As a little girl, my family often took me on holiday to Dorset, to Bournemouth and Boscombe to be more precise and through those visits, my love for the area grew. So much so that I then lived there for three years whilst at University and boy what fun did I have. Again my love for the area heightened and it was naturally the place that I then took my kids to recreate all those fabulous childhood memories.
It's been quite nice for the last three years as my parents and more recently my brother have joined us for a weeks holiday in Poole and thus we really do create some of the old memories. I thought it was high time that I shared some of our favourite places to visit as a family when we are staying in the Bournemouth/ Poole area of Dorset.
1. Blue flag beaches
This really is the obvious place to start as Bournemouth and Poole (particularly Sandbanks) are renowned for their glorious sandy beaches. Numerous awards have been won and many areas have lifeguards during the summer months so you can enjoy them safely with your family. A personal favourite of ours is Alum Chine as it is never too crowded, there is a lovely play park right close to the sand and you can catch the land train along the promenade to Bournemouth town centre. Parking is limited so we tend to park on street for free and walk through the beautiful chine to get to the beach. Sandbanks is also amazing but can get much busier and the parking is more expensive too.
2. Play Park and Splash fun at Christchurch Quay
Christchurch itself is a lovely harbour town and there are plenty of shops and good cafes with home-cooked food. You can take a walk around the beautiful old Priory and then head down to the Quay for a picnic, to play ball on the wide-open space or for the kids to enjoy the playpark or Quomps splash park. There are boats you can hire or just sit and watch the ones as they come in and there are tons of swans too.
3. Crabbing at Mudeford Quay
This was a first for us and my girls particularly loved it. Some friends had mentioned Mudeford Quay and I'd never heard of it but it was only a short drive from Christchurch. You can easily buy the crab lines and buckets in any of the local towns and with some bacon for bait you are ready to catch crabs and then chuck them all back in afterwards. Loads of people had taken their seats and picnics so they were set up for a good few hours. We only had coffee in the cafe at the Quay but we saw many people eating fish and chips and it looked fantastic.
4. Candlelight Nights in Bournemouth Lower Gardens
As a child one of my favourite highlights of our annual Bournemouth holiday was going to the Lower Gardens in Bournemouth town centre to join in lighting the tea-light candle displays. This event has been going on for decades now and it is sadly much smaller than when I was a child but it is still free and fun. You also get lots of street performers and silly things such as plastic duck racing on that night too.
If you can't make the candlelight evening then do still head to Lower Gardens for a game of crazy golf or to listen to the band play some evenings.
5. Swanage Railway and Corfe Castle
Swanage is a fab area to visit, you can go across the water on the chain ferry or drive round, which takes a bit longer but is free. Our favourite method of transport is to take the Swanage steam railway though. These pretty trains take you through the countryside and right alongside Corfe Castle where you can jump off for an explore of the National Trust site if you so fancy. My kids loved dressing up medieval style and having a mock sword fight.
6. Paultons Park inc Peppa Pig World
If you take a drive towards Southampton you come to Paultons Park and what a great family owned theme park this is. Not only is it the home of Peppa Pig World (amazing if you have younger children) it also has a wealth of rides and attractions for older children and adults too. All set in really green and beautiful grounds with many wonderful animals and birds dotted about. Don't forget to pack the kids cossies too as there is a splash play area for them to cool down on warm days.
7. Kingston Lacey, National Trust
Another National Trust property, this one is a short drive out in the opposite direction and is a grand stately home with magnificent grounds to explore. During the school holidays there are loads of events, treasure trails, living history and themed workshops for the kids to get involved with.
Set in the stunning New Forest is the national motor museum, Beaulieu and it is a must for every car enthusiast but don't think you have to be to enjoy your time here. Oh no, we went in 2013 when all my kids were under 10 and they all had a ball, especially joining in with games on the lawn of the house, riding the old open-topped bus and the Ford wheels ride. My husband really enjoyed the Bond exhibition and I was interested to read all about the land speed record attempts.
There are so many more places I could recommend but the ones above are eight of our favourites. The Visit Bournemouth website is really comprehensive and will give you loads of great ideas of places to visit with the kids. Make sure you also check out all that Poole and the surrounding area have to offer too.