Bournemouth is the epitome of a classic English beach town, offering sweeping coastline, grand Victorian architecture and lively nightlife. Until the early 1800s, Bournemouth was a remote heathland used mainly by fishermen and smugglers. Today, the town attracts a mixture of daytrippers, family vacationers and bachelor parties.
Bournemouth’s focal point is Bournemouth Beach, a 7-mile (11-kilometer) bay of golden sand stretching along England’s southern coast. Stroll along the waterfront promenade to find cafés, bars and barbecue areas. Check out the colorful beach huts, symbols of an English tradition that began in Bournemouth in the early 1900s. Rent sun loungers and watersport equipment, including kayaks, surfboards and Jet Skis.
Walk to Boscombe Pier, a 19th-century structure with excellent coastline views. Visit the Coastal Activity Park, a recreation area offering over 30 beach and water activities. Take a boat trip to Brownsea Island to spot endangered wildlife.
Explore 2,000 acres (809 hectares) of gardens in the town center and surrounding region. Wander through the picturesque Victorian-style Lower Gardens. Watch free concerts at the bandstand or play a round of miniature golf. Enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the town and beach on the Bournemouth Balloon. Follow trails past colorful roses and rhododendrons in the pristine Central Gardens. Discover Asian, American and European trees in the Upper Gardens.
Bournemouth has abundant indoor attractions, too. See hundreds of aquatic creatures at the Oceanarium. Study 19th-century art at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum. Watch concerts, musicals, ballet and opera at the Pavilion Theatre. Go to St. Peter’s Church, which houses the tomb of Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein.
Enjoy Bournemouth’s famous dining and nightlife. Choose from more than 250 restaurants, bars and nightclubs, many inside Victorian-era buildings located in the largely pedestrianized town center.
Bournemouth is just a 2-hour drive from London and easily reached via trains, buses or rental car. Come in summer to enjoy festivals, watersports and sunbathing or visit in winter for long walks on an almost deserted beach.