The wow factor of a Sandbanks sunset. (Photo: Rachel Read/Instagram @_rread)The wow factor of a Sandbanks sunset. (Photo: Rachel Read/Instagram @_rread)

Sensational Sandbanks Sunsets 

Sunsets anywhere are spectacular. But having had the privilege of working here for 25 years, I don’t think you can beat a Sandbanks sunset. For some it’s almost a spiritual experience! It's fascinating to see how many people gravitate to the edges of Poole Harbour on a sunny evening, fish and chips in hand, picnics or sundowners at the ready, to view the spectacle of an orange, purple and pink sky. A haven for photographers at this time of day, if you’re lucky you may catch sight of the flocks of birds going to roost on the shores of Brownsea Island before this ball of fire sinks beneath the horizon.

Great British Life: Running back to The Saltwater Sauna on the beach at Sandbanks after a chilly dip in the sea. (Photo: George Cory)Running back to The Saltwater Sauna on the beach at Sandbanks after a chilly dip in the sea. (Photo: George Cory)

The Saltwater Sauna 

Located on the edge of the prom (by Sandbanks Beach) and offering panoramic sea views from its windows, this authentic Finnish wood-fired sauna has proved very popular since it arrived last year. Set up by Finnish native Arlene Lukkarinen, it seats up to eight people, so many grab their friends and take up the challenge of alternating between sauna and an invigorating cold-water plunge in the sea or a shower. Book their Guided Sauna Ritual for the full experience with salt inhalations, a scrub to cleanse and detoxify, steam aromatherapy infusions, thermal leaf whisking, and a honey moisturising mask. They offset their carbon footprint by planting a tree for every sauna.


Great British Life: The FJB catamaran cruising off Old Harry Rocks. (Photo: thewatersportsacademy.com)The FJB catamaran cruising off Old Harry Rocks. (Photo: thewatersportsacademy.com)

Charter a yacht 

Sandbanks is internationally renowned for offering both novices and experienced watersports enthusiasts' equal opportunities to play in the water. With sheltered Poole Harbour just a short paddle from the open sea, whether you’re a sailor, kite surfer, stand up paddleboarder, or windsurfer, this peninsula can provide conditions that meet your level of ability. The latest sport is foil surfing which has a hydrofoil attached to the board, so you fly above the water. It’s quite something to watch. There are several outlets to hire equipment and book lessons, including The Watersports Academy on Banks Road where you can also charter the Lagoon 44ft Catamaran FJB which comes with its own crew. thewatersportsacademy.comGreat British Life: Sandbanks or Parkstone-on-Sea in 1910. (Photo: Dovecote Press & Barry Cuff collections)Sandbanks or Parkstone-on-Sea in 1910. (Photo: Dovecote Press & Barry Cuff collections) Parkstone-on-Sea 

Sandbanks may be associated with multi-millionaires and glitzy properties, but its roots are surprisingly humble. Part of Lord Wimborne’s Canford Estate, it was formed by huge piles of sand washed in by changing tides. Known as Parkstone-On-Sea, it was cut off by enormous mountains of sand with no road to reach it. The only building there in 1870 was Poole Lifeboat Station. In 1880, The Haven Hotel was built on the tip of the peninsular; guests would take a horse and cart and a steam charabanc to reach it. The peninsula was given to Poole Council in the 1890s and soon building plots were sold, with roads laid out by 1914.


Great British Life: Sandpolo action on Sandbanks Beach. (Photo:JamesBridlePhoto.co.uk)Sandpolo action on Sandbanks Beach. (Photo:JamesBridlePhoto.co.uk)

Polo and beats on the beach 

Sandbanks’ Blue Flag beach is the gorgeous backdrop for several prestigious summer events. This includes, since 2008, Sandpolo - the largest beach polo event in the world, attracting internationally renowned players. Polo ponies love the sand, and the pace of a game is fast and entertaining to watch. After dark this event, on July 7-8 this year, is famous for its parties and appearances by big name musicians. SandFest, held on Sunday July 9, is an independent one-day music festival that brings a mix of global house music, drum and bass, rap, and grime artists playing to 5,000 partygoers on the beach, headlined this year by Craig David.


Great British Life: Newly opened, The Tandy Sandbanks. (Photo: Calum McCarron)Newly opened, The Tandy Sandbanks. (Photo: Calum McCarron)

New kids on the block 

It’s always exciting to see new investment coming into Sandbanks and the latest is The Tandy Sandbanks on Banks Road. The creation of restauranteur Andy Price (of WestBeach Bournemouth) and designed by his wife Toni, it opens for breakfast from 8.30am through to lunch and supper. This bistro à vin boasts an impressive wine and cocktail list, and offers seasonally inspired small plates, artisan pizzas, and a la carte menus. Like many of our Sandbanks’ eateries, it’s also dog friendly. Hot off the press for the 2024 season is the arrival of Rockwater Village, in the previous Sandbanks Café, with pop up shacks for this summer while construction takes place.


Great British Life: Breathtaking views from Rick Stein Sandbanks. (Photo: Chetwode Ram Associates)Breathtaking views from Rick Stein Sandbanks. (Photo: Chetwode Ram Associates)

Eating Out in Sandbanks 

We are flush with great places to eat from The Jazz Café on Shore Road which hosts regular jazz events, to the funky gem that is LazyJacks on Panorama Road which offers a modern British menu with seafood, Sunday roasts, pizzas, smoothies, and a breakfast menu to die for. Check out their pancakes! Both on Banks Road, the Caff is a local’s favourite for breakfast and brunch; Rick Stein Sandbanks offers panoramic harbour views to diners able to bag a table at the rear of the restaurant. It’s a sophisticated space with a menu to match mainly showcasing seafood, and a bar for cocktails and casual dining at the front.



Far from the madding crowd

Locals know that the best and quietest stretch of beach is also our year-round dog-friendly beach. Heading right from the main beach car park in the direction of the end of the peninsula, towards the front of the Haven Hotel, you will find a tranquil bay where many visitors don’t venture. A lovely walk is to head from here across the water to Studland via the Sandbanks Chain Ferry which is cheap as chips for a foot passenger. Treat yourself to lunch in the rustic and very popular Shell Bay Restaurant & Bistro renowned for its seafood (worth booking ahead), situated in the wonderfully named Bramble Bush Bay.


Great British Life: Fluid Surf Shop on Banks Road. (Photo: Dave White)Fluid Surf Shop on Banks Road. (Photo: Dave White)

Surfer Style 

Looking for some stylish beach wear? Fluid Surf Shop on Banks Road is a goldmine of lifestyle brands which is why this is a retail destination ‘go to’ for locals as much as visitors. This small family run independent holds its own as Sandbanks’ only shop, but I defy you to enter without finding a treasure! Featuring top notch names such as Roxy, Billabong, Brakeburn, Barts, Protest, and Dude amongst others for men, women, and children fashion, lose yourself amongst the dazzling kaleidoscope of colours as you browse the latest seasons’ beachside trends and accessories. In summer, you can hire self-drive boats (no experience necessary), paddleboards, and kayaks from here too.


Places to Stay 

Be a tourist and take the open top bus to Sandbanks. The Purbeck Breezer 50 runs all-year from Bournemouth to Swanage via Sandbanks and the Sandbanks Ferry (morebus.co.uk/purbeck-breezer). With a bus ticket, you even jump the ferry queue across to Studland, which is where you can enjoy a cocktail at the award-winning Pig on the Beach before heading home. For those wishing to stay awhile in Sandbanks there are three FJB hotels (Sandbanks Hotel, Haven Hotel and Harbour Heights Hotel) and a holiday lettings agency. Rumsey of Sandbanks has a long list of interesting properties to rent locally including the seven-bedroom Hook Sands, with direct access to the beach.

thepighotel.com / fjbhotels.co.uk/ rumseyofsandbanks.co.uk

Great British Life: Liz Willingham on the beach at Sandbanks. (Photo: Liz Willingham)Liz Willingham on the beach at Sandbanks. (Photo: Liz Willingham)

Meet the writer: Liz Willingham is the founder of Liz Lean PR based in Sandbanks, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Liz started the award-winning family business from a back bedroom overlooking the water on Banks Road which, over the years, has evolved into a two-floor contemporary office space. Liz, and her daughter Leila who also works in the leading PR and Comms agency, host their own podcast It Runs In The Family, interviewing family businesses across Dorset and beyond, which won Best Podcast 2022 in the CIPR Excellence Awards. lizleanpr.co.uk