Bournemouth's seven miles of sandy beaches and more than seven hours of summer sunshine (on average) makes it one of the most popular resorts to visit in the UK. It's the largest seaside resort in Dorset, and has held on to much of its Victorian charm. With chalk cliffs, natural beauty spots, a massive stretch of golden beach and some of the best pubs and clubs in the country, you could make it a day trip, but you'll probably want to stay for the weekend or week. Here's our guide to getting the most out of your visit.
Bournemouth has the UK’s first and only coastal activity park, next to Boscombe Pier. Here, you can master the art of bouldering - climbing on rocks to the rest of us - learn to surf or bodyboard with trained instructors, or hire kayaks to explore the coastline. The climate makes this beach a lovely place to swim, especially during the summer months, and if you hire a beach hut you can make it your base for your trip. There's also table tennis, swingball and beach volleyball if you prefer to stay on dry land.
Blue and yellow land trains are a colourful sight as they make their way up and down the coast. By paying on the train and getting an unlimited days travel, you can hop on and off where you like. Choose between two routes: Bournemouth Pier to Boscombe Pier and Bournemouth Pier to Alum Chine.
The pier was opened in 1880 and cost £2,600 to build, and still has the wide open promenade to walk down. You can buy the usual postcards and seaside souvenirs, grab a doughnut or an ice-cream, or try and win some prizes at the arcade. End-of-the-pier food comes in the form of the Key West Bar and Restaurant. Their open terrace and serves up beer, wine and cocktails along with home-cooked food. And you can also visit the Aruba bar and restaurant at the pier's entrance which also has great views of the beach and sea.
You can find out more about smugglers in Bournemouth by taking a walking tour. Running between May and November, there is no need to book ahead, just turn up on the day (see website for dates) You could also download one of the treasure trails in the area, with five available to choose from, you can take the kids on a murder mystery trail through Bournemouth's gardens.
Bournemouth's next door neighbour has a lively quayside, with bars, restaurants and shops surrounding the largest natural harbour in England. See how the artists at Poole Pottery create their award-winning ceramics at their studio near the quay.
Hailed as one of Britain's best beaches, the golden sands stretch for several miles along a natural peninsula, and it's become one of the most exclusive property spots in the country (by area it has the fourth highest land value in the world). It's the place to go for a sophisticated night out, as its bars and restaurants have some of the best beach views.
Bournemouth has four "chines", each of them offering something a little different. Take the Tree Trail through Boscombe Chine Gardens and see if you can spot the nine different trees the squirrels like to play in. These Victorian gardens have been lovingly restored, and you can see many of the original features including their award-winning bloom beds, along with newer attractions like mini golf.
See some exotic flowers in the tropical gardens at Alum Chine, the largest chine in Bournemouth. You can also get a birds eye view of this natural attraction from one of the three bridges that cross it (Winston Churchill is alleged to fallen off one in 1892, while playing as a child - fortunately he was ok). Kids can pretend to be pirates at the Treasure Island themed playground, and there's also a paddling pool to splash about in.
Running three kilometres from the pier to Poole are Bournemouth’s beautiful Grade II listed Victorian Gardens. The award-winning Lower Gardens hosts live events throughout the year, including music played at the historic bandstand. You can also get a view from 150 feet up in the Bournemouth Balloon. On a good day, you can see right across to the Isle of Wight. There's a variety of plants and animals at the Central and Upper Gardens; it's worth picking up one of the guided walk sheets to help you spot everything.
AFC Bournemouth play their home games at the Vitality Stadium, and were finally promoted to the Premier League for the first time in their long history in 2015. Their nickname either comes from the fact their kit featured cherry-red stripes, or that their old stadium, Dean Court, was next to several cherry orchards. Until their promotion, their finest moment was during their giant-killing cup run in 1984,under manager Harry Redknapp, which saw them beat Manchester United.
Jump onto the world’s first pier-to-shore zip wire and fly for half a minute up to 80 feet above the sea on the PierZip. It has two lines, so you can race your friends to the beach. It doesn't matter what the weather's like at RockReef; home to adventure sports like indoor climbing, caves and an aerial obstacle course in the former pier theatre.
You can buy ice creams on the pier and along the seafront in Bournemouth, or at one of the town's ice cream parlours. Giggi Gelateria makes their own Italian ice cream on-site, and has more than 20 flavours to choose from. You can also create your own Frappé (milkshake) by combining three flavours, of your choice, with milk - there's 10,000 possible permutations.
It wouldn't be a trip to the seaside without a bag of Britain's finest cuisine. Chez Fred is highly regarded by the locals in Westbourne, celebrity customers include Jools Holland and Jack Black.
Just a stone's throw from Bournemouth Pier is the award-winning Bar So, which has three cocktail bars, two sun terraces and free entry on a Saturday night.
The annual Bournemouth Air Festival is the largest aviation event of its kind and is usually held in August over four days. Watch jets and display teams use the sea, cliffs and beach as a backdrop, check out the armed forces' village, buy local produce at the county show and make sure you catch the Night Air entertainment, where aircraft fly at dusk to live music and before a fireworks show.
The Bournemouth Food and Drink Festival has been running for five years now, and usually takes place in June and hosts pop up restaurants, street food and cooking demonstrations. In autumn you can get your cultural fix at the Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival, a mix of regional and international acts from the world of dance, theatre, film and music, held at different venues around the town.
For unique, independent shops, visit Southbourne, where there are plenty of bespoke craft stores (and the beach there has Blue Flag status). Westbourne is good for fashion boutiques, and has art galleries and cafes to visit when you're not shopping. If you want large high street brand stores, take a drive out to Castlepoint Retail Park on the outskirts - it also has a big Marks and Spencer, two supermarkets and plenty of places to eat and drink.
Open every Thursday and Saturday, Boscombe Market, sells the usual fruit & veg, along with jewellery, flowers and bags in the open air. The Royal Arcades in Boscombe is Bournmouth's most beautiful Victorian shopping arcade filled with independent shops and boutiques.
It takes just over an hour and a half to get to Bournemouth from London on a fast train via Southern West Trains. If you're driving, it's around three hours (depending on traffic). There's plenty of parking in Bournemouth, even near to the beach. Visit Bournemouth Borough Council's website to find the best spots and parking prices.
You can also fly into Bournemouth Airport from Glasgow, Manchester and Jersey in the British Isles.